Taking the Plunge: Finding & Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Published November 28, 2016

When was the last time you had the courage to break consensus and trust God?

Organizational risk always begins with giving up something comfortable. It doesn’t take much nerve to change something that is already broken. But changing something that’s working for the sake of something more important — now that is where real risk comes in. People push back. Results dip at first. And everyone anxiously watches to see what will happen.

The good news is that we’re not on our own to take risks:

Risk is something God calls us to and leads us through.

Consider how Joshua must have felt as God called him to lead the Israelites out of their comfort zone. After 40 years of learning to live in the wilderness, Joshua led them into an unreasonable situation—trying to forge a river during flood season. As I review Joshua 1-3, I am reminded of the following three principles:

  1. Risk Requires a Culture of Courage
    God’s call to Joshua, and Joshua’s call to the people, was simple: “Be strong and courageous!” If you’re going to lead an organization to take risk, you’ll have to establish a culture of courage within your team.
  1. Risk Requires a Break from Consensus
    Many churches in particular believe that every member should have a voice in every decision. That’s not a biblical model of leadership. In this case, Joshua never called a board meeting or took a vote. He followed God forward, trusting His faithfulness over consensus.
  1. Risk Requires Trust in God
    God’s only command was to lead the ark of the covenant into the Jordan. From there, Joshua assured the people that God would act. As leaders, we are called to follow God’s leading, trusting Him for the results.

Are you resisting risk for the sake of your comfort zone?

whiteboardIf it’s been awhile since you took a significant risk, you’ve likely developed a comfort zone in your organization. You can identify it by placing everything you do within these four categories:

  1. The Past: These are products or ministries targeted at existing customers and experiencing low results. Many organizations call them “sacred cows.” If you have any of these roaming around, it’s time to eliminate them.
  1. The Core: These are the opposite of the past, experiencing high results with new customers. The Core is every entrepreneur’s dream. But nothing gets to “The Core” without going through “The Future.”
  1. The Future: The Future always begins with products or ministries focused on new customers. They’re experiencing low results because you’re just introducing them and working out the issues. But as you make those changes, the future should gain momentum and become a part of the core. In order for there to be a future, churches and businesses alike must make serving new customers a priority.
  1. The Comfort Zone: This category is the most deceptive of all. It involves products or ministries experiencing high results with existing customers. For a while, it feels like this success will last forever. But in time, culture will shift, better solutions will emerge, and existing customers will bail for something better.

The Comfort Zone will always fail you eventually.

I’ve met leaders who mistook the comfort zone for long-term success. They invested further in their existing methods with the expectation that even greater results would follow. But in the comfort zone, the opposite happens. The further you invest, the weaker your returns. Eventually, those methods shift from the Comfort Zone to The Past. That’s when leaders realize they are stuck. But the truth is they’ve actually been stuck all along—stuck feeling comfortable and believing that risk wasn’t necessary.

Risk prioritizes the future today in order to build a greater tomorrow.

Stepping away from proven products for the sake of the future is one of the riskiest steps a leader could take.

For Joshua, it was a decision to leave solid ground so future generations could thrive in the Promised Land.

If you’re a pastor, it’s a decision to sacrifice the preferences of existing Christians for the sake of those who’ve yet to meet Christ.

If you’re a business leader, it’s a decision to disappoint some legacy clients in order to expand your impact with new customers.

Most of all, it’s a bold move that says, “Regardless of how things were in the past, our priority is the future.”

Which aspects of your organization are sitting in the comfort zone?
Have you asked God what risk He may be calling you to make?

About the Author(s)
Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Founder & Chief Strategic Officer

The Unstuck Group

Tony Morgan is founder and chief strategic officer of The Unstuck Group, a company that helps churches get unstuck through consulting and coaching experiences designed to focus vision, strategy and action. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia, NewSpring Church in South Carolina and Granger Community Church in Indiana. To learn more, check out Tony’s Unstuck Church Assessmentand his new book, The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health that unpacks each phase of the typical church life cycle.