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lunar footprint

take care or take a risk

by Ron Hunter


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Photos courtesy NASA


MILLIONS SAT ON THE EDGES OF THEIR COUCHES and easy chairs as one of the most watched television events (to that point) unfolded. Emotions ran high as two highly trained aviators piloted the lunar module to a destination never before reached by man. People worldwide held their breath as Neil Armstrong descended on the rungs of the lunar ladder, becoming the first man to leave a footprint on the moon.

There was no precedent for what Neil Armstrong did—no “how to” video, no step-by-step manual to read about walking on the moon. What kind of man would risk being the first to step foot on the moon, or the first to break the sound barrier, or the first to prove it impossible to sail off the edge of the earth? Many said men such as Armstrong, Yeager, and Columbus lacked a few important neurons in the brain; but history remembers them differently. The actions of these and many others who were the first to venture out on the edge brought new knowledge, growth, and products to the world.


lunar landing


In 1545, Martin Luther’s bold act of nailing The 95 Theses on the doors of the castle church in Wittenberg sparked the Protestant Reformation, calling the church back to a theology of salvation by faith that recognized the priesthood of the believer. How long would it have been until a leader stood up against the status quo?

What if Nehemiah had not wept over the ruins of the city of Jerusalem and then left a cushy job to go back to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem?

What if Joseph had not interpreted the dreaded news of Pharaoh’s dream about seven years of famine and then explained how to innovatively create a means of survival for everyone in the Egyptian empire?

Each of these men could be described as pioneers, visionaries, initiators, groundbreakers, and trailblazers. Ralph Waldo Emerson must have been describing this type of leader when he said, "Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Can we always be blazing new trails? No. But we should not timidly avoid a path because no one has ever done it before.

I have a friend who is a world traveler as the Director of the National Associations Division for The Gideons International. When replying to the standard farewell, “Take care,” Craig will reply, “Don’t take care, take a risk.” Craig, however, does not mean go climb Mt. Everest and attempt to ski down the south pass.

God gives us opportunities to decide whether or not to risk. Risk takes on different forms in our everyday lives. It may be as simple as witnessing to the person in the elevator, or as complex as moving your family halfway around the world to a new way of life. For local churches, it may imply taking a risk to reach out to a whole new group of people in your community because they are the new neighbors God has brought to your door. It could cause small groups or Sunday School classes to brave a new paradigm to keep touching lives. It could be asking for a raise from your boss.

However big or small the risk, it comes with some anxiety for everyone involved. Leaders have to be comfortable with some level of risk. If you never risk as a leader, then you may not be leading but only managing. What is the difference? Leading means being out front, influencing behaviors and directions. Managers control and organize daily affairs of an organization or group of people. Leaders always manage but not all managers can lead.

Nehemiah and Moses are without a doubt two of the greatest leaders in God’s Word. Each led by taking wise risks and moving large groups of people to new accomplishments. Likewise they took time to organize after each new accomplishment. Build and organize, move and equip, cast vision and show plans for how to get there—they knew how to both lead and manage.

When you operate solely under a management philosophy, you never take a risk, rarely initiate new programs, and avoid failure of any kind at all costs. A manager wants precedent before attempting a new direction and asks, “Who else has done this successfully?” These may be vital traits for 80 percent of decisions, but this style will never allow an organization to thrive over a period of time. Only with innovation can a church, organization, or company continue to exist. Unless you sell manhole covers, your service, product, and who you minister or sell to must change.

Operating solely under the management philosophy, you are always concerned about sending up trial balloons to see which way the wind is blowing. We often refer to this as giving in to peer pressure when talking to our kids. We do not want them making decisions this way. Yet, we often make decisions based on fear of what people will say, how they will criticize, or as Emerson put it, walking that new path alone.

Leaders understand that accomplishments come only after a number of failures. What Olympic figure skater ever medaled without falling a thousand times before sticking that triple axel? Wise leaders do as much research as humanly possible before making “higher risk decisions.” Did Neil Armstrong have all the answers before opening that hatch and stepping onto a whole new celestial body? No, but he had very strong expectations of what would happen.

Free Will Baptists can pioneer new paths. In years past, we have often eaten the dust of other denominations that were 10 to 20 years ahead. I am thankful for men like Luther, Arminius, Tyndale, and Wycliffe—men in church history who took a risk to provide for those coming after them. We have had some pioneers among us like the Mileys, Willeys, Hannas, Laura Bell Barnard, E. E. Morris, Lizzie McAdams, and Roger Reeds, to name a very few. These chose to risk (they also managed), but we are still benefiting from what they accomplished for God and Free Will Baptists. Now it’s our turn. Will we take care? Or will we take a risk?


ABOUT THE WRITER: Ron Hunter, Jr. is the executive director of Randall House Publications.


©2008 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists