But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. Matthew 25:26-27
Honestly, I have always felt a little sorry for the poor servant who did not invest his master’s money wisely. It seems to me there is at least a little wisdom in putting the money away and making sure it doesn’t get lost or otherwise wasted away. I can still remember the first time I ever studied this parable (I was a teenager) and being shocked at the harshness of this master. “Wicked” and “slothful” just seemed a little over the top to me, especially for a servant who kept all of his master’s money intact and did not lose any of it.
But, alas, the economy of God’s kingdom does not favor the radical fiscal conservatives like me. In God’s eyes, simply hiding the resources under my mattress and saving them for a rainy day is just poor stewardship. I should rather be investing those resources and growing them. I should be risking them a little (every investment is a risk) and putting them to work.
The same is true for the church. And not just with finances or material resources, but maybe even more importantly, with the human resources God has given us in our congregants…the spiritual gifts, talents, abilities, learned skills, work backgrounds, and emotional strengths in the people God has brought us. Our master has placed all those resources into our hands as the church and, shrewd stewards that we are, we are to put them to work…risk them…use them to produce …
Tuesday Remix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
Our Bible study in my church this Summer has been on missional living and ministering outside the walls of the church. It looks at the New Testament church as described in the Bible and observes that those Christians (all of them…not just the apostles) were actively involved in responding to the human needs around them. Only some of them were Apostles, only some were pastors, but all of them were ministers…all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and were being used by God to accomplish significant things in the world around them. You may recall from this post that I believe in a mobilized laity, i.e., laymen who are actively involved in ministry.
And so these observations beg the question: what about my church? How can I use my influence to help my local body of believers become more ministry-minded and people-focused?
Well, I can tell you from personal experience what won’t work.
Do NOT start by identifying all of the human suffering and human needs around your church and then trying to structure to meet those needs. That approach seems logical enough. It is what I would call an “agency” approach: first identify the needs, then structure to meet them, then raise the funds to support the structure, then recruit the human resources to support the vision. It makes sense, doesn’t it? But without a healthy dose of exploring who your people are (i.e., your church, your pool of human resources) and how God is at work in their lives and how they have been gifted, you will end up with a ministry that looks good on paper but which lacks energy, passion, a sense of God’s presence …
Tuesday Re-mix: This is an update of a popular post I ran last year.
Do you agree with me that, to a large extent, the American church has fallen asleep in the pews? I don’t mean that literally (although there may be another post there). I mean that we have grown fat and lazy as servants and have been lulled to a state of Spiritual incapacitation by our “entertain me, feed me, give me, minister to me” consumer mentality. I think if the apostle Paul came to America today, he would be appalled.
I believe in an active laity. I believe the Spirit of God Himself lives, moves and manifests Himself through every believer. I believe God’s calling on my life (as a layman) is no less significant than His calling on a pastor’s life. I believe God gives laity specific assignments in Body life with an expectation that they will be met with faithfulness and commitment. Put all these “belief” pieces together and it means that I am often accused of “blurring the line” between laity and clergy in the church. Of that charge I am completely guilty.
Please understand, I believe strongly in the notion of pastoral authority. I believe God gives a pastor an ability to see what He (God) is doing across the landscape of a congregation and therefore have a critical insight on vision and direction of that congregation. In that regard, then, I believe there is a difference between being a pastor and being a layman. But I’m not convinced God intended the differences to go much further than that.
It seems to me that the church (at least the various church cultures with which I am familiar) is guilty of maintaining two classes of “citizens”: the professional clergy (whom we pay to do …