Using Your Talents for the Glory of God
About the Guest
In what ways are you stepping out in faith? Professor Owen Strachan opens the Bible to the Parable of the Talents explaining that the meaning of the parable isn't financial stewardship, but going all out for the glory of God. This means giving your all for the sake of the Gospel and being a bold witness in a skeptical world.
Owen Strachan opens the Bible to the Parable of the Talents explaining that the meaning of the parable isn’t financial stewardship, but going all out for the glory of God.
Using Your Talents for the Glory of God
Bob: The culture in which we live is not going to train your children to think biblically about issues; but, as parents, Owen Strachan says, “You can.”
Owen: When we are trying to give our kids the Christian worldview so that we are training them—they are not being trained by the culture—God blesses that work—day by day, week by week, month by month. That’s the blessing of the family—we have this opportunity to train them. We’re not expecting someone else to come along and train them. I’m their head—I’m their dad, I’m their father and the shepherd of the home. I’ve got to lead here, and my wife is a fantastic help in that respect.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 25th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. How do we train our children to think and to act Christianly? How do we point them toward the right mission? We’ll talk about those things today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’ll never forget a conversation I had—this was probably 15 years ago—a guy, here at FamilyLife, came into my office one morning. He said: “My wife and I have decided that we’re leaving staff. We are going to go to another city and plant a church.” It took me by surprise. I didn’t even know this was on his radar screen—something he was thinking about.
But here is the thing he said to me that stuck with me. He said, “You know,”—he said, “I’ve been in ministry for more than a decade now; but honestly, I haven’t had to do anything that required faith in a long time.” He said, “I’m doing good stuff, but I just hadn’t had to do anything where I exercise my faith muscle.” He said, “This is going to require me to step out and exercise some faith.”
And I remember smiling and thinking, “Okay, when was the last time I had to do anything that required some faith of me?”
I was proud of him for stepping out like he was doing.
Dennis: And I think the Christian life can’t be lived without faith. In fact, Hebrews, Chapter 11, verse 6, says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
Dennis: And like I wrote a friend recently: “Sometimes, I wish it was a little easier to please God, where I didn’t have this tension against the faith muscle that was constantly calling me in such a dependent way to say: ‘God, if You don’t show up, I’m toast. If You don’t help here—if You’re not in this, this is going to be a colossal failure.’”
And we have a guest with us who, I think, believes that as well. He’s written a book called Risky Gospel. Owen Strachan joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Owen: Thank you so much.
Dennis: I promised our listeners yesterday—you are a multi-gifted guy. You’re a seminary professor—teacher at Boyce College. You have been married to one woman, Bethany, for eight years—three children.
But on the side, you’ve got this moonlight job that you kind of pride yourself in—you’re a rapper—
Bob: I’ve just got to say—
Dennis: —a rapper from Maine.
Bob: You are the least likely guy I know to do rap. You’re—
Dennis: Now, why are you saying that, Bob?
Bob: Well, because—come on! I mean, I don’t know you that well; but I’m just—you know, you are from Maine—and you’re kind of a white guy; right?
Owen: I am.
Owen: I can’t deny that.
Bob: And you are wearing a button-down, and you’ve got a tie on today. This is just not rap—if you are wearing a hat, it would be straight forward, not to the side—
Owen: Probably not.
Bob: —unless it was a costume you were putting on.
Bob: So, you just don’t have the rap persona working for you. You know that; don’t you?
Dennis: So, give it to us. Let’s hear it.
Bob: Before we hear it, why is this even in your repertoire? I mean, did you grow up listening to Eminem or what?
Owen: Genetic misfire, I don’t know. I’m not sure. [Laughter] I’m not sure what accounts for this instinct. I grew up on the coast of Maine.
Country music dominated the scene, as you can imagine.
Dennis: Country music in Maine.
Bob: Oh, yes.
Owen: Oh, it’s big.
Bob: It is big.
Owen: Yes, I mean, I went to a high school where guys would show up for class in the morning with dead moose in the back of their truck—I’m not exaggerating.
Dennis: I can believe that. I always thought that country music didn’t go north of the Mason-Dixon Line very far.
Bob: Oh, no—it’s up there on Bar Harbor.
Bob: You can really hear some—
Dennis: You can tune into it.
Owen: It’s big time.
Dennis: Okay; alright.
Owen: Big time—yes.
Dennis: Well, that’s country music, though. Rap is—
Bob: Where did rap come from?
Owen: That’s right; that’s right—we’re getting there. It’s a long and strange story. You know what it was? It was the explosion of basketball in the ‘90s because basketball introduced, through television—introduced an entire generation of young suburban or whatever / young white men to rap and to basketball.
Bob: Are you a basketball player?
Owen: I love basketball.
Bob: Okay, now, can we just explain your kind of Spud Webb type; right?
Owen: I am. Mine is the dunking.
Bob: How tall are you?
Owen: 5’7”—5’8” on a good day. [Laughter]
Dennis: He told the truth! I’m just kind of astounded that they just found out about basketball in 1990 in Maine. [Laughter]
Bob: So, you are a 5’7”—or ‘8” on a good day—white guy from Maine. You start being introduced to a different culture as you are watching the NBA players,—
Bob: —and that’s where rap came from in your life?
Owen: And honestly, there were a number of movies that came out in the early ‘90s and that introduced me to West Coast rap culture; okay?—just being totally honest here. So, I decided, when I went to college some years later, to try and start writing raps.
Dennis: And so, we are six minutes into this broadcast—
Owen: Okay, yes.
Dennis: —and we are talking about your rap. No pressure, Owen, but this needs to be really good.
Bob: Better be good.
Owen: Okay, here we go:
I’ve got what’s hidden,
Because it’s optimism.
It’s often missing
And avoided like a logarithm.
Can’t stop it.
You can drop it.
Keep us locked in prison
Not a cop by cop song to seek God within ‘em.
There you go—that’s a little bit.
Bob: That was pretty legit—that was okay.
Owen: Thank you.
Bob: Did you—I mean, when you did that at college—did people laugh at you; or did they go, “Wow!”?
Owen: Kind of a blend, I would say. [Laughter] Some laughed.
Bob: And you have since gone on and recorded, actually, a rap CD?
Owen: Here is the story. In 2004, I recorded an actual rap CD. I was at Capitol Hill Baptist under Mark Dever.
Owen: There have since been a number of real rappers—like Trip Lee and Shai Linne—
Owen: —who have gone on staff there. I was the first! I have had a little less success than those guys, but I recorded a CD in 2004. And I am recording one coming up soon. So, there will be an actual release in the next year. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, let’s talk about—I’m wondering how to transition from that!
Bob: That was kind of a risky thing that just happened right here.
Dennis: It was risky—there you go.
Dennis: That was risky—Risky Gospel.
Owen: It was.
Dennis: You believe that we, who are followers of Christ, get caught up in our fears, our doubts, our own lack of true biblical identity.
We don’t step out and really trust the God of the universe to use us in a significant way in another person’s life. One of the things you point out in your book is—you point it out from the parable of the talents. Explain that parable and how that calls us to a risky faith.
Owen: I’d love to. So, you have this parable—this story of Jesus. It’s not an actual, real life accounting, but it’s of a master—a great master—who goes away on a long journey. While he is gone, he entrusts some of his property with his servants—with three servants in particular. The first and second servants, who we meet in this parable in Matthew 25:14-30—also in Luke’s Gospel as well—but the primary one I zero in on is Matthew.
The first two servants go at once and make more talents—this is the property they are given. It’s the equivalent to a piece of property that would be worth about $60,000 today, perhaps—something like this. So, they take this investment and they go and they make more talents from it. Then, there is a third servant we meet in the parable.
This servant is afraid, and scared of the master, and lazy. That servant buries his talent in the ground.
When the master returns, he rewards the first and the second servants. The first one is especially faithful, and he made five talents. He was given five—he made five more. The second servant has two, and he makes two more. And then, the third servant is cursed by the master—who stands in for Almighty God.
Here is the message of the parable, basically, boiled down: “We have all been entrusted with certain gifts and abilities by the Lord. We should be working while there is day to give Him glory in our own life and our own sphere of influence. We are not called then to be afraid, and battened down, and scared. We are called to risk—fundamentally, every Christian—in their life.”
Bob: So, if you take the gifting that God has given you / the abilities God has given you—whatever He has entrusted to you—and you bench it—
—you just say: “I’m going to couch potato this. I’m going to leave it over here. I’m just not going to use that muscle because I’ve got other things going on in my life. I’m just going to leave that aside. I may get it out, from time to time, and use it a little bit here and a little bit there.”
You are saying that God would look at you, benching your giftedness, and He wouldn’t just say, “Oh, you should have done better.” He would pronounce a judgment against the guy who isn’t fully-engaged.
Owen: Yes, that’s exactly right. That parable—Matthew 25—parable of the talents is not about, fundamentally, finding a good financial investment plan. It is not, fundamentally, about hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant,”—that is certainly the end / certainly, what we want to hear.
But the point of this parable is—you are supposed to go all out—full throttle for the glory of Jesus Christ—every Christian. Again, like we talked about earlier—not just Billy Graham, not just Chuck Colson, not just the great heroes of the faith / whoever your local church pastor is—who is inclined to ministry.
No—every Christian, whether they are in vocational ministry or not, is called to use all their energies and all of their abilities for the glory of God and to give God more glory. That’s the focus.
Dennis: Henry Blackaby wrote a Bible study, a number of years ago, called Experiencing God. In that Bible study, there was a phrase that really caught on within the Christian community—that was “a crisis of faith.” He said, “Believers face circumstances that will take their faith and test it to see if they will step up and believe.” In your life, what would you say has been the biggest crisis of faith, where you have defeated fear and applied faith?
Owen: Well, in my role, as President of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—it’s headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky / a friend to FamilyLife and other evangelical organizations over the years—
—I have to regularly stand up and promote the biblical vision of gender roles—so, calling men to be men and women to be women / calling men to be leaders in the church and the home and women to nurture, and support, and love that leadership.
I, furthermore, have the responsibility—in the public square, to whatever degree I’m in that conversation—to contend for marriage / to contend for the goodness of manhood and womanhood—not as changeable realities / not as matters that you just kind of pick and choose: “Oh, today, I feel like a man. Today, I feel like a woman.” No, I am called in my role, as President of CBMW, to make the case for these things. That puts me in hot water regularly.
I’ve been involved in numerous online debates, and controversies, and these sorts of things because of a matter of the truth. I’ve taken a lot of heat for it. I’ve gotten hate mail, and these sorts of things, and even a death threat or two. I’ve really felt the sting of following of Jesus; but that is part of what it means, for me, to be faithful to Christ and to risk my comfort and security for Him.
Bob: You know, when people ask you certain questions—that if you answer with what you believe is true / with what you think the Bible says—there will be people, who will hear what you say, who will be angered by what you do—maybe angered to a point of acting on their anger in some way against you. You can see why people in that situation go, “I’m just going to try and soften this if I can,” because nobody wants to provoke the anger of another person; right?
Owen: Yes. The scariest thing I ever did—what I just said is true and comes up regularly for me, especially in this contested, hostile public square like you’re talking about, Bob—but the scariest moment I ever had was at my secular college in Maine—Bowdoin College. We had an assembly the day after 9/11/2001. This was college-wide opportunity to share your thoughts about 9/11—to process them, together, as a community.
There were probably—most of the students on campus at this event—1,500/1,600—small college—but that’s a lot of people still.
Owen: Well, one guy got up and had us all sing Kumbaya—just to give you a sense of—
Owen: I’m not kidding.
Owen: Kumbaya—joined hands and everything.
Owen: I decided that I should, not just be at this event, but I should share the gospel. I should go up to the microphone—there were mikes placed around the gym, where this was held—and I should share gospel.
Dennis: How old were you?
Owen: I was 20 years old. I had recently had the Lord get a hold of my heart and really seize me with a desire to be a witness for Him. I went up to the mike. The college president was looking at me—a man who is, by no means, a Christian. This is a campus, where there are 25 students who will come to the only Christian group on campus—InterVarsity Christian Fellowship—25 students out of 1,800 are coming; okay?—so, incredibly secular—ranked by Princeton Review as one of the most secular colleges in America.
Dennis: That was back when they would let the InterVarsity group on the campus.
Owen: That is exactly right.
Bob: Now, they’ve been chased off because they won’t let gays and lesbians in leadership positions; right?
Owen: That’s exactly right—this is high tide of tolerance at Bowdoin.
I shared the gospel—I didn’t do it in a perfect way. I think I’d probably put some things differently now. My legs were shaking / everybody was looking at me. The President was scowling at me—I could literally see him doing that—but I did the best I could, by the grace of God, and shared the gospel.
That’s the kind of thing that Christians have to do, in whatever situation we find ourselves—whether it’s 1,500 or 2 people at the lunch room.
Bob: And then, you had to face students, throughout the rest of the day, who were looking at you or—I mean, did anybody come up and say, “Way to go,” other than the 25 who were meeting at your group?
Owen: Not everybody in my Christian group, surprisingly, liked what I did because they thought it was too aggressive; but here is the shocking thing—I had two professors on this secular campus—we couldn’t find a single evangelical faculty member out of 170 or so faculty members—
—not a single one who could be a part of the fellowship and give us a little guidance or whatever—be a faculty liaison. But I had two professors, who were not Christians—I knew that they weren’t—come up to me and commend me for speaking up / for courage. That has been a lesson for me since. I think that was God’s common grace, working through them, to encourage me to keep giving testimony.
Dennis: And I think—and I want you to comment on this, Owen—I think these are days when parents must—I’m going to repeat this—must—one more time—must equip their children to know how to stand on behalf of their faith in Jesus Christ. If they don’t teach them how to stand, and they go away to college to a school like you went to, they may wilt—they may back-track on their faith.
Owen: They absolutely may—and I saw it happen a good bit.
I think you should expect that if you are not actively equipping and training your children to be gospel agents in a fallen world—that they will be seduced / they will be drawn away. I think that should be our active expectation. Tragically, that is not how many parents approach it.
Many parents think, “I’ll outsource the spiritual care to the local church—great youth group / whatever, great programs, summer camp,”—these sorts of things. You know,
“I’ll be a good person and generally go to church,” and this sort of thing.
Let me just give my assessment: I think the culture has changed altogether. It’s going to swallow our children if we are not minute-by-minute shepherds and nurturers of our kids in the faith.
Bob: So, actively training your kids to be gospel agents—what does that look like at the Strachan home?
Owen: That’s a great question. I’m still figuring it out. I’m a young husband and father. So, I don’t do it perfectly; but what I’m trying to do is, for example, is have nightly devotions on a regular basis. It doesn’t happen every night with three tiny kids. We do well to have it some nights. But when we do, we talk through the Bible—we talk through biblical teaching—
—we’ll talk through a little bit of biblical doctrine in a bite-sized form, while my five-month-old yips her way through it. And that’s what we are doing. We are trying to give our kids the Christian worldview so that we’re training them—they are not being trained by the culture.
And God blesses that work—day by day, week by week, month by month. That’s the blessing of the family—we have this opportunity to train them. We’re not expecting someone else to come along and train them. I’m their head—I’m the dad, I’m the father, I’m the shepherd of the home. I’ve got to lead here, and my wife is a fantastic help in that respect.
Dennis: And you’ve got to be intentional. I know that people are going to some great churches today and some great youth groups—but I’m going to tell you something—nothing is as powerful as a mom and a dad, who intentionally take their kids to the Scripture and teach them how to think from the Bible—not think to the Bible. They need to build their lives from Scripture, making decisions according to Scripture, thinking about convictions in the culture—about what the Bible teaches—
—not how you can readjust what the Scriptures say to prove a new set of beliefs that you might find more culturally-acceptable with your peers. Parents have to imbue courage and conviction in their children’s lives.
Bob: Well, and this is a good place for us to plug a book that your father-in-law wrote— that I’ve bet you’ve used with your kids—a book called Big Truths for Young Hearts that—
Dennis: Are you kidding me? How can he say he’s not using it—on national radio? [Laughter]
Bob: We have this book in the FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We’ve made it available to lots of parents because it’s one of those tools that a mom or a dad can use to help shape the thinking—to help your kids become the gospel agents you are talking about.
I’m thinking about the resources your wife, Barbara, has been creating that are designed to, not just beautify the home, but to be teaching tools for parents to use with their kids and to help disciple sons and daughters.
Dennis: The holidays—most of our holidays have spiritual meaning.
Frankly, that’s what birthed those—
Dennis: —holidays in the first place—Thanksgiving—
Dennis: —Christmas, Easter. Those are all great opportunities to take your kids to the Scriptures. I just talked to Barbara this morning, before I came to work, and was just talking with her about her dream and her vision to give practical tools, that are biblically anchored, but they’re meaningful—they’re built around the traditions of these holidays and of families that can be passed on for future generations.
Owen: We actually used her material on Thanksgiving last year and have found it tremendously helpful. Here is one quick thing I think we should say too: “Do not hear us saying this and think, ‘Uh-oh, I’ve got to have MDiv in Theology and Bible—
Owen: —‘to do what these guys are talking about.’ As a mom: ‘Oh, I’ve got these kids at home. Now, I’ve got to figure out some way to do an online degree so that I can train them.’”
It’s great to get as much training as you can—it’s always going to help. Christians are not opposed to the life of the mind. We believe that God created the mind to know God/to know His truth. But every father/every mother does their children a tremendous service simply by opening the Scripture—even if you just read the book of John to your kids or something—or the book of Romans, as they get a little older, and you talk them through it.
Even if you did that—if you read one of these books that they’ve mentioned or J.I. Packer’s Knowing God—something like this—you do not need a degree to train your kids in the Scripture. You may have other people come along—youth ministers and pastors can be a tremendous help—they are supposed to be. We’re not against them, but you can start that process in the home in a very simple way.
Dennis: And there are listeners, right now, who are hearing you talk. They are feeling, in their chest, their heart swell and their faith grow; but they need the encouragement that a book like yours will give them. The book is the Risky Gospel. I would just commend this to our listeners.
If you are raising the next generation of believers / the next brood of young people in your home, get this book. You and your spouse dig into it, talk about it, and talk about: “How are we being risky followers of Jesus Christ? Are we passing on a faith that is infectious? And if it is, is it the right kind of disease?”—alright? And this book will do that, Bob.
Bob: Yes, it will. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER,” and that takes you right to the area of the site where you can order a copy of Owen Strachan’s book, Risky Gospel—again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
We also mentioned the book, Big Truths for Young Hearts. That’s available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Once again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” to find out how you can order a copy of that book
And of course, we talked about the resources your wife has been creating as discipleship tools to be used in the home.
If folks would like to see more of what Barbara has been up to, they can go directly to EverThineHome.com and see the resources she’s been working on this fall.
So, once again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you’re interested in the books, Risky Gospel or Big Truths for Young Hearts. Go to EverThineHome.com if you want to see all that Barbara Rainey has been working on this fall. Or, if you have any questions, call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
I don’t know how often you stop to take inventory of the things you are thankful for. Our staff did that this morning. We got everybody together, and we took out 3x5 note cards and wrote down the things we are thankful for. It’s a good spiritual discipline to reflect on the things you are grateful for.
And I know one of the things that we are most thankful for, here at FamilyLife, is those of you who are partners with us in this ministry.
You share with us the burden to see every home a godly home—to see husbands and wives equipped to have strong healthy marriages and to know how to raise the next generation of young people, who know Christ and who want to follow Him. We could not do what we do without your financial partnership. So, we are grateful for our Legacy Partners, for those of you who make yearend contributions to support this ministry, and those of you who just donate, from time to time, as God leads you. Thanks for supporting this ministry.
You can make an online donation today by going to FamilyLifeToday.com and clicking the button at the top of the page that says, “I Care.” Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone. You can also mail your donation to FamilyLife Today. Our mailing address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223. When you get in touch with us, feel free to request, as a thank-you gift, a resource that Barbara Rainey has designed called “Untie Your Story.”
It’s a spool of napkin wraps that have questions printed on them, designed to promote dinner table conversation. It’s our way of saying: “Thank you for your support of this ministry. We do appreciate you.”
And we hope you’ll join us back tomorrow as we continue our conversation with Owen Strachan about what it looks like to live a life that embraces a risky gospel. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
Copyright © 2014 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.