By Paul Extrum-Fernandez
It is difficult to speak of generous leadership in a time marked by greed, malfeasance and economic uncertainty. Yet, it is precisely the time for those of us who serve God's people to consider the ennobling power of generosity.
"Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back" (Luke 6:38, NRSV).
Luke places this verse within a larger context of Jesus' teaching to His disciples -- reflecting on blessings and woes, love for our enemies and forbearance from passing judgment upon others. It also reminds us that God's "measure" of our lives is directly related to our "measure" of our relationships to others.
I cannot help but think of cookie recipes that call for one cup of packed brown sugar. I tend to be an overzealous abider of cooking law, pressing and packing every possible grain of sugar into that one cup. I don't want to feel like I have cheated the cookie or myself!
How can we ensure that we "pack" everything we have to give into our relationships with the people we serve? How might we practice generosity in a period of recessionary angst? How can we give it our all when we feel like we have little or nothing more to give?
In a recent conversation with some of my staff, we were discussing some of the concerns we face as an organization. As I was outlining some of the issues, one of my younger colleagues chimed in and reminded me of the opportunity we have to think and act creatively -- especially in these financially challenging days.
It was during this encounter that I understood more fully the relationship between leadership and generosity. Whether we call it "thinking outside the box," creative engagement or even "wishful thinking," our opportunity as leaders in the church is to explore today where we would not have yesterday. Ideas are not in short supply, only our willingness to receive them as leaders. God's generous gift to us is the capacity to see hope in places where before we would not have dreamed it could be found.
Generous leadership is more than just a substantial financial contribution -- although that certainly incarnates it! Generous leadership is more about leading with a spirit of grace and compassion. Living and leading generously means discerning between the frivolous and the meaningful. Too often in our local churches we leaders can become sidetracked by petty arguments so that we miss seeing God's activity within and beyond our doors.
Jesus' invitation is before us: Keep our eyes and hearts on God's eternal promises. "Give and it will be given to you." Press down your measure, shake it well and share it abundantly. Our witness as Christian leaders is an invitation for those who encounter us to follow our example.
--Paul Extrum-Fernandez is vice president for institutional advancement at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, Calif. A member of the 2005-2008 Connectional Table, Extrum-Fernandez has been a delegate to General Conference and the Western Jurisdictional Conference. He earlier served as director of connectional ministries for the California-Nevada Conference. He is a co-author of Afire with God: Being Spiritual Stewards (Discipleship Resources).