Wednesday, June 6, 2012

When not to risk

The title of my blog is "A Faith that Risks", taken from a quote from one of my favorite authors, Leonard Ravenhill.  He talks about having a faith that "risks", and that we need more of that today.  I believe He is correct.  We need believers and churches which are anxious to step out of the boat and take risks for the sake of the Kingdom.  But at the same time, there are times risk is not only unnecessary, but dangerous.  So what are some reasons we shouldn't take risks?  Let me give you three quick reasons.

First, we shouldn't take risks because someone else is doing it.  I have not been called to live someone else's life, and because of that, there are risks others will take for God that I will not be asked to take.  For some reason only Daniel, not his three counterparts, was the only one thrown into the den of lions.  Meanwhile, it was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were thrown into the furnace, and not Daniel.  Why?  We don't really know, but let me assure you that taking a risk because someone else does can get you into a lot of trouble.

Secondly, we shouldn't take risks so we can look good.  It has been my observation that this is pretty normal in the church today.  We give a little more, do a little more, and extend what resources God has given us (time, talent, treasure) too far.  This isn't necessarily because God has asked us to, but because others will think we are "spiritual" if we do.  Taking risks to look good for others might work for a time, but when it becomes apparent, and there's a good chance it will, that your risks are selfish in nature, you will be seen for what you are; a hypocrite.

Thirdly, we shouldn't take risks to prove our faith.  I think this is the most common mistake when it comes to risk taking.  I have fallen into this trap myself, and not only did I fail, but it really cost me.  When you do things to prove your faith, and then your faith isn't vindicated, what are you left with?  In my case, it was a lot of questions and piles of bills I couldn't pay.  (God delivered, by the way, but not until I had learned a pretty valuable lesson...and payed off some of those bills!)  We are tempted to prove our faith to ourselves, our friends and family members, and those in our church.

So when should we take risks?  In short, we take risks because God has led us to do so, to bring Him glory, and to prove Him.  These are in direct contrast to the reasons we don't take risks.  Any risk of faith I take must be primarily vertical, because of God and for God.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Mission of the Church

I rarely get a chance to see movies in the theater.  I was lucky enough to get a chance to see the new Mission Impossible movie a few months ago with some siblings.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie; and consider it the best of the series so far.  One of the key lines to every one of the movies is the line "This is your mission, should you choose to accept it!"  Then comes the dangerous mission for Cruise and his band of misfits to join together so they can come out victorious and make another movie.  I look forward to the next installment!

Anyway, I fear that many Christians take this same approach to the mission we have been given.  We think that God is saying "This is your mission, should you choose to accept it."  The problem is that this isn't really a choice.  Either you are a follower of Christ, or you're not.  There is no middle ground, and once you have chosen to follow Him, you have chosen to be part of His mission.  The great commission, in case you don't know, is to go "into all the nations" and "make disciples".

I will admit that there are similarities to the missions of the movies.  It can be dangerous.  It's a risk to take something into the world which they may reject.  It can also seem impossible.  The problem is that because of the danger, many bow out, thinking they can be a follower of Jesus without actually following Him into the world.

Others do go out, but they think that in order to be successful, they have to have the latest gadgets or trends.  But that never really does the job.  We have that in America, and the church here is failing.  In other countries where they don't have these things, numbers are growing by the thousands every single day.  Why?  Because it's not the latest things which drive the mission of God, but God Himself.  (insert corny "Mission Possible: Holy Ghost Protocol" here)

In his book "The Forgotten Ways", Alan Hirsch tells us that the early church in a period of 210 years, grew from around 25,000 to 200,000,000.  That is a lot of growth, and they did it without so many of the things we take for granted.  They didn't have buildings for the most part, because for much of that time it was illegal to be a Christian.  They didn't have structure, and they didn't have the New Testament.  They would have had portions, but that was really it.  They didn't have seminaries to train their leaders, and they didn't have worship teams and overhead projection.  Interestingly enough, they even made it harder for you to join the church than most of us would even dream of today.

So what did they have?  They had the Holy Spirit, and they had the commission of Christ.  They took those things and went out.  This is our call today.  Let us not wait until we are trained or educated enough, but call on God's Spirit and move out in obedience.