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Judah and Chelsea Smith: Why You Should Risk Everything

Judah and Chelsea Smith: Why You Should Risk Everything

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It’s not always easy trying new things. Just ask Churchome pastor Judah Smith. He took a risk in 2018 by opening a new church plant — totally online. “I am so excited to announce our newest location: Churchome Global,” he tweeted. “The location? The phone in the palm of your hand.”

Today, an announcement like that wouldn’t grab anyone’s attention. But at the time, the decision was met with some excitement and a heavy amount of skepticism. Some said it was pointless and wouldn’t work. Many didn’t see the purpose or the vision. Virtual church wasn’t real church, people argued. 

And then 2020 happened. Suddenly, churches around the world were scrambling to make online church “a thing.” Many didn’t have a clue where to start, so they looked to Churchome for help.

“In a way, we were prepared for the pandemic,” Smith said. “Looking back, it does feel like God was leading us to a place we had no idea we’d be going.”

Taking the Risk

In a world where comfort zones reign supreme, the spirit of risk-taking is a rarity. Yet, the legacy of visionaries throughout history stands as a testament to the extraordinary power unleashed when individuals dare to defy the norm and step into the unknown.

Smith, a visionary in his own right, understands the weight and significance of taking big risks.

“There is a significant cost implicit in all of this,” Smith said. “I think that’s where a lot of this conversation begins, but it’s also often where it ends. The cost could be reputation, social status, attendance or even finances.”

Indeed, the cost of risk can be steep, and Smith is under no illusions that taking risks is easy. It’s something he and his wife Chelsea understand well.

“Counting the cost is so important, and it’s different for everyone,” Smith said. “But like Jesus said, ‘What does is it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?’ If we’re not regularly asking ourselves that question, I fear that pieces of our souls will start to break off, and we’ll end up losing the wholeness and buoyancy that God designs for every leader and person.”

Within this cost lies a hidden treasure — the potential for personal growth, extraordinary achievements and a life that extends beyond our wildest imaginations.

“Truthfully, I don’t think we fully understood what we were stepping into when we launched Churchome Global,” Smith said. “We knew it’s where God wanted to take us, so we followed His lead. It’s what we’ve been doing since the beginning, and here we are now.”

In just over five years, Churchome has grown immensely. Over 300,000 people from around the world tune in to Churchome’s online services each week. The megachurch has a presence in 82 countries, including a new branch in the Ukraine.

Smith shared how a pastor in Kyiv met with the pastoral team about his mission to spread the message of Jesus in the midst of a war-torn and seemingly hopeless situation. Without the technology available through Churchome, he wouldn’t have been able to receive that message himself.

“It’s stories like this that remind me why we took that risk in the first place,” Smith said. “I mean, how many times have we prayed for Ukraine and its people, and never knew that there would be a Church at Home group on the other side of that, of people gathering to participate in church and community together?”

Risks don’t always look like exciting new developments in foreign places, though. Sometimes it simply looks like stepping out of what society says is the norm to achieve a greater goal or make your dream a reality.

However, more often than not, it feels much safer to take the tried and true route. Why rock the boat when the waves are big enough already? The fear of the unknown, failure and rejection can be paralyzing.

And for all the difficulties that can come with taking risks, the reward is often much greater.

Focusing on the Goal

Of course, the reward of a risk rarely comes without some sort of sacrifice. For the Churchome pastors, they’ve had to sacrifice time and resources, energy and even a few relationships in order to accomplish their goal.

“It’s been a fun leadership challenge to decide what we’re going to focus on,” Chelsea joked.

In all seriousness, Chelsea clarified, the Smiths are learning how to readjust their priorities to achieve their goals in a healthy way, setting up their risk-taking decisions for as much success as they possibly can.

Judah said, “I know some people just see the two of us as some crazy West Coast couple doing our own thing, but Chelsea and I just want to be a couple who challenges the status quo. We want to question our methods, procedures and approaches to church so that everyone feels welcome. We believe that all people are of equal value, and we want to make sure that everyone feels like they belong at church.

“We don’t want to get so caught up in the here and now that we forget about eternity,” he continued. “We are passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with others, and we’re committed to doing whatever it takes to get the message out.”

The Smiths aren’t the only ones willing to risk everything for the sake of their calling. They understand that while there may be times you have to follow a path on your own, it’s always better to take a leap of faith surrounded by people who not only believe in you but are also willing to take that risky step with you.

“We know that there are other people who share our passion, and we’re excited to work with them to spread the message of Jesus,” Judah said. “We believe that culture creators and people of influence have a unique opportunity to do something different in this world, and that’s what we want to be part of.”

It also helps, Chelsea added, when you’re taking a risk with peace and confidence, resting in a power greater than yourself.

Hebrews speaks of “laboring to enter into rest,” a seemingly paradoxical notion that underlines the value of work done from a place of peace and a lack of striving. In this perspective, rest is not postponed until retirement; rather, it becomes an integral part of the journey, a source of strength to carry on.

Chelsea described how understanding this piece of Scripture shifted everything for their family. When they first began to change and grow Churchome, the family was stressed out and stretching themselves thin.

“Back in our day, we were running all those services on the weekend and flying down to L.A. with our kids on the weekdays,” she explained. “And if I look back on my theology, I thought the salvation of people depended on us. It depended on us showing up, facilitating a service, running the right kind of ministry.

“And I’m embarrassed to look back and admit that I had that full view, because I know as a Christian leader, you’re not allowed to say that,” she continued. “But in this season, we’ve really learned to let that go. And it’s been really freeing.”

Earlier this year, the Smiths took another risk by readjusting their roles with Churchome to better accommodate for their mental, physical and spiritual health. They both admitted it’s been an adjustment, partially because they feel as if America’s idea of a pastor is something they’re working against in a variety of ways. But at the risk of looking like “the weird pastors,” they each shared they’ve found more freedom on the other side of things.

“Now, we’re working from a place of peace, from a lack of striving, knowing that Jesus has already done the big part,” she said. “He’s done the heavy lifting. We just get to be facilitators and do what He asked us to do.”

The Smiths have their path and goals laid before them. They feel as if they know where God is leading them — and, more importantly, where He isn’t leading them. But they know that they aren’t the only ones who have been called to take a risk and think outside the box when it comes to church. And they want to encourage the next generation to boldly take their first step into something brand new.

“I believe that each successive generation has a responsibility to carry the story of Jesus in their own way,” Judah explained. “Each successive generation’s interpretation of the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus is fascinating. And I predict that our generation will tell the story in so many different ways, perhaps more than any other previous generation.”

He explained that the next generation has the opportunity to use media to make the story of Jesus more accessible. Whether it’s a social media platform or entertainment or art, he’s hoping younger people are willing to transform the Church completely.

“We are already seeing this in the movies and shows that are being produced,” Judah said. “Chelsea and I want to be a part of this by getting involved in productions, movies and shows to help tell the story, sometimes in a subtle way where people may not even realize they are hearing the story of redemption and forgiveness, which is almost exclusively the story of Jesus.”

That’s not to say that it solely relies on young people’s shoulders to take risks. Rather, Judah hopes the younger generation takes their dreams and visions seriously enough to turn them into realities.

“As we get older, we tend to dream less,” Judah explained. “However, there is a phenomenon that occurs in spiritual communities like the church, where older people begin to dream again. Young people, on the other hand, tend to live in the moment and not see the future or what is possible.

“I believe that when Jesus is central and focal, these two groups begin to dream again,” he continued. “Old people begin to dream again, and young people begin to see visions of what is possible for the duration of their time on earth.”

The call to take risks demands courage, resilience and a willingness to shed preconceived notions. Yet, the rewards are immeasurable — personal growth, societal transformation and a chance to leave an indelible mark on the world.

As Judah puts it, “The power of God is truly unleashed when we step out in faith, take risks and trust in His guidance. It is in those moments that we truly discover who we are and what we are capable of.”

“Maybe I’m just a dreamer,” he continued, “or maybe I’m just a wild artist with no concept of the confines of theology, methodology and philosophy. But I’ve seen some wild things happening. I already see other things happening. We can see the evidence bubbling up to the surface. There are churches, ministers, leaders, thinkers, writers, singers, dancers, creators and artists who are already making big and small changes. So why would we stop dreaming and trying new things now?”

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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