What does Nike understand that many in the church do not? Its all about risk.
Recently, Nike ran a Football Risk Everything Commercial. The video suggests that risk is life, and that when we take risk out of "the game", we take life out of the game, too. Now, think about our work with congregations.
With apologies to Nike, let's adapt the analogy like a parable, as follows:
'The Last Church' is a story about risky church versus safe church. The "perfect church" theologian and new auto-church clones want to prove that riskless congregational ministry is more effective. Pastor Ronaldo Fenomeno and the original church leaders disagree, and they are willing to risk everything to prove the "perfect church" theologian wrong. There is only one way to know who is right: measure the community impact of the risky church compared to the community impact of the safe church.
Jesus told a story about taking risks to achieve the mission. Matthew 25:24-28 (excerpt from the story of the talents):
“The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’ “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest. “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’"
See the chart below for a comparison between safe -vs- risky church ministry. Its just a start. Remember all these activities are offered as representative. They all can be good, but the risky church activities can achieve greater impact in the church and in the community. What do you think?
Activities of a Safe Church -vs- Activities of a Risky Church
- Traditional -vs- Innovative
- Worship Sundays at 11:00 AM -vs- Worship Thursdays at 7:00 PM
- Church school downstairs disengaged with worship -vs- Kids engaged in worship
- Fellowship for insiders after worship -vs- Conversations onsite and online 24/7 for everyone
- Focus on recruiting to achieve full committees -vs- FOcus on recruiting for full engagement to achieve mission
- Priority on older folks happily active -vs- Priority on youth and young adults meaningfully engaged
- Inward -vs- Outward
- Satisfied with churchactivity -vs- Satisfied with communityimpact
- Building capacity of ministy -vs- Building capacity of the community
- Requires church building -vs- Requires community connections
- Members joyfully give out of stewardship obligation -vs- Participants give joyfully for value of ministry received
- Ministry of exclusion -vs- Ministry of inclusion
- Multi-culturalism (acceptance) -vs- Inter-culturalism (influence)
- Low ministry satisfaction -vs- High ministry satisfaction
- Low spiritual energy -vs- High spiritual energy
- Open the door and bring them inside -vs- Open the door and join them outside
- Future is certain -vs- Future is uncertain
The list above illustrates differences between the safe church and the risky church behaviors. Well, except for #17. The Future is uncertain for both safe and risky church, but for very different reasons. The safe church thinks their future is certain, but because self-directed and anachronistic behaviors sap spiritual energy and reduce mission impact, the safe church's future is indeed uncertain. However, the risky church's future is uncertain because they understand that their mission configuration and current deployment is adaptable, reconfigurable, flexible, and even expendable.
Let's keep showing love and respect for all, even congregations with play-it-safe behaviors. But our councils must actively resource congregations that are exploring and executing, risky, community-engaged, congregational behaviors in their worship, witness, and mission to the glory of God.
Nike gets it. How about you?