On November 13, many churches around the country will read an old story that Christ once told on a Galilean hillside: Three servants received large amounts of money from their master. Two invested their stipend, doubling the return. One dug a hole and buried an opportunity to exercise his gifts.
I am talking, of course, about the Parable of the Five Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, from which our organization takes its name.
One of the key verses reads that the master gave talents to his servants "...each according to his ability." This phrase – "each according to his ability" – contains a liberating message for the poor, and also for ourselves. This Gospel reading suggests that we are made in the image of God and, therefore, all of us have value and gifts to use for ourselves, our families and our communities.
Five Talents is built on this belief. The poor have value and can be empowered to tap their own unique gifts and abilities to create a better life. When Five Talents began 11 years ago, words like sustainability, economic empowerment, and self-supporting churches were just beginning to be whispered. Now these words are being shouted from every corner of the world.
I dare say Five Talents has helped to lead that conversation as a means of growing God's Kingdom.
The idea that the church in Africa or Asia needs to depend on the West for growth is quite frankly "old school." Today, our brothers and sisters all over the world are looking for ways to make their churches economically self-sufficient and less dependent, and Five Talents is contributing to this movement.
"Who will respect the church that cannot stand on its own feet?" reads one of the guiding principles of a local church we work with.
Church leaders are asking how their people can use the gifts and skills that they have to create jobs, pay the clergy and help form the growing the economic base in their developing communities.
For example, the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) recently communicated that economic empowerment is one of its top priorities for the church. This was unheard of a decade ago. Our work in this field, and our success, has provided an example for how this priority can be achieved.
For us here at Five Talents, the question now is, How do we support that conversation practically with our services? And how do we do it right? What are the dos and don'ts of economic empowerment within the church construct? What kind of staffing and governance issues arise in the establishment of microcredit programs or income-generating activities for a church?
As we look ahead, we believe we can be a catalyst to help the church participate in a movement to end extreme poverty in this generation by 2035. How exciting it will be when the churches in the developing world are no longer as dependent on the West as they have been in the past. How exciting it will be when they can generate their own income, their own capacity to serve Jesus, and work with the West as true partners.
I was privileged to witness the Episcopal Church in the Philippines celebrate this very outcome. The church had set a goal to have all clergy and churches be self-supporting, instead of accepting subsidies from the United States and other countries. A little over two years ago, they achieved their goal and, as a symbol of their self-sufficiency, they gave a gift to the church in the United States for its ministry.
By praying for and supporting Five Talents, you are helping to build self-sustaining local church communities in some of the most impoverished communities around the world.
Thank you for trusting us with your investment. We promise to multiply it – not bury it.
For more information about our Five Talents Sunday campaign, please click here, or contact me.