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 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.
Here in New Zealand we’ve just been through a General Election. As I write this the outcome of coalition talks are still indeterminable, with power being wielded by the leader of a party which garnished only 7% of the vote. No matter which party he decides to go into coalition with there will be widespread dissatisfaction.
So what do the words to Joshua and the NZ General Election have in common? Uncertainty. The future is unclear. In reality the future is always unclear.
As Christians we are called to follow a revolutionary; Jesus didn’t 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 want the message of Jesus to continue to impact our ever-changing world. The way we’ve 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 functions different to how it once did and this impacts a lot of things.
What does this mean for the local church? This is the context I find myself a leader within. It’s a context that a high percentage of people reading this article would acknowledge is slow to adjust to a changing world. We could emphasise that word with capitals. SLOW.
We could read any number of articles about what it takes to change local church culture; there’s 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 and authors, 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.
Reading Joshua chapter 1, verses 1–9 always gives me goose bumps, no matter who writes it to me in a card. 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.
Times of uncertainty
In times of uncertainty for the church of 2017 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 revolution. Are you?
Grant Harris is the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, a church that was planted 65-years ago and comprises people of all generations seeking to reach a community that consists of people of all generations. He likes change and revolutions and in his spare times reads about change and revolutions. The tagline of Windsor Park is ‘doing life and faith, together.’ Grant can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.