I’m not that big of a gambler, make that I’m very cautious about any type of financial risk taking. I’m okay with playing Lotto for $ 1.00, but anything beyond that I find to be tentative.

However, I am impressed with people who can gamble well and succeed.

Many years ago, I was attending a Navy-Marine Corps Chaplain Conference in New Orleans, La. My friend and I visited Harrah’s Casino on Canal Street. I watched with admiration as my friend played video poker. My friend won between $ 80.-100. We enjoyed a great dinner at a French Creole restaurant in the French Quarter.

When you gamble it’s good to be with someone who knows that tables and who is acutely aware of the level of risk that they want to wager. This reminds me of the old commercial featuring the late Elizabeth Taylor. The piece is short in black and white film with an atmosphere that is reminiscent of the movie “Key Largo. “Elizabeth Taylor walks up to the gambling table, remove her diamond earrings, lays them on the table and says:

“I’ve always found that these have  brought me good luck.”

You then see her stunning face, and then a voice that says, “White Diamonds”, the perfume that bears her name.

During the last few years, there has been a lot of movements regarding reorganization of churches and their assets. Much like the plays that are made on a gaming table, there have been all kinds of bets made.

Not too long-ago Andover Newton Theological School, the oldest seminary in the country, became a school within a school, now affiliated with Yale Divinity School. When you look at their website now, there is about half of the faculty that was previously featured when the school was a stand-alone institution.

Of course, economics is the driving force behind these moves. You can’t be a good steward of resources if you are facing declining enrollment, higher maintenance costs to take care of old buildings, or dealing with church camps that are suffering loss of revenue due to declining numbers of campers.

All of this reminds me again that regarding ministry, whatever you want to gamble in terms of development, you want to try to pursue a sure bet. You can sell a church building and make a good profit. You can reinvest that money either in new or transition congregations and ministries.

Then again, there are other occasions where selling church property becomes a fool’s errand leaving you with little return on what is now seen as a liability.

So, what can we do in this time of economic and societal cultural transition that is affecting our churches? First, there needs to openness to be guided by God, however known, for Christians that becomes embodied in the person and ministry of Jesus. We need to be open to the spirit.

Savvy thinking and planning is required to determine how best to utilize existing resources. Yes, that may mean forming partnerships with entities, including corporations to form covenant partnerships and leases that will allow for a win-win relationship and future sustainability for all.

That night at the casino was exhilarating and fun. It’s good when you win. My prayer is that we can pursue bets that will be informed by our commitment and faith in the presence of the Kingdom of God and that we will know that what we wager will not let us down.

May it be so.