Like so many, I’ve been challenged and inspired by God’s call to His people to “be strong and courageous.”  In fact, one of the Scriptural occurrences of that phrase has been chosen as the 2011-2012 verse of the year for IWU – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)

As one of my mentors has often stated, “pastors have been taught to be caring but not taught to be courageous.”  I’m not sure it’s something that can be taught.  I also don’t believe that a courage shortage is limited to pastors. But it is awesome if one of the outcomes of an education at Wesley Seminary at IWU would be that every graduate would be inspired and infused with courage to take kingdom risks.

This is different from mere recklessness or risk-taking.  A “Kingdom” risk speaks to Source and focus.  Its Source is the heart of God Himself, who expresses His will through a call upon your life.  It is not taking a chance as a result of comparing oneself with others or copying what others are doing, but the unique expression of His will personally delivered to your heart by God’s Spirit.

Its focus is Kingdom advancement.  It is not personal thrill-seeking, trying to prove something, or a display of bravado. It is not fueled by a negative reaction to the “institutional church” or the need to spite authority.  You step into the realm of the insecure and unseen because you believe God is prompting you to further His Kingdom in a specific way.

A week ago I met with a group of undergraduate ministry students who all sense a call to involvement in church planting.  Gabe Melian, a student leader, is exploring with these students the formation of LAUNCH, to nurture the courage and calling to engage in the risky endeavor of church planting.  As part of this gathering they each shared their story, which was truly inspiring. It also prompted a trip down memory lane for me (and yes, that lane is getting longer as the years go by!).  When I was a Senior at IWU I sensed God’s call to plant a church that would be healthy and reproducing (plant other churches).  I passed on an offer to pastor an existing church though it seemed “safer.”  My times in prayer partnership with another IWU ministry major, my good friend Dennis Jackson, convinced me that seeking greater security would have been an act of disobedience.  I couldn’t help but muse as I sat with those students – “Do I have the same ‘risk tolerance’ I had back then?  Should our sense of risk change with the season of ministry?  Is an occupational hazard of long-term ministry a growing tendency to play it safe?”

The forward movement of God’s Kingdom requires men and women willing to take risks by planting churches, evangelizing unreached people groups, investing in transforming urban areas, and carrying the good news locally in their neighborhoods or globally in their employment.  It is being salt and light in the course of whatever their career path may be.

So I’m challenged, and perhaps you are as well – enter the zone of sacrifice, stretch what may seem like faltering faith, cross the line of predictable and reasonable, grow your capacity to live with uncertainty –all for the sake of an adventure yielding eternal results!

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