I started the year reading Habakkuk and Haggai and I've recently turned my attention to Malachi. The small group with whom we meet occasionally are studying Malachi so it seems reasonable to read it! So many of the prophets raise a simple question, Malachi is no different. The question is the simple question of faithfulness. A simple question, but never a simple answer!
The problem is, how do we measure our faithfulness? Malachi sets out a series of faithfulness tests in the area of worship, marriage and giving (three that I remember off the top of my head). Perhaps the easiest way to see it all is through the lens of one of my often asked questions: How will God be most honoured? In other words, if I make choice "a" then will God be honoured in it, and if I make choice 'b' will he be more or less honoured? I know it sounds simplistic, but can you see the deeper value in this simple approach to living a gospel life?
As we make the transition out of local church ministry, and in many ways out of local church life too, we have to keep our eyes on the faithfulness ball. It would be so easy to drift into a place of permanent isolation from the local church and thereby from the local community of Christ-followers. We don't want to do that, even though we want to pursue a different pattern of life for a faith community.
So maybe we need to mirror-read Malachi and ask ourselves what the tests of faithfulness might be in our 21st century Christian culture. I suspect some of them will be the same even if they don't involve grain into store houses!