Skin in the Game

Here’s a scenario:

A friend comes to you and tells you about an investment that is guaranteed to double in the next year. All you have to do is sink some of your hard earned money into the investment and in a year’s time you’ll have twice as much.

That sounds great, but how do you determine how seriously to take this investment advice?

Well there’s an easy way to tell how honest your friend is being with you: Ask how much of their money they have invested in the project. If they’ve invested none, you wouldn’t take them very serious, right? But if they’ve invested a little bit of money, then you might take them a little seriously. And if they invested a significant amount, then you might take them a whole lot more seriously, right?


The answer is “skin in the game.”

Someone who really believes in something being valuable would put a lot of eggs in that basket, right? We shouldn’t take someone seriously if they’re not willing to commit to it.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced me to this concept in a profound way in his book Antifragile. He said in the ancient world, architects who built buildings would sign a foundation stone with their name on it. If the building ever collapsed, those who survived would find the architect and demand recompense from the family of the architect. If a son died in the collapse, the architect’s son would be killed. I’m not advocating for the killing of people, but you’d be hard pressed to argue that those architects didn’t have skin in the game. The result was these buildings were stronger and lasted much longer. They built buildings better because they knew their family’s life depended on it.

There’s a Kingdom parallel here.

There’s been plenty of times people have been willing to “help” our churches when what they really want is to take over. Sometimes they are even well-meaning, but offer ideas that don’t translate very well to the real world. Often these people have never been to our church, but they know how to fix our problems. This doesn’t work.

Instead, one of the signs I look for in someone who is sent from God to serve our churches is they have skin in the game. If the church is hurt by one of their ideas, they’re going to bleed along with everyone else. If they cause a mess, they will help clean it up. They don’t dream up ideas for others to execute. They’ve tested their ideas in their lives and speak from experience, not theory. They’ve paid the price to get where they are and want to see others get what they have.

This isn’t to say they have to be from my church to help my church. It just means they will be invested in the success and failure of our own body, like an investor who has put his money into that stock he’s told everyone about. They have a vested interest in our success.

So, in the Kingdom:

Have skin in the game.

Partner with others who have skin in the game.

Don’t waste a lot of time and energy on those who don’t.

Skin in the Game Series

Skin in the Game

Skin in the Game: Prophecy

Skin in the Game: Church

Skin in the Game: Evangelists

Skin in the Game: Leaders

Photo Credit: Person Holding Band Aid on Left Hand by Diana Polekhina

Don’t Forget:

My new book, “Stick Your Neck Out” was just released. If you’re looking for a short introduction to house churches for yourself or others, this 71 page book will help you or someone you know move from interested to invested in planting churches in the harvest. Get your Kindle or paperback version here.

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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

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