Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
As we get a started, I want to acknowledge a special group of people with us this morning.
From about 7am onwards, we’ve had a number of people from TWO different church plants in our denomination, Converge, visiting us today…in order to observe what we do…and see a church plant in action.
As many of you know, we are very serious about church planting.
In fact, our bold and audacious goal is to start 10 churches out of Renovation by 2022.
We are currently at 3…praying for more.
These two visiting churches today aren’t our own, but we are a great friend of church planting, and love to help.
Both churches are launching this fall.
Center Church in Fridley
And Imagine Church in Otsego.
If you know ANYONE in those areas…please help spread the world!
One of the things I love about church planting is that it’s intuitive to every single person on the Launch Team that they’re going to SERVE at the church.
When we started Renovation Church, we had 82 people on our original launch team.
And EVERYBODY did something.
It would have been weird not too…
Our sole purpose in even being on the launch team was to help start a church that was going to reach people for Christ and change the world.
You can’t do that sitting on the couch.
And yet, how does something SO obvious and intuitive in a church’s infancy become muddled as a church grows older?
Isn’t the purpose of ANY church still the same?
To reach a lot of people for Christ and change the world?
Isn’t it just a given that serving is one of the most natural and basic aspects of being a Christ-follower?
Only about 1 in 5 American Christians serve anywhere in their church.
What happened here?
This morning, I want to take a look at a passage in Matthew about this very topic.
(Matthew 25:14-15) – NIV
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.
Traditionally, this is called the Parable of the Talents.
The newer Bibles say “5 Bags of Gold,” but the original Greek words are actually “5 talents.”
A talent was a weight, and then a unit of money.
So the man got 5 talents…which was a ton of money!
Each talent was worth about $250,000 in modern day
So why doesn’t the translation just say “5 talents” anymore?
It’s an interesting case of language history.
The translators want you to know that the man got money…not a “talent” – as you’re thinking of the meaning of the talent J
However…the point of this parable IS that you should use your TALENTS for God.
That’s because the English Word “TALENT” is derived from this very story in the Bible!
(Matthew 25:16-30) – NIV
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.’
So the servants who received 2 and 5 talents (or bags of gold), put them to work (presumably traded them for other things of appreciating value), and got more for their master.
The master in the story, is of course, symbolic of God.
So they took the talents and abilities that God gave them…and we’re able to make an impact!
But the one who got 1 talent…decided not use what the master give him at all, and he buried it instead…never putting it to any use.
So who are you in this story?
Are you using what God gave you for His Kingdom?
Or are you burying your talent?
Because there is one thing for sure in this story: Everybody has been given something by God.
That’s not up for debate.
It might be a little, it might be a lot, but we’ve all been given talents.
The question is: Are you using it or burying it?
EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES
One of the things that really jumps out to me about the third servant (who gets 1 bag of gold) is that his reply to the master is full of excuses concerning why he couldn’t put his talent to use
And most of his excuses come from a poor view of God.
He paints God as a harsh, angry master.
And for 4 out of 5 American Christians who don’t serve their churches…almost everyone has an excuse.
Now, full disclosure, that number is not as high here.
Right around 65% of adults at Renovation serve here somewhere…which is awesome!
But 35% do not…yet J
And for many…we have our reasons. J
We’re too busy doing other things that surely matter more J
We don’t know where to start
We’re too tired…
We might not be good at it…what if we fail?
For others, serving doesn’t really cross our radar
I see this particularly in younger Christians who have grown up in a consumeristic, American culture AND in older Christians who feel like they’ve already put in their time.
We just want to come to church, admire Jesus, talk with Him, and learn about Him.
And find out how He can make our lives better!
That IS why you’re here, right? J
Wait, is that why you’re here?
Here’s a good question for you.
Look deeply into your heart on this one:
Do you think you live like God exists to serve you?
Or do you live like you exist to serve God?
What do your ACTIONS say about how you should honestly answer that question?
Does God exist to make your life better…to serve you?
Or do you exist to serve Him?
THE TRUE DISCIPLE SERVES
See, the main point of Jesus’ parable in this text is that true disciples serve God.
The end of this passage is actually quite a bit darker than most people remember it.
Jesus says that the servant who buried his talent actually goes to Hell (he’s thrown out into the darkness where there is weeping & gnashing of teeth).
In other words, he wasn’t a true disciple.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if you’re currently not using your gifts in God’s kingdom that you’re necessarily actually an unbeliever (although it could mean that)
But what it does mean is that you’re imitating one.
Because one of the most tangible pieces of evidence that a person’s heart has been changed by Christ on the inside…is serving on the outside.
When you really understand that Jesus looked at every sin you ever committed and died for you anyway…you just want to love Him and serve your master back!
This is what the Bible describes as the job description of a disciple of Jesus Christ over and over again.
We’re to be servants.
I think most of the New Testament writers couldn’t even begin to wrap their minds around what much of the modern, American church looks like today.
When they were writing about the Christian’s role in the church…in the New Testament…although there are a few larger gatherings in the opening chapters of acts, they were mostly speaking of Christians in house churches.
They were always picturing Christians knowing and serving each other…and THOSE who were interested in knowing more about Jesus.
There’s no conception whatsoever of churches where some people do nothing but learn for themselves.
Think about the metaphors the writers use for the church.
They call it, “A body”
And the New Testament writer, Paul, says that EVERY part of the body does something.
(1 Corinthians 12:27)
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
And EVERY part of the body does something!
Well, except for the appendix that is.
Maybe God gave us the appendix to show us that when we don’t do anything…we either just sit useless, or worse, we burst and make a mess.
Listen, the church doesn’t need 100 appendixes.
The church can’t be the body…it can’t change the world…with 100 appendixes.
But why do we have so many in American Churches in particular?
I think this is potentially a quantitative problem in our culture.
Are you familiar with the bystander effect?
The bystander effect is when someone in a crowd gets hurt (have a heart attack/faint/etc.), and everyone stands around and does nothing to help
Mostly because they just assume “someone else is surely going to call 911…or offer CPR…there are so many people!”
And I think churches struggle with a similar phenomenon.
Especially large churches…or churches like ours where things seem to be going just fine…maybe even quite well.
Most of us hear a message like this, but we look around, and there are so many other people, so SURELY someone else IS doing it and WILL keep doing it.
But it isn’t just about whether it’s already working or if other people are already doing it…it’s about YOU…and your responsibility as a follower of Jesus.
What most of us need is someone to look us personally in the eye, and say, “Hey you…call 911.”
“Hey you…Jesus wants YOU to be a part of this too. He didn’t save your life so you could be a spectator”
(1 Peter 4:10) – NIV
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
God wants each of you to use the talents HE gave you.
To NOT use them, Jesus strongly challenges us, is to resemble an unbeliever…not a disciple of his.
And you can use those talents in a whole lot of different places (and you should!), but the one place you, Biblically, absolutely have got to use them, is God’s church.
Is for the work of the body of Christ.
On your chair when you walked in this morning, was a sheet of paper of all the different ways you can carry out this passage…here on a Sunday morning.
Read that over sometime this morning. Find a place where you can carry this Biblical principle out..
Because, it’s not just about serving each other…it’s about serving the many new people who walk through our doors every week.
Even in July and August (in the dead of summer)…there have been over 10 new, first-time visitors that walk through these doors every week…many that don’t yet have a relationship with Jesus.
Since we launched this church 5 years ago, we’ve seen 219 people give their lives to Christ at our services!
But that doesn’t happen unless a team of people gets here at 7am and starts setting this up for them.
Unless someone is loving their children while they’re in the service
Unless someone runs the slides, so they can see the Bible.
There’s a team of people (over 65 different volunteers every week)…helping to serve people.
And if that’s not you…and you want to cross over from living like God exists to serve you…to living like you exist to serve God…then be a part of that.
Start figuring out where you can jump in.
As we say here often, “Renovation Church is not a cruise ship…it’s a row boat…pick up an oar”
THERE IS GREAT JOY IN SERVING
And here’s what I want you to see in this passage today.
It’s not just that “the true disciple is the one who serves,” it’s that there is great joy in serving!
There isn’t much joy in burying the talent that God gave you.
You get the feeling from the passage that when the servant says, “Master, you entrusted me with 2 bags of gold, SEE, I have gained two more!”
That’s he’s excited about what He’s been able to do with what the master has entrusted him with!
And the master says to Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
And here’s the irony.
Most of us don’t serve because we feel that we will be happier if we don’t serve.
Now, maybe you’ve never thought of it that way, but isn’t that what is indeed at the bottom of most of our excuses?
We’re too busy (if we signed up to serve…we’d be more busy…and thus…less happy)
And we don’t want to be less happy! So…we don’t do it
We’re tired or fearful about it (if we signed up…things could go wrong…and if things went wrong…we’d be…less happy)
But God is saying, “No, no, no, you’ve got this backwards!”
I designed you to find joy in serving me!
Come and share your master’s happiness!
It’s like, let’s say when my son turns 5, I buy him a bike.
It’s not his. It’s mine. I bought it and gave it to him.
Now, if he acknowledges I got him a bike, but then just buries it in the garage…I’d be bummed…and he’d completely miss out on the joy of riding a bike.
But if he gets it out and rides it…He’s going to share in his father’s happiness.
And it’s going to give me incredible joy to see the thing that I gave him giving him joy!
And your Father in Heaven feels the same way.
He gave each and every one of you (ALL OF YOU!) gifts and talents.
And He is longing for you to put them to use…and experience the joy that comes with that.
And that joy comes in so many ways.
I think of last Sunday, we had a challenging and powerful service, where we asked people who needed to repent and make big life changes to go back for prayer.
And I could see the joy in our prayer team’s eyes after the service.
It was such a thrilling and powerful thing to get to be used by God in that way!
I see it when our tear-down team works hard for an hour…and then often many of them go out to lunch together
See, we think that we will be happier by simply burying our talents…
by just going home and doing the same old thing…
But when we serve…get in community…and experience what YOU WERE CREATED FOR…it’s matchless in joy.
I read an article in Christianity Today recently about a guy named Matthew Eldridge…who is a Christian…but also a professional body double in many blockbuster Hollywood movies.
In the article, he explains how he sees his role. And he says:
“You’ve certainly never heard of me though you may have seen my hands on screen.
How many of us know the names of anyone behind the scenes in Hollywood? The directors or the directors of photography? Camera men? Great films rely not just on acting talent, but a team of talented individuals who work in lighting, gaffing, sound, special effects, painting, props, and so on. And that's just production.
While close to 100 crew members tirelessly work 15 hours a day so a famous movie star can shine, they have an understanding that their work will be underappreciated and likely go unnoticed by those watching the show. But they do it anyway.
Why? Because they love being a part of the creation process. There's something magical about creating something collectively larger than ourselves.
(He continues)…That's how it is in ministry. Ministries (churches) are built with the hands of capable individuals who may never receive recognition for the work they do …. They do what they do for the glory of God. Their satisfaction comes from knowing they help to build something beautiful for God's kingdom …. They are being the hands of Christ.”
And there’s joy in that…because there’s such PURPOSE in that.
That’s why the the 4 or 5 happiest moments of my life didn’t come when I was putting myself first.
It’s always been in serving God and others
And on top of that, often the riskier or selfless the service…the more joy I’ve had.
Some of the most joyful moments of my life have been on the mission field even.
And it truly doesn’t matter HOW much talent you have either.
Notice that the man with 2 bags is just as happy as the man with 5 bags.
And they both get the exact same reply from God.
“Well done…come and share in my happiness”
Jesus says, “Everyone who has will be given more”
When you serve…you’ll actually be the one who is given more joy…more energy…and more purpose…than you ever had before when you were burying the very talents that God gave you.
Joy is intricately connected to purpose…and you will find no purpose when you bury the very things that God gave you in order to help you find purpose.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
So what are you going to do about this?
Don’t wait on this.
Today is the day…August 16th…that you get your shovel out…and you start digging out some of those buried talents that God gave you to serve His people.
If you’ve been stuck in bystander effect for a long time, watching other people do it…I’m looking at YOU right now: “Get your shovel…today…dig it up!”
God wants to use YOU!”
Start here…serve your church.
I know that so many of you…almost 30 to 40 have started regularly attending here just since Easter.
If that’s you and you’ve been floating around the edges…make today the day you plant your roots here…get your talent out of the “church garage” and start letting Jesus use you again!
Live like a disciple of Jesus should live: Like you exist to serve God…not like He exists to serve you.
And for the many of you that already do serve here…you are amazing.
God has done so much through this church in 5 years…and you are almost all of the reason why.
But know that for most of you…God has even more in store for you.
I believe that serving HAS to start with the church body…but for most of you your talents run much deeper than even what you do here.
As we’ve been talking about listening to and obeying God’s unique call in 1 Samuel this summer, I’ve gotten some really neat emails from people who are “listening to God”
And they’re now serving with other non-profits, helping kids in need, helping the homeless, and more.
If you know that you’ve got more talents buried in your back yard than you’ve let on …get ‘em out.
Because here’s the deal: Notice that each of the servants has to give an account to God.
Just like you and I will one day give an account of our lives to God.
And what will you say to God about the talents He gave you?
Are you going to tell Him about how you used the talents He gave you for a purpose?
Or will you be resigned to tell him a sad story of buried and unused talents?
And we’re called to use them not just because they give us purpose and joy…but because the situation is dire.
The whole context of Matthew 24 and 25 is that Jesus is coming back…eternity is coming.
And we have a mission.
It’s a mission that is so clear when you first launch a church.
Eternity is coming.
People are indeed going to heaven…and without Jesus…to hell.
The Church needs to be a rescue mission, and the situation is so dire and so serious that every single one of us needs to get out a shovel, and make sure ALL of our talent is out of the ground.
That’s exactly what Jesus has called you to do as a disciple.
So let’s get out our shovels…and let’s do this!