For the last eleven segments in a Leadership Courage Series that’s now twenty installments in length we’ve been investigating the challenge facing pastors today to stand with courage and clarity in a religious context that, for decades — maybe centuries — has become less and less courageous and clear.  In this spiritual vacuum the greater culture has drunk itself sick on self-focused indulgence.

Last time, pastor, I invited you to reintroduce yourself to the adventurous life.  A life of trust and risk and experimentation.  Stepping beyond the natural limitations of your understanding, your competencies, your skill set, your own strength, intellect, and charisma.

Of course, the problem with living the adventurous life is, in the words of Patch Adams’ love interest Carin Fisher: “People get hurt”.

And so it is with any adventure.  There is the possibility of failure, of loss, of injury, of embarrassment, of being mistaken, and of hurt.

The Church today seems to have so little tolerance for the latter that it’s unwilling to engage the former.  And, this reality is absolutely stunning in light of the Biblical record.  The Christian life is anything but safe, cautious, predictable, measured, and reasonable.  Everywhere in the Bible, those who followed God were adventurers.

By contrast, imagine this scene: more than 5,000 have come out to the wilderness to hear Jesus speak.  Eventually it dawns on the disciples that if the crowds don’t get something to eat, some of them will grow faint, maybe ill.  When Jesus sees that all they have is five loaves and two fish, he pats the young boy on the head and exclaims:  “Oh my gosh!  We’ve gotta shut this meeting down right now so everyone can get home to eat and rest.  From now on, we have to hold these gatherings where people can get plenty of nourishing, low-calorie food, refreshments and medical services…and schedule plenty of breaks so people don’t over-extend themselves.”

Consider this situation: Jesus is about to send the disciples out two-by-two.  He gives them these instructions: “Be sure you take plenty of money with you and arrange your lodgings well in advance.  When you enter into a new village, if they’re happy you’re there, stay briefly, so you don’t wear out your welcome.  And, if there’s any resistance at all, leave quickly and quietly.  For goodness sake, don’t stir anything up!

Peter and John are hurrying to the temple past a crippled person begging.  They avoid eye contact and, as they pass, simply shrug their shoulders.  One is overheard telling the other: “So sad that the government doesn’t take care of the indigent, isn’t it?”

The disciples are in a small boat, attempting to cross the Galilee with Jesus asleep below deck.  Always cautious, they hug the shore just in case a storm appears. Sure enough, a storm does arise.  Alarmed, they awaken Jesus who screams out: “Quick, hand me a lifejacket!  We’ve got to get to shore right away!  These waves will probably capsize us!  We must never travel by boat again. It is just too dangerous!

Read through the Gospels, the Book of Acts, the Epistles and the entire Old Testament.  You’ll see God’s people continually in peril. Sometimes, God tells them to do what’s impossible—like instructing Gideon to shrink his armed forces before going to war against a far more formidable foe.  Other times, God’s people find themselves in circumstances where they’ve no hope but for a miracle.  The Egyptian army chasing the Israelite slaves to the shores of the Red Sea, for example.  God keeps putting his people in unreasonable situations.  They keep finding themselves in circumstances where they have to trust God.  Where they can’t rely on themselves.

They’re living the adventurous life.

Are you?

Leadership Courage Series #20:

Leadership in a Culture of Cowardice (part eleven)