Arenas of courage

Yesterday we looked at how the Lord Jesus modeled Christian courage in various arenas. Let’s follow Him into these arenas:

1. Courage in evangelism
The pastor and elders should take the lead in evangelism. This is not something that “should be left to the young people.” One of the most encouraging times in my own ministry was when we started an annual door-to-door delivery of an evangelistic newspaper. We had about 30 volunteers and a good number of them were elders, some of them elderly elders. I thought it gave a great example to everyone in the congregation. It said, “We are not too important to engage in evangelism.”

The pastor should not just be willing to go door-to-door, hand out tracts in city centers, preach in the open air, etc. He should take the lead in this. And let him take on some of the hardest cases as well. If there are real skeptics in families or people who follow cults, etc, let the pastor be unafraid to visit and engage with them. All this will develop a huge amount of respect for the pastor.

2. Courage in preaching
Courage in the pulpit does not mean bombastic arrogance that lambasts everyone and everything. Neither does pulpit courage mean saying things there that you would never say to someone’s face. But it does mean avoiding the posture and attitude of apologetic and apprehensive caution. Preach the truth without apology. Expose and denounce sin. Take on challenging passages. Balance the encouragements with warnings, God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility, and sermons about heaven with sermons on hell.

3. Courage in private dealings
Paul not only taught the truth publicly but also from house to house (Acts 20:20). Some men find it easy to be brave in the pulpit but wilt when they are one-on-one. People will ask you tough questions; answer them. People need to hear some painful truths about their attitudes or actions; tell them. And don’t avoid your critics. You will gain their respect and often even silence them if you visit them and listen to their concerns.

4. Courage in dealing with friends and family
People will be on the lookout to see if you are prejudiced against certain people or show favoritism to others. They will look to see if you are consistent in dealing with your own family, and to see if you are as straight and honest with those closest to you in the congregation. Are you willing to oppose them if they are wrong?

5. Courage in reforming the church
You will have to attend church courts locally, and probably on a wider level as well. You are going to be tempted to avoid these meetings, especially if there are controversial issues and cases to be considered. God’s people will be watching you here too. You are in these courts as their representative and they are looking to you to do your duty according to the Word of God.

Never vote for a friend’s proposal because he is a friend, and never vote against an enemy because he is your enemy. Do not keep silent for the sake of popularity. Don’t put peace above the truth. Don’t ignore issues or procrastinate in dealing with them.

6. Courage in the public square
I’ve dealt with this in some detail before (read here).The preacher must not become a politician, a radio talk-show host, nor a running commentary on the latest national events. However, neither should he be afraid of speaking up on matters of public morals and religion.

7. Courage in fighting the devil
This is not a public courage; it’s more of an internal and spiritual battle. However, it is at the heart of every other battle and is the ground of our confidence in fighting every other battle. If we lose here, there is no point in fighting elsewhere. We are holed below the water-line. Get to know your adversary and fight him with spiritual weapons.

8. Courage in crises
You will probably have to suffer some pain or loss or difficulty in your family. Your congregation will want to see how you react to that. Will you crumble or will you practice what you preach?

9. Courage in failure
This, of course, is one arena that the Lord Jesus did not have to fight in. He never failed. But we do and will. We will make mistakes, take wrong turns, say something we regret, make a wrong call. Failure is inevitable. It’s what we do in response that really matters. Will we run and hide? Will we try to cover up and obfuscate? Or will we be open and public about our blunders? Honestly admit them, take responsibility, refuse to make excuses, humbly ask for forgiveness, and learn from your mistakes. That is true courage.

PS: Please read Kevin DeYoung’s The Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person if you want to avoid perverting courage into contentiousness.

Learning to preach from non-preachers?

Can preachers learn from non-preachers about how to preach? We do need to be very careful about using “tricks of the trade,” or as Paul put it “wisdom of words.” However, there are some basic preparation and delivery skills that we can safely learn from good public speakers in different walks of life.

Take, for example, the pattern of preparation that Tony Morgan sets out in How I write a conference talk. So many sermons could be improved by following these basic building blocks. One line that I especially put my “Amen” to is: “For me to be a better communicator, I’ve learned I need to sweat the outline.”

Although I didn’t get so much from Peter Bubriski’s post on how to Improve your public speaking, I did appreciate two of his emphases:

1. Don’t approach speaking like an actor: “To be a better public speaker, you just need to get out of your own way, so we can see you for who you really are. Glimpsing that authentic core can be riveting.”

2. Approach speaking like an sportsman: “With a sport, you’re not pretending to be someone else. You are training your body and your mind to achieve feats of skill — building your muscle memory with drills and repetition.”

And, lastly, which preacher can’t identify with and benefit from this post on Writing under pressure. It begins:

If ridiculous deadlines knot your gut and give you tunnel vision causing you to miss even basic errors, this is for you. But even if you’re an adrenaline junkie, needing the pressure to perform, it’ll help you, too, because it’s all about process.

Clear, familiar processes are lifesavers when you’re under pressure and not thinking straight. So, as pilots practice emergency drills until they’re second nature, try to internalize the process below – print it, look at it daily, use it often – so that when you’re under the pump you’ll do it automatically.

Here’s a summary of the first four steps of the process:

  1. Objective: Clarify what you want to achieve. “Begin with the end in mind” (Stephen Covey).
  2. Readers: Stand in their shoes. If you were them, what would interest you about this? 
  3. Dump: Do a brain dump. Quickly jot down your points as bullets, in any order.
  4. Signpost: Next, highlight your major points and write snappy subheads above them.

I’ve got a funny feeling that by lunchtime tomorrow I’ll be glad I read that article.

Marry Kassian on Connected Kingdom

Download here.
If you’ve not listened to Connected Kingdom before, may I encourage you to start with this interview of Mary Kassian. Mary is a professor, writer, and speaker who specializes in the role of women in the family, culture, and the church. She really is a great counter-cultural thinker, a superb writer, and a lively personality. As the father of two young girls (aged 8 & 7), I found some of her advice profoundly helpful.

Mary blogs at, a blog I commend to you. She is the author of The Feminist Mistake and Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, both books that come highly recommended.

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

My Hero

Various Old and New Testament believers are set forth as examples of courageous believing, speaking, and doing: Moses before Pharaoh, Joshua before the Jordan, Rahab before the soldiers, David before Goliath, Nathan before David, Elijah before the prophets of Baal, John the Baptist before Herod, Paul before his accusers, etc. But of course our supreme example of courage is Christ Himself, and he demonstrated that in many arenas:

  • Courage in evangelism: He came to sinners with an authoritative summons: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
  • Courage in preaching: He addressed the most powerful religious leaders of the day as a “generation of vipers” and told them that woe was coming upon them unless they repented.
  • Courage in private: He was not just brave when everyone else was watching but also when no one else was there. Witness his truth-full dealings with Nicodemus at night, and with the Samaritan woman at the well.
  • Courage in dealing with his friends and family: Some men find it easy to be frank and fearless with their enemies, but Christ was frank and fearless with those closest to him as well.
  • Courage in reforming the church: He cleansed the temple of greedy businessmen with a scourge of leather, and of greedy pharisees with the scourge of his tongue.
  • Courage in the public square: Christ was not afraid to raise his voice in public, and speak up for the poor and against the abuse of power.
  • Courage in fighting the devil: Christ knew at times that the devil was about to step up his attacks, yet he did not flinch; rather he faced it head on.
  • Courage in crises: Christ continually faced the threat of physical pain and ultimately of death itself, yet “steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

Tomorrow we’ll look at how we can imitate our great hero in these different arenas.

A call to courage for fellow-cowards

The pastor will face many difficult, daunting, demanding, and, sometimes, dangerous situations – both outside the church and inside the church. That’s why the military model of leadership is used so commonly in Scripture. It also addresses the perennial issue of cowardice in the ministry.

But it’s not just a ministry problem. Apart from some notable exceptions – mainly in the military and the emergency services – most people are cowards. We avoid danger. We walk away from conflict. We prefer comfort and ease to sacrifice and pain. 

And Christians especially may have a tendency towards timidity rather than bravery. Fear comes more naturally than faith.  Why is this? Let me suggest seven reasons: 

1. The Holy Spirit has wrought a new tenderness and sensitivity in the Christian’s heart. The sanctified Christian feels things more deeply than he used to. He used to watch war films with cold and steely hardness. Now the loss of precious life pains him to the core of his being and moves him to tears. Suffering and death impact him much more than before. He is much more sensitive to the impact of his words and actions on others. And others’ words and actions also affect him much more now.

2. An unbalanced teaching emphasis on Christian humility, patience, love, and peacemaking. This imbalance in many churches, tends to produce weak and timid Christian leaders that are characterized by retreat, hesitancy, and indecision.

3. Pastors are dependent on the voluntary givings of their congregations. Unlike CEO’s or civil leaders, they have no financial or judicial levers of power to pull. They cannot sack or jail disobedient or problematic members! They have probably tried to address problems before, and the person or family (and their money) have just moved to the church next door.

4. When a pastor takes a public stand, it usually results in media misrepresentation and a backlash of opposition on the local or even national level. This embarrasses the more nominal members of his church, while others hint that his hard-line views are hindering evangelism and outreach.

5. A pastor often has to take decisions alone. Even when there is a plurality of elders, the buck often stops at the pastor. It is much harder to be brave alone! Even with a plurality of elders, it is usually down to the teaching elder to initiate programs, begin reformation, and execute the elders’ decisions. 

6. The risk of persecution. In some contexts, there is a very real possibility of persecution, of suffering loss if we are faithful to the cross of Christ. Sometimes a pastor may be willing to face this, but his wife isn’t.

7. The old sinful nature. The Christian pastor still has the remnants (and sometimes much more than a remnant) of a sinful nature that usually prefers easy compromize rather than courageous confrontation.

These tendencies explain why we need the more aggressive and offensive (as in going on the offensive) model of the courageous captain, and why the military metaphor is so common in Scripture. It is used in the Old Testament (Josh. 1:6,9,18) and in the New Testament (1 Cor. 9:26; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:3-4). And, of course Christ Himself is called the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10).

Captain implies authority, bravery, and a proven track record. In pastoral ministry, these take a while to develop. The office or role does not bestow it on a man automatically. He has to earn his stars. And he does so not by keeping his powder dry for major battles of his choosing, but by courageously marching into the small battles that God decides to send his way in the early days of his ministry. As these battles are faced and won, the pastor will grow in stature and gain the respect of the congregation. His authority will also grow as they see him more and more like Christ in character, word and action.

Tomorrow we will look at some examples of courageous leadership.