The Fugu Fish, or blowfish, can kill you if you eat it. Yet some people in Japan do just that. They take a huge risk, and with expert Chefs cutting out the poison sections, there is feasting at the banquet table. No pecan crusted salmon or blackened tuna for these risk takers! Some claim a slight tingling on their lips is a sign that these foodies have ingested a tiny bit of poison, not so much as to die but just enough to come close. Different culture, different people, but are they nuts?
It is not much different in the good old USA. Some folks in our country jump off mountains and fly in a "Rocky the Squirrel" outfit. Others climb those same mountains without safety ropes. Some scuba dive to 120 feet, others free dive to 180 feet. Some drive race cars 200 mph, while some Americans will travel to Spain to run in front of bulls. How many risk takers fight the temptation to play it safe and take ministry risks in order to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world? Not the same? Let's take a closer look.
Most churches play it safe, but growing, thriving churches take risks. A young couple comes to worship and explains to the pastor that they, along with their two young children, are homeless. The church that plays it safe will create distance from the family, refer them to a social service agency or maybe their food pantry, while the congregation that takes risks will ask people in worship "Are there any landlords out there who are having a difficult time leasing their properties? Want to take a big risk with a young family in need? Anyone have furniture or appliances they can contribute? Will someone pick up some diapers at the grocery store this afternoon and bring them to this family?" Maybe the young family will think the church folk are just easy marks but it is also possible that this will transform lives forever. In the name of Jesus, deep relationships will be built between middle class and poor folks.
Do we play it safe and take an offering for the halfway house for convicted felons or do we take a risk and build transformative relationships with these newly released women? Do we take a tiny risk and allow an AA group meet at the church or do we take a bigger risk and provide a hospitality table, run by church volunteers, before and after the AA meeting? Respecting the principle of anonymity, in this setting do we use directed conversations and become the hands and feet of Jesus as a small step in a relationship building world of transformation? Do we play it safe and thank the older church members for their long years of service or do we take risks, acknowledging God is not through with our senior citizens yet and create intergenerational relationships with empty nesters and latch key kids? It will take some cajoling, maybe even manipulation (not a bad word by the way) but it is for a great cause, making disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world!
Churches that play it safe are boring. Churches that take risks are faithful to the gospel. If we believe everyone is a child of God then everyone must be treated with dignity and respect. That means we are called to transform our own lives and the lives of those God places in our path. We can no longer play it safe and be faithful to the gospel. We must take risks!