April 2017

April 2017

Desperation? Or Boldness?

When you think about the state of our congregation, do you feel desperate? I have to admit that I sometimes do. The fact is that I have a tendency to view people as doing our congregation a favor by joining us for worship. I naturally see the people around us as those who could potentially benefit our congregation by becoming members and taking an active role in our life together. And that means that I automatically approach others from a position of weakness, a weakness that can come off as desperation. Some of our more recent members may have seen this in my approach to them.

Nobody finds desperation attractive. When you’ve developed romantic attraction to someone, was it because that person was so desperate for your attention? Or was it because you were drawn to something about that person, something that was good and true independent of you? We are attracted not to desperation, but to confidence, or what the Scriptures call boldness.

When you read of the early Christians, you don’t get the impression of weakness or desperation. The disciples weren’t trying to sell their religion, and they didn’t view people as doing them a favor by uniting themselves to the Christian Church. As St. Luke records of the first Christian congregation in Jerusalem, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

What gave them boldness? The Holy Spirit! Before the Spirit was poured out upon the Church, the Apostles and the rest of the disciples were anything but bold. They locked themselves up for fear of Jesus’ enemies! Even after they witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, they continued to cower. But once the Spirit had been poured out at Pentecost, the same St. Peter who had fearfully denied his Lord three times got up with all boldness to confess his Lord to thousands, and the same St. Peter who had fled the sufferings of his Savior rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus’ name (Acts 5:41). The Apostles were not desperate, they were not weak, and they did not try to sell their proclamation. They were confident, they were bold, and they preached as those who knew that they had what their hearers needed. The results of their preaching they left to Him who “added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

I am trying, with God’s help, to reclaim this spirit of boldness. When I share the good news that we proclaim at Holy Cross, it ought not to be as a product that I hope a client will buy. It ought to be as the source of my own life and salvation, which I fervently desire for others to have as well—not for my benefit, but for theirs! Boldness, not desperation, is what God promises us and expects of us.

And interestingly enough, the more confident we are in Christ, and the less desperate we are toward those around us, the more people will want to join us. If you were moving to a new town, would you want to join a congregation that was desperately seeking new members and begging you to join them? Or would you want to join a congregation that was confident in Christ, knowing that they have all they need in Him, freely welcoming you into their fullness? In Christ we truly do have all things. We don’t proclaim Christ out of desperation for new members. We proclaim Christ because that’s who we are. It is not that we need more people, though from an earthly perspective we certainly do. It’s that others need what we already have!

Please pray for me, that I would be diligent in sharing the proclamation of our salvation in Christ as God gives opportunity, and especially that I would grow in boldness and confidence in the Lord of the Church. We are who we are: the body of Christ, assured of our forgiveness and eternal life in His name. May as many as God has appointed to eternal life believe (Acts 13:48), and may our congregation be not a product to be sold, but a haven for the afflicted and a refuge for the weary. God grant us boldness in Christ!


Pastor Neuendorf