A Parable of Two Churches

By Chuck Sackett

(This is a sidebar to Sackett’s main article, Commonsense Suggestions About Elders.”)

On the Isle of Parr

The king of Salmonia established a colony on the island of Parr. In consultation with the king, the colony called a recent college graduate to provide guidance, interpret the city charter, and lead the community in growth. The young leader was enthusiastically received by the people of the island.

People embraced the planner’s lofty visions and exciting goals. A dozen new families relocated to Parr. The colony was becoming a thriving community. That’s when the city council had its first private meeting to stop these unwanted changes.

At council meetings, the members listened politely to the young planner’s ideas. They often nodded in agreement and indicated they were fully supportive. More than once the council agreed to a course of action, but nothing ever happened. Promises made were not promises kept. Informal support became formal rejection.

The dispirited planner’s dreams became nightmares as his passion was extinguished by bureaucratic busyness. After a few months, he moved back to Salmonia, confused by his experience and embittered against any future work in a new colony.

Since the Isle of Parr remained a small colony, it recruited another inexperienced planner. His brief service at the sister Isle of Fry proved him to be an effective interpreter of bylaws and city ordinances. His reputation for possessing a submissive spirit was enhanced by the community activities and central services he had provided for the community leaders.

After a few months, however, the new city planner recognized the potential of the Isle of Parr and began to dream. Upon forging connections with community leaders in other colonies and recruiting a number of families to join him, he proposed a modest plan for growing the Isle of Parr.

He passionately presented a cogent strategy of central services, parks and recreation, and safety for the council’s grandchildren’s generation. But, like the city planner before him, he was rejected. After a few discouraging months he moved back to the Island of Salmonia, where he took a position at a local school coaching soccer and cleaning bathrooms.

The king of Salmonia grew weary of the city council on the Isle of Parr. He paid an unexpected visit to council chambers during a regularly scheduled meeting. His impromptu speech was clear:

“Did I not appoint you to care for the Isle of Parr? To give leadership to its people? To provide services and safety for all who lived here? Did I not make myself clear when I instructed you to recruit new members, to grow the isle to a community of beauty and serenity?

“And yet you cared for the streets where you lived but not for the citizens. You provided adequate fire stations, police stations, and medical services for your part of the isle, but neglected the other areas of Parr. I sent you two fine young city planners to dream dreams and lay out strategies, yet you refused to listen; you blocked their progress and ultimately drove them from my calling.

“What, city council members, do you recommend I should do to you?”




On the Isle of SAMLET

The king of Salmonia had also established the Isle of Samlet. An experienced city planner had been involved from the beginning, establishing a strong sense of vision in city council’s members. They clearly understood the king’s purpose for the isle to become home to as many Salmonians as would live by the decrees of the king. After a few foundational years, the seasoned city planner moved on to the Isle of Grilse.

Upon the king’s strong recommendation, Samlet’s city council called a young, enthusiastic city planner. Though inexperienced, he was passionately visionary. He had demonstrated a desire to lead, coupled with a humble spirit of cooperation.

City council met regularly with the new planner. They talked of city services, community safety, and recreational services. They regularly read and discussed the city charter, their ultimate guide to the king’s plans.

The city planner’s confidence quickly grew, and with the support of council, his credibility grew. New families moved to the isle and immediately got involved. City council met the new residents, discovered their concerns and needs, and, with the help of the city planner, assisted the residents in becoming contributing members of the community.

The king was deeply encouraged as he witnessed his plans being carried out and his hopes being realized. City council had poured themselves into the city planner’s development, assuring themselves of a strong community even while contributing to the young planner’s own development.

The king appeared at the city council meeting in Samlet. And once again, his speech was clear and unequivocal. But this time, the tone was very different.

“I created you in the image of Salmonia. I provided you with a strong city planner. I revealed to you my dreams, and you have been faithful in bringing them to fruition. You have been faithful in your care of my young planner and have nurtured his gifts. You have partnered with him in service to the community and you are both the better for it.

“Because you have been faithful, I’m providing you an assistant planner. And, if you are faithful in your partnership with him, I will provide yet another. You, my faithful council members, and you, my faithful city planner, have made my heart sing for joy.”

Upon his return to Salmonia, the king recounted his journey. His aides could sense the passion in the king’s voice as he spoke of the beauty of Samlet. And they could hear the pain in his heart over the failures of the city council of Parr.

His final words to his aides were: “Which of the two do you believe have pleased the king?”


Chuck Sackett serves as minister with Madison Park Christian Church in Quincy, Illinois.

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