Risk is usually called “stepping out on faith” in church. That’s a shame, because they aren’t the same thing.
There is such a thing as stepping out on faith. It’s just not the same as taking faith-based risks that make common sense.
For instance, “stepping out on faith” might mean a church aspires to a particular goal or vision God has for them that will require stretching and perhaps some risk. There has been a season of spiritual discernment, and such decisions usually take time to make.
Much of ministry doesn’t allow you the time to make long, prayerful decisions. This is why it’s important to walk in the Spirit at all times, and have a heart devoted to Christ before it’s time to make key decisions.
In a perfect world, you could always take a month to pray about things. Often, you’ll get five minutes or less. Most decisions will take some time in between, and the decisions we make regarding risk will play a large role in the church’s future.
We must make wise decisions regarding risk.
This doesn’t mean not to take risk. I’m actually suggesting the opposite. We should step out on faith and take risk. However …
There’s stepping out on faith.
There’s taking a faith-based risk based on data and/or common sense.
Then, there’s gambling.
The ministry casino is where churches lose their shirts and leaders lose their jobs. It’s a place where the lingo is spiritual, but the agenda is really human. Most of the time, ego or greed brings us through the casino doors. Sometimes, it’s desperation.
The ministry casino is, for instance, where we might set budgets for the upcoming year that have absolutely no root in reality, and then call it “stepping out on faith.” I once consulted a church that had a decline of 15 percent in offerings the year before who set a budget increase of 30 percent for the following year. They had been in decline for nearly five years, and had no ministry plan to turn things around.
They called it “stepping out on faith.” It was really more like “stepping out to spend more money than we know we are likely to have.”
If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a big fan of challenging people to generosity. Church finance is dynamic, and trusting God to bring resources to further a vision He’s given you is the right thing to do. However, there is always a line between being wise with vision and wagering your vision at the ministry casino. I’m reminded of a quote from Jim Collins in his fantastic book Great by Choice: “The only mistakes you learn from are the ones you survive.”
Here are 11 ways to gauge whether we are stepping out on faith, taking faith-based risk based on data and/or common sense, or gambling.