I recently watched Peter Greer on video offering a challenge to entrepreneurs, pastors, business leaders and ministry leaders. The challenge was to go back and think about the founding passions of the church or organization. Why did you start?
In September of 2013 we invited the original founders of New Life Church to what we called a founders breakfast. At this breakfast, we asked the men and women who sacrificed so much to see New Life Tabernacle (at the time) come into existence, "Why did God want this church here?"
The answers were amazing. One of the answers that struck me most was, "We wanted to be on the cutting edge of the move of the Holy Spirit." Another answer that I think about often was, "Because God wanted a church here for TODAY!"
Greer's challenge was to then ask the question of ourselves, "Where have we drifted from those passions? In what ways has our organization drifted from it's original focus?"
Playing it Safe
The number one answer these business and ministry leaders gave to that questions was, "We have stopped innovating and are playing it safe." Which made me wonder in what ways does a church, more specifically our church, drift away from our founding passions and begin playing it safe?
Here are two ways I see.
We Don't Make Risky Decisions
The game of risk and reward has to be done in discernment. Our number one goal in every decision is to hear God and do what He says. However, we all bring own filter to the table. Truth is, over time, our tolerance for risk diminishes but God's invitation for us to trust and operate in faith does not. I believe NLC is to be a leading church. Innovation needs to be done in an environment where the inevitability of failure can be a positive learning experience with minimal impact on the congregation at large.
If It Doesn't Make Sense Fiscally, It Doesn't Make Sense
We are playing it safe when the budget dominates the decision making process. I advocate for smart, fiscally sound decisions. We have a Stewardship Committee that helps us prepare budgets and plan our year financially. However good it is to be wise, we can't so quickly abandon big dreams and vision because it doesn't make sense fiscally. Money follows vision, not the other way around. Let's have a vision that is bigger than us and unattainable unless God divinely moves on the hearts of our people unto generosity.
Change Becomes a Four Letter Word
Changes made in esthetics and introduction of new ministry tools like technology or coffee, are unsettling for a church that is playing it safe. The idea of playing it safe speaks into a tendency to think "If it's not broke, don't fix it."
This type of church may be experiencing momentum and success by all outward appearances. Great leaders know that even when growth is happening and you are enjoying fruit from your labor, you always have to be changing and innovating because the decisions and plans that brought your church to growth will soon be the decisions and plans that lead you to plateau, and then decline, and then, eventually, death. Healthy change is the process of reimagining and rebirthing the church. Without a rebirth in leadership, methods and vision, we are doomed to the lifecycle of all organizations. That lifecycle, like all living things, ends with death.
My job is to lead in such a way so that we don't slip into playing it safe mode. R.T. Kendall said the greatest opposition to what God wants to do next, often comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God did last. May that never be an indictment against me.
May we never oppose God by playing it safe.