Real Christianity is risky business.

  • “Barnabus and Paul: men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:25-26).
  • “Priscilla and Aquila: who for my life laid down their own necks” (Romans 16:3-4).

We respect Paul and Barnabus for their courageous ministry. We also admire Priscilla and Aquila, a husband/wife missionary team, for their Kingdom work. These people were risk-takers. In fact, they “hazarded their lives” and “laid down their own necks” for the sake of His name!

That’s convicting. As I look at my own life, I have found that our cautious culture has crippled my Christianity. Rather than bold forays for Kingdom causes, I tend to retreat into Christian huddles and debate standards, labels, or exegetical minutia. Risk-taking is an alien concept, a bit extreme actually. It’s the kind of extreme reserved for the missionary biography kind of people. Not me.

Where is Gospel risk-taking today? Where are the Hudson Taylors, starting missionary organizations with no promised financial support? Where are the John Patons, disregarding ‘wise’ counsel and obeying God’s call to cannibalistic islands? Where are the David Livingstones, trekking lion country to reach the unreached with the Good News? Where are the Adoniram Judsons, openly starting a Bible study in a hostile pagan environment? Where are the C.T. Studds, who preferred to run rescue shops on hell’s doorstep than living within earshot of church bells? Where are the Jim Elliots, leading his family and others into danger-infested jungles because there were people living there who hadn’t heard Jesus’ name?

We have given in to a timid Christian culture where the “safe,” “wise,” and “cautious” trumps biblical-risk taking. Obviously, risk for risk’s sake is foolish and presumptuous. But risk for the Kingdom’s sake is biblical and right. There may have been a day when more ‘caution’ was necessary to balance foolhardy ventures by thoughtless believers. But today, that is not our problem. As Francis Chan writes, “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

‘Caution’ and ‘wisdom’ may just be our pious-sounding evasion of a risk-filled Christian life. Our philosophy of risk is misaligned with the world’s ideal of safety, security, and materialism. Based on the biblical model, I would suggest that the correction we need is to return to Christlike risk-taking—a God-inspired, faith-filled, grace-empowered passion for God’s Kingdom. Sacrificing my money, my job, my health, or even my life is a small price to pay for God’s glory.

About The Author

Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more than 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.

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3 Responses

  1. Eric Foley

    I agree, real Christianity is risky business. Even Jesus promised it would be with all of his talk of taking up our crosses and enduring persecution for his sake. You’re right; we’ve become all too accustomed to a faith that is quite comfortable, quite American. We need to be re-awakened to the fact that faith as described in Scripture is a call for us to lay down our lives as living sacrifices.

    And, yet, we must not be seduced by grandeur. Even Jesus resisted such temptation by Satan to turn stones into bread, throw himself from the temple, or gain a worldwide audience. Even risk-taking for the Kingdom can become foolishness if it is not what God has called us to do.

    Like Jesus, we should do only what we see the Father doing, which may just be to stay at our jobs, continue paying our mortgage, loving our families, and going through the humdrum of daily life with those around us while pointing them to Christ.

    Of course, I say all this while agreeing passionately with what you wrote. The Kingdom involves the ministry of the jungle missionary and the suburban housewife. And regardless of which God calls us to, laying down our lives – whether that mean sacrificing our dreams of quiet comfort or heart-pounding adventure – is risky.

  2. Rev. Dr. Ted Farrar

    Over my life time I have worked with Christian churches in Africa, India, the Caribbean, with Native Americans in Canada, and here in the US. I look back now at 70 with some regret at the Abrahamic type decisions my wife and I made regarding our children.

    But I think what is my greatest regret and insight regarding the Body of Christ is that it has been reduced to an insitution. Every church I know has become a ‘royal’ church that supports the status quo and at bottom preaches a ‘prosperty theology’. In this climate calling individuals to risk when the institutional church can’t or won’t, and we clergy draw our pay from the people who need to hear a prophet, just doesn’t ring in people’s ears with authenticity.

    I still enjoy and attend church; I think they foster badly needed community in today’s fragmented world, provide a place for being present to God’s Spirit, unite the family, and do a lot of charitable work! All very good things. But not risky things.

    Jesus, and I don’t intend to preach here, was not about institution building. A famous Christian once said, as I recall, “When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked why they were hungry, they called me a communist”. That’s risk. And he was assassinated for it.

    The silliness we hear today by fearfull church people in the streets with the placards do not represent the profound call of Jesus Christ to lay down one’s life for the neighbor! They are an embarassment to all that I have given my life for over these many years.

    I am filled with HOPE these days as I look ahead to the fresh new winds of Christ’s Spirit blowing, and new, unexpected forms of the risking Body of Christ emerging. Just this past weekend I saw a Kingdom building response to the reality that 90% of our human family do not have access to food, water and hygene like we 10% of the educated, affluent, recipients of plenty have.

    I’m sorry, but I have yet to see that awareness of the plight of God’s least, loss, and left out, or any serious response to it, in any of our local churches.

    I’m afraid there is too much risk written here for my response to see the light of day there. But I do pray with you for the resurrection of the Body of Christ, our salvation.

  3. wanda

    Great article. I was debating this very issue with someone a little while ago – how we as Christians in this land of the “free” make light of what it really means to follow Christ. Every day our fellow brethren in the East are being beaten and killed for proclaiming this very Gospel that we sing about in many of our American churches on what is for many of us, a pristine and calm Sunday morning. And yet if you ask any of those who are persecuted if the risks are worth it, they would say “YES”. I stand guilty as charged. Whenever I’ve encountered even a small “trial” or “test” in my life, I’m probably more prone to shaking a fist at God than praising Him; more likely to question and ask “why” than “why not”. I know the Lord forgives, but the days are fast approaching, maybe are even here, when we as followers of Christ are going to have to take a stand for our Faith, at the risk of losing friends, loved ones and even our very lives. Queen Esther said it best, “If I perish, I perish”.

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