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Speaking in Stories
Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers

Three Envelopes

A Bishop sent a pastor to a new congregation. As the pastor set up his new office, he came upon a letter in the top drawer of his desk. Stapled to the letter he found three sealed envelopes numbered one, two, and three. The letter was written by the previous pastor. It said, “Welcome to First Church. When things get bad, open envelope number one. When things get really bad, open envelope number two. When things get unbearably bad, open envelope number three.” The new pastor thought, “What a negative guy.” He promptly pushed the letter and the three envelopes to the back of the drawer.

Things at the church went fine for a year. But then it got bad. The pastor remembered the letter and envelopes and opened up number one. It said, “Blame the previous pastor.” On Sunday morning the pastor said, “I know we’ve been having some problems around here. But it’s all the previous pastor’s fault. He messed this church up something awful.” The people all said, “Amen, it’s all the previous pastor’s fault,” and everything smoothed over. Things at church went along fairly well after that. Unfortunately, a year later, things got really bad. The pastor went to his drawer and pulled out envelope number two. It said, “Blame the denomination.” On Sunday morning the pastor stood up and said, “I know we’re having problems here, but it’s all the denomination’s fault. Our Bishop is out of touch with the churches, the bureaucracy is awful, and our apportionments are sky high.” The people said, “Amen, it’s all the denomination’s fault.” That settled everything down and things went well for another year. However, after three years, things were unbearably bad. The pastor hated to use the last envelope, but he felt he had no choice. He went to his desk and opened envelope number three. It said, “Prepare three envelopes.”