Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When Opportunity Knocks

John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach is reported to have said, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.” Our preference might be to have time to put long-term plans in place, but this does not always happen in the real world. Opportunity will come (if we keep our eyes open), so how can we as individuals and the church be ready to take advantage of it? This is not strategic planning but tactical response.

How can we be ready for opportunity? What can we do to be prepared? I suggest several ways.

Know who you are. We need to have answered the question, “What is our life purpose or calling?” Each of us as individuals has a purpose in the world, one that is distinct and needed. The same is true for churches. In every community, churches are called to carry out specific ministries and to work with particular people. They will only know this if they have sought to understand and articulate their purpose.

Know what you have to work with. What are the gifts, resources, and abilities that are available to you as an individual or a church? In reality, some of these only surface when crisis or unexpected opportunities for ministry arise. At such times, the Spirit of God often speaks to those who have been unwilling or reluctant to step forward. If things had remained stable, they would have remained “balcony and back row” participants rather that stepping up to offer their gifts, resources, and abilities.

Know where you are. What is your context? Even in the age of GPS, we sometimes don’t know where we are. If we have been in a community for a long period of time, we may not appreciate the unique character of that community or the changes that have happened over the last few years. Too often, we only see what we are conditioned to see. We must open our eyes and see what is happening around us.

Know your capabilities. What are your strengths? What are you good at? There is a trend today to identify our strengths and try to maximize them rather than identifying our weaknesses and trying to overcome them. God gave us our strengths for a purpose so let’s work with them! We can build on what we already have rather than starting from ground level.

Jesus provided a number of parables about being prepared (see Matthew 24 for example). He pointed out that the Kingdom of God will break in like a bridegroom who comes in the night, a master returning unexpectedly from a long journey, or even a thief! In order to be ready, Jesus encourages his followers to practice wisdom and faithfulness: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13).

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