Risk and ministry go hand in hand. You can’t have a faithful ministry if you’re not willing to follow Jesus into places that make you feel uncomfortable.
In Part 1 of this article, I wrote about how fear keeps us from fully following God’s leadership in our ministries. Once you step past fear, the next step is to go. But the Bible teaches us that taking Jesus-led risks isn’t the same as rashness. Throughout Scripture, you’ll find five principles for how to move forward when God calls you to take a step of faith.
- Get the facts.
Faith requires risk, but those risks shouldn’t be foolish. It’s important that when you’re making a big decision, you follow the wisdom of Proverbs 23:23: “Get the facts at any price” (TLB).
Getting the facts at any price means reading a book, attending a seminar, or searching the Internet. You could also talk to someone who has already been where you want to go and ask them some questions.
As I was finishing seminary, I knew God was leading me to spend the rest of my life discovering the principles that produce healthy, growing churches. I did an independent study of the 100 largest churches in the United States. I wrote to each of those churches and asked a series of questions about their ministry. What I learned from that information-gathering experience helped me take the leap of faith to start Saddleback.
So take some time to research the step God is calling you to make and get the facts. That way you’ll be able to make the best decision.
- Count the cost.
You should know why you’re taking the step and what the cost will be before taking it. Because there will always be a cost—whether it’s time, resources, or energy.
The Bible makes it clear, “It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows” (Proverbs 20:25 NIV). It’s always easier to get into something than it is to get out. It’s easier to get into debt than to get out of it. It’s easier to fill up your schedule than to fulfill it.
Choose your commitments carefully. Every decision has a price tag. I recommend asking yourself two questions before you make a big decision—“Is it necessary?” and “Is it worth it?”
These questions will empower you to take God-honoring steps of faith and protect you from making rash decisions.
- Plan your steps.
As you’re taking steps of faith, you should believe the best about the future and what God is going to do. That’s what faith is. But the Bible also teaches a corollary truth—we should plan for the worst. It’s important we do both.
Proverbs 14:15 tells us, “The prudent give thought to their steps” (NIV). You need to think about what you’re doing. Don’t charge into a situation without a plan.
I know some people insist that planning is the opposite of faith. But action, even faith-driven action, without planning isn’t faith; it’s presumption. Scripture shows us both sides of the equation—God’s part and our part. “A person may plan his own journey, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 GW). As you plan, pray—and ask God to direct you.
Prayer and preparation go together. When you prepare without prayer, you will have problems. When you have prayer without preparing, you’ll have problems too. One without the other is insufficient. You need them both.
- Announce your goal.
You need to tell people what you’re planning to do. You can’t play it safe and hope no one knows you’re taking a risk. Goals are statements of faith. They tell the world what you believe God wants to do through your life.
The Bible is clear about this. James 4:15 says, “You should say, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and carry out our plans’” (GW). In fact, it provides a great format for a goal statement: “If God wants us to do it, this is what we will do.” You’re not speaking presumptively. You’re declaring what you’ll do if it’s God’s will.
Why is this so important? First, it builds your faith. Your words have a tremendous impact on you. They set the course for your life. When you publicly say what you’re going to do, it provides momentum for achieving the goal.
But second, it makes you accountable to others and attracts support. Other people will want to join what God is doing in your life and ministry if they know about it.
- Let go, and launch out.
What’s true of turtles is true of us: Turtles only make progress when they stick their necks out. Once you’ve gathered facts, counted the cost, planned, and declared your intention, it’s time to take a step of faith.
Like a trapeze artist letting go of one bar to grab onto another, you need to let go of the past if you’re going to take that step of faith. That’s the risk. If you could keep holding on to the past while reaching for the future, you wouldn’t need faith. Instead, you need to throw away the crutches.
Remember when Peter joined Jesus in walking on water in Matthew 14? Peter asked Jesus to command him to walk. And Jesus did just that. Peter could have stood on the boat and told Jesus how much he believed him. But unless Peter got out of the boat, he wasn’t going to walk on water.
Pastor, until you’re ready to get out of the boat, you can’t walk on water, either. That first step of faith is tough. It’s natural to be scared.
But it’s time to take that leap.