Outside the Box — or Work the System? Two Ways to Face Risk
Ways Disciples Used Their Strengths, Part 4
In the aftermath of Jesus’ arrest, death, and resurrection, His disciples solved problems, processed information, managed change, and faced risk – each in various ways. Their different strengths were especially important as they work together to unite believers and build His church.
During the forty days following the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His followers several times. Yet a turning point came when He gave them the Great Commission, telling the disciples to “go make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, NIV). Though filled with risk, the path was clear: the disciples were to share with others about Jesus so many more people could experience salvation. How the disciples responded to Jesus’ directive reveals the different ways people face risk.
Face Risk: “Outside the Box” versus “Work the System”
The disciples set about sharing the good news all over Jerusalem. Peter and John even preached in the temple – a risky endeavor since the Jewish leaders and temple guards wanted to keep Jesus’ resurrection quiet (Acts 4). Yet when it came to taking that risk, Peter and John were determined and fearless. They viewed the established temple procedures as obstacles to spreading the gospel. If asked how to press forward to grow the new church, these two pioneering risk-takers would say, “Think outside the box!”
Any new follower of Jesus Christ faced risk at the hands of the Romans or the Jewish establishment, whether they advertised their newfound faith or not. Some disciples faced that risk by working behind the scenes. Barnabas (“Son of Encouragement”) took care of the practical needs presented by the growing movement. Working within accepted commercial practices of the time, he sold a field he owned – and then donated the money to the disciples (Acts 4:37). Barnabas’ structured approach to taking risk was systematic, prudent, and cautious. If asked how to press forward to grow the new church, Barnabas would say, “Work the system.”
Pioneering and Structured
Peter (along with sidekick John) and Barnabas represent two different ways to face risk: a pioneering approach and a structured approach. Both are strengths.
God values the Pioneer’s unconventional methods: He sent a convicted murderer to free the Israelite slaves (Moses), a young boy to kill a giant (David), and a baby to save the world (Jesus.) Pioneering risk-takers are willing to try out-of-the-box means to move forward.
But God also embraces a more conservative approach, like the quiet faithfulness of a teenager girl (Mary), a steadfast husband (Joseph), or a devoted pastor (Ananias, who led Paul to Christ.) Structured risk-takers provide that balance. They are the people who consider a new endeavor with caution, still willing to move but convinced for the need to follow the established procedures with prudence.
Facing Risk: God Uses Both Approaches
The two problem-solving approaches complete each other. Where would God’s church be without those who face risks to growth and change with originality? They are not afraid to push the envelope. We need Pioneering risk-takers like Peter who say, “Think outside the box!”
But the church needs Structured risk-takers like Barnabas in the wings – those who tend to follow established rules and procedures as a way to protect your team. They “work the system” to ensure risks are taken in a controlled and orderly fashion.
Unconventional and cautious. Together, these strengths complete each other so your team and your church can face risk and move forward in a healthy way.
The balance worked well in the early church. It does today, too.