We have developed a habit here at First Baptist Church.
As my good friend, Deryk Baurle, recently described it, we allow our mouths to write checks that we hope we can cash. To put it in more literal terms, we volunteer to take on large projects that require large amounts of organization, volunteer involvement and in almost every instance, some level of financial investment. Before we’ve fully counted the proverbial and literal cost, we’ve often committed ourselves and then must discern how to get the job done.
Some may consider this proclivity a flaw in our organizational structure. I find it to be a beautifully chaotic and Christ-like form of craziness. It’s a pattern we see throughout the gospels.
The first example that immediately comes to mind is the first miracle of Jesus. In the early verses of John 2, we find Jesus and his disciples attending a wedding. At some point in the festivities, they run out of wine. Mary, the mother of Jesus, catches wind of the issue and approaches Jesus about it.
She apparently had full confidence Jesus could and would meet the need because she leaves some servants with him, instructing them to do whatever he says. It appears to me Mary wrote a check Jesus then had to cash.
We see the same pattern in Christ’s own ministry. At least twice throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus fed thousands of people sitting on Judean hillsides. In Matthew 14, Jesus feeds 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, and in Matthew 15, Jesus feeds 4,000 with seven loaves of bread and “a few” small fish. In both of these instances, Jesus himself writes a big check he asks his disciples to help cash with his assistance.
From a purely human perspective, these tasks seem herculean and unreasonable. Even after seeing the first two miracles, the disciples struggled to see how Jesus could do the third.
But Jesus is not concerned with our sense of reasonability or our ability to see the ends. Jesus is not limited by our resources. It is we who are often limited by our failure to step out in faith to trust him to work in and through us. Our God is in the business of doing “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).”
At First Baptist Church, we’ve seen the reality of what God can do as a result of our practice of writing checks we can’t cash without assistance from the broader church body, community partners and the good Lord Jesus himself.
In just the last month, we have prepared 110 boxes for international distribution through Operation Christmas Child, we have rallied support within our church and the broader community of Seymour to conduct a fall festival to raise money for Margaret R. Brown Elementary School and we have baked 250-plus pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving baskets to be distributed in partnership with Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry.
These are all projects that came about as the result of people in our church writing “checks” with trust that our community would support the effort and faith that God would enable us to cash them. Just one such project would have been crazy enough, but we did all three simultaneously. And God did more than we could ask or imagine, just as he said.
The great preacher and theologian John Wesley is quoted as saying, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
All that’s left for us to decide is are we willing? Are we willing to invest the time, energy and resources necessary to do whatever we can do? Are we willing to take steps of faith to extend beyond what we think we are able to make space for God and others to join us in our efforts?
There is no absence of need in our world. What is often absent is women and men with the right combination of courage, crazy and faith to step up and step out by writing checks that can only be cashed with God’s help. So let’s write some checks and do some good.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected]