by Tom Eggebrecht
Every Monday morning, I get an email from a writing coach. She helps writers begin each week with some motivation and a writing prompt. This week the prompt was this: What is one thing you’re going to have to let go of in order to get where you’re trying to go?
I’m a pastor, so my first thoughts regarding this question turned to the seeming decline of the modern church (and the decline in attendance at my own church!), the pure evil of secular society, and the complacency of many Christians when it comes to actually speaking the Gospel. So, I changed the question to this: What is the one thing the church is going to have to let go of in order to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching (Matthew 28:18–20)?
Many modern churches have met this question with various answers. Perhaps we need to let go of some of Scripture’s less culturally-palatable teachings in order to keep the church alive. Perhaps we need to let go of some of her reverence towards God in order to make the church a place that looks more like the outside world, and thus “approachable.” Perhaps we need to let go of the Sacraments, of physical church services, of called and ordained pastors. Perhaps we should let go of our insistence upon the One True God as the only source of all truth and salvation.
Or, perhaps, there is something else that the church can throw out, while keeping all of these (and thus actually remaining the church), at the same time.
My conclusion? We need to let go of fear. Christians are going to have to stop being afraid. We have to let go of the fear that keeps us from lovingly urging our fellow members to come to church when they have fallen away. Believers must stop shrinking back when it comes to calling out the evil in today’s world and calling a sin a sin, instead of silently letting it harm those it ensnares. Our mouths ought to flow freely with the proclamation of God’s grace that births faith and forgives sinners just like us. Satan is using fear to hold us back and to put a dent in the modern church.
I can’t help but think that confident faith and a bold proclamation of the Gospel begins already in the home where parents raise children in the faith from the time they are infants. It’s really nothing new. The Lord said this already in Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (v. 4–9).
Our daughter has taken this passage to heart. She is already teaching our two-and-a-half-year-old grandson a new memory verse every week. Even at his young age he is able to retain and repeat Scripture. Just last week he recited these words to me: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6.” He even knew the citation. It is my prayer that this early learning of Scripture will drive ungodly fear out of his little life from this time forth. I am praying that as he grows, he won’t shrink back from speaking the Word of truth when he sees the need and has the opportunity.
There is plenty of fear in this life. Our own sin, and the sin of others, creates fear. The devil’s lies set forth unfounded fear. But our forgiving God is a God of love. In fact, His love is perfect. And Scripture reminds us that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). When Scripture-filled believers boldly proclaim Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life, fear is driven away. You might even say that it is “let go of” so that it falls into the strong, loving hands of our Savior.
Tom Eggebrecht is Senior Pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Casselberry, Florida. Follow Tom’s personal blog at www.tomeggebrecht.com.