Talk Is Cheap
Talk is Cheap: A Response to the Call for Regional (Black) Conferences to be Dissolved
Let me tell you a parable I made up.
The setting is the antebellum South. The US is a class society. Blacks have second class status. The white male is at the top of this pyramid.
In my parable there's a slave named John. John became a Christian under the preaching of a White Christian minister who was also his slavemaster. John wants to worship alongside his white Christian brothers and sisters. The problem is that the White Christians don't feel comfortable worshiping in the company of Blacks.
While uncomfortable with Blacks worshiping with them, they did feel the need for the Blacks to worship somewhere. So John's slavemaster comes up with a bright idea: he decides to give John his own land. John's slavemaster said, "It's not wise for us to be seen worshiping together as Blacks and Whites. You know, with all the racial tension in our society, it would be better for us to keep working for our people and for you to keep working for your people. So go on, take this land and build your own church. You and your people worship together over there. And we'll stay together and worship over here."
So John takes the land. John learns how to rightly divide the Word of God. John learns how to build a strong congregation. John evangelizes. John gets so good at doing church, that he begins to build up the property. John's being so blessed in ministry that he is able to hire other preachers who are themselves strong proclaimers of the Gospel.
Years later John's former Christian slavemaster notices how well John is doing on the property that he gave him. John's doing much better than he expected. He didn't know that John was going to actually be successful in his soul-winning endeavors -- at least not to this extent! There's a lot of money flowing through the churches that John oversees. John's members are more fired up and excited about reaching people who don't know Jesus than many of the members who go to the former slavemaster's church. John's even got his preachers on a retirement plan that's better than that of the the preachers on the slavemaster's property!
After all the years that John has spent doing the best with what he's been given, now the former slavemaster comes back to John and says, "You know, Brother John? We need to be unified. Let's come together and be one. There's no longer a need for you to be over there and for me to be over here. Why don't we get rid of your property and you bring your assets back over here and we can all be one happy family."
The thing is, if you listened to the former slavemaster talk about John's church, you would think that the former slaves (John's members) are standing at their church doors keeping White people out. Nothing could be further from the truth. Former slaves know what it's like to be treated as second class citizens. So on the contrary, the members of John's churches are inclusive. John's church has some Korean, Brazilian, native African, and East Indian members in it. In fact, it even has some White members and white preachers who used to preach on the slavemaster's property in it!
On the other hand, the former slavemaster has a whole lot of former slaves who prefer being in their former slavemaster's church. In fact, if you walk into the slavemaster's churches, he's got so many former slaves sittin' up in there you would think those churches belong on John's property! There are so many former slaves and so few Whites you wouldn't know it's a white church (except you follow the treasurer with the offerings to the bank). It's okay. The members of John's churches respect former slaves who choose to worship in the church of their former slavemaster. They recognize that some former slaves are just more comfortable there.
What is strange to the formers slaves of John's churches is that the very slavemaster and his White members who are calling for unity leave their own churches when "too many" former slaves join those churches. They go build another church and leave the church in hands of the former slaves who came. (Except they make sure the former slaves send the offerings to them to administrate.)
One would think that with all the unity that the former slavemaster is talking about he would demonstrate his confidence in the former slaves who currently worship with him by putting them into key leadership posts with him. He has black pastors who lead his churches, but they rarely become administrators. John's pastors become administrators, but the former slavemaster's pastors are rarely considered for administrative posts on the slavemaster's property.
In light of the limited information you have received in this crude parable, what should John do? Should he abandon the focused work for the gospel he has done among his own people that has resulted in thousands of conversions in the name of "unity" with his former slavemaster? Remember, it was the slavemaster's idea to give John his own property because he didn't want John on his property in the first place. Even now, the slavemaster doesn't show a change of mind about the competence of former slaves because he doesn't include the ones loyal to him in the true decision-making process of his own fellowship of churches?
The question that I would ask is, what should John do?
They had the option of purchasing land and having a builder construct their dream home. This plan would require them to do a lot of work themselves, such as landscaping and painting. Or they could purchase an older home and modernize the areas of the home that needed improvement.
One day they noticed in the local paper that a residential builder had gone bankrupt and the local bank was offering a cul-de-sac of homes for sale. More out of curiosity than the possibility of actually purchasing one of these homes, he decided to attend the auction.
To his surprise there were only four people at the auction; the banker, the auctioneeer, one other customer and himself. The banker asked my friend if he was interested. He replied that if the price fell within his price range he would consider buying. When the banker heard my friend's offer he replied, "That amount would barely cover the cost of materials for one of these homes, let alone the construction expenditure."
As my friend turned to leave, the banker called him back and said, "If you can return with a cashier's check for that amount of money, we will accept your bid and you may have first choice of any of these cul-de-sac homes."
Because they had spent the last twenty years faithfully saving their money for their retirement home, when the door of opportunity opened, they were able to purchase a better home than they could ever have imagined.
My friend's experience demonstrates not only how important it is to save, but how timing can be more significant. The wise man from the Old Testament, King Solomon, said it well in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the heaven." Many times we fail to seize the right opportunity or take advantage of an important moment in time. Not because we do not have a great plan or lack determination, but because we move too early or too late.
The model of the four seasons yearly rotation may assist us in becoming effective in our timing, whether it is for an individual project or a lifetime goal. In addition, the wonderful biblical story of the courageous Jewish orphan girl, Esther, will clearly illustrate the benefits of seasonal timing.
If you choose to be successful in life or a specific project, winter is the best time to plan and strategize for the spring planting. This is the time when you begin to reflect on your dreams, set your goals, determine your purpose, and make plans to fulfill your objective. Esther spent many long winter seasons for years in exile with her people before she was elevated to be the Persian Queen. And yet, during that extended period of her life, she had ample time to associate and understand the needs of her Israelite community. Consequently, when she became queen, she knew the heart and soul of her nation's people, what they desired and what she was required to do in order to save them.
The successful individual knows that when spring arrives, it is time to put the plans in motion. This is not the time to sit back and continue daydreaming. This is the time to sow the seeds for the upcoming harvest. The book of Esther explains that before a Persian Queen could be crowned, Persian law required that she spend twelve months in preparation prior to her appearance before the monarch. It was during this twelve-month period that Esther found favor with the king's eunuch, who guided and instructed her how to conduct herself throughout this appearance so as to win the king's favor.
When the summer season arrives, it is time to take action and coordinate the inner workings of your project to see if your plan is on track. In Esther's case, this was the time for her to go before her husband, the king, and request his presence at a special banquet prepared for him and Haman. Summer is also the time to take calculated risks and venture into uncharted waters. Mordecai reminded Esther that if she did not take this chance and present a case for the salvation of the children of Israel, her future would be the same as her own people.
For those who have planned, worked hard, taken risks and cultivated their dreams and aspirations, the fall is always the best season. This is when you see the results of your four seasons of work. On the other hand, the outcome can be disenchantment, disillusionment and regret because of missed opportunities and meager preparation. In the story of Esther, the fall season was a time for rejoicing when the King of Persia ended Haman's evil conniving for power and hung him on his own gallows. Also, the winter plans to save the Jewish people by Mordecai was rewarded when he was promoted to second in command.
Ultimately, for each of us, the key to making correct decisions, developing purposeful goals and seeing a project through to a successful conclusion, is to understand, discern and utilize each of the four seasons. Remember, timing is everything.
Gordon Botting is the financial education and stewardship director of the Pacific Union Conference