Some birthdays are tough. Some are easy. Maybe you’ve had a number that was harder than expected, like turning 30, 40 or 50. This year was number 54 for me. That means, unless doctors come up with a crazy new way to extend human life, I’m over halfway to the finish line. And that’s OK; 54 feels pretty good so far!
As usual, my folks joined our family for dinner and a little birthday celebration. Around the table, I was reminded of something Mom has said for years:
“Do something today that scares you.”
That little statement has been one of the reasons why I’ve jumped out of airplanes, bow-hunted predators and started bee-keeping (even though flying hypodermic needles freak me out).
But, “Do something today that scares you” is far more than an excuse to do stupid things in the name of adventure. It’s a reminder that comfort and security are not the ultimate goals of a Jesus-follower.
God repeatedly encourages his people to be strong and courageous and live on mission. This world is not our home, and we are foolish to act like it is. Primarily, we are here on this earth to serve Jesus and make disciples who make disciples.
Years ago, I heard Converge president Scott Ridout ask, “Would you be willing to risk more for the sake of Jesus in your 50s than you did in your 20s or 30s?” That’s a “do something that scares you” sort of question. And it’s a question that continues to resonate. In fact, Scott’s query was catalytic for my own journey.
From planter to regional president
In 1997, my wife, Amy, and I planted Cascade Church in Monroe, Washington. The church grew fast, and some of the best ministry moments we’ve experienced came during the 23 years we led Cascade. We witnessed God’s grace as hundreds were baptized and transformed by the love of Jesus Christ.
Cascade has the “multiplication DNA” and had been relentless about starting new churches regionally. I fully expected to stay in that church until either I keeled over in the middle of a message or retired 15-20 years into the future. Moreover, I was unwilling even to consider another plan.
But, God. How often in Scripture do we see those two words followed by a significant change in the narrative? In 2019, I was asked again to consider the job of Converge Northwest’s district executive minister. I laughed — because, come on — we all know district leadership is a crazy role.
I remember saying, “I’ll pray about it. But, I’ve seen the position; we hire some poor guy to do an impossible task, and then we all criticize him.”
I promised to pray about the role but had no intention of actually making a move away from the church we founded. Then God began to disrupt Amy and me.
What if staying in a comfortable “known” leadership position was not the best use of my life post-50?
What if more churches could be planted by taking on a regional responsibility?
What if less security, more responsibility and greater risk was God’s preferred future for us?
Long story short, we said yes, and so did the churches of Converge Northwest. And it’s been a wild ride. My first official day on the job was January 1, 2020. Then, two months later, COVID-19 shut the country (and our churches) down. Great timing.
Despite myriad challenges, this is the most fun I’ve had in ministry in some time. I’m learning new skills and leaning into new relationships with pastors, elders and church planters.
You see, “Do something today that scares you” isn’t a social media meme or a quaint saying. It represents a willingness to live by faith — every day.
We become comfortable quickly. For example, maybe there was a time in your life when you found it easy and normal to talk about your relationship with Jesus. But perhaps you’ve become slowly accustomed to avoiding low-level confrontation (like talking about your faith with those who aren’t convinced). These days, politics and an increasingly polemic social structure have made sharing your faith a bit more daunting.
“Doing something that scares you” is simply a reminder to be strong and courageous, to keep pressing into the mission for which God has left you here on earth.
Pastor Bruce Fields is one of my heroes. We met at Mansfield Community Church in Washington wheat country during the lockdowns of summer 2020. I was visiting to say goodbye to retiring pastor LeRoy Harshaw. Bruce was beginning an interim role at Mansfield while he and his wife, Betty, were commuting from Spokane.
A few months later, Bruce called to let me know he was coming out of retirement, selling their home in Spokane and settling down in Mansfield, a town of 600 people. My response was something like, “Seriously? Dude, you’re 69 and have family in Spokane.”
Pastor Fields laid out the new dream God had given him and Betty.
“Why am I doing this? I have been thinking about that, and the answer is not simple,” he said. “But it boils down to what Jesus said in his high priestly prayer in John 17:4: ‘I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do.’
“I could not say I have accomplished the work God gave me to do. God has given me a heart and love for rural communities. I would love to see alive churches thrive in rural settings everywhere.”
What captures my imagination is the Fields’ unwillingness to ride off into the sunset and enjoy a much-deserved retirement. They could easily have decided they had offered their service, taken risks in the past and were entitled to enjoy the comforts of family and avoid the messiness of church leadership.
Bruce is a model of doing something today that scares you. His desire: to grow a rural church planting movement in Central Washington based out of Mansfield. I want to be like him at age 69.
Recently, I’ve become friends with another retired pastor. Charlie Worley has served churches as pastor, author and district leader for a long and successful career. His ministry pedigree includes having been the national church planting catalyst for the Evangelical Free Church of Canada. Lately, he’s been serving as interim pastor around the Northwest region.
After participating in a Converge Church Planting Assessment Center, Charlie sent me a proposal. We’re working out the details, but pastor Worley is coming out of retirement to serve the Converge Northwest churches as a church planting catalyst. Already, he’s helping recruit, coach and assess planting couples for the gospel mission of making disciples who make disciples.
The mission of the Great Commission is relentless, calling Worley to do something that matters for the kingdom. Did I mention, Charlie is 75 years of age?
I don’t know what “number” you’re currently living, but may I encourage you to live strong and courageous? What if you were to do something today that scares you — for the sake of the kingdom and in the name of Jesus?
The past year has been rough — particularly on pastors. If you have been in pastoral ministry through 2020-2021, you’ve likely been called either a coward or a killer — maybe both — depending on how you responded to COVID-19 mandates.
No matter what direction pastors led, they’ve been deeply criticized by their own church family. And it hurts — every time.
I often ask pastors, “What’s your Monday morning fantasy these days?” Not surprisingly, most have an exit strategy in mind. Early retirement or a career change sounds good about now.
May I kindly say, don’t do it. Unless God has released you from where you currently serve, don’t step away in the middle of the mess our world has become. Take a breath, get some rest — but stay in the game. The stakes are too high to lose seasoned ministry veterans in the current crisis.
May we together reaffirm our follower-ship of Jesus. May we be willing to take new risks at every age — from student to senior. May we follow the Apostle Paul’s encouragement and “make the most of every opportunity, for the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).
What could this look like for you?
Have a conversation you’ve been avoiding. Is there someone you shy away from if you can help it? Why not step into the conversation and trust God with the outcome?
Share the hope that lies within you with an acquaintance. You may be the one to lead them into a new life in Christ this year.
Forgive someone who has offended you. I know, it’s hard — do it anyway.
Start something that’s been in your heart for years. I would often encourage the staff at Cascade to “fail at something this year.” If we only do what we’ve always done, we’ll reap the results we’ve always gotten.
Give more than you’ve ever given. What if you were to increase your generosity a percentage point or two in the coming year?
All around Converge, we have thousands of leaders who are choosing to live with courage. Some are pastoring faithfully with hard-to-love people. Some are launching new churches or attempting new outreach initiatives.
Way to go! God sees your faithfulness and knows your story.
Keep on choosing to do something today that scares you — for the sake of the kingdom!