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The Sweet Spot

We all love the story of Simon Peter: that memorable moment when - as all of his friends looked on - he took a huge risk, stepped out of the boat, and began to walk on the water towards Jesus.

We love his audacity. We applaud his courage. We’re inspired by his faith (even though he sank!). Not only do we all love it, we’ve all used it in our youth groups! Why? Because this is a story that we are confident will stir the hearts of our young people.

There’s something about the call to adventure that resonates in their spirit. There’s something about taking an audacious risk that we know captivates their imaginations. Indeed, there’s something in every young person that longs to ‘step out of the boat.’

How sad it is then when age robs us of our audacity! When the passing of years suppresses our ‘child-like faith.’ But for those of us in leadership, this must not be. For comfort and safety are not the natural habitat of the leader.

Leaders thrive in ‘out of the boat’ territory. They are the first to climb over the edge, step out on the water and say, ‘with God the impossible is possible!’ That’s why I believe it is the call of every leader to continue to be captivated by the Spirit of adventure. As Brennan Manning so eloquently reminds us, “To live without risk is to risk not living.”

BUT… there’s one part of Peter’s story I think we so easily miss. One word which defines Peter’s antics as something be lauded not laughed at. The hinge upon which Peter’s risk should be considered great faith as opposed to great foolishness…

“Come,” [Jesus] said. (Matthew 14:29)

Peter’s risk can be considered great faith for one reason alone; he acted in response to the call of his Master. The difference between faith and foolishness is the call of the God.

Doing crazy things based on GOOD ideas is not great faith, it is great foolishness. Doing crazy things based on GOD ideas is not great foolishness, it is great faith!

I wonder if sometimes in youth ministry we are quick to celebrate risk and slow to commend wisdom. Risk is cool. Risk is sexy. Risk is fun! But wisdom is, well, a bit dull in comparison! It doesn’t scan so well in our youth sessions. It doesn’t quite capture the imagination in the same way. But without wisdom, risk is foolishness.

All risk and no wisdom leads to empty bank accounts, burnt out teams and disheartened young people. All wisdom and no risk leads to bored young people, dim faith and plateaued ministries. But when you find that sweet spot of living in the tension between wisdom and risk… wow! That’s the place where faith grows, hearts are set on fire and the impossible is made possible!

The leader leads at their best when living in the sweet spot between wisdom and risk. When, in response to the voice of God, the leader will make bold moves and take great risks.

One year ago I was involved in pioneering a new youth group for a church that had no existing youth ministry. This was risky on a number of levels.

First, the church had invested heavily financially, so if it didn't work out I would have wasted their money.

Second, we had assigned this non-existent youth group as a placement for some of the students at Regents Theological College, so if it didn’t work out they would have had no placement for their degree (big problem!).

And finally, it was all very public, so if it didn’t work out I would have looked like an idiot! But I was willing to take that risk - not because it was a good idea - but because we had a strong sense of the sound of Jesus’ voice saying, “Come.”

So let me pose to you a question for reflection: If there was a pendulum with risk on one side and wisdom on the other, where would that pendulum land for you?

Are you over-cautious? Are you so concerned with handling your responsibilities appropriately that you never do anything that has a high risk of failure? Or are you rash? Never pausing to think before you act? Moving ahead with the latest big idea without pausing to consider if it was actually God’s idea?

I pray that you would be both wise and audacious, both shrewd and risky. I pray that you would learn to hear the voice of God and that when you hear him say, “Come,” you would stride courageously into unchartered waters. I pray that you would learn to lead from the sweet spot.

Question: If there was a pendulum with risk on one side and wisdom on the other, where would that pendulum land for you? Leave a comment below.

 
 

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