Last month, I went to a Lifeway Christian Bookstore because I needed to pick up a few things that you can’t find at your local Wal-Mart. I enjoy walking through the bookstore, looking for the next gospel gimmick for the church I pastor, or picking up a book on the latest trend in preaching. But the one thing I needed most, I couldn’t find at the local Lifeway or Family Christian Store or on amazon.com. They simply do not carry what I needed that day. BOLDNESS. I needed to open up a can of BOLDNESS.
Remember that bold leader in the Old Testament who embodied every part of boldness, but not before he made a bold-mess? His name was Joshua. The first glimpse of boldness in Joshua’s life was crossing the Jordan River. It was the high water time for the river when God would call the people to cross over into the Promised Land. It would make much more sense to wait for the water level to drop, but they crossed because God and Joshua were close. Joshua met with God and listened to Him on a regular basis. God said it was time to go and Joshua knew that when God calls you to lead, then you must lead. Joshua led the people through the River Jordan and on to Jericho. Any military strategist would not have liked the plan the Lord gave to Joshua, yet Joshua had a certain faith in his God. The people marched and marched and gave their mighty shout and the walls came down just as God said.
The next foe to fall was Ai. This is where Joshua stepped out and really took the lead. He heard the report from his men on the status of Ai. Joshua must have assumed that God would act just the same way He did at Jericho. The boldness of Joshua in this moment led to the bold-mess I referred to above. You know the story. Joshua sent 3,000 soldiers that day and they were completely embarrassed by an opponent that did not require the full army (at least according to reports made to Joshua). What were they lacking? God’s plan. Why were they lacking His plan? Because Joshua failed to seek God through prayer prior to the attack on Ai.
It was Joshua’s own boldness, not boldness from the Lord, that filled his heart and mind with assumptions without direction from God. Remember, Joshua met the Lord on a regular basis. Prayer is such a vital link in revitalization and without it, you will find yourself in a bold-mess because of your self-generated boldness. Boldness, courage and strength does not come from our own planning, devising, or scheming. Rather boldness, courage, and strength comes from the Lord. If you do not pray and seek the Lord then you will find yourself in a bold-mess. Revitalization can be like real life...messy. But wading through the muck and mire of revitalization takes boldness and courage to keep moving forward as the Lord guides and directs.
Pastor, as you pray, God places in your heart that thing which fills you with boldness, courage, and a quiet yet calm assurance that He is leading the revitalization effort. Listen to Ephesians 3:7-11 and pick up on Paul’s boldness and confidence...
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
The Call of God is the Anchor of Boldness
The anchor of boldness gives the ship a point at which it is secure and steady in stormy waters. Paul knew he was called to reach the Gentiles for God’s glory. In fact, his life motto was, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Pastor, you need some of what Paul had! Paul always referred back to his call. Read any of the greetings in Paul’s letters and you will always find a reference to his call. Romans 1:1, says “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God...” Do you see the anchor of Paul’s courage? Paul’s life and ministry revolved around this call to live as one sent and set apart for the Gospel.
Could boldness in revitalization first come by the assurance and trust that God is in fact in the business of revitalizing churches? Yes, we gather assurance from God’s work of revitalization. But the real question you must wrestle with is, “Has God called you to lead revitalization?” Pray on this because like Joshua, you don’t want to go into battle before the Lord calls you. Your calling is the anchor you need to see revitalization through to completion, and without the anchor, you will surely be tossed to and fro like a ship lost in the storm. You’ll be headed for a bold-mess, just like Joshua at Ai.
The Gospel is the Catalyst for Boldness
The catalyst for Paul’s ministry was his Damascus road conversion. He began a ministry not only preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also preaching against false teaching and pollution of the gospel. Even in Paul’s day he had to write letters to churches, particularly the churches of Galatia, regarding Gospel pollution. He proclaimed the true Gospel. He was passionate about the Gospel because the Jesus of the Gospel changed his life. Gospel pollution is just as rampant in our churches today. The catalyst for you is the very Gospel which Paul so fiercely defended. The Gospel ought to drive you to pray for your people and grant you confidence to face each day as a day for revitalization.
Look again at Ephesians 3 above...It is God’s power, not Paul’s that served as the catalyst for life-change. The Gospel is the source for life-change in people and the gospel is the catalyst for revitalization and life-change for a declining church. Through his access to the throne, Paul was able to write the Ephesians and claim to be the “very least of all the saints” while at the same time urging them to have “boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” Pastor, as you pray for your church and her revitalization with confident access through Jesus Christ, you are drawing on the “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. There is no greater source than Him. If you want to be a bold and courageous revitalizer, then you must be bold and courageous as you approach the throne of grace. We pray not with pride, but as the very least of all the saints.
The Community Needs Boldness as Well
It is not just the revitalizer that needs a fresh source of boldness, but your church needs to be reminded of her need for boldness in the face of revitalization. It is not only the pastor’s calling to make disciples, but the entire church is set apart for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote many of his letters to churches in a particular city or region, but one thing he frequently referenced in these letters was his habit of praying for each church. Pastor, you must pray for your church to find boldness in the same Gospel you are called to proclaim.
Listen to Paul again in Ephesians 3:13-14, 16. “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father...that He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being...” Pastor, you must bow your knees before the Father and pray for your church to have the same boldness and confidence so they can walk the road of revitalization with you. Bold and courageous churches exists and turn around from decline because they first had a pastor who boldly prayed for the sheep they led.
Let me tell you of another bold servant of Christ. He was just a shoemaker. But he used his spare time to study Greek and Hebrew as well as other foreign languages. His world was small and somewhat insignificant in his little English village. Many in his life argued that he would be better off working a second job to provide for a family. But he could not shake the burden of knowing that millions of people outside of Europe would never hear the gospel. By seeking God’s direction and help, he figured out a way to serve. He boldly traveled to India to serve as the first Protestant missionary in the modern era. Because of his boldness, others like Adoniram Judson, and Hudson Taylor took up the cause of missions. Because this one man, William Carey, sought God’s direction, he boldly followed his God-given passion to a part of the world and reached an unreached people.
What drove Paul, William and Adoniram? What will drive you? Prayer. Keep in mind that you cannot out- revitalize the Revitalizer which often happens when assuming too much without seeking Him first. You are called through Jesus Christ to approach the throne of grace with confidence, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
I’m reminded after the Israelite loss at Ai, Joshua and the leadership fell before God in mourning because of the loss. They complained and questioned God about the defeat. God spoke and they received the truth that Israel had sinned. They had to repent, and destroy the false gods in their camp along with the people who took the devoted things from Ai. Have you tried or are you trying revitalization in your power? Does that power source grant you boldness? How is it working out for you? Have you found yourself in a bold-mess? You might need to repent of getting ahead of God.
Pastor, intentionally seek the Lord on your knees and pray for intentional boldness. Be reminded of your calling, the Gospel, and the church you serve. Friend, do not lose heart over suffering, but remember in Christ you have boldness and access with confidence through your faith in Him.
Pray! Pray! Pray!
Chris Irving is the Lead Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gonzales, TX. Chris has served in ministry for 15 years in Texas. He led a small rural church to revitalization and is currently involved in the revitalization process of First Baptist Gonzales. He earned his Masters of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his Doctorate of Ministry in leadership studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Irving aims to help pastors equip the lay leadership of the church to serve in ministry. He and his wife, Amber have been married for 14 years and have six children.