Jesus once told a story about a man who went on a trip. Before he left, he went to three of his workers and gave “talents”, or valuable coins, to each of them. He gave 5 talents to the first, 2 talents to the second, and 1 talent to the third.
After the man left, the one with 5 talents went off and traded until he ended up with double – 10 talents! The one with 2 talents did the same until he ended up with 4 talents. But the man with 1 talent buried it in a field, too fearful to risk the only coin he had to try to make more.
Preachers and biblical scholars read this story and spend most of their energy contrasting the man with 5 talents against the man with 1 talent. But what about the one with 2? He did not turn riches into riches, nor did he protect scarce resources in fear of losing them. He simply had a modest amount, and took some risks to build it into a slightly larger amount.
I often think of Avery UMC as a “Two Talent Church.” We do not have the resources large churches have, an abundance that frees them to take great risks without fear of losing everything. However, we are also not in the position of many small churches in America: saddled with a decaying building, a dwindling membership, and a lack of financial resources. Having served one such church, I know that fear motivates everything in these places, because people know that one misstep might mean the end of that church’s life span. They often can’t bring themselves to risk the one talent they have.
But Avery is neither a large church of abundance nor a small church burying coins in fear. We are somewhere in the middle: a true Two Talent Church. We have resources. We have opportunities. We have potential. We have financial stability (most of the time).
But Two Talent Churches don’t garner much attention. A lot of our denominational focus seems to be on the Five Talent Churches doing wonderful, headline-worthy work. I am thankful for the ways they inspire us to do our best. The denomination’s remaining focus is on One Talent Churches hanging on for dear life: helping them through the struggle, exploring viability for ministry, and occasionally helping them die with dignity and purpose.
These types of churches are predictable. In contrast, Two Talent Churches like Avery are a mystery. What will our future be? Will we grow and thrive as we reach a new generation of people? Or will we slip into complacency with our coins (and heads!) buried?
The truth is, it’s up to us. This summer we have two opportunities to build relationships with our community – Screen on the Green and Summer Blast. Additionally, through the generosity of our own members we will soon turn fruit into baked goods, which will then be sold to support the ministry of the global church. These are our talents for now, and if we are bold in using them I believe more talents will be on the way. So let’s not go digging holes. God wants us to take risks, to be bold, to see what we can do with what we’ve been given!