When I think of the first church in the book of Acts, the word bold comes to mind. They were bold witnesses. They had bold faith. Bold church planters. Bold givers. Bold to the point of death. Take the apostle Paul. He’s told that if he goes to Jerusalem it will cost him his freedom and his life. What does Paul do? Yep, he goes to Jerusalem and the prophecy comes true.
I want this boldness for my own life, and the life of our church (along with every church). I’m tired of theologizing my cowardice under cute evangelism strategies that so emphasize relationship, that they rarely ever get to the punch line of the gospel. I hate that we’ve conjured up quotes and attributed them to people who never spoke them, all in an effort to excuse Spirit-filled boldness- Tell the gospel often, and when possible use words, or something to that effect (That Saint of a man never said that, by the way). I don’t like getting off airplanes having completely ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompting to be a bold witness with the person seated next to me, a person I will probably never get a chance to see again, all because I didn’t want to be bold.
Lord help me.
Lord help us.
I have a love hate relationship with boldness, especially as an introvert. I shy away from boldness because it makes me uncomfortable. Yet I’m inspired by it. The people and stories that stir a fire in me to attempt bold things for Christ, aren’t the shy, timid one’s. They’re bold.
It’s that athlete playing hurt, yet risks everything to play in the big game.
It’s the person at the casino betting all the assets from their fledgling company, hoping to make payroll.
It’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walking down the long highway towards Mobile Alabama.
It’s James Meredith’s first day at Old Miss.
It’s Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s refusal to stay and enjoy the security and comfort of America, but to board a ship to return to Germany, like Paul, knowing his return could cost him his life.
In 1939, Bonhoeffer wrote boldly of the need to risk it all to his friend Reinhold Niebuhr:
“I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people…Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make that choice in security” (Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas, 321).
That’s inspiring. Had Bonhoeffer played it safe his life would not have had the impact it did…it still does. But because of his boldness lines from his pen like, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die,” have a force of bold authenticity that moves us (The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer).
We’re drawn to bold. How else do you explain little boys and girls flooding the German Shepherd infested streets of Birmingham in 1963, standing up for their freedom? Or the juggernaut the first church became in a culture that was physically hostile to the exclusive claims of Christianity? Boldness isn’t the absence of fear, it’s just the refusal to be paralyzed by it. The same Jesus who boldly went to his death on a Friday afternoon, was described just hours before as being distressed as he poured out his soul to His Heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And Dr. King smoked.
I’m convinced that the most inspiring thing any church can do is to take bold steps together for the glory of God.
Those times I have leaned into the Holy Spirit and boldly shared my faith with a complete stranger I left with a feeling of unexplainable exhilaration. Euphoria.
I’ve never regretted being bold.
Join us this year at Fellowship Memphis as we attempt bold things for God. For more information, come experience our State of the Church Sunday on August 24th.