Shannon Kiser

What Do We Lose When Church is Safe?

A friend of mine loves chemistry…actually majored in it in college.

My daughter did not enjoy high school chemistry AT ALL.

What’s the difference?

It’s not just that one is wired to like science and the other to hate it.

The difference is: my friend learned chemistry in an era of lots of hands-on experiments and activities with different chemical reactions. My daughter is growing up in an age of so many safety restrictions that their class experiments, while safe, were terribly boring.

It was safe, but not captivating.

The Dangers with Safe Church

Sometimes, churches choose safe, because it’s more easily controlled and planned and comfortable. Because it doesn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers or call forth more effort from already busy congregations.

But what if risk taking is actually the more compelling, the more captivating choice?

What if “safe” actually creates an environment of lukewarm participants rather than engaged disciples?

What would it look like to risk participating in neighborhoods and communities around our churches where we have lost touch with the pulse of the life outside our walls?

What if the Holy Spirit is calling us to try something different?

What is God doing out there doing things that we are supposed to join in on?

Who might Jesus be urging us to engage with beyond our usual programs and projects?

Appropriate Risk

This is about discerning appropriate risks, and finding the courage to try them. Think of them as experiments. Sometimes an experiment works out, sometimes it fails. That’s just a part of the process. But along the way, there are discoveries, unleashed energy, and active participation.

It’s no surprise that Scripture is full of messengers from God reminding us humans to let go of our fears. We worry about what God might ask us to let go of, and what God might ask us to take on. We worry about the future and we worry about the unknowns that we can’t control. “Fear not,” is the cry of the angels throughout Scripture. Because we just may find that in stepping into an adventure with God, we are part of a Holy Spirit movement unleashing God’s kingdom on earth.

To be clear, this isn’t about reckless or thoughtless risks. It is about God-centered risks. It is about following the Spirit of God who always goes ahead of us, but may take us into new places and situations that we could not have scripted for ourselves. It is about trusting a God who promises not that we will have it easy in this world, but we will have God With Us as we take risks into the unknown.

What experiment is God putting on your heart? What’s stopping you from giving it a try?

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Shannon Kiser

Shannon Kiser

Shannon serves as Director of Training, leading our team of mission strategists and trainers in the development and implementation of the Mission Shaped Ministry course through Pioneer Learning Communities. She is also a pastor on staff with Riverside Church in Sterling, VA, a Church that worships in two languages and engages in several Fresh Expressions of Church. In the last several years, Shannon has been involved with the Presbyterian Church’s New Worshiping Communities initiative, and has directed the coaching network that supports pioneer leaders. Shannon lives in Springfield, VA with her husband Patrick and teenage daughters Catherine and Suzanne.

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