4 Fatal Risks of a Safe Ministry
“Hey, Seth, what happened to your nose?”
“Oh, Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked me in the face. No big deal.”
Let me tell you about my run-in with Chuck Norris at an 8th grade girls basketball game.
When I was slaving away in a megachurch back in the day, my boss asked me to go with him to see our pastor’s daughter and a few of our other junior high students play in a private school basketball game.
About 10 minutes into the game, my boss leans over and says that Chuck Norris is going to be coming into the gym any minute. After he promised me he wasn’t kidding, I wondered where all the pyro was going to come from and whether or not the tigers that would surely accompany him would harm any of the children.
After sharing our favorite Chuck Norris jokes (insert yours in the comments please because they never get old), I made the comment to my boss that I was going to ask him to roundhouse kick me in the face. When he asked why, I told him that when people asked me what happened, I’d get to say I had survived a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face (but seriously, no one survives that) and it would be an awesome story!
Then, there he was. He walked in wearing a nice suit and sat down with his wife next to my pastor on the bleachers and began talking to us. I introduced myself to him and then said nothing else to him.
That’s right. I chickened out. The risk was too scary.
What if he didn’t get the joke? What if he didn’t get the joke and he really wheeled around on me with the speed of a panther and put his Walker Texas Ranger boot stamp on my forehead?
I could have DIED. That is, if Death were willing to go near Chuck after having a near-Chuck experience himself.
But what if I had taken the risk? This story would have had a WAY better payoff. But I didn’t. I played it safe.
In our ministries, we could be missing out on so much because we are not willing to take calculated risks. We are so afraid of the pain or embarrassment that may come if we fail, that we often forget about the huge payoff if we don’t fail. What if God actually comes through and makes good on that promise to protect us from the bearded chins of martial artists? (I hear Chuck Norris doesn’t have a chin under his beard though; it’s just another fist.)
Jesus is not safe.
In fact, he is far more dangerous than any ninja cowboy. If he were safe, he would have never gone to the cross. He would have not publicly embarrassed the religious leaders. He would not have made a weapon and cleared the temple of organized crime bosses who were overcharging for popcorn and cokes and candy because hey, you’re here and if you want those things while watching Captain America then…wait, that’s a another issue.
In fact, a large portion of the New Testament is written to encourage believers to face life-threatening conditions with courage and confidence in Jesus’ power to save us. We should expect it. Resistance isn’t futile; it’s normal.
Safe ministry becomes inwardly focused in the name of discipleship, operating under the delusion that if someone gains more Biblical knowledge that it will produce evangelism in his life. It will allow the loudest complainers to drive the financial ship.
There are at least four fatal risks to running a safe ministry that are far more dangerous than any calculated risk that God could ever command.
There will be no progress.
Safe ministry means no one ever rocks the boat because we keep the status quo. New ministries may be created, but they are done so without the consent of elders or staff because whomever started it didn’t even ask. But they need a room now on Tuesdays from 9am – 12pm and you’d better have it for them, buddy.
Unless you’re Chuck Norris. He doesn’t wear a watch because HE decides what time it is.
Maybe it is time to give our worship service a rest and go out to serve the community. Maybe it is time to stop the worship concert happening in our churches and dedicate our time together to something more intimate.
The status quo wants to keep doing the things it has always done because it used to work.
Do you see that pattern in Scripture? Does New Testament worship and theology look similar to Old Testament? Do we still sacrifice bulls and doves or did Jesus change things?
One day Jesus is coming back to set up a new heaven and new earth and new Jerusalem. I wonder how many brothers and sisters will sit outside the walls and complain that they liked the old Jerusalem better and don’t see why we need a new one?
There will be no enthusiasm.
Are you excited about the new iPhone? Ten bucks says it looks almost identical to the old iPhone. But it’s NEW.
Superman and Chuck Norris had a bet once and the loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his pants.
Safe ministry never does anything new, innovative, progressive, creative, or challenging. Our people become bored and that is when you start to find yourself mediating arguments about some of the dumbest things.
If your people are fighting over unimportant things, it could be that there is no vision in place that they are excited about that challenges the status quo of your ministry. Maybe they have lost excitement about the mission of the church. Our job as pastors is to ignite their passion for Christ to be made known in our world! Or maybe they just love cats. I just can’t help those kinds of people.
There will be no mobilization.
Safe ministry never goes outside the comfort zone to find a way to share the Gospel. There are never stories of risk shared about serving others or telling them about Jesus’ love.
Safe ministry assumes the role of walking role models, whose morality the world is supposed to be impressed with instead of actively engaging the hurting world.
A true Godly risk would be telling your atheist coworker that you believe the Bible is a reliable source of history; or asking the homosexual couple who lives on your street over for dinner to show them how much God loves them.
We’ve got to start doing things that matter and stop relying on the hope that being morally upright will usher nonbelievers into heaven. I know a lot of morally upright non Christians, so I doubt you’re standing out as much as you think. It’s a good message, but it’s not meaningful until you give the motive and that will require you to speak.
True mobilization of an evangelistic movement always leaves a wake of real life-change. If all you have are fans, you probably didn’t do what you think you did. Only risky ministry turns fans of religion into followers of Jesus.
There will be a failure to recognize the Sovereignty of God.
Let’s face it, when God asks you to do something risky, there really isn’t much risk involved. If God commands it, then it’s going to happen, right? The least you could do is believe that He’s going to help you do it.
Saying that God’s commands are too risky implies that you really don’t think He’s all that sovereign. I mean, Chuck Norris can count to infinity (twice) but God IS infinite! Sometimes God is just asking us to trust Him.
We give Peter a hard time about sinking when he walked out to Jesus on the water because he doubted. What about those 11 other guys that didn’t even have the guts to get out of the boat?
If Peter could hear some of those sermons about him today, I bet he’d have to stand up and ask the whole congregation, “Ok, show of hands, anyone else here walked on water? No? Just me? Ok, go ahead pastor and finish…” Well, that’s what I would do, anyway.
Don’t you want to have those stories of how God increased your faith and brought your through some risky things? Those are the best stories. Those are the ones God is trying to write in your life.
What are your best stories of ministry risk? Share them with us in the comments or your best Chuck Norris joke. Either one helps.