“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Perhaps this is the message that the Church of Jesus Christ needs more than any other: “Be strong and courageous.” If this is indeed the needed message, why?
Because the Church is weak, and we are weak for a number of reasons. Our strength comes from the Lord, and yet the Church insists on trying to find its strength in the world’s wisdom and strategies. Our first reflex is to consistently imitate the behaviors of business in terms of planning and management and marketing, as opposed to the key behaviors of the Church, which are prayer and careful and thoughtful obedience to the Word.
Why is the needed message “Be strong and courageous?” Because we are afraid. No, not with a fear of the Lord, but afraid of the world. Afraid of being different and of falling out of favor. Afraid of risking our prosperity and afraid of being considered irrelevant.
Ironically, our fear of these very things actually ensures that we will lose the things to which we want to hold. The world wants nothing to do with a church that is not different and only acts to curry favor. The church cannot secure its own prosperity, and if it does secure financial gain, it is instantly in danger of spiritual impoverishment. A church that seeks to find its fit with the world becomes by definition “irrelevant,” since the church is not to act as a mirror for the world, so that when the world looks at us, it only sees itself. Rather, the church is to serve as a reflection of God as revealed in His Son. And we cannot at the same time reflect both, just as we cannot both seek God’s favor and the world’s. It is time to “be strong and courageous.”