Are you familiar with the subject of “Risk Management?” It’s a discipline that essentially scrutinizes business practices and procedures for the purpose of eliminating, or at least lowering, the possibility of a negative mishap. I’m sure you have seen the man carrying a flag at The Home Depot, as he escorts the forklift through the store. Or perhaps, you have noticed how they cordon off multiple shopping isles when pulling things down from an upper shelf, all done with safety in mind. That’s Risk Management on display. It’s not a bad thing to “be careful.” I have uttered those words myself as I warn my kids of possible dangers.
But what happens when the concept of risk management becomes an all-informing worldview? Is that possible? What would it look like?
Consider the church that locks its doors during the week. It always used to be that a church was a sanctuary for a person in need who could come to it for spiritual solace. Now, you need to seek that solace between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM, Monday through Thursday. Oh, I understand. It’s too big a risk to leave the building vulnerable to any old stranger. Our insurance might not even cover us.
But it doesn’t stop there. Covered dish dinners are being regarded as too risky to hold, as someone might get sick. We can’t take that chance. It is better to call off the service during inclement weather because someone might slip and fall. We can’t take the chance of a law-suit, right? Let’s take down the swing set and the monkey bars — some kid might get hurt. No skateboards in the parking lot, after all, we are liable, aren’t we? If we don’t have a policy about that, we better get one. We don’t want to have to go to court, do we?
Have you thought about how many decisions you make on the basis of safety alone?
I probably sound pretty cynical at the moment, but consider how you live today. Do you have insurance? Do you have one or more of the following: car, home owners, life, health, accident, sickness, disability, or any other kind of insurance that I didn’t mention? Why? You are trying to manage risk, right? Can your kid ride a bike without a helmet? Can you choose to take off your seat-belt? Do you even have the freedom to choose to take a risk anymore? Who decided that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) take any chances in life, anymore?
I own insurance. I’m not knocking common sense. But I think Risk Management is overtaking us and inadvertently taking the life out of living. More to the point, it quite possibly could be stealing the success out of the Church’s ministry here in the West.
I’m mindful of something the late evangelist and missionary, David Livingstone, said when he was working in Africa. Friends wrote to him, “We would like to send other men to you. Have you found a good road into your area yet?” Dr. Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
During the Zambezi expedition, Livingstone and his team encountered much difficulty. One of his party, Dr. John Kirk, is quoted as saying, “I can come to no other conclusion than that Dr. Livingstone is out of his mind and a most unsafe leader.” Following criticism, abandonment, the deaths of some of his party, and even the death of his wife, Livingstone uttered his famous quote, “I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.” What resolve! Do we still see this tenacious spirit in the Western churches as we did in these men who forged ahead to establish the work many have entered into since? Has Risk Management succeeded in quenching the fire that once propelled the church to heights unknown? I worry that it has.
The apostles all died for their message. Jesus Himself paid with His life, because He didn’t “play along.” Many missionaries paid with life and limb to propel the gospel to the world. We are now living in the aftermath of the great efforts of those who went before us. But what legacy are we leaving? What will be the aftermath of our leg in this relay?
Remember this, to the atheist, there is only this life. He must safeguard it at the possible cost of losing everything there is that is of value to him. But we who follow Christ are not of that persuasion. We have the expectation of a greater reality than this present life. Financially speaking, great wealth is made by systematically eliminating the possibility of losing money, while adding to “pot.” Over time this process has made a lot of people rich. But it was the Lord Himself who said, “You cannot serve God and money,” wasn’t it? Yes, it was.
I remember a missionary who came to visit us from a poorer part of the world. On his tour of our “world” and accomplishments, he remarked, “It is amazing what you are able to do for God, without God.” Have we, the Church, begun to think like the world? Have we forgotten that Jesus said that our needs would be provided for — by Him?
Is it possible that we are trying to “win the world” with a mentality that has more in common with the self-sufficiency of the atheist than the faith of an undaunted follower of God? I am concerned that we are headed down that path. Don’t even get me started on Political Correctness!