Every fall, ordained pastors, associates in ministry, diaconal ministers, and spouses to come together with colleagues for a time of relaxation, refreshment and learning.

This year’s presenter was the Rev. Dr. Mark Allan Powell, New Testament professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, editor of the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary and author of more than 100 articles and 25 books on the Bible and religion, including a widely used textbook, Introducing the New Testament.

The topic of the presentations was “Stewardship as Mission” and Dr. Powell’s main theme was ways we can move into a culture of gratitude and generosity.

Rather than viewing stewardship as another program we need to do once a year, we can be looking for ways to move people from simply having an awareness of God to living as people who belong to God.

It begins with an understanding of what it means to be a steward.

Powell used the example of seminary students who stay in his house to take care of the cats while he and his wife are on vacation.  A house sitter has full use of the house, even though they don’t own it.

Jesus told many parables about stewardship.  Too often we use these parables to make people feel bad about their stewardship.  It’s pretty easy to make people feel bad about their stewardship.

But people do not need more things to feel inadequate about.

And it doesn’t create a culture of generosity.  Also, as Dr. Powell pointed out, that isn’t the point of Jesus’ parables about stewardship.

Jesus did not tell these parables to show that we are bad stewards, but to remind us what we have forgotten–we are stewards, not owners.  We have the use of all of God’s gifts, but we are the owners.

Cultivating a culture of gratitude and generosity is about joy:

 

  • Joy of knowing everything we are and have comes from God.  It’s very liberating to realize we not in charge

  • Joy of loving God and expressing that love through sacrificial gifts.  The offering in worship is not fundraising break.  It is most likely the oldest part of the liturgy.  From the very beginning people have expressed their thanks to God through sacrifice.

  • Joy of pleasing God and the blessings that come from giving.  It is good for us to give.  Giving helps us grow spiritually.

  • Joy of benefiting others with our gifts. Our gifts make a real difference in the world and this is a real source of joy

Along with keynote presentations there is worship, Eucharist, time with the bishop and an intentional afternoon of free time to sightsee, hike, golf, shop or just hang out or even nap.

This conference is all planned and put together by a committee of volunteer rostered leaders. All in all, it was another great gathering.

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Fall Theological Conference

Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.

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