Leading by faith: Discerning between risk and recklessness

by Church Times

By Oyewole Sarumi PhD


Church leadership often requires navigating challenging decisions, particularly when they involve risk. The line between taking a courageous step of faith and venturing into reckless territory can be blurry. This article explores how to discern God’s will in such situations, drawing upon scripture and practical insights for effective leadership.

The Challenge: Faith vs. Foolishness

Leaders grapple with the question: “Am I trusting God or simply being foolish?” From the stories of hundreds of church leaders across the globe, we have the example of pastors contemplating erecting a new church facility.  Despite concerns, the congregation rallied, achieving the goal, and demonstrating a potential for “spectacular” success or failure depending on how one navigates such terrain amid uncertainties.

The Picture Biblical Heroes  Trusting in Unconventional Ways

The Bible showcases heroes of faith (Heb.11) who undertook seemingly foolish acts:
* Abraham: Leaving his homeland for an unknown land based on a divine voice.
– Moses: Confronting the powerful Pharaoh despite self-doubt.
– The Prophets: Performing symbolic acts like Ezekiel’s 390-day performance, the three Hebrew boys going to the fiery furnace, or Daniel facing the lions’ den.
– The Disciples: Leaving their lives to follow Jesus, a controversial figure.
– Paul: Enduring hardship while spreading the gospel.
These examples highlight that God’s work often involves unconventional and seemingly risky actions.
Is a Godly Decision Always Risky?
Sometimes, godly decisions involve a simplistic dichotomy between “wise” and “risky” decisions.
The fact is that Wisdom is important, but fear disguised as “wisdom” can hinder trust in God.
Conversely, blind faith disregarding wisdom can lead to recklessness.

Discerning God’s Will: A Balancing Act

One of the most perplexing challenges for Christian leaders is differentiating between trusting God and making foolish decisions. This section delves into the complexities of this issue.
**1. The Difficulty of Distinguishing Faith from Foolishness:**
* The Bible recounts numerous stories of individuals who took seemingly outlandish risks that ultimately proved fruitful (e.g., Abraham’s journey, Moses confronting Pharaoh).
* These examples highlight the fine line between faith and foolishness, leaving leaders to question their own decisions.

2. Fear Masquerading as Wisdom:

* Leaders may become overly cautious with experience and success, prioritizing security over risk-taking.
* This cautiousness can stem from fear, disguised as wisdom, leading them to miss out on God-given opportunities.

3. The Importance of Trusting God:

* True faith involves dependence on God, embracing uncertainty, and surrendering outcomes to His will.
* When wisdom seems to contradict trust, leaders should examine their motives and ensure their decisions are not driven by fear or self-preservation.

Tools for Discernment:

This section equips leaders with practical tools to guide their decision-making processes.
**1. Prayer and Scripture:**
* Consistent prayer and reflection on scripture are foundational elements of discerning God’s will.
* Seeking guidance through prayer allows leaders to align their hearts with God’s purposes.

2. Seeking Wise Counsel:

* Leaders should surround themselves with trusted Christian mentors who can offer objective advice and support.
* External perspectives can help identify potential blind spots and ensure alignment with Christian principles. So, get a spiritual leadership Coach or mentor as a sounding board.

3. Two Key Questions:

According to Carey Nieuwhof, two key questions to ask when leaders get to this ‘wall’ are:
Q1: Is “wisdom” killing my trust in God?** This question challenges leaders to identify if their cautiousness stems from a genuine lack of clarity or a fear of failure.
Q2: Does my “trust” in God disregard all wisdom? This question helps identify if boldness is being mistaken for faith. True faith acknowledges God’s direction while valuing responsible decision-making.
Making the Final Call:
1. Accepting Uncertainty:
Even after prayer, scripture, and counsel, some situations may remain unclear. Leaders should be prepared to embrace this uncertainty.

2. Stepping Forward in Faith:

* Indecision can hinder progress. Ultimately, leaders must make a decision and dedicate it to God, trusting His guidance in the outcome.
* This dedication can be expressed through prayer, similar to the example provided above.
3. Moving Forward With Confidence:
Once a decision is made, leaders should proceed with confidence and faith, trusting God’s presence throughout the journey.


Leading with faith requires discerning God’s will amidst uncertainty. By prioritizing prayer, seeking wise counsel, and embracing risk when necessary, leaders can navigate challenging decisions with confidence, knowing they are relying on God’s guidance. Remember, as Augustine stated, “Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”
Blessings 💯❤️

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