“The only radio station that is safe for your family”.
Almost every Christian radio station that has found its way into my car has had that tagline. It’s not a bad one. I understand what they mean. Such a statement is code for: “We aren’t going to be playing smut that will cause mom and dad to blush when junior starts singing the lyrics”. That is a tremendous ambition. We should protect our children from exposure to sin as much as possible.
Yet, I have to wonder whether or not “safe” is the correct word. When I hear radio stations promoting “safe” lyrics the words of C.S. Lewis come to my mind. Writing from a war-torn England, Lewis speaks of Aslan the Great King;
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Lewis got it right. Jesus isn’t safe, but He is good. A safe Jesus is an imposter. Yes, we are eternally secure in the arms of Jesus. He is our strong tower, deliverer, and ever present help in time of need. But all of these truths are not meant to shelter us from the cold reality of life outside of Eden. No, these realities actual expose us to the brutal onslaught of a world torn by sin and happily living as rebels against our King. That isn’t safe.
I wonder, though, how many times I play it safe in helping to lead our little church. Could our church have a tagline that says, “Our church is safe”? I fear that such a banner might as well say, “Our church will follow Jesus up to the point of carrying a cross”. I don’t want to lead a safe church; I want to lead an obedient one that climbs the hill of Golgotha with our Savior.
Signs of Playing It Safe
There are always signs that we are leading our church to play it safe. One of the best places to look is our church bank account. When we sit on a ridiculously large nest egg and call it good stewardship, I can’t help but think that we’ve decided to play it safe. Don’t get me wrong, it is wise to have a few months of expenses set aside in savings. But there comes a point when we are foolishly stockpiling instead of using our resources for His kingdom.
Jesus went into the places that the Pharisees wouldn’t touch. Are we following suit? It’s not safe to start a ministry to the homeless. You’ll certainly leave your church vulnerable to difficult times when you launch a counseling program. The more our church rubs shoulders with lost people the more we’re going to experience the uglier side of life outside Eden. We can be content with creating a welcoming environment for such people. Or we can go the extra mile and go where they are. One is playing it safe—the other isn’t.
I also wonder if our fascination with excellence is less about our majestic God and more about our thirst for security. While it’s good practice to make sure that our people are ministering according to their giftedness, personality, etc., I have to wonder if sometimes we aren’t simply scared of having people flop. There is little security in trying out new ministers doing new ministries. They can flop. But isn’t failure often the means to our growth? Does our fascination with safety keep us from growing? Do we have to have our hands in every ministry just to make sure that it doesn’t fall flat on its face? Do we trust the Spirit enough to guide His people and His church—even when we totally blow it?
I’ve left this point for the end to keep at least a modicum of respect. I am a Cleveland Browns fan. In case you don’t follow football, I’ll let you know that the Browns are terrible. Part of the reason for their inability to win games is that their fundamental philosophy seems to be “try not to lose”. When they get a lead (which is rare) they eventually squander it by playing it safe. They change their game plan and stop doing the thing that got them in the lead in the first place. Then they blow it.
The Browns don’t play to win. They play to not lose. There is a world of difference between those two. Does your church know the difference? Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. That should give us all the security that we need to “play to win” instead of fearing loss. We are secure in Jesus. Therefore, let us stop playing to not lose.
How are you playing it safe?