This lesson is the first of three prepared by Dr. Bliese for adult studies in a variety of congregational settings. Each lesson includes a presentation that may be reproduced and distributed to participants.
The story of David and Goliath is about how to do mission. It is about leadership in mission and how this leadership emerges from the most unlikely places. This story is also about faith and stewardship. Mission and stewardship are linked in this story in fascinating ways.
Download the Microsoft PowerPoint slide presentation here.
Mission Starts with Stewardship & Five Small Stones (Session 1 of 3)
Slide #1 Mission starts with stewardship and five small stones
Slide #2 Fishings Stories, Part 1
My father loved to take his four young boys fishing up to the boundary waters of northern Minnesota. We would spend one whole week portaging from lake to lake in order to find the perfect spot to fish. My father loved these trips. Why? He enjoyed fishing, yes, but his real passion was being with his family in the open wilderness. He was bonding with his sons. And, as a bonus, these trips provided my father a chance to travel down memory lane and remember back to those days when he had bonded with his father while fishing these same waters.
My grandfather was the true fisherman. He loved fishing and everything that went with it -- even telling fish stories. He had purchased ALL the right equipment, hats, boots, outfits, tackle, bait, hooks, lines and sinkers because he welcomed the challenge of going into any lake, ocean, river or stream and catching fish. Where my father used these trips to bond with his family, my grandfather had had only one goal in mind -- catching fish.
My father inherited this enormous amount of fishing gear after my grandfather's death. Our garage was filled with this stuff! We had deep sea fishing tackle, fly fishing rods and tackle box after tackle box of lures and flies in every corner of the garage. When we traveled to Moose Lake in northern Minnesota, we would actually pack ALL this gear into our station wagon -- even the deep sea fishing gear. As a child, I was fascinated with the intricacy and seriousness of these adult toys. I dreamed of the day when I would inherit these special things and put them in my garage.
Now, the problem with inheriting all this wonderful fishing stuff from my grandfather was simply that no one in my family knew how to use it. My dad was really no fisherman. His real interest in these trips was being with his family. His four boys were fascinated with the gear.
Nevertheless, we had never been shown how to actually fish with it. The blind were leading the blind. We had all the right fishing gear; we just didn't know how to use it.
The results of our family fishing trips were, therefore, not a surprise to anyone. We never caught one fish! It was humiliating. We were fishing in some of the greatest lakes in the world, and we couldn't bring one fish into the boat.
This story serves as a metaphor for me about how many congregations today do mission in their neighborhoods; in the terms of Luke 5:1-11, the question is how they are "fishing for people" in North America. Many congregations have inherited the right equipment to do mission, but are they still in the "fishing business"? Do they still understand how to fish in North America? What equipment has been inherited from past generations? Do we know how to use the equipment that we have received? Are we organized to get God's mission accomplished?
Many congregations are asking mission questions today. This is wonderful! Congregations want to know what God is doing in the world and how they can participate in this mission. But asking such mission questions can lead to some DAUNTING issues. The challenges with mission are so HUGE! How do we start an emphasis on mission? All the tasks seem so BIG! Do we really have enough resources to do the job?
Slide #3 How to do battle with giants -- Samuel 17:20-50
The story of David and Goliath is about how to do mission. It is about leadership in mission and how this leadership emerges from the most unlikely places. And, this story is about faith and stewardship. In the end, mission and stewardship are linked in this story in fascinating ways. Can you make the connections?
But first, notice the details of the story. Discuss these details together.
1. Champions decide the war. What role does leadership play in how wars were conducted in this period of history? What role does leadership play with your congregation, especially in the areas of mission and stewardship?
2. "Trash talking" has become a part and parcel of most sports today in the U.S. It is used by athletes because it destroys the morale of the opponent. Many Christians experience trash talking all week within their worlds. What does this do to their trust in God?
3. The biggest miracle in this story may be that Saul trusted David to be Israel's champion (see Bible commentaries on how champions could fight wars at this time in Israel's history). What was Saul thinking? The whole war rested on one young man, David. What does this "trust" say about leadership in mission within your congregation?
4. David rejects conventional weapons. Instead of using Saul's armor, he uses the gifts that are in front of him. He fights from his own experience and gifts, not from imported methods and techniques. How does David's approach to war compare to your congregation's approach to mission? Are you following conventional "weapons" (methods) or are you building off of your own strengths and assets (as meager as they may be).
Slide #4 What can David teach us about mission?
Discuss this question with your group. David is doing battle with giants -- and with only five small stones and a sling shot. What can we learn about how to battle giant issues within the congregation? What does this story say about God? How does God get God's mission accomplished? Why is this?
Here are some insights from the text:
1. The rumors were true; there are giants in the land! Trust in God doesn't mean that your giants go away. The problems and challenges that you face may actually be HUGE and DAUNTING. They are giant! Trusting in God doesn't mean not looking reality truthfully in the eyes.
2. Look around your congregation. YIKES! You may panic. Is God going to actually use this group of people to do mission in our neighborhood? And our leaders aren't exactly champions either (this isn't meant to be mean, it's often meant to be a description of reality). Panic! This "panic" is exactly what happened in the text. The army is scarred and weak, and Israel's champion is a young man without experience in war. The situation doesn't elicit confidence.
3.The point of the story is that mission depends on trust in God, not in "big guns."
Slide #5 Lessons for Battle -- continued
1. When it comes to mission, there is no silver bullet. Visiting more workshops or reading one more book isn't going to do it. How do we learn trust in God?
2. Here is where stewardship enters the story. Stewardship is a trust issue. Are we willing to trust God and use what God has given us, in order to address our mission challenges?
3. David chose five smooth stones for battle. Every congregation has to find its "five smooth stones" if it wants to do mission faithfully and effectively. Our techniques may be simple (e.g., a sling shot) but effective in our hands.
4. Notice: What is the role of God's name within this text?
Slide #6 Mission depends on trust in God's name
Don't start your mission plans with techniques and/or programs. Ask questions of trust and faith. Why do we always find talk about program easier in a congregation than faith in God? How can this issue be addressed -- concretely?
Slide #7 Go into battle with stones in your pocket
Can your congregation name its five smooth stones? In other words, what five gifts has God given to your congregation that you can use for mission? Take time and write these "stones" (strengths or assets) down on a piece of paper. Where has God gifted your congregation? Share these gifts with the whole group. Answering this question as a community is the beginning of communal stewardship.
Slide #8 St. Andrew's: Our Five Smooth Stones
Here is a list of the five smooth stones from St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Glenwood, Ill., when they did this exercise. They are a small congregation on the south side of Chicago. This list represents the stewardship gifts they bring to mission.
1. Our small size as a congregation represents an asset for mission. We are small, mobile, fast in decision making and intimate as a fellowship.
2. We are mission focused.
3. We have a vision of the Kingdom of God that includes racial diversity. The diversity of our congregation is a strong witness in our community.
4. We have good leaders, lots of good leaders.
5. We do worship and "food" well.
How does your list as a congregation compare with this one?
Slide #9 Mission & Stewardship
Mission and stewardship are always linked in scripture. Mission isn't possible without stewardship and stewardship isn't healthy without mission. How does the link between mission and stewardship get played out in the story of David and Goliath? What implications do these links have for your congregation?
Slide #10 Don't forget God's Word!
As we see the deep links between stewardship and mission, we must keep God's Word in mind. God's Word guides our understanding of both mission and stewardship.
Remember: The battle is the Lord's! "Go, and may the Lord be with you ... "
A closing idea:
To close your Bible study, compare two texts. You have just studied 1 Samuel 17:20-50. The story of David and Goliath becomes here a treasure chest of material for mission and stewardship. If you have time, compare this text with the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand in Matthew 14:13-21. Identify how the stewardship and mission themes of 1 Samuel correspond to this story in Matthew's gospel. If the one metaphor is "battle," how might that relate to the other metaphor of "feeding the hungry?" These two texts are even richer when read together. How do they speak to your congregation?
Richard Bliese, Luther Seminary President and Professor of Missions
Permission is granted by Centered Life Initiative and Stewardship In the 21st Century of Luther Seminary for use in congregations.
Download the Microsoft PowerPoint slide presentation here.
Click on the following for other sessions by Dr. Bliese:
Stewardship is about Exchanging Gifts ... and about Relationships (Session 2 of 3)
Communion, the Great Stewardship Meal: Learning Stewardship through the Catechism (Session 3 of 3)
Rev. Dr. Richard H. Bliese, President of Luther Seminary and Professor of Mission.