We all love a rousing Bible Scripture to tweet or post to our social media accounts. They become motivational memes and niceties that help us navigate long winters and bad days. Who hasn’t felt inspired when your Grandma writes you a card with the classic verse from Joshua chapter 1, verse 9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” This is often followed by a text from an old friend who reminds you of Deuteronomy chapter 31, verse 6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Lovely.
What if we were to take these passages seriously? What if we understood exactly what was going on when these words were spoken to Joshua by God and then Moses. The type of courage being instilled into Joshua was to enable him to change the destiny of an entire nation, leading thousands of people into situations that to the outside observer would have seemed entirely hopeless.
The future us unclear
As we progress through 2021 we’re still feeling the tail of the season of our lives that has been defined by COVID19, We’ve experienced a year like no other, we’ve had to pivot and change. Our borders are only very slightly being opened, our freedoms that we take for granted are only slowly being restored and we’re still wrestling with what the ‘new normal’ looks like because we still feel a little vulnerable. There is much, uncertainty. The future is unclear.
In reality the future is always unclear.
Follow a revolutionary
As Christians we are called to follow a revolutionary. Jesus did not come into our world to be ordinary and to bring comfort, he came to be extraordinary and make the comfortable uncomfortable. To embrace Jesus the revolutionary means being convinced that He is with us when the future is unclear except for what He has promised us in His Word – He is with us, He will come again, and there is a place that He is preparing for those who choose to love and serve Him.
In a future that is uncertain in this world, we need to have the kind of courage that Joshua was told repeatedly he would need if we today want the message of Jesus to continue to impact our ever-changing world. The way we have done things in the past won’t be what we need to do in the future to achieve the Kingdom impact and outcomes we often talk and dream about.
Our communities work very differently to how they once did. Demographics are different, economies are different, relationships are different, even what we hope and dream for is packaged differently in a tech-savvy digital world. As a result, our biology, sociology and in some areas our theology functions different to how it once did and this impacts a lot of things.
A changing world
What does this mean for the local church as this is the context I find myself a leader within. It is a context that a high percentage of people reading this article would acknowledge is traditionally slow to adjust to a changing world, but this last year has been us having to be quick to adjust to a changing world. Could we learn from this?
We could read any number of articles about what it takes to change local church culture. There is a plethora of books and a bunch of consultants ready to help us with ‘5 Tips to Transform Your Church.’ Mostly the advice we read and hear is quite useful, particularly if it comes from practitioner leaders, those who are walking the talk.
But nothing can replace the Word of God for effect. Nothing can be more significant than words that have been used to lead people God called to literally change the world.
Joshua chapter 1, verse 9
Reading Joshua chapter 1, verses 1-9 always gives me goose bumps, no matter who writes it to me in a card or an email. I know what God was asking Joshua to do and because it was such a big deal, there’s a line that God repeats three times: Be strong and courageous (verse 6); Be strong and very courageous (verse 7), and, Be strong and courageous (verse 9). Three times because God knew the task was going to be uncomfortable and confronting.
In times of uncertainty for the church of 2021 and beyond, some of us (gulp, I include myself in here) are going to need to hear these words time-and-time again. Leading against the flow, when outcomes are theories and visions are the things that keep us awake at night, is going to take a level of strength and courage few possess.
Strength and courage in the face of opposition is what causes revolutions to begin, and I’m itching for a new revolution. Are you?
Grant Harris is a reformed banker who has been the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, for eleven years. Grant’s passionate about seeing people catch a glimpse of who they are in Christ and living out the difference that makes. He’s tried living according to the patterns of this world and found that those patterns came up short. He’s still a work-in-progress and always will be. You can contact Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.