Welford Orrock

Cultivating a Risky Community


At the heart of Fresh Expressions is a culture of permission-giving.

How are we cultivating a culture of permission giving? One suggestion is to continually value learning, exploration and growing relationships over power, speed or efficiency.

As Peter Block writes in The Answer to How is Yes, if we were to live our lives and our ministries as a “purpose-filled experiment… this might elevate the state of not knowing to being an acceptable condition of our existence rather than a problem to be solved, and we might realize that real service and contribution come more from the choice of a worthy destination than from limiting ourselves to engaging in what we know will work.” Do disciples in your church community feel like their lives are a purpose-filled experiment directed towards a worthy destination?

Does your community value results more than revelations?

Is your community building more landing places or more launching pads?

Block goes on to offer a helpful distinction between those who embrace certainty and those who embrace permission-giving. The former ask ‘How do we measure it?’ while the latter ask ‘What is the crossroad I find myself at this point in my life/work?’ Measurement assumes a magic number marking a final destination. Crossroads remind us that every destination presents a new set of possibilities to pursue and challenges to overcome.

Taking Responsibility

From the individual side: It is easy to point the finger when we feel restrained by a culture consumed by certainty. The first step to creating a culture that values freedom is to exercise our own. Organizational systems and structures, power dynamics, leadership, budgets, limited time – these are all easy targets when we are challenged to pursue freely the prompting of the Spirit.

We forget that in the end, we are free agents with a calling to align our lives with the mission of God in the world. Organizations, leaders, resources, etc. are incredible assets when they encourage us and empower us to pursue this life. But don’t make them a crutch or an excuse. We are still responsible for freely discerning and freely following the Spirit of God into the places we are called.

From the organization side: Exploring new missional expressions might seem like a risk, is not nearly risky as conditioning your entire community to be confidently complacent. Create space and time for the disciples in your communities to prayerfully and humbly challenge the present and explore the possible.

The Power of YES

Permission is a powerful thing. Never forget how important the word ‘YES’ is. It affirms both the gifts and abilities of the ‘goer’ and the encouragement and support of the ‘sender.’ When a church says ‘YES’ to its disciples, they are empowered to live fully into the gifts and opportunities God has uniquely offered to them. To restrict permission is to deny disciples the opportunity to be their true selves.

Who can you say yes to today? Maybe it’s you. Give yourself and others permission to dream, explore, test and learn. “Elevate the state of not knowing to being an acceptable condition of our existence rather than a problem.” Each lesson begins a new journey, with new challenges, relationships, insights and understanding of the work of God through the Spirit of Christ in the world. Each step draws us deeper into the heart of God that is the communion with the Holy Spirit and the people of God. This risky steps are the exciting adventure that is the mission of God.

Who wouldn’t want to say ‘YES’ to that?

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Welford Orrock

Welford Orrock

Welford Orrock coordinates the Kairos Initiative of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. Kairos exists to facilitate a culture of permission-giving in churches and ministries who relate to college students and young adults.


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