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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Big and Bold

Andy Stanley - Big and Bold

Andy Stanley - Big and Bold
TOPICS: Ekklesia, Church, Boldness

Now, as most of you know, my dad was a pastor and he would often say to me when he knew I was going into ministry he would say, "Andy, if you preach from your weakness, you'll never run out of material". And I didn't know whether to take this personally or not. And then I would hear him say this to other pastors. When he would talk to pastors he would say, "If you preach from your weakness, you'll never run outta material," and that is absolutely true. I work way ahead when it comes to sermon preparation, three or four weeks ahead, and one of the advantages of that is it gives me an opportunity to look in the mirror to make sure that I don't have work to do before I get up here and tell all of you what you need to do. And honestly, today's topic is a reminder to me as I looked in the mirror that this is something that I have allowed to slip, that this used to be so front and center for me, but over time it just slipped and I've drifted. And I don't like that because this is so important, I want this to be front and center for me. I wanna get this right and I want all of us to get this right because I think if we all get this right, that maybe God will do something unusual through our churches and through you and in our communities and in the world.

So, here we go. Today, we're in part four of our series, if you've been tracking along with us. Ekklesia, strange little word. Ekklesia is actually the Greek term used to describe the Jesus movement in the first century. In the Greek "New Testament", this is the word that appears to describe His movement. His movement was of course informed by His teaching, the teaching of Jesus. It was fueled by His death and His resurrection. We call this movement of course, the church. But the word Ekklesia doesn't mean church. The word Ekklesia literally means, assembly. And specifically in the first century, it meant an assembly of people called together to do something specific. And in Jesus' case, it was an assembly of people devoted to following Him, living out His Kingdom of God ethic, and then inviting the entire world to join in, to live out that very same ethic.

So, in this series, here's what we've been doing. This is part four. We're taking a few weeks "To look back at the first century church to ensure that we stay on track," that we're looking back at their story, their storyline, how they acted, reacted, how they loved, how they responded in order to stay on track. Because those first century Christians, this is amazing, they literally sat at the feet of Jesus. They understood firsthand what Jesus had in mind when He launched his Ekklesia, or when He launched His assembly or His movement, because they were part of the very first iteration of the movement, or we would say the very first iteration of the church in the world. And while expressions of faith changed from generation to generation, while expressions of the Christian faith changed from culture to culture, different cultural expressions, Jesus' original mission for His assembly for us, has not changed.

So we can't afford to lose sight of His original intent because as you know, historically, when the church veers, things get weird. When the church veered, things get weird. Or to put it a different way, when the church loses its way, people pay. When the church loses its way, culture pays, because the foundation for human dignity and human rights slips away. I mean, to put it simply, we could spend a lot of time on this, and you know this, if there is no God, if there is no God then there is no absolute standard for right and wrong. If the standard for right and wrong is inside of me, then I get to choose what's right for me and what's right for you. But if there's a standard outside of us that we all appeal to, then culture has something to appeal to. So if there is no God, there's no one to determine what's right and what's wrong. Or to borrow an "Old Testament" phrase that you might be familiar with, "When there is no God in a culture, then everyone does what's right in their own eyes".

So there is so much at stake when it comes to the church getting this right. We've gotta get it right and we've gotta keep the church upright and we've gotta keep the church on mission. Because, as I've said throughout this series, and this is difficult for us to comprehend, we, when you think about us and our network of churches and the churches all over the world, we, in this generation, "We are the church for our generation". When people outside the church or outside of faith or people who've left the Christian faith think about or look at the church, they don't look at the first century church. They don't look at the last century Church. They look at us. They look at the churches in their community and they determine, oh, that's what the church is all about. So we are the representation of the Ekklesia of Jesus for our generation. So we gotta get it right. But it's even worse than that or better than that, depending on how you look at it. You, as individuals, and I as an individual, we represent what Christianity looks like.

What are Christians all about? Well, people don't pick up the "New Testament" and say, what are Christians all about? They look at me and they look at you and they look at us. So we have to get this right individually, which means we have to figure out how to assume the tone and the posture and the approach of our King, because we are ambassadors or representatives of our King individually, and we are representatives of the Ekklesia, the Jesus movement collectively. So, we are looking back to stay on track, studying the actions and reactions of the men and women who launched this thing 2,000 years ago. So we've been following the storyline in the book of "Acts". The Book of "Acts" is the history of the early church, written by Luke who also wrote "The Gospel of Luke". And he said that he thoroughly investigated all of these things, and we know that Luke knew the apostles. Luke actually traveled with the apostles, traveled with the Apostle Paul, specifically.

So we're looking at the storyline. So a quick recap. I'll catch you up if you haven't been following along. So, a few weeks, just a few weeks, not years, a few weeks after the resurrection, Jews from all over the Roman Empire, primarily men, came to the city of Jerusalem for a festival, the Festival of Weeks or the Festival of Pentecost. And while they were there, Peter and John and the other apostles, the men and women who had seen the resurrected Jesus go into the busy streets of Jerusalem, and they begin to proclaim that God has done something new in the world, for the world that He has sent Messiah or He has sent His final King who is to established righteousness in the world. He's come for the entire world. And they said, "And the reason we know that Jesus of Nazareth was God's final King is because He was crucified right outside of these walls". They're in the city of Jerusalem, "Right outside of these walls, and God raised Him from the dead and we have seen Him. We didn't read about it. We didn't hear about it. We are eye witnesses".

And so they began to preach to the people in the street. And as we talked about a couple of weeks ago, when Peter closes this message, here's how he closes the message. Again, there's hundreds of people in the street. They're hearing him preach in the city of Jerusalem. Again, this is where all these things took place. He said, "Repent," that is, change your mind, "repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins". Now, we read this as Christians and we're like, "Yeah, you're baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. This was radical". Wait a minute. I mean, the whole idea of baptism was kind of foreign to them as Jews because they were already Jews. Generally, people who were baptized when they were sort of joining Judaism, and Peter's saying, "No, this is a brand new thing. There's something new for you to identify with. That's what baptism is, it's identifying with someone. And you need to identify with Jesus who is the Christ, who is the King, who is the Messiah".

And because these men and women had seen the resurrected Jesus, here's what happened. The text says, "And those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day". So opening day for the Ekklesia, it was amazing. The Ekklesia actually opened on day one as an outward-facing, and this is the challenge for every local church, it's a challenge for us. The Ekklesia opened as an outward-facing multicultural, because the men who had come to Jerusalem for this festival came from all over the empire, multicultural, multiplying movement. Because Jesus' final admonition was, "I want you to go and make disciples of Me in every single nation".

So, here's what happened after that. The apostles continued to preach and teach. The crowds continued to grow. And many of the people who had come to Jerusalem for the festival stayed because something new and unusual was happening. And the crowds got so big, and again, these are all Judeans. These are Jews and sons and daughters of Abraham from all over the world, they began to migrate and meet at the temple. This is a problem. Now, if you've ever seen a picture of the ancient, of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, it's about 38 acres of a stone plaza that's elevated with walls and doors that come into it. And then in the middle of this 30-something acre, basically, patio is the actual temple structure where the Holy of Holies is and the curtains and the different chambers and where they would actually sacrifice animals. So now these Jesus followers are gathering at the holiest site of ancient Judaism to talk about someone who's basically come to replace the entire system.

So this doesn't sit well with the high priest. Again, those who benefit most from the status quo, we talk about this, those that benefit most from the status quote are usually least inclined to let it go. So Luke tells us, he's very specific, that one afternoon at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John, who are the leaders of the Jesus movement, go to the temple to meet with other Christians to pray. And as they're going through these particular stairs, through this particular gate, there is a man who has been lame from birth. If you grew up in church, you've heard this story, lame from birth, begging. Now, this is an unusual situation because in the first century the thought was, and you see this throughout the gospels and the teaching of Jesus, as Jesus interacted with people, the assumption was if somebody was lame or paralyzed or disfigured or blind, that they had sinned and their physical ailment was payment for their sin.

In fact, later, some years later there was a rabbinic tradition that encouraged anyone, this is hard for us to imagine, a rabbinic tradition that encouraged anyone who encountered someone who was blind or lame or disfigured, as you walk by them, you were to look at that person and say, "Blessed be the righteous judge. Blessed be the righteous judge". It was your way of saying, this person is getting what they deserve and their suffering is a reflection of the righteous judge, our God. This person is getting what they deserve. But, if you read the gospels, Jesus didn't buy that. And Peter and John, they didn't buy it either because they're followers of Jesus. So this man is begging. He's asking for money. You remember this story and Peter says, "Okay, we're broke. We don't have any money. But, what I do have, I'm gonna give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, Jesus the King, in the name of Jesus the King of Nazareth, I want you to stand up and walk".

And this man who had been a fixture by this particular gate for many years stands up and he's healed. And what does he do? He follows them up the stairs up to the temple courts and people see him and a, not a riot, but a celebration breaks out. They have been literally looking down on this man his whole life and now they are eye-to-eye and something amazing has happened, and it creates quite a scene. And part of the reason it was a scene, maybe you remember a little song, if you grew up in church like me, about this guy. "He was walking and jumping and praising God". That would create a scene if that happened in church, right. "He was walking and jumping or walking and leaping and praising God". Of course he was. He had been a beggar. He'd been poor his whole life. He had been looked down upon and considered a sinner who was ceremonially unclean and could never actually enter the temple, and now God had done a miracle and the crowd swells.

And then Peter does what Peter always did when there was a crowd, he preached. And he assured this crowd that what had happened, the reason this man was walking and had been healed was that it had happened in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And then at the end of his sermon he leans in. Now remember where they are, they're on the temple courts. I mean, they can throw a stone and hit the actual temple. They're right there in the holiest site of Judaism. And he leans in and Peter says this, talking about that group of people, "You killed the author of life," right outside these walls. He goes back to the theme of his message, "But God raised Him from the dead and we, Peter and John and the disciples of Jesus, we are witnesses of this. We have seen the risen Jesus". And then he says, "Repent". And then he kind of goes over the line, "Repent, then and turn to God so that your sins may be erased, so that your sins might be wiped away".

This is too much for the temple leaders. This is over the line. Because sins being taken away through the death of a mere mortal, this is absolute blasphemy and it had to stop. And the reason it had to stop was this, the entire temple structure, the entire temple system was built around erasing or atoning for the sins of men and women. And now here they are, again, within a stone's throw of the temple saying, "This building is no longer relevant. This temple is no longer needed". And they shouldn't have been surprised because Jesus actually said at one point, during His ministry He said, this was astounding, it made no sense at the time, "He claimed to be greater than the temple".

And when Jesus said He was greater than the temple, how can you be greater than the temple? But now they understood, because Jesus came to do single handedly what the temple could never have done for hundreds and hundreds of years, erased the sin of men and women and created a clear standing with God, their Father. So the priests, this is gonna undermine the entire temple system. So the priest ordered the temple guard to arrest Peter and John. "But, many who heard the message believed them; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand people". So they take Peter and John, they put them in jail. When we think about jail, we think about somebody opening a door and putting somebody in. That's not how it worked. When you went to jail in those days, they lowered you down in a hole, too deep to climb out. That was jail. They put a lid over it. And there had been other people in that hole. And there's no drainage in that hole. We'll just end it there.

So they spend the night individually in the dark, in the worst possible environment, and here's what they're thinking, okay. The men who had them arrested are the same men who had Jesus arrested and ultimately talked Pilate into crucifying Jesus. So they know their lives were at risk. If they had the power to get rid of the head of this movement, surely Pilate's gonna give them permission to get rid of Peter and John. So this may be their last night on Earth for all they know. So the next day, the chief priest and the elders and the high priest bring them out for a public trial, which was a huge mistake. They bring them out in the open to basically threaten the people of the Jesus movement and say, "Hey, this is what's gonna happen to you if you keep talking about this Jesus of Nazareth".

So they have this public trial. Again, these are the same men who tried Jesus and had Jesus crucified. There's Annas, the high priest, the elders, the whole group. And because it's a public trial, guess who else shows up? The lame man, but he's standing up, which was a real awkward moment for the men who were trying to prove that these men had done something blasphemous. Because everybody in the area knows, this is a miracle. It was a public miracle. We all have seen this guy for years, begging. So, when they finished telling Peter and John what they can and can't do, they give Peter an opportunity to respond, which was a big mistake because he preaches another sermon. And at the end of it, now think of this, he is face-to-face with the high priest. He is face-to-face with the relatives of the high priest. These are the most powerful people in the city in all of Judaism in the first century. And he looks at them and he says, "It is by the name of Jesus Messiah, Jesus King of Nazareth, whom you crucified".

Now, he's specific. "You guys, we know you were behind the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Everybody knows that. And it's in the name of the man you crucified and that God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed". And I love this next line so much. This is when the high priest and when all the elders, when all the group that are trying Peter and John, trying to get rid of this movement, when they saw the courage, I love this, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John". Peter and John should've been on their knees begging for mercy. They'd seen crucifixion. They'd seen the aftermath of crucifixion. There was no guarantee that anybody was gonna raise them from the dead. When they died, they would stay dead. They were risking their lives not for what they believed. They were risking their lives for what they had seen, their resurrected Rabbi.

"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and they realized that these were unschooled", uneducated, they were fishermen, they were from Galilee. They were day laborers. They'd never been to school. They were probably illiterate. "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that these are unschooled, ordinary men, they're not powerful men, they shouldn't have the nerve to face us down, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see," and this was the problem, "but since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say". So, they warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore, or else. In Peter's response. Peter responded, "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and we have heard".

Now, real quick, this is so important, and then we'll get back to the storyline. I want you to understand because I talk about this all the time, I mention this all the time and I don't know if it sticks. We gotta make this stick. The foundation of their faith in Jesus, the reason they chose to follow Jesus the rest of their life was not what Jesus taught. They'd heard everything Jesus taught, but when Jesus was arrested, they ran. The reason they decided to follow Jesus for the rest of their life was because God raised Him from the dead. The foundation of their faith, the foundation of the faith of the first followers of Jesus, as we're looking back in order to stay on track, the foundation of their faith was an event, the resurrection of Jesus. And it was the resurrection that launched the movement, the Ekklesia. And it's the Ekklesia that years later would produce our "Bible". It was an event that launched a movement that brought us our "Bible". But what anchored them to Jesus was they were eyewitnesses of an event.

And now more than ever, I'm convinced, we must anchor the faith of this generation and the next generation to the event that launched the movement that eventually brought us "The Bible". It's why over and over and over in the book of "Acts", whenever Peter speaks and whenever Peter teaches, he always comes back not to the prodigal sign, not to the good Samaritan, not to the Sermon on the Mount, he always comes back to the event that galvanized the movement, because Jesus was who He claimed to be. That is the foundation of their faith. It was the foundation of their faith. And if you're a believer, that's the foundation of your faith as well. It's why we choose to follow Jesus. As I say all the time, anyone who predicts their own death and resurrection and pulls it off, you should do whatever that person says, right? And that is exactly why they came out of hiding and why they chose to follow Jesus. So now they're released. It's like, the high priest says, "Okay, you're released. You can go but enough of this".

So what do they do next? This is where the story intersects my life. This is where the story intersects, if you're a Christian, your life. And if you're not a Christian, if you're not a Jesus follower, if we would allow what happens next to intersect our lives, I think you would have less resistance to the church and less resistance to Christians. This is why the gospel and the story of Jesus survived the first century. Here's what happened next. This is amazing. Luke tells us. "On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people," so there's a core of men and women who were eyewitnesses of the resurrection. They are sticking together, organizing, trying to figure out what's next, this growing movement in this city that's packed full of residents and strangers, "went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priest and the elders had said to them".

So they get back and they're like, "What happened? What happened"? It's like, "Well, they threatened us with our life and they said to quit speaking in the name of Jesus, or else". And after they had made their report, Luke tells us, "When they heard this," this whole group heard this, "they raised their voices together in prayer to God". Pause. Don't answer out loud. What would you have prayed for if you had been them? What would we have prayed for if we were in their situation? I ask myself, what would I have prayed for if I was in their situation? Let me make it more personal. What do we pray for? What do you pray for? Or who do we pray for? If you pray, who do you pray for? And honestly, when we hold up what we pray for and who we pray for, beside the first century Christians from whom we're supposed to take our cue, it's a little bit embarrassing. Here's what the first century church, here's what the first century persecuted church prayed for.

If we're gonna go back and get in sync with how this whole thing started, this is a bit instructional as well as it is convicting. Here's what they prayed for. They said, "Sovereign Lord, You made the heavens and the Earth and the sea and everything in them". It's like, what does it have to do with anything? Everything, they're like, "God, before we ask you for anything, we just wanna proclaim, You are large and You are in charge". And then they rehearsed God's past faithfulness to their people and God's past faithfulness to them. And then as part of their prayer, they actually rehearsed current events. This is so powerful. Part of their prayer, they said, "Indeed, Lord, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Romans, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against Your holy servant, Jesus, whom You anointed. And we know that they only did what you allowed them to do. They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen".

In other words, "God, we know none of this took You by surprise. God, it took us by surprise, but it didn't take You by surprise because You are the sovereign God in whom we trust, so why should we be afraid"? And then, their prayer request. "Here's what we're asking for, in light of all that, God. Now, Lord," it's amazing, "consider their threats and enable or empower Your servants," talking about themselves, "and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. Dear Heavenly Father, please help us to be bold".

Now, this is amazing because Peter and John still smell like the hole they spent the night in. Peter and John still smell like jail and they're asking for boldness, to which we'd say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Boldness, look, boldness almost got you killed. Us Americans, let us help you guys, men and women and what you should pray for. Here's what you should pray for. You should pray for diplomacy, discretion, and definitely, protection. This is what you should ask for, not boldness. We think you got boldness covered and boldness almost got you killed. You need diplomacy, discretion, and you need to ask God to protect you". Instead, they were asking for courage to speak up even when it would be safer to keep their mouths shut. And then they continued with their prayer. They said, "God, just as Peter and John healed that lame man, would You continue to work through us in wondrous ways so that people know that we represent the God of heaven, and stretch out your hand through us to heal and to do things that cause people to take notice, so that we can give credit to our King Jesus of Nazareth".

And Luke says that after they prayed for boldness, "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and the result, they spoke the word of God boldly". And I hold that up against my prayer life and it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing, because if I am not intentional, I know, I'm the pastor, I should know better. I mean, I can quote prayers from the "New" and "Old Testament", and if I'm not careful, my prayers are all about me and my family and my kids and my friends and my sick friends. And oftentimes it just never gets outside of that circle. My prayers are like your prayers. Our prayers are an indicator, right. What we pray, what do we pray about? We pray about what we're concerned about, and that's something to think about.

And here's what it makes me think about. Am I concerned about what God is concerned about? Am I really concerned about, would God, my Heavenly Father and my Savior is most concerned about? If God answered all of my prayers, who would benefit the most? If God answered all of your prayers, who would benefit the most? If my prayers are exclusively or even primarily about me and the people closest to me, does that mean my faith is all about me? If our prayers collectively as a group of churches, if our prayers collectively as a group of churches are all about us or primarily about us, does it mean that over time our faith is just all about us? What it means at a minimum is we're nothing like the folks in the early church. But, what if we were? What if we were what? What if what concerned us, what if what concerned us is what concerns our King? And in addition to praying for ourselves and our family and our kids and their jobs and their futures and our sick friends and all the things that we should pray for, what if in addition we prayed outside the circle of what most impacted us directly and prayed in accordance with what God, our Heavenly Father is up to in the world and what He is up to in our communities? I wonder what would happen?

Actually, I think I know what would happen. Because again, our prayers are an indicator. "We pray about what we're most concerned about". So, if I could be so bold, I wanna invite all of us to join me and pray for boldness. Now, this has nothing to do with handmade signs. This has nothing to do with street preaching. This has nothing to do with standing outside of sporting events, right. Boldness, not rudeness. We've actually been called as Christians to live our lives in such a way that we gain the respect of people. We've been called to live our lives in such a way that people outside our faith would look at us and say, "You know, I don't believe what they believe, but they're some of the finest people in our community and I'm glad they're my neighbors. I'm glad my son married one of them. I'm glad my daughter married one of them. I love to employ them. I love to work for them".

That's the kind of life we're called to live in our culture. And if you're not a Christian and you push back against the church and you push back against Christianity, it's probably because you met the rude version of us, not the bold version of us. We're instructed to live in such a way that we win the respect of outsiders. So let me define what I mean by bold within the context of our culture and our neighbors and our neighborhoods and our communities and our spheres of influence. Boldness is simply, "The courage to speak up when fear whispers, 'Keep your mouth shut.'" It's simply the courage to speak up because you know you need to say something or you should say something 'cause you're concerned about this person or that you sort of feel an internal nudge, say something. "It's the courage to speak up when fear just whispers, 'Just keep your mouth shut.'" If fear says, "Look, just pray for her, pray for him but you don't need to say anything. I mean, it's none of your business. Besides, you're gonna offend them". "Boldness, the courage to speak up when fear whispers, 'Just keep your mouth shut.'"

For me, if I just be so transparent for a minute, for me, and I hope you don't lose respect, but again, this is where I feel convicted. In our communities, people recognize me and they'll come up and I'm like a confession booth, okay. People walk up. They won't even introduce. I always have to stop and say, "What was your name? You just told me your biggest sin. I don't know your name yet"? Anyway, and that's okay. That's just part of being a pastor in a community. That happens to pastors all the time. People will come up and start pouring out their heart and as they're talking, I'm having an internal conversation. I'm not even sure who the conversation is with, okay, so I don't know. But the conversation is like, "Andy, you should pray for this person right now. Oh, I don't wanna pray for them out loud. We're standing in a mall. We're standing in a restaurant. We're at a food court. We're in a restaurant. We're in line, you know".

And they're pouring out their heart and they're being so transparent and I'm feeling prompted to pray for them right there in the moment out loud. And I'm arguing with God or myself or whatever, whoever, you know, it's crazy. The last time this happened, it was CVS and I remember specifically, I'm standing next to the battery display and there's the front counter and a gentleman came up and just poured out his heart to me. And inside, I'm thinking, "Andy, you need to pray for this guy right now". And I'm like, "He'll be embarrassed. What if, da-da-da"? I mean, how silly? And I finally just broke through and said, "Can I pray for you right now"? And he's like. "No". Tears, he said, "Would you please"? I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed. Why is that so hard? Why would I resist it? I'm the pastor. I'm paid to pray, okay. This is ridiculous, right. I'm a public prayer everywhere I go. I do the blessing. I close the thing. "Andy, would you pray for us"? I mean, that's what I do right.

So why would I not? Besides that, imagine getting kicked out of CVS for praying somebody, it's a great sermon illustration. You would hear about it, okay, right. So you have your own version of this. You feel like, "I should say, I mean, what if I say the wrong thing? What if I don't say it right? What if, what if, what if, what if"? You know what boldness is? Boldness is, oh that's fear talking. Boldness is, oh that's insecurity talking. Boldness is, I don't think God is telling me to keep my mouth shut. "So boldness is speaking up when fear says, 'You keep your mouth shut.'" And here's the thing, if we, and I'm including myself okay, if we're not asking for boldness, we're gonna miss opportunities to be bold because we're not looking for them. But I promise you, I promise you, because I've been back in this game. Me and Sandra, we just talk about this all the time now.

When you are praying for boldness, when the opportunities come along, you'll know and you're more likely to do. And besides that, aren't you glad, come on, even if you're not a religious person or a Christian person, look up here, aren't you glad somebody was bold with you at some point in your life? You were in a toxic relationship and they pointed it out and they rescued you. You had a habit or a thing that was taking over your life and somebody stuck their nose in your business and you were offended at first, in fact, you were angry at first. And now when you tell your story, the story of your life, they're a part of your story, not because they prayed for you silently and quietly, and definitely not because they left the conversation and told somebody else. They came directly to you and they were bold with you.

Aren't you grateful? Do you know you have the opportunity, I have the opportunity to be that voice, that point of contact with people I know and people I don't know. So why would we not be like the first century church and say, "God, empower us and remind us to speak Your word boldly, not rudely, boldly". So here's the challenge for all of us, okay. I want you to pray this prayer every single day between now and Easter. That's three weeks from now. Or whenever you're watching this, it may be three months from now, sorry. But anyway, I want you to pray this prayer every single day between now and Easter. It's three weeks. And so I wrote out a prayer and to make Sandra happy I made it rhyme. Here's what I've been praying.

Here's what we started praying. "Heavenly father, give me the courage to speak up when fear tells me to keep my mouth shut. Heavenly Father, give me the courage to speak up when fear tells me to keep my mouth shut. Heavenly Father, today, as I go to work today, today as I'm out, today, would you give the courage to speak up when fear tells me to keep my mouth shut"? Now, if this is scary for you, that's great because anything that stretches your faith makes it stronger. Faith is a muscle. This is your opportunity and my opportunity, our opportunity to exercise that muscle. So altogether, let's just try it altogether. If you're watching online or you're driving, just everybody out loud together. Ready? One, two, three.

"Heavenly Father, give me the courage to speak up when fear tells me to keep my mouth shut". So this past week, knowing I was gonna challenge you with this, I challenge our staff. About four or five times a year, we have an all staff meeting, all of our Atlanta area campuses. There's about 500 people in this group who I love that serve you week after week and serve our churches. So I said, "Hey, I've been praying this and I'm gonna challenge our whole congregation to pray this and so is the staff, I need you to lead the way, let's pray".

So the next day on Slack, for our inner campus communication channel, Slack, here at North Point Community Church, specifically, one of the women on our staff posted this. Here's what she posted. She said, "The 'Boldness Prayer' from yesterday's staff meeting worked fast. After work yesterday, I had my emissions tested. After it was finished and I had thanked the young woman who did the work, I was pulling away and then I paused and I leaned out the window and blurted out, 'Hey, do you have a church home?'" Now that's bold, right? But kind of bold, she's already pulling away. It's like, I'm already outta here. No, I'm just kidding. But the point is, this was on her mind 'cause we just talked about it. It's like, "Okay, I don't know this woman, I've never... 'Do you have a church home?'" "She responded that, 'She'd never heard of North Point Community Church.' I rambled on about our amazing kids' environments. She looked up the website and I asked her to come sit with me. She's coming on March the 17th with her three kids, 10, nine, and seven".

And I love this part. "It's been a while since I had kids in UpStreet. If someone can please help out, I would be grateful". Here's why this is important. Here's a woman who doesn't have kids in this environment, meets somebody with kids, but instead of, like, oh, I'm not their age, I don't know what to do, it's like, no, no, no, no, no, no. I'm inviting and then we'll figure out the details later. Now, let me ask you a question. I don't know who she invited and I don't know if she'll actually show up with her kids, but is she grateful or offended? Imagine what might happen to a 10-year-old and a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old that are raised in these fabulous environments that you create and pay for week after week after week? Who knows? This could be the beginning not of a story, but of four or five stories. Just because it's like, oh yeah, almost missed my opportunity.

"Heavenly Father, give me the courage to speak up when fear tells me to keep my mouth shut". The point of our series is to look back so that we stay on track. The early church, they were bold. They were confident and they were courageous, not because of their temperament and not because of their personalities, because of their faith in Jesus. So, let's be like them. Let's be the Ekklesia of Jesus. Let's be the assembly of our King, and let's pray for boldness. Let's speak up when fear and insecurity say, "No, you'd be better off just keeping your mouth shut". And then let's see what happens. It could be amazing. And we will pick it up right there next time in part five of Ekklesia.
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