Is it worth the risk?

The apostle Paul had a church planting ministry to an unreached people group, and for the sake of this unreached people group he took risk after risk! He was whipped, beaten and stoned. He faced constant danger on his travels, was despised by his own people and hated by those he was trying to reach. He gave up security, a promising career, material comfort and exchanged it for poverty, insecurity and suffering and to top it all off (just as he is seeing churches planted all over the world) he finds himself in prison. Yet during all this discouragement, he didn’t quit, he didn’t lose his major supporters and the gospel thrived.

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
Ephesians 3:1

Paul, for the sake of taking the gospel to the gentiles, was required to take risks. Click To Tweet

He was required to make sacrifices and when the stuff hit the fan, he was required to trust. Paul didn’t trust in strategies, his preferences or traditions, he had the type of trust that only comes from knowing that Jesus is on throne. He voluntarily submitted to the will of Christ for the sake of the unreached, the gentiles.

The UK Church isn’t known for taking risks

Unlike Paul, the majority of UK churches and Christian organisations are risk averse, in fact they minimise as many risks as possible, especially when recruiting elders/ministers and church planting. Church plants will often be in a city centre location targeting low risk professionals and students. When it comes to recruiting, church plants will start with a safe pair of hands, a planter who is a great speaker, picked from a great church, after studying in a great seminary, with a great mentor.

He is then sent out with a slick team, advertising via a slick website, promoting slick services, serving slick coffee, in a slick venue, that is only a 2 minute walk from the trendy micro pubs and niche coffee shops.

Even though this method of church planting fails at reaching the working class, the benefit class and the poor, which is nearly half the population of the UK, it remains the most attractive option for planters, planting teams, and… Click To Tweet

…funders alike.

We should praise God for these churches, because unbelieving professionals and students who sup real ale and monkey pooh coffee, need Jesus as much as the heroin addict on benefits.The problem isn’t that churches shouldn’t be planted in this way, the problem is that that people, churches and funders, choose to join and support this method at the expense of the method displayed by Paul. The exact method which is needed to reach the the UK poor.

We need to take risks for the sake of the poor

If we are serious about reaching the poor with the gospel, we need to follow the example of Paul, we need to take risks for the sake of the poor.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

If taking risks sees an unreached people group, reached for Jesus, then the risk must be worth it. As God’s people, we need to do this on a personal level, a local church level and a national strategic level. Here are a few immediate  areas of change which we could see :

1. Personal Risk

Whether you are in full time ministry, retired or working in a secular job, if you are willing to take some personal risks, Jesus can use you for the sake of the poor.

What are you willing to submit to Christ for the sake of the poor?

  • Are you willing to give up the dream of pastoring a growing church of a hundred people and swap it for the reality of a fragile church of 15 members on a housing estate?
  • Are you willing to give up the dream of that perfect retirement home in the countryside and buy a house on a housing scheme so that you can serve the local church?
  • Would you be willing to train in a local church, in a deprived area, rather than go to seminary and study for a degree?

2. Local Church Risk

local churches need to be willing to take risks on people, to have a diverse team of gospel workers from the local community. The local church needs to be:

  • Appointing indigenous elders based on biblical standards rather than academic and social status
  • Investing in someones future potential, rather than looking for a ready made worker
  • Spending time, money and effort on training indigenous workers, even though there is a risk they might fail

3. National Level Risk

Networks, Denominations, Seminaries and Funders need to use their national influence to help generate change. They need to take risks by inviting pastors and gospel workers who are indigenous to deprived areas take the lead on:

  • Strategy and mission to the poor.
  • The management and distribution of resources and funding to churches working in deprived areas.
  • To develop training and assessment for indigenous workers
  • To develop training and assessment for those wanting to do gospel work in deprived areas
  • To be willing to fund churches in deprived areas for the long term

Lets pray that we will all submit to the will of Jesus, for the sake of the lost. Trusting that whatever we risk or sacrifice, is nothing, compared to His sacrifice for us and the prize that we have in Him.

Author: Ian Williamson

Ian Williamson is a church planter and the pastor of New Life Church, Middlesbrough. Ian has lived and worked in the town his whole life and has been in full time Christian ministry since 2007.

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