The days of Advent begin by calling us to consider the end and the return of Christ. It quickly leads to an introspection that asks questions like, “Am I ready? And what about Uncle Bob?” While I suppose it’s a good question, perhaps a better one might be, “What is my Kingdom risk-reward ratio?” Said another way, “What have I risked on the Kingdom of God and what are the returns?”
In Matthew 25 we see three parables in succession pointing to the return of a bridegroom, a nobleman (land owner) and king, respectively. Each features a dimension of preparedness for the one returning. The middle parable, commonly known as the Parable of the Talents, gets at my point here.
Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
The story unfolds a progressive picture of risk taking with the talents and of escalating rewards. Risk is rewarded. Playing it safe is punished.
In a recent blog article, Non profits have a charter to be innovative, Seth Godin drives at this idea in his analysis of non-profit organizations and risk taking. He writes,
The biggest, best-funded non profits have an obligation to be leaders in innovation, but sometimes they hesitate.
One reason: “We’re doing important work. Our funders count on us to be reasonable and cautious and proven, because the work we’re doing is too important to risk failure.”
One alternative: “We’re doing important work. Our funders count on us to be daring and bold and brave, because the work we’re doing is too important to play it safe.” (read the rest of the short article here)
It strikes me that there is only one real option for non profit organizations who bear the name of Christ in advancing a mission on behalf of the Kingdom of God: Risk taking. Said another way: Risking failure.
So how are we doing? Are you part of a church community actively taking risks for the Kingdom of God? What are they? Have you failed lately? Have you seen encouraging returns?
Here are a couple of obvious ideas:
- Put a line item in your church budget next year for $1000 to send to a student in seminary or who is otherwise intentionally preparing for a life of vocational ministry. (They don’t have to come from your church). Increase that by $1000 for the next ten years.
- Commission twenty or thirty willing members of your community to go and invest themselves in a church plant in your city or town. (doesn’t have to be your church’s plant either)
- Tithe the proceeds of any building campaign fundraising project and use that money to send teams to Haiti to build simple houses for the homeless. (Even better, see if you can get the church to send the whole amount instead of building more buildings.)
- Your ideas here……. and try to avoid making it exclusively about money.
What about the community or organization you are leading? Does your leadership encourage risk taking? Do you affirm and even celebrate failures? Are the people around you afraid to fail? If so, ask what your part may be in contributing to that fear. Do you shroud your fear of failure in the name of “wise stewardship?”
Even closer to home, consider ways your family might embolden risk taking for the Kingdom of God in the coming year. And what about your own life? Where are you on the Kingdom of God “Risk-Reward Ratio?” Are you playing it safe? Is there any way your faith is leading you to take a risk that may indeed fail at the present time?
As the Christian community is increasingly pushed out of the comfortable cultural centers of society (at least in North America) and out into the prophetic margins it will open up bold opportunities for Kingdom risk taking. Let’s prepare by becoming good storytellers when we see it happening.
I am 45 this year, which is hard to believe. It is not an exaggeration to say that my life is half over. This Advent I’m reflecting on those 45 years, not in an effort to lament but to learn. It’s easy to take some big risks in the beginning and slowly settle back into playing it safe. How will I risk my life on the Kingdom in the years I have left?
This excerpt from “On his blindness,” one of John Milton’s most famous sonnets, recently captured my attention
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I’m haunted often by an image of the final judgment. It is one in which I am receiving commendation and reward from the Son of God. Then in a slightly self congratulatory spirit, I look around, scanning the endless horizons of joy, and see scores and scores of saints from every conceivable place. Then it hits me and I ask,
“Why didn’t I risk more? Why didn’t I risk everything?”