January 29, 2007
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

     And let the race begin! No official "starter" uttered those words... but, the competitors are running. Last weekend, Senator Clinton started her "Conversation with America," joining the growing choir of voices already jockeying for the lead. The longest primary season in history has begun...
     For both parties - and a few independents who will step on the track before it's over - every audience will constitute a campaign stop. No random words, from now to polls. The recorders will capture every utterance... so, the instructions are clear: be on message. Don't say anything that you don't want to hear on tonight's network news. Stay on script... or shut up. One slip - replayed ad nauseum - could cost you plenty.
     Those White House wannabes have to know what they've got to offer, and the offer has to sound better than the others from which we have to choose. When I pastored, the message changed every weekend; since founding The Master's Program - 10 years ago this week! - my message has been fixed.
     John the Baptist had his message: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!" (Matthew 3:2). Same talk, every day. On point. Paul the Apostle? "...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared..." (I Corinthians 15:3-5). All the winners had a message. They didn't do improv: they were scripted...
     My message has been clarifying over these last 120 months. I'm not running from anything - or, for anything - but, toward something. Paul called it "the prize;" he dubbed it "the reward." It's what the winners in the only race that counts have to look forward to. In the Beltway Sweepstakes, there will be only one winner; in the Kingdom ultra-marathon, there are as many winners as there are aspirants... who are serious.
     My stump speech - in business, it's known as the "elevator speech" - isn't "canned," but it is consistent. Shaped for every audience -from one-in-a-booth to an assemblage over breakfast - the key points are unalterable. Shank, what are the bullet-points in your "Conversation with the Kingdom?"
     My audience is narrow: Christians who are spiritual grown-ups - not infants - who are in the church... but are ready for more service challenge than is available through the volunteer assignments offered in last Sunday's bulletin. Leaders who are proven performers in/through their career challenges... but under-challenged in their Kingdom life.
     Jesus made it clear that this life is a reality event - call it Kingdom Apprentice. He's assembled a team of potential winners to see if they have what it takes to earn a position of leadership in Eternity. The rules in the Son's program are different than the Donald's: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28).
     The agenda for winners in this life - according to the culture - is simple: hire people to serve them... and use their power to take from "the system" more than they have to give. They call it "higher returns." The agenda for winners in this life - according to Jesus - is counterintuitive: offer themselves as servants to people who could never afford them... and use their power to give to "the system" more than they have the power to take.
     The culture celebrates leisure; the Kingdom celebrates service. The culture says, "The one who dies with the most toys, wins." The Kingdom says, "The one who dies with the most fruit, wins." Jesus made it clear that we cannot serve two masters: only one focus will prevail in this life.
     Why would anyone with options consider Jesus' radical appeal? Well, take a look at Him. He had the option of staying on a throne... but He stepped out of heaven, into an obscure ancient society, and lived to give us the illustration of a life well lived. Serve ... and give. Time, talent and treasure. Kingdom leadership involves work and sacrifice, rather than leisure and accumulation. There's my message...

Bob Shank


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