Stewardship: Fulfilling the Call — Past, Present and Future
When John Wesley Hughes first received the call from God to establish a school, this new assignment seemed to him to be, as he later wrote, “bewildering as I considered what seemed my utter inability and unfitness.”
Hughes initially may have felt unqualified for his calling, but his love for God would not permit him to neglect his new vocation. With earnest hard work, he founded Asbury College in 1890 and stewarded the mission of the institution as president for 15 years.
Today, that foundation supports several different facets of stewardship under the umbrella of “bringing all things under the lordship of Christ” — the time and talent of its students, the gifts of its faculty, the physical facilities and financial resources, to name a few. As it turns out, Hughes’ sense of responsibility, of stewardship for the vision of “a real holiness school,” was just the beginning.
Between November “stewardship drives” and the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, one of the first aspects of stewardship that springs to mind for many Christians is financial.
Asbury’s commitment to a conservative fiscal policy goes back to a period in the early 1930s in which the young school, hampered by debt and struggling in the Great Depression, nearly shut down. After negotiating with creditors and bringing back veteran fund-raiser H.C. Morrison for his second term as president, Asbury closed 1934 in the black, as it has every year since. To this day, the Board of Trustees is careful to keep the University’s debt — usually acquired only for special project expenses, and never for operating costs — under a specific percentage of its assets.
Before Asbury can wisely administer its financial resources, however, it must first obtain them. Tuition dollars are supplemented by donations from grants, foundations, corporations, parents, friends and alumni.
Junior Abbegail Wells is a student manager for Asbury’s Phonathon, a program through which students contact University alumni and friends to update them on campus projects, pray with them and let them know of opportunities to give back to the school. Each week, the “phoners” talk with people who not only provide funding for the University’s operations and scholarships, but also take seriously the responsibility to steward the sense of community they shared as students.
“We do raise support for Asbury, but it’s so much more than that,” Wells said. “One of our favorite things to do is to pray for them on the phone, and we pray for all requests at the end of the night. It’s the coolest thing ever when they ask you how they can pray for you.
“Hearing what Asbury means to them makes being here much more meaningful to us. We’re blessed to work and hear how Asbury is impacting lives. It makes us grateful for our time here and the relationships we have.”
Throughout the Bible, nature illustrates and demonstrates God’s beauty and omnipotence, playing a major role in God’s relationship with His people. Moreover, mankind’s first responsibility was to work the earth and care for it.
At Asbury, one of the ways this stewardship of creation has been manifested is through recycling efforts and an awareness on campus that what God deemed “good” in Genesis is, in fact, all around. Creation care is more than merely picking up a napkin or throwing away an old soda can in the woods; it is a lifestyle.
A strong advocate for creation care is the Asbury Outdoors program, led by Professor Trent Ellsworth. It coordinates a pre-orientation wilderness excursion called Archways as well as other outdoor trips and creation care speakers.
“People might think they have to go to the woods to experience creation,” junior Alex McIntosh said. “But it is every day as we walk to class or wherever. We need to be aware of creation because even that gives glory to God.”
Time Well Spent
One of the most important resources Asbury students have is intangible: time. The school and the student are together responsible for making the college years a time of exposure to the width and breadth of options open to each student.
For Stockton Brown ‘12, being a good steward of her time at Asbury meant exploring different passions and following interests to see where they might lead. And though the activities varied — Brown was an enthusiastic supporter of intramural volleyball in addition to academics and student government — each one revealed lessons for the moment and prepared her to take the next step to law school.
“I am absolutely grateful for Asbury, the lessons I learned there and the people I became friends with,” Brown said. “Time is our biggest resource — it’s how we show what we love and value. I’m so grateful for the time I had to invest in relationships at Asbury, learning about God’s sovereignty and presence.”
Seeking ‘Well Done’
John Wesley Hughes would probably be a big fan of an initiative at Asbury that ties together multiple aspects of stewardship. The Mission Farm Project is a cross-disciplinary program that teaches students sustainable farming techniques. With these skills, students can work in less-developed areas of the world to share the love of Christ in practical, relevant ways.
The stewardship implications of the Mission Farm are manifold: Ecologically, sustainable farming is kinder to God’s creation. Theologically, students who can share their knowledge of gardening also can open doors to share God’s truth. Financially, homegrown products costs less money, and educationally, students learn about the connections between biology, soil chemistry, economics and ministry.
It was this combination of body, mind and spirit that grabbed Hughes 123 years ago at Asbury’s founding. And it was this sort of a return on investment that the wealthy man in the parable of the talents might have envisioned as well. Just as he left his servants with resources according to their abilities, so has the Lord gifted resources of talent, financial support, natural resources and time to Asbury.
“We’re accountable to those who came before us and those in the future — to leave the University intact, able to minister and fulfill its call,” said Dr. Charlie Fiskeaux, vice president of business affairs and CFO. “We’re accountable to the larger Church world to turn out students who are able to contribute to the work of bringing the Lord’s kingdom on earth. We have done it, we are doing it, and we’ll leave an institution capable of doing it until Jesus comes.”
For a more in-depth exploration of Stewardship at Asbury, click here to read “In Search of 'Well Done...'” in the Ambassador alumni magazine (Winter 2013), and click here to learn more about Stewardship as a Cornerstone.