In our day of fast-paced ingestion and digestion we don’t leave ourselves much time for contemplation. For thinking. For taking it all in. We are often too busy taking photos of an event or scene to really see it, capturing images before (or in place of) capturing memories. I fear this translates into our interaction with Scripture and the Christian faith. We get the beats, but miss the melody and arrangement of the gospel song. And if we are not willing to slow down and take a long look we will continue to merely gain the smallest glimpse of what God wants us to have a God-sized vision of.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ famous parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). It’s been one of those passages I can’t get out of my mind.
Here’s the parable: a man goes on a journey. Before leaving, he entrusts his property to three servants. Each one gets a lot: one gets five talents, possibly worth some three million dollars. A second gets two talents, probably worth just over a million dollars. A third servant gets a paltry (!) half a million dollars or so. When the master returns, he holds them accountable for how they’ve invested what he left with them. Two servants doubled the money and are rewarded; the one who received the least amount of money only preserved the capital and receives a strongly worded rebuke.
It’s not hard to see what the story means. Jesus has left and has entrusted his followers with resources. He will return and hold us accountable for what we’ve done with what he’s left us. Six lessons:
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard preachers talk about their “slumps.” Maybe I’m the only one who feels he has been in one. Or, maybe there are some things we don’t talk about at polite preacher dinner parties. I don’t know, but it sure seems like it would be healthy for preachers to admit that sometimes we’re “off our game.” I don’t mean we preach one dud. I mean we’ve now had a series of lackluster at bats. In fact, not only have the sermons been sub-par, our hearts haven’t been feeling what we’ve been preaching. We know the words, hear them, believe them (usually), but we’re not moved by it.
And Sunday keeps coming. What to do?
In an blogpost earlier this week, I presented the findings of my “autopsy” on a church that just closed its doors and died. I knew the church well because I had been their consultant ten years earlier. The only surprise I found was that the church kept its door open five years longer than I had anticipated.
The post generated much interest. Indeed it is still buzzing today. Many church leaders and laypersons saw early warning signs in the post that related to their own churches. Many are concerned. Many want to know if there is any hope.
The title of this post has a bit of irony. If a church is dying, it cannot then by definition find life.
Several years ago I was in a work situation where men often said sexual, inappropriate things to me and about me. One coworker even went as far as to grab me and then made it a big deal when I asked him not to and pushed him away. It was jolting, and there was no amount of education or discipleship that prepared me to deal with sexual harassment.
I knew it was wrong the whole time it was happening. As a Christian, I felt the tension of how to respond to the sexual harassment: do I pursue justice or extend grace?