Before tackling risky business, it helps to know what you're prepared to handle.

Former world-champion surfer Phil Edwards once commented, "There is a need in all of us for controlled danger, for an activity that puts us on the edge of life."

Most pastors find that edge-of-life risk, whether they want to or not, in the difficult decisions they're forced to make. Instituting a new program, confronting a wayward member, hiring a staff person, removing an ineffective worker-these are high-stakes initiatives that may cost a minister not only sleep but a job.

LEADERSHIP set out to discover what happens when pastors make risky decisions, and after an extensive survey and scores of interviews with both the survivors and casualties, Terry Muck combined their hard-won insights into a book, When to Take a Risk: A Guide to Pastoral Decision Making (LEADERSHIPWORD, 1987). The following is an excerpt.

I. D. Thomas, in A Word from the Wise, tells the story of a Georgia farmer living in a dilapidated shack. He hadn't planted anything, so nothing needed to be cultivated. The farmer just ...

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