Yes, that very "churchy" sounding word we heard growing up, and always thought it had something to do with getting the people to put more money in the offering plate. Rick Warren, in Chapter 5 of The Purpose-Driven Life, says that one of three biblical "life metaphors" is "Life on earth is a Trust." In other words, one day we will be held to account for the "talents" we were given here on earth and what we did with them. And that vision ought to drive everything we do.
As I see it, as Christians, we have all been given the "trust" of fulfilling the Great Commission. Not doing it ourselves, but each one contributing his/her "grain of sand" to see that it is fulfilled. And it is not enough to just say we are working, each in his/her own way, toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission. If we are faithful stewards, we will want to do our very best to get the biggest "return" possible from our "investment".
As Southern Baptists, we have been entrusted with the oversight of a whole lot of Kingdom resources through the Cooperative Program, and the various SBC agencies. I believe the evidence is conclusive that we are getting a better "return" on our "investment" as we learn to cooperate with other Great Commission Christians for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. To take a step back on that, from my point of view, would be like burying several of our "talents" in the ground.
For example, one of the interesting phenomena in world missions in recent years has been the increasing contribution of churches and missionaries from the "Third World". The COMIBAM movement, linking Great Commission Christians and organizations from all over Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, in order to make a bigger impact for world missions, is at the "cutting edge" of what God is doing around the world today. Sometimes it may be hard for us as North Americans to hand over the "protagonism" in world missions to our brothers and sisters from "south of the border." But, if we are really interested in being good stewards of the resources God has given us, we cannot afford to close our eyes to this important trend.
In recent months, a number of people in Southern Baptist life have begun blogging, many undoubtedly for different motives. I personally believe many have done it out of a sense of stewardship. My friend Wade Burleson (and others like him) have been the object of a lot of criticism because of their boldness in taking a public stand about issues they feel are crucial for being the best stewards possible of the resources God has given us as Southern Baptists.
Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is to remain silent in the face of controversy. I learned the lesson from my own father that, in order to be the best steward of the gifts God has given you, sometimes you have to be willing to take risks and take stands on issues on which you may be misunderstood and criticized.
In the beginning years of the "Conservative Resurgence", in the SBC, it was not near as easy to take a stand for the authority of the Bible as it is today. While we must be careful to not lose the ground gained through the "Conservative Resurgence", I believe the issues we face today as Southern Baptists are in large part different from those faced in earlier years.
As Southern Baptists, we have already pretty much established ourselves as a people who do not compromise with the authority of the Word of God. Now, instead of looking for more and more new ways to tighten the circle of cooperation, I believe the biggest challenge before us now is how to be the best stewards possible of the vast pool of resources with which God has entrusted us.
When He comes and asks an account of how we "invested" our "talents", may we not have to say that we "buried them in the ground."
"To whom much is given, much is required."