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Taking risks for the gospel

It's better to make a fool of yourself than to play it safe

Taking risks for the gospel

(Illustration by Ali Douglass)

My roommate on Cape Cod in 1974 was a Jewish girl who got saved on the Boston Commons when a Christian approached her, in all her hippiedom, and said, "Want to meet some normal people?" Susan said yes, and followed. If there is a worse evangelistic appeal, I don't know it.

Let me have risk-takers around me. Just as a practical matter. Let me have Christians who try things that fail, and then try something else. Introduce me to someone who parks near handicapped parking at McDonalds and waits for someone to come along who might need prayer. Send me a friend who would rather make a fool of himself obeying what he is 80 percent sure the Word commands than play it safe, or who supports missionaries beyond his means. I want to hang out with a woman who snaps to the voice of the Spirit, rather than mind-screwing it till it subsides. Or who puts her full weight on the promises of God and doesn't get so mired in theological discussion of "context" that the promise is whittled to nothing.

It seems to me we're always getting ready to share the gospel and never actually sharing the gospel. We are forever describing it to each other. We fill our notebooks with neat insights from Christian conferences. We are entertained by C.S. Lewis and Bonhoeffer-the very men who warned us against making the gospel "an academic problem which is worth discussing with a good master" (The Cost of Discipleship). Someday we will be sitting in nursing homes still mumbling to ourselves the names of Berkouwer and Warfield.

We rob each other. How do we rob each other? By not risking anything all day long, so that we give no room to God for the glorious testimonies He is waiting to hand us, that we might encourage each other. God is glorified in the demonstration of the difference between our natural ability and His miraculous power. Risk-taking is nothing fancy, just an everyday pressing into little things that we have no confidence of doing without the help of God.

And we rob the world. "I am certain that the world outside is not going to pay much attention to all the organized efforts of the Christian church. The one thing she will pay attention to is a body filled with this spirit and rejoicing. That is how Christianity conquered the ancient world. . . . I am exhorting you in this evil world in which we find ourselves that if you really are concerned about it, . . . then it will be your duty to become a person such as is depicted here, because this is the only thing that is going to persuade men. They say, 'Oh we know your teaching and preaching, we have had it all before,' but when they see it in operation they will listen because they are miserable and unhappy" (Joy Unspeakable, Martyn Lloyd-Jones).

Do you feel your faith is too weak yet to venture out for God? Or that you are not yet a good enough person for Him to use you? "This is the disobedience of the 'believers'; when they are asked to obey, they simply confess their unbelief and leave it at that (Mark 9:24). You are trifling with the subject. If you believe, take the first step, it leads to Jesus Christ. If you don't believe, take the first step all the same, for you are bidden to take it" (Bonhoeffer, ibid.).

"Risk must be taken to pursue solutions to impossible situations. The gospel of power is the answer to the tragic condition of humankind. John Wimber said, 'Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.' If we really want more of God then we must change our lifestyle so that His manifested presence will increase upon us. This is not an act on our part to somehow manipulate God. Instead it is the bold attempt to take Him at His Word, so that we radically obey His charge. He says 'Amen' with the miraculous. I challenge you to pursue God passionately. And in your pursuit, insist on a supernatural lifestyle" (When Heaven Invades Earth, Bill Johnson).

Postscript: The first person who spoke to me today before I completed this essay was a disheveled man on the street at about 6:30 a.m. He said, "Good morning, M'am. Have a blessed day." Imagine risking that.

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