Risk, failure, and the gospel

This Fall at Redeemer, we are planning on launching 4 new CD (community/discipleship) groups, plus a morning bible study for ladies and a Reformed theology class on Monday evenings. We have plenty of folks not involved in anything outside of corporate worship. And the Lord has blessed us with a healthy visitor stream since the gift of our building. So we really do need more places for discipleship, community, fellowship, and service to happen. 

We could play it safe, and just add one group at a time. But as my life begins to enter into a busy season (only one in Tee ball now, but it won’t be long for another…), I’m more sympathetic to how busy folks with families are. Therefore it is essential-if you can-to offer a plethora of opportunities that fit within schedules and rhythms of life.

The “danger” in offering so many opportunities is that it could be harder for one particular group to launch. One group could fail to get the necessary number to really sustain itself because another time slot works better (or only works) for more folks. And you really don’t know which will work until a leader commits. So one group could “fail.” Is it worth it?

I think the deeper question is, “Is it worth risking something so big that unless God is in it, will fail?” To that I give an unequivocal yes. Here’s why.

1.) Risking is always better than not risking and remaining comfortable. Most people did not want to enter into the Promised Land because it was too big of a risk. God is always calling His people to risk and trust Him. If you’re not risking, it could mean you’re not following Jesus very closely.

2.) To risk is to put yourself in a position where you could fail. What happens in situations where you could fail? You pray more. You have to really trust God in the midst of uncertainty. Your faith grows in such situations. I think those three things are probably pretty good. While it may feel more comfortable to remain safe, your prayer life and faith will not grow without risking failure.  

3.) Risking failure gives you a chance to believe the gospel. The gospel tells us that there is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1). None. Nada. When are we tempted to feel shame or condemnation? When we fail. Yet for the Christian, failure gives you an opportunity to say, “My worth before God and others is completely dependent upon Jesus’ work and not on my ability to gather folks (although it is possible there aren’t enough folks able/willing to come-which has nothing to do with you). Regardless, Jesus loves you just as much in your “failure.” Do you believe that? You have that opportunity when you fail.

4.) Taking risks demonstrates you are currently believing the gospel. Faith is not merely an intellectual exercise. We demonstrate to others, and even the spiritual realm, that we believe the gospel when we step out in faith and risk failure. The one who knows he is free to fail will not be afraid to fail. But if we have a shallow grasp of the gospel, we will always stay put.

5.) Even though we are more than conquerors, I think God does really want us to fail some times. I’m not talking major stuff here, but if you believe you’re God’s gift to humanity, He will see that you fail. For your own good. When you become a self-reliant parent, pastor, friend, co-worker, Sunday School teacher-I can say with confidence-God does want you to fail! When we fail, we run to Him and find comfort not in anything that we have done or failed to do, but only in what He has done for us in the gospel. Sometimes failure is God’s gift to us.

Of course risk for the sake of risk is ridiculous. It can be foolish without prayer, counsel, discernment, and encouragement. But risk, regardless of the outcome, doesn’t simply demonstrate your devotion to Christ, it recalls His faithful devotion to you.

Ultimately, I use the world “fail” tongue in cheek because we can’t fail when we’re stepping out in faith. And since Jesus stepped out in faith for us, he now works that same faith in us. I’m thankful for leaders who will step out in faith with me this Fall. Regardless of outcome, I think God is honored.

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