Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blast from the past: Moses and Risk

Read Numbers 31 this morning, probably not my favourite book of the Bible, and I gave up concentrating once it got on to tallies of sheep, but 2 things jumped out.

Moses has been told by God to fight the Midianites and:
1. It'll be the last thing he does before he dies, and hands over leadership to the next generation.
2. As part of the battle, they take some of the holy items from the tabernacle out with the army (v6).

In other words, Moses puts obedience before self-preservation, and part of going into battle is to take risks even with the things that are holiest to the community - there is always the chance of losing, and therefore the sacred things being carried off as plunder by the enemy.

Moses could have disobeyed God, thinking 'If I'm going to die after fighting the Midianites, I shall put off the battle as long as possible'. The self-preservation instinct means we will always put off the battle as long as possible, but the Cross may call for us to do something more radical, to give up our life in order to find it again. Christians, and churches, may need to do something which looks like death, maybe something which is death, because it's about God's purposes, not our self-preservation.

Which links to the risk thing. Can churches, and Christians, risk their 'holy things' because that's the only way we do God's will? Can you do mission without taking risks? And if mission shapes the church (buildings, ministry, finance, priorities etc.) then shouldn't risk-taking be something which comes naturally to us?

A simple exercise: list 3 things which are most precious about your church building. Are you prepared to risk them for the sake of mission, and seeing people come to know Jesus?

originally posted November '06


  1. Thank you - posting this again helped me (

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  3. I'd suggest being prepared to change and risk the 'sacred things' involves willingness to challenge church culture, particularly the way we view and handle conflict. I'm just reading David Brubaker's new book, 'Promise and Peril, understanding and managing change and conflict in congregations' [Alban Institute) and his research shows how two key changes correlate with significant church conflict. One is changes to the way power is handled in the system, ie decision making structures, such as a move from a PCC to Mission Teams perhaps, and the other is to do with ritual, and for example adding or deleting a worship service. Where these two kinds of change coincide, so the congregation is handling both structural and cultural change at once, I believe he finds a 70% chance of significant conflict breaking out. Scaling this up to denominational levels, I can't help but notice that the challenges of postchristendom, church decline, and postmodern culture are creating a need for multiple and concurrent kinds of change in our churches. Maybe this situation is calling us to invest far more time and attention into conflict literacy and conflict transformation precisely so we are able to take the necessary risks of change.