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A characteristic that is often identified as inherent in leadership is the ability to take risks, not dangerous ungrounded risks, but risks that are based on a lot of data and a dash of intuition, calculated risks. In a previous post, I talked about how Jesus was a great example of servant leadership. That probably doesn’t surprise anyone who has read the New Testament. But, was Jesus also a risk-taker? Well let’s take a look.

Jesus lived in a time that was similar to our own in the sense that it was a time of great change. A large segment of the Jewish population in Palestine was eager to rise up in violence and throw off Rome’s imperial grip. Others were more progressive thinkers; they wanted to integrate with Rome. Still others wanted to focus on religious formalism and rigid conservatism. I am talking about the Zealots, the Sadduccess, and the Pharisees. One thing was sure, change was in the air and people knew it.

In a world of change the ability to innovate and take risks is crucial to survival. And Jesus was not afraid of risk or innovation.

He didn’t exhibit the controlling behavior that is associated with rigid ideological movements. On one occasion the crowds began to abandon Jesus because they found his teaching too innovative for their taste (John 6).

After the crowd left, he turned to his core team and said: “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67).

I’m struck by the riskiness of that question. I know what it’s like to work for years with a group of potential leaders only to have them abandon their post. It’s very dissappointing and can even lead you to burnout.

Jesus was offering the twelve an exit because he knew that, in order to have commitment from his followers, he had to risk giving them the freedom to leave.

Jesus’ innovative mind caused him to see opportunities that his disciples would overlook. On one occasion, the crowds were pressing against him when a woman who had a chronic hemorrhage touched his robe. When he asked who had touched him Peter complained: “We’ve got crowds of people on our hands. Dozens have touched you” (The Message, Luke 8:43-48). Here was an opportunity to bring healing to this lady and to teach a valuable lesson to his disciples about the importance of the individual.

People who are overly concerned about security and consistency are likely to miss amazing opportunities that present themselves in our path.

Jesus understood his mission as new substance that required new forms. He described his enterprise as “new wine” that required “new wineskins” (Matt. 9:17).

Jesus broke centuries of racist and gender segregation by walking into the heart of Samaria and speaking to a Samaritan woman (John 4:-26). He allowed a prostitute to wash his feet (Luke 7:37-38).

Perhaps the riskiest thing Jesus ever did was turn his mission over to the feeble hands of his disciples.

I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are (John 17:11).

Clearly, Jesus Christ merits a place among the great risk-takers and innovators of history.

What about you? Are you an innovator? Do you find it difficult to taks calculaed risks? Does your company have a culture that encouraged calculated risk-taking?


Photo: Crucifixion of Christ, Bode-Museum, Berlin Public Domain.

Portrait of Dr. Waddell

Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.