In 2008 God showed up in my life in the form of one word. One word that would follow me
everywhere I went. It showed up when I visited a church in London on a study tour. It showed up in many of the books I was reading. It showed up in sermons. And it showed up again and again in a Scripture that just seemed to pop up over and over and over again. It was almost like God was trying to get my attention. Actually, it was God trying to get my attention.
What was the word you ask? The word that hounded me for a year was the word risk. It showed up in quotes like, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” And in a Scripture that showed up again and again, Matthew 25:31-46, or best known as the Parable of the Talents. In the Message, verses 28-29 are translated this way, “Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb.”
You see in 2007 my wife had just given birth to our daughter Trinity, my son was 4 years old, and I was a full-time Pastor of Youth and Nurture in an established church. My wife did some substitute teaching on my day off, but by in large I was the primary provider for my family. And here was God, right in the middle of that, calling me to risk. And I knew throughout that year of 2008 what that risk was. It was to leave my secure ministry position, my being paid on the denominational scale, and to step out into the unknown of starting a new community of faith. No guarantees of a paycheck. No guarantee that this new community of faith would survive. No guarantees that it wouldn’t fail. That I wouldn’t fail. No guarantees other than the call of God on our lives, and the dream in our hearts.
And so ten years ago, my wife and I stepped into the unknown of planting a new faith
community. And in the last ten years, we have seen God do some amazing things in and through our lives. We have seen time and time again how God provides. We have seen God show up in the lives of others because of that risk. But that word risk still continues to haunt us. Risk stillshow s up in many different areas. In the midst of risk showing up in all of these places, God also shows up and asks one simple, but difficult question: Do you trust me?”
This risk to plant a new community of faith hasn’t been without struggles, and trials. Over the last ten years we have been ghosted by many people, we have sent many friends to other places throughout the country and the world (with our blessing), we haven’t grown numerically as much as I would like, and I have questioned God, my calling and my ability to lead this new community of faith. And so just because God calls you to risk, doesn’t mean that the leap into it will be smooth sailing.
When that word showed up in 2008 I also had to wrestle something else to the ground, the idea of failure. What if the church didn’t survive? And was it a failure if I took the risk? Failure was definitely a possibility. But I have learned in the last ten years that the greater failure would have been if I hadn’t done anything at all. Failure would have been not trusting God’s call to risk. Failure would have been to, in the words of Matthew 25, playing it safe. I didn’t want my epithet on my tombstone to bear the words, “He played it safe.”
So God may not be calling you to plant a church. But he is calling all of us to some type of risk. It could be the risk of getting to know your neighbors. It could be the risk of taking some money and financially supporting a ministry. It could be the risk of adopting a special needs child or opening your home to house an exchange student from another country. It could be to share the good news of Jesus with a friend. Whatever that risk is, whether it goes amazingly, okay, or crashes and burns, know that God will walk with you in and through that risk.
Let me close this blog with a quote that I drew strength and encouragement from many times throughout the last ten years and praying that it gives you encouragement and strength to take that risk. It comes from an unlikely source, the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt says this about risk, "“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”