Diving with sharks. Diving with sharks with my fourteen-year-old son. Diving in cenotes (freshwater caverns in Mexico). Trips to countries where people are murdered for their faith. Some say I am an adrenaline junkie, an adventurer, or a risk taker. My wife usually just says I’m crazy.
Taking risks for a pleasure, like scuba diving, is fun.
Taking risks for Christ may be costly, but for many it is a way of life.
On a trip to the Middle East to encourage persecuted believers, I met a man I will call Haseem. He is a leader for Christ in that area, an evangelist. Haseem told me the way he shares his faith is by lifting his shirt and showing people the seven bullet hole scars in his chest that he has received for sharing his faith. He risks his life every day to share the love of Christ with others.
But the world I come from is different. In the West, we’ve yet to face anything like what Haseem experiences as a daily reality. And despite our relative “safety,” I’d say the American church is struggling—not because of persecution, but because of apathy.
Many of our churches are in decline, wondering if they should die a slow death sticking with past traditions or retool themselves for a new generation of ministry. Most churches are seeing people less involved, less committed, and less motivated than in past years.
The changes to fix these downward trends are risky! It would be easier, from an earthly viewpoint, to stop taking on new challenges and to just keep things the way they are in our churches.
As I travel across North America in my new role at Life Action, most pastors I meet are discouraged and fearful. Many people in their congregations (usually the older, wealthier ones) want to keep things the same or return to the “good old days.”
Yet, that’s so opposite of all God has called us to do. All over God’s Word, we find people who were “pioneers” for the faith. Men and women who were willing to say yes to living “risky” lives in order to increase the kingdom of God.
In Acts 21, Paul was saying goodbye to believers in Syria after being warned in prophecy not to go to Jerusalem. However, he was determined to go anyway. The same warning happened again in Caesarea, and the local believers begged Paul again to change his plans.
Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
People who say yes to God often find themselves in these circumstances. From an earthly perspective, Paul’s friends made a lot of sense. “Paul, you are crazy. This is too risky. There are plenty of other places to minister without the threats of prison and death. We need you here with us!”
They had the same unwritten core value that, sadly, many of our churches have adopted—risk avoidance.
People who say yes to God often have to say no to the comforts of this world, the desire for security, and the safe, popular path. Instead, they choose to be pioneers, to push onward, to live on the edge. They assume there is a frontier ahead that God wants them to forge into, even without a guarantee of safe passage.
It is time for the North American church to walk out of our comfort zone. It is time for us as believers to live New Testament, risk-taking lives for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.
There is too much at stake. Like . . . our future.