A couple of months ago, missiologist Ed Stetzer spoke at CrossPointe Church Orlando. As he read familiar words from 1 Peter, he freely substituted the word “manager” for “steward.” It’s probably a good shift for us, because we don’t live in a world of stewards. It’s not a context we’re familiar with. Managers we understand. Let’s look at I Peter 4:10 in the NKJV, using Stetzer’s subsitution:
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good managers of the manifold grace of God.
What Peter is saying here is that when we use our gifts in ministry, we’re managing grace. For starters, he’s referring to the personal management of the gift we’re given, but I believe Peter goes further than the individual interpretation we Westerners are used to. As there is throughout the New Testament, there’s an others-focus in Peter’s admonition. I think it’s fair to apply “managers” in an organizational sense.
Perhaps this is a good time to refresh ourselves on what management is. Drawing from Robert Banks and Bernice Ledbetter, as interpreted by Sherwood Lingenfelter, we might say managing means:
- to organize
- to control
- to maintain focus
- to allocate resources around
The point of managing is that we don’t own the resources we are responsible for. We are to have a stewardship mindset toward God’s grace. And yet, every day we have the capacity to manage badly. We have plenty of opportunity to hold back the distribution of grace in our office, church and home cultures. As it’s easy to suppress or misdirect our own gifts, we do the same within our teams — sometimes in the exercise of our own gifts. It’s an easy temptation to try to manipulate behavior in others by controlling grace, withholding approval or granting favor unequally. But Peter calls us instead to be proactive, godly, open-handed stewards of that grace.
I remember visiting another mission organization a few years ago and admiring their core value of “a culture of grace.” In Wycliffe’s own journey toward building intentional diversity among our staff, one phrase that has become part of our common lexicon is to “increase our grace capacity.” What does that look like? How do we manage grace in that kind of high-capacity culture?
- We meet failure with forgiveness and consider it an opportunity to grow.
- We are careful to consider strengths in building diverse teams, recognizing that God’s gifts are distributed broadly, and God doesn’t just speak to the boss.
- We honor others by focusing, harmonizing and enhancing the gifts God has given them.
- We treat others as we want to be treated, forgive others as we want to be forgiven and love others as we want to be loved.
Who wouldn’t want to work in an environment like that?