St. John’s Baptist Church

Worship | Sundays @ 10:30am

A Vision Worth a Risk

The St. John’s Pulpit

St. John’s Baptist Church    300 Hawthorne Lane    Charlotte, NC 28204



Matthew 25:14-30 (Cotton Patch Version)
A Message for Vision Sunday, November 11, 2018

by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD


St. John’s, there is no question whether you are committed to God’s vision;



I am always amazed by these numbers. Every year, across these United States, about 4,000 churches close their doors. St. John’s, our doors are wide open.


Of the 300,000 Protestant churches in the USA, 80% (250,000+) are declining in attendance.

Sixty percent of churches in the USA average less than 90 on Sundays; 40% have fewer than 50.

There is less than half the number of churches in the USA today than there were 100 years ago;

(of course, this is not true in Charlotte.)

Yet, almost a century after we began, St. John’s is larger than 90% of the churches in the USA.


So, please hear my heart today. This is not a message about money or the 2019 Financial Ministry Plan Budget. This is a message about commitment to God’s vision for St. John’s.


This is the eighth year I have offered a message prior to Commitment Sunday. When I arrived in 2011, we were still emerging from and recovering from the devastating economic recession of 2008-2009. This continued for several years. Each year, we have moved forward incrementally. Through these incremental increases, we have expressed faithful financial stewardship and progressed in almost every area of congregational ministry.


Beloved, the economy is now doing well and we are ready to make 2019 a breakthrough year in financial commitments and ministries. In a few minutes, I will list ten ways in which we can take a healthy stride forward. First, here a truths on which my message is based.


God has already provided St. John’s with all the resources we need, as we approach our second century, to (1) strengthen our ministries,(2) expand our influence and (3) increase our participation for 2019 and beyond. God has already placed these resources in your stewardship.


A simpler way of saying this is,

God has already given us all the time we need – it is yours to schedule and manage;

God has already given us all the talents, gifts, skills and knowledge we need – it is in your possession; and

God has already given us all the monies we need – it is in your pockets, purses and accounts.’


This is the story within Jesus’ parable about the master who placed some of his vast resources in the stewardship of his servants. Jesus tells us God has entrusted to us resources of God’s vision for the world. There is no question, St. John’s, whether we are committed to God’s vision; the question is ‘DO YOU SEE GOD’S VISION AS WORTH A RISK?


In Jesus’ parable, two servants take what is entrusted to them – not as possessors, but as trustees, as stewards – and they take a risk by investing the resources on behalf of the master.

The other servant takes what is entrusted to him – and allows fear to control his actions. He does not invest the resources on behalf of the master; he acts as a preserver or a frightened person rather than a steward of the master’s vision. The master expects his servants to exercise the bold risk of investing in activated faithfulness and condemns his servant limited by fear.

This parable is not about making money on investments. This parable of Jesus is about taking a risk on behalf of the master rather than living as a slave to fear.


The reality is that the future is unpredictable; and God’s vision is always a dependable investment which results in good dividends. You get to choose which future will receive your investment. Will you invest in the future of God’s vision or the future of your fear? God gives you the opportunity and responsibility to create the world in which you choose to live. God invites you to ‘Live Tomorrow’s Life Today.’


Let me get pragmatic with you about next year’s giving without getting too deep in the weeds.

Our Financial Ministry Plan for 2018 – which you and I committed to support – is $1,135,000.


I am challenging us to invest in a vision worth a risk for 2019.

I challenge us to increase our Financial Ministry Plan for 2019 to $1,195,000.

This is an increase of $60,000.


If 200 households increase our giving by an average of $10 a week, that is $2000 a week.

If 200 households increase our giving by $10 a week, that is an annual increase of $104,000.

And I am only challenging us to increase our Financial Ministry Plan by $60,000. So, I know this challenge is realistic.


By the way, Paula and I have already committed to increase our giving by at least $10/week.

I spoke with Russell Norris, chair of our Financial Ministry Team, to make sure my numbers were correct (preachers should always check numbers with accountants). Russell said to put he and Stacey down as a commitment as well to this vision. So, now we only need 198 more.


What will we do with this increase?

  1. We will expand our outreach efforts and improve our internal communications.
  2. We will broaden our messaging and use of digital and print media to tell our story.
  3. We will build position profiles and recruit staff for our future vision.
  4. We will offer more experiences aimed at serving families with children and youth.
  5. We will put forth new resources for spiritual formation, discipleship and education.
  6. We will enhance the appearance of our landscape and our street presentation to passersby.
  7. We will increase our support of missions – state, local and global.
  8. We will strengthen our relationship with our local community.
  9. We will bolster our involvement in peace-building and reconciliation.
  10. We will supply information that puts forth substantive theology and biblical literacy.


As you fill out your commitment card for 2019, please take a risk of activated faith to increase your giving by a minimum of $10/week or $520/year, if you are able to do so.


In these weeks, we are focused on Living Tomorrow’s Life Today.


Remember how Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


Remember how Jesus prayed in the garden “not my will but Thine…”


Remember how Jesus went to the cross revealing the love of God.

Jesus invested his life in God’s vision by taking a risk.

And you are his followers.


St. John’s, there is no question whether you are committed to God’s vision;