Missional Boldness

The Blues Brothers is a film about two wayward brothers, Jake and Elwood Blues, who are on a mission to raise money for their childhood home - a Catholic orphanage in Chicago. The orphanage will be shut down unless they can come up with $5,000 to cover property taxes (This was thirty years ago people). After learning that the orphanage will have to close its doors they attend a church service and sense that God is calling them to raise the money legitimately by reforming their blues band and playing some gigs. Jake and Elwood face numerous obstacles and enemies on their journey. They are hunted by a bazooka-wielding mystery woman, a group of Neo Nazis, and a country western band, all while being pursued by the police. Despite all of this they have great courage and are confident they will be successful because, as Elwood says throughout the movie, "We're on a mission from God." (And that's a Chicago "Gaad.")

Two of the problems I run into in the church, especially among pastors and church planters, as it relates to the mission God gives the church. On the one hand there is the braggart. This is the overly-confident guy who thinks he can get it done on his own. He is confident in himself; not so much in God. He may talk about it all in terms of calling, giftedness, and vision, but when it comes down to it he thinks he is "the man." On the other hand is the doubter. He's too is clear about where God has called him, but ultimately doesn't believe God can or will do very much through him.

Both men are focused on themselves more than on God, and therefore both are ill-prepared to face the challenges and opportunities God will give them in their attempt to be faithful to the mission Christ gave his church.

Jesus sends his people into the world to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This is our mission. We, as the church, are on a mission from God. And we too face many dangerous pursuers: an enemy who wants to devour us, a a world system that wars against us, and even our own flesh that seeks to corrupt us and all our endeavors.

The truth that God has given us a mission, when believed, gives great courage and confidence. The word often used in the New Testament is "boldness." It is boldness that characterized "uneducated men" to stand before the Jewish High Court and preach the gospel to their persecutors. As ministers of the New Covenant we have boldness in the gospel to change the minds and hearts of unbelieving people. The very last verse in the book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome "proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance."

But having a purpose, even a divinely sanctioned one, doesn't ensure such courage. Why was the early church so brave? How did they persevere? Where did that boldness come from? It wasn't found in their own personalities or slick programs, but in God and his promises to the church.

You see, God hasn't just sent us out on mission, but also he promised to go with us and empower us to do what he has called us to do. When Jesus issued the Great Commission he said, "...and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." We are not going at it alone, and we don't have to go at it in our own strength. We don't have to be [fill in the blank] to be used of God. He is fond of using the things that "are not" to shame the things "that are."

Ultimately God has promised to give us victory in the world through the gospel, and that gives great boldness! Jesus said that he would build his church, and "the gates of Hell would not prevail against it." This means the mission will succeed, and not even death can stop it. So as we preach the gospel and make disciples we may experience affliction, but we will not be crushed. We may be perplexed, but we will not be driven to despair. The world may persecute us, but God will not forsake us. In fact we are overcoming the world, because Jesus has already overcome the world. God is crushing the head of Satan under our feet, and we are "more than conquerors." (2 Corinthians 4:7-12 ESV; 1 John 5:4; John 16:33; Rom. 8:37).

This is why the church can be, should be, must be confident and courageous. We are on a mission from God, and He is with us. This is what led William Carey to not just say "expect great things from God; attempt great things for God," but to do it. This is missional boldness, and can only lead to gospel boasting. It always makes little of self, and much of Jesus. It humbles a man, but also gives him zeal.

To the braggart, the gospel and the mission should humble you, and make you wholly dependent on God. You may be talented, skilled, and called, but your hope for success in the mission is God. He can do it without you, and if you do not recognize that, he just might.

To the doubter, the gospel and the mission should embolden you, and give you a courage that moves you to believe that God can do "greater works" through you than you have imagined. You may be a nobody, but God has a long history of using people like you to carry out his mission.