Risk Big


    I walked out of a church committee meeting recently with something weighing on my  mind. We had made some solid decisions, but something bothered me. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was.
    The dog woke me up early the next morning as she often does, and as I was trying to go back to sleep, in the fog of drowsiness, I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized what was wrong with our meeting: we had made our decisions out of anxiety and fear, out of a kind of fear of what might happen if, instead of from a sense of anticipation and hope.
    As I lay there in bed, I reviewed our decision-making. We had voiced concerns about “what to do”; we had discussed worst-case scenarios; we spent plenty of time talking about why we couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do something.
    That’s what committees do best, to be honest. Committees are inherently conservative; they exist to protect institutions, and safeguard what the institution does and owns.
    There’s nothing wrong with that, except that institutions have to also grow and adapt to change. Organizations must experiment and risk and dare. There have to be counterbalances to committees.
    This is especially true of a church. A church is supposed to represent the presence of Christ in the world, and so it must be quickly responsible and adaptable to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And it must be resistant to anxiety.
    We are to be led by faith, not by fear; we are not supposed to act out of anxiety. As Paul put it in II Timothy 1:7, “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.” The old King James Version put it like this: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
    Sometimes I wonder if I act like I have a “spirit of fear” rather than the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I wonder if our church committees do the same.
    When we make decisions based on anxiety, we are too cautious for our own good. We start looking inward, we worry about things we can’t control, and we stop dreaming.
    I know that this is a dangerous world. This is a world in which there are too many guns, too many wounded and damaged people, too many addictions. This is a world where too many nations have nuclear weapons, and too many world leaders think only of their job security. This is a world where fewer and fewer people go to church, more and more activities compete with Sunday morning worship, and the public reputation of Christians has never been lower. This is a world where the United Methodist Church as a denomination is irreparably divided, and on the verge of a split.
    These things are all true, but they don’t mean that we should close our doors, fire all the staff, and go home. Not at all.
    The way forward is in the opposite direction. The world needs Jesus, and the world needs us. We’re needed now more than ever. And so, rather than being cautious, we ought to go bigger. Now is the time to find more resources, spend more money on kingdom work, become more active, do more mission, find more social justice causes to support, sing more songs, and preach more sermons!
    If this makes you nervous and anxious, just remember what I say every week in our benediction — “May God give you the grace to risk something big for something good.”
    It’s time to risk big.