Today’s post is about both the encouragement and challenge surrounding risk. This excerpt comes from the next book on your reading list, The Faith of Leap, by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. Is this a 5Q article? Absolutely. The whole approach, the whole genetic re-engineering of the original intelligence and capacity of the Church, depends upon our willingness to engage risk; to become stakeholders in a new venture that is simply a return to what we were created to be like, look like, exist as.

As you read, think about, “How does the power of stakeholding encourage and challenge me and my team to pursue the depth and breadth of 5Q in our community?”

One [other] principle of liminality should be factored into our equation. We call it the stakeholder principle. It is the idea that all the players in a project ought to have a direct stake in the outcomes, because if strategic choices don’t fundamentally impact us personally, it is unlikely we will make decisions with the kind of seriousness they deserve. We need to act as if our lives depended on it.

When all our church ever expects from us is attendance and tithing, we hardly feel as though our lives are at stake. Indeed, in medium- to large-sized churches, many people suspect their attendance and tithing wouldn’t really be missed. In those churches where the Sunday meeting is the primary project, most members know the show will go on with or without them. This can hardly be called stakeholding, and once members work that out, they find all sorts of excuses for attending only every other week, or every three weeks, or less. In this respect, as we identified in our first book together, The Shaping of Things to Come, most churches are mainly audiences, and any member of an audience is dispensable. As soon as you know you’re dispensable, the impetus for attendance is lost. After all, the play will still be performed even if half the theatre seats are unoccupied. However, the play cannot be performed if any of the cast is absent—or if performed, it is diminished in some way by the absence of that cast member. Actors in a repertory company are stakeholders in that company.

When all our church ever expects from us is attendance and tithing, we hardly feel as though our lives are at stake...we won't really be missed. @alanhirsch @michaelfrost6 Click To Tweet

Liminal churches are more like repertory theatre companies than their audiences, and as a result they know the powerful sense of connection with each other—that camaraderie—that won’t allow any member to let the others down. For the rep company, the common ordeal they face is opening night. For a liminal church, there needs to be a similarly common ordeal, and everyone needs to be committed to owning that challenge collectively. Without significant levels of buy-in or stakeholding by the team, the possibility of significant levels of innovation and energy are reduced. This is only exacerbated when considering the role of the leaders.

Alan learned this very painfully in one of his missional adventures when he opened Elevation, a café and nightclub in Melbourne, as a missional proximity space in 2001. A risky venture (it was an innovative start-up in a highly competitive field), it eventually failed, costing a lot of money and having a damaging impact on the church that was involved. On reflection, one of the biggest mistakes made was in hiring a manager rather than engaging a stakeholding partner in that role. The manager, a hireling, was empowered to make serious decisions on a daily basis, but had no real stake in the business—or as Americans say, he had “no skin in the game.” He was basically in a “job.” If it failed, then no worries, he could easily seek another one. And that’s exactly what happened. It got tough and he left at a critical time, leaving the partners in one big mess. Alan swore never to make the same mistake again. The learning: in all major projects people who make decisions about the future of the venture should somehow hold stakes in the outcomes. If all goes well, they win; if it does not go well, they lose some skin along with the other stakeholders.

Without significant levels of buy-in or stakeholding by the team, the possibility of significant levels of innovation and energy are reduced. The same is true of the congregation. Feel familiar? Click To Tweet

In 1519, with some 600 men, 16 or so horses, and 11 boats, Hernán Cortés landed on a vast inland plateau now called Mexico. They had come from Spain to the New World in search of some of the world’s greatest treasure. But, with only 600 men with no protective armor, conquering an empire so extensive was a highly unlikely affair.

Instead of charging through cities and forcing his men into immediate battle, Cortés stayed on the beach and awoke the souls of his men with emblazoned speeches ingeniously designed to urge on the spirit of adventure and invoke a thirst for lifetimes of fortune amongst his troops. His orations bore fruit, for what was supposedly a military exploit now took on an extravagant romance in the imaginations of the troops. Ironically, it was not the eloquent “preaching” that led to the ultimate victory of those adventurers; it was just three words that would change the history of the New World. As they marched inland to face their enemies, Cortés ordered, “Burn the boats!” They did, and thereby eradicated any possibility of retreat from the minds of the troops. They had to commit themselves unwaveringly to the cause—win or die. Retreat was no longer an option.

Putting aside the violent nature of the example above (the conquistadors were cruel and rapacious colonizers), we can observe the power of the no turning back approach to innovation in the story of Cortés and his conquistadors. Troy Tyler, a very successful entrepreneur, says it this way: “Strategy is all about commitment. If what you’re doing isn’t irrevocable, then you don’t have a strategy—because anyone can do it. . . . I’ve always wanted to treat life like I was an invading army and there was no turning back.” When there is no possibility of retreat, we will find the innovation that only the liminal situation can bring. In short, we find the faith of leap. Or, as the novelist Katherine Mansfield put it, “Whenever I prepare for a journey I prepare as though for death. Should I never return, all is in order.”

Strategy is all about commitment. If what you’re doing isn’t irrevocable, then you don’t have a strategy—because anyone can do it. - Troy Tyler Click To Tweet

Katherine Mansfield poses a great question: “Is your commitment to restoring 5Q, the original intelligence and capacity of the Church, a one way ticket? What is keeping you from this commitment? What has helped you engage it?

You can find the second article in the series, “Starting The Adventure With Expeditionary Learning,” here.
You can find the third article in the series, “The Next Four Steps On Your 5Q Journey,” here

Alan Hirsch
Alan Hirsch founder of Forge Mission Training Network, 100 Movements, and now 5Qcollective. He is author of numerous award-winning books on movements, organization, and leadership, and teaches extensively across North America, Europe, and Australia.

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