I was drawn to a short piece by Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas Texas, entitled: “A Courageous Church.”

What caught my eye was his question: In our changing world, are we (Christians and the church at large) motivated by fear or courage?”

Seriously, even in Lynden, Washington, where there’s a church building seemly on every corner, can’t you feel the difference where even in our largely “religious” community, fewer people are claiming Christ. Is the church losing its credibility and influence?

Christians are becoming marginalized in our culture, and if you don’t feel it yet, just give it some time. The temptation is amid the pressures of secularization and marginalization; we convince ourselves that the sky is falling and sound the alarms of the apocalypse. Fear grips us and cripples us. It dictates our lives and our ministries.

So Chandler suggests courage as an alternative strategy. Before we start strategizing about what the church might look like in the days ahead, we need to answer this question: “Am I motivated by fear or courage?”

Initially, fear is fine. It’s normal. But it’s what we do with fear that matters. We can allow it to dominate and destroy us—and that won’t lead us into faithfulness and fullness of life. Or we can look to the strength and power of the Lord and allow our courage in him to transcend our fear. That’s where we will begin to live faithfully, boldly and effectively in this age of unbelief.

Courage only comes from confidence in God and what he has done and is doing in Jesus Christ. It’s looking to the Scriptures and seeing that we serve a God who is infinitely bigger and better than anything before us. It’s understanding even if people say we’re on the wrong side of history, we know history has already been decided—we know how this thing ends.

The Bible tells us again and again that we will go through trials and struggles and sufferings. Believers in the early church lived under the vicious rule of the Roman Empire, where persecution was unlike anything we’ve seen in the present-day West. In spite of their horrific circumstances, Christ told them, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20),
Paul told them, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37), and Peter told them, God “has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade” (1 Pet. 1:3–4).

Regardless of how hateful and hostile our world becomes, we have nothing to worry about. The gates of hell shall not prevail against Christ’s church. On the contrary, we should count it joy because it’s an opportunity to bear witness to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So instead of starting with predictions and strategies for how the church might function in a world where Christians are being ridiculed and we’ve lost much of our social influence, let’s come back to this question: “Am I motivated by fear or courage?” If we’re full of courage, emboldened and empowered by the Lord, we’ve got the hardest part figured out.