the future is bright, the future is God’s

Hello, dear bloggites. I hope and pray that 2012 will bring blessing, comfort, encouragement and peace to you all.

It will also probably bring a lot more bloggerel from me – you have been warned!

The good old Baptist Union of Great Britain is having a very serious look at itself in the face of a very large hole in its finances. As part of this they have formed a ‘futures group’ to “re-imagine what Christ is calling us to do as a Baptist people in the UK, prioritise key areas of our shared life and mission and in doing that move towards a balanced budget.”

Now while I applaud their approach, which includes a wide-ranging consultation process, and while I agree that we should always seek to be financially prudent in our planning, I can’t help feeling just a twinge of concern that this is being driven by financial concerns rather than God’s mission imperative. I appreciate that as a charity we must seek to be good stewards of our resources and that we cannot continue to use up resources recklessly. But if God wants us to be doing some things, we can be sure he will also provide the resources for us to do them. In fact, I reckon he already has, but it may be that they are currently being used in the wrong places or in the wrong way. I hope that this is the main thrust of the process.

I can’t help but be reminded of the following parable:

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

    14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag 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. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. 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 two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; 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 one bag of gold 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. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold 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? 27 Well 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 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30, NIV)

DIGGING IN THE DIRTI fully appreciate that this parable is not about denominational budgets and priorities. But I wonder whether we will have the courage to take the resources that God has given us and risk them in mission, or whether we will be keeping them in holes in the ground? And perhaps we ought to excavate the holes in the ground (reserves in local churches as well as national) and see whether we are being good and faithful servants with the resources in them.

What sort of God do we serve? For me, that’s the first question for the Union, associations, local churches and us as individuals too. Only then should we consider how we use the resources he has given us… anyone need a spade?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

There were two guys working for the city. One would dig a hole, he would dig, dig, dig, the other would come behind him and fill the hole, fill, fill, fill. These two men worked furiously. One digging a hole, the other filling it up again.

A man was watching from the pavement and couldn’t believe how hard these men were working, but couldn’t understand what they were doing. Finally he had to ask them.

He said to the hole digger, “I appreciate how hard you work, but what are you doing? You dig a hole and your partner comes behind you and fills it up again!”

The hole digger replied, “Oh yeah, must look funny, but the guy who plants the trees is sick today.”

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