The boss needed to call one of his employees about an urgent problem with one of the main computers. He dialed the home phone number and was greeted with a child’s whispered, “Hello?” Feeling put out at the inconvenience of having to talk to a kid, the boss asked, “Is your Daddy home?” “Yes”, whispered the small voice. “May I talk with him?” the man asked. To the surprise of the boss, the small voice whispered, “No.” Wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is your Mommy there?” “Yes”, came the answer. “May I talk with her?” Again the small voice whispered, “No”. Knowing that it was not likely that a young child would be left home alone, the boss decided he would just leave a message with the person who should be there watching over the child. “Is there any one there besides you?” the boss asked the child. “Yes” whispered the child, “A policeman”. Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked “May I speak with the policeman”? “No, he’s busy”, whispered the child. “Busy doing what?, asked the boss. “Talking to Daddy and Mommy…and the Fireman”, came the whispered answer. Hearing a loud noise over the phone the boss asked, “What’s that?!” “A helicopter”, answered the whispering voice. “What’s going on there?”, asked the boss, now alarmed. In an awed, whispering voice the child answered, “The search team just landed the helicopter.” Alarmed, concerned and more than just a little frustrated, the boss asked, “Why are they there? What are they searching for? Still whispering, the young voice replied with a muffled giggle: “Me!”
We’re in the 4th week of The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, based on the book by United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase. The 1st week, we looked at Radical Hospitality. The 2nd week was Passionate Worship. Last week we looked at Intentional Faith Development. Today, our emphasis is on Risk-Taking Mission and Service. Risk-taking mission and service is an outward focus that changes the world and invigorates the church. Let’s see an example of it from:
Matthew 25:14-30- “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19″After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21″His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22″The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23″His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24″Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26″His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This is a fairly familiar passage. Before the master leaves, he entrusts his servants with some of his money. Two of them put his money to work and double it, while the 3rd one buries the money in the ground, returning it safe and sound. It’s easy to think that the 3rd servant did pretty good…or at least OK. I mean, the master gave him 1 talent, and that’s exactly what he gave back to the master…1 talent. What’s wrong with that? We find the answer to that when we look at what the other two servants did. They could have easily followed suit and buried their talents. But instead, they chose to involve themselves in risk-taking behavior. They dare to step out in faith and put the master’s money to work, and the reward is that his resources are doubled!
There’s a difference between doing things because they make us feel good and doing things because we exist to serve God and others. Almost all churches are involved in some kind of mission and service- the projects, efforts, and work people do to make a positive difference in the lives of others. But when you add “risk-taking”, it suddenly refers to extraordinary opportunities for life-changing engagement with other people with movement into greater uncertainty, a higher possibility of discomfort, resistance, or sacrifice. As congregations move beyond their comfort zones and follow Christ into more risk-taking, adventurous encounters with others, God changes them.
There are three truths that help us move forward boldly…even when the task appears overwhelming, even when our first response is to do nothing.
1.) We are called by Him.
2.) We are simply not up to the task asked of us.
3.) We need to respond.
The fact of the matter is this: risk taking is about what…and more importantly who…we place our trust in. Do we place our trust in the resources of the world? Do we place our trust only in what we can see, touch, feel, taste, smell…and control? If so, we are placing our trust in ourselves! What this passage is yelling at us from the top of this Mountain Jesus sits upon is this, “to be salt and light in my world; to really make a difference for my Kingdom; you must place your trust in me.” And that means at times doing things that take us WAY out of our comfort zones. It may also mean doing things that seem every bit counter-intuitive to our understanding.
But vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice risk-taking mission and service because they love God and love others. When churches take the risk to turn outward, they come alive with a real sense of purpose as they are transformed…both individually and collectively. Their relationships and conversations change and they develop a whole new purpose of being together. That’s what happens to churches when people serve together in risk-taking mission and service. Are we ready for the adventure that is the Gospel? Are we up to God’s nudges to get involved, try something new, take a risk? What are you willing to risk?