A February Note from Pastor Rich

Risky Business 

Dan Amos was the man who became the CEO of Aflac in 1990. He possessed a college degree in Risk Management and it became very useful to him in his new job. American Family Life Assurance Company needed better name recognition and a strong advertising campaign to boost it and Amos understood the need. An ad agency pitched the idea of using a duck to quack out “Aflac-Aflac-Aflac.” It sounded insane and nobody was willing to sign off on such a risky venture. Amos said, “When I tried explaining to people what we were thinking about, no one got it. ‘Well, there’s this duck,’ I’d say. ‘And he quacks Aflac.’ The response was always the same: a blank and silent stare. So I stopped telling people about the whole thing.” A CEO friend suggested Amos take a safer approach but there was something about that duck. He authorized a test market for the ad but was prepared to pull it quickly if it tanked. The first Aflac Duck ad debuted on New Year’s Day, 2000, on CNN and success was immediate. Amos explained, “Our first day on the air, we had more visits to our website than we had the entire year before.” Today Aflac has an unbelievable 90 per cent name recognition, all because someone took a grand risk. Risks generally precede rewards.

Isn’t it a bit refreshing to find a man who is willing to take a chance and try something new? There are times when we are called upon to take a risk and try to do something a different way. I will never forget when I suggested that we move the time of the Sunday Evening Service from 7pm to 6pm. You would have thought I was suggesting the demise and closure of Gateway Baptist Church. But, we said, “Let’s try this for six months and find out if it might work a little better.” After six months we called our people together to reevaluate and the comments included two main points: (1) It is nice to be home by about 7:30pm so we can get ready for the school and work day on Monday. (2) It has opened up opportunities for us to go out for dessert after the service with some of our church friends. It worked!

Later, our culture changed, our church changed, our community changed, and our ministry emphasis changed and I suggested that we eliminate the Sunday Evening Service altogether. Now I was the demon from hell. We said, “Let’s try this for six months and start an AWANA program on Sunday evenings and we can use some of the people who would normally be in the Evening Service to work in AWANA.” After six months we called our people together to reevaluate and the comments included two main points: (1) 19 boys and girls had received Jesus as their personal savior and several had already been baptized. (2) Several people got to participate in training and ministry that would not have otherwise been available to them. It worked!

I think I can accurately predict that the people of Northwest Hills will be asked to take some risks over the coming days. It may come from the Elders and it may come as a new Senior Pastor arrives. Many things have changed. Our Senior Pastor (Pastor Andy) has left, our Youth Pastor (Pastor Randal) has moved on and the Worship Pastor (Pastor Paul) is no longer leading our worship. The church is getting used to an interim pastor who has a different kind of preaching and way of doing things. Pastoral staff is spreading responsibility as much as possible. Ministry is actually doing well. Women’s ministry has developed, the HOME ministry is flourishing and Youth ministry is developing. Core and Elective classes are under way. I hear only good things from the Community Groups. Loads of Love is reaching out to many people in the community and Children’s ministry is EXCITING. There are several other areas of ministry that are doing well. Our people have wanted a greater input to the leadership and that same leadership desires a partnership with the congregation. Change is difficult to accept and often involves taking a serious risk. Having come from a lifetime of risk taking, along with many of you, I can tell you that not every risk pays off. However, those that do will produce bigger, longer, and better ministry within the church. Trying something new is the way that ministry progresses. Paul and Barnabas tried something new and the church as we know it was the result. So, let me encourage you! Let’s try some new things together, let’s take the risks together and let’s succeed or fail together. And when the new Senior Pastor comes on the scene, continue to take the risks with him. One thing is certain, the result of such Risky Business will be that our church and ministry will move forward and progress to places we might not now imagine.

Serving Christ Together,
Pastor Rich

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