Boldness in the Early Church vs. Today & Realigning our Purpose

Hi, friends. Are you bold or timid with speaking out about your faith? Is there a right or wrong way to be bold? Let’s discuss…

Boldness in the Early Church

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The term “boldness” comes up many times in the Bible. In the Gospels (gospel means “good news”), we are told more than once that while John baptized with water, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Hence, we should be inflamed with passion to follow Jesus and spread God’s kingdom, and we should let the Holy Spirit guide us.

The early followers especially needed boldness to share a new religion with others. The Holy Spirit, the advocate promised by Jesus in John 14:25-27, fell on the disciples in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit empowered Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus before His crucifixion, to proclaim the Christian hope through Jesus to huge crowds. Though local leaders persecuted the first followers, they continued with their mission.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. (Acts 4:13, NRSV)

The Right Kind of Boldness

Because so many Christians have been bold in a negative way, these lists clarify good vs. bad boldness (in my opinion).

Good Boldness:

  • Unafraid for others to know of our personal faith
  • Brings up subject of personal faith when relevant/appropriate
  • Unafraid to address criticism with humility, love, and truth

Bad Boldness:

  • Brings up personal faith when NOT relevant/appropriate
  • Degrades those who disagree with personal faith
  • Continues pushing the issue when others don’t walk to talk about it

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One could argue that the church wouldn’t have spread if the early believers adhered to these lists, but they were trying to start a religion. Acting forceful with evangelism nowadays makes people feel like we’re “shoving religion down their throats.”

When is starting the conversation “relevant/appropriate?” Maybe it’s when a friend confides to us that they hate their life and have no hope. Maybe it’s when a friend is mourning the loss of a loved one. Maybe it’s when a friend is struggling with their personal relationships. We should balance gentleness and boldness–being sensitive to others’ feelings but bringing up faith when the time feels right. I wish I had a better idea, but honestly, I struggle with courage in this department.

In my opinion, evangelism today should focus on realigning the term “Christian” with following Jesus, making disciples, and transforming the world (the Great Commission as phrased by the Methodist church). The world interprets Christianity in many ways–arbitrary legalism, a justification for oppression, a mystical means to a political end, etc. We did this to ourselves by straying from His purpose and obeying our sinful natures.

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We must realign with scripture and be bold in our ministry through agape love, radical hospitality, risk-taking mission work, etc. in order to serve others and (figuratively through encouraging believers, literally through witnessing to others) build up the body of Christ. (Refers to Ephesians 4:11-12 & countless verses in Paul’s letters to the churches about loving, serving, and uplifting our communities)

How to Be Bold

A while back, a guest speaker at my church preached a sermon titled “Dress for Success.” What we wear affects how we feel; I feel more confident in a dress than in sweatpants, but I feel more relaxed in the sweatpants.

During the sermon, he mentioned that many people don’t know how to share their faith, but if we dress in our “spiritual clothes” daily, we’ll feel more equipped.

As Godโ€™s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14, NRSV)

I am praying for boldness–not obnoxiousness, not brazenness, not condescending-ness…but gentle, loving, humble boldness. May the Holy Spirit empower each one of us to share our hope!

Thanks for reading!

29 comments

  1. Very interesting post ๐Ÿ˜ I’m not sure I completely agree with the good and bad boldness points but know what you’re getting at.
    It is a difficult dilemma to deal with, in recent times I’ve spent a lot of time working with someone who’s ministry was described by others as aggressive and he didn’t care much for people.
    Yet years ago I worked more with somebody warm and very welcoming, more than able to teach etc but you never really got any impact from his ministry, moving forward in my own ministry I’ve learned valuable things but trying to learn to strike the balance is a challenge only the Lord can complete by his Holy Spirit. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ™

    Trying to carry the sword and the trowel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David! It is hard to strike that balance between the extremes of “aggressive” and “timid/ineffective,” but as you say, the Holy Spirit’s guidance can help us with discernment. I think one fruit of the Spirit that some choose to ignore is “gentleness.” If we are gentle, we can better sense when the time is right.

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  2. I try to follow the adage that if someone is offended, it should be because of the message not because of me. In the Book of Acts we read about the early church and their boldness in that culture at that time. When we read Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, we need to remember it was given to people who had only 40 days earlier shouted give us Barabas. His style was appropriate at that time in that setting, but may not work today. The Book of Acts is descriptive not prescriptive meaning it tells us what happened but isn’t telling us we have to do it the same way. The message is the same. How we share it changes. How I share with someone from China or Vietnam is different than how I share with Yazidi people etc.

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    1. It is interesting to think about Peter’s sermon at Pentecost delivered to the people who encouraged His crucifixion. Just makes it even more amazing that the Holy Spirit emboldened him to that degree when he had denied Jesus three times before He died. I agree that different styles are appropriate in different contexts. In their day, people needed to be told about the significance of Jesus’s death and the good news. Nowadays, we live in a secular society where most have heard of Christianity but most have a twisted idea of it. Though we live in a secular society, people are still looking for a purpose, a way to help people. All those reasons are why I say that evangelism should work on realigning Christians with the Great Commission. We need a Jesus revival. But we are too far in our own hole to expect aggressive evangelism to bring a Jesus revival. Jesus wasn’t aggressive anyways.

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  3. I love it Lily ๐Ÿ™‚ If we are shoving it down their throat, they are less likely to receive the “love” God said we should share ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually, if you think about it, when something is literally shoved down your throat you begin to choke ๐Ÿ™‚ Not the result we want, now is it? I use to have a friend that would talk to me about Jesus and God all the time. My then mother in law would catch her coming to my house(we lived next to each other), and beat her over the head with her beliefs. My friend would always, ALWAYS say, “if that’s your God, then I want nothing to do with it”

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      1. I hate it for the ones that are lost, and get pushed further away. They are the ones that are suffering. I don’t think people realize that they can be doing something to discourage someone, or run them away from God. I feel they think they are doing good. Then I worry for them because the Bible talks about leading people astray. I feel that also applies to running them off. I would rather talk about God’s love, and draw someone in, rather than say something that would turn them away. I wouldn’t want something I say to cause someone to never get saved. What price would I pay on judgement day for something like that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry to ramble ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a very thought provoking topic Lily ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. “In my opinion, evangelism today should focus on realigning the term โ€œChristianโ€ with following Jesus, making disciples, and transforming the world.”

    I totally agree. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good post!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. If we do not stand up and speakโ€ฆ everyone will accept the view of God and the Bible like they want to. There must be peolpe bold enough to stand up speak the truth. I do this out of truth I get rejected and hated a lot of times. But I have touched some hearts aswell. The gospel will be watered down if we donโ€™t stand up for Christ.

    So thank you. Keep up. Do not lose your passion for Christ

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      1. My little pleasure. By God’s Grace I don’t think I will – I saw and have been to many sorrows *God first taught me how life is without him and now.. I have to guide many people. I am just greatful. And thank you for reminding me I am not the only one

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  6. Lily,

    I am thrilled to see the “boldness” concept given attention! That is lacking, I think, in today’s Christianity – esp in the modern West.

    I have soooooo much to respond with… will try to be selective….

    I remember when I was in school, at a southern Christian university no less… studying Bible too!… and one of my student jobs was working for the grounds dept. I was a little older than MOST of my classmates, also white, AND one of the supervisors there had been a classmate with my aunt at a different school a generation before. So I found myself in a position of TRUST that was uncommon among student workers in that dept. And anyway, my alma mater is not a big fancy place, but its claim to prestige lies in part in the fact that we recruit African kids to run for us. So our track n field and esp cross country teams are ranked highly every year.

    Well, this means… that a lot of these kids need jobs too. And grounds and the cafeteria gravitate the most of them. So being white, and male at a southern school where the grounds dept is run by rednecks, my obtaining a level of trust uncommon has more to do with latent racism than my winning personality. Yet I tell you all that so I can say this:

    I was a crew leader most years, and my flunkies were mostly from Africa. I met some amazing people who helped me see the world in a lot bigger lens than I had going in. And one in particular was a kid named Andrew Bakuru. Andrew was deeply devout about his faith, but he wasn’t American about it AT ALL. And I began to see the difference as I got to know him.

    I should say that in my youth, esp high school, my politics were much more of a liberal bent. I used to be pro abortion and against the war. Before I went to Bible college, I changed a LOT. My voting changed a lot too. But here I was as crew leader and I have kids working for me from all over Africa, India, and points East even from there. And one of the kids was Andrew.

    Andrew worked in the cafeteria most of the time. Esp during the semester. He would transfer over to grounds for summer and Christmas break. But if I went through Andrews serving line, he was always asking people if the knew Jesus. I thought it was awkward – esp since we were at a small, conservative, southern, Christian school to ask people that, but he was reaching kids from China, Napal, and Pakistan, many of whom were not Christian at all, but who found our school to be their ticket to AMERICA! Not to mention, there were a fair number of Texans he was reaching too!

    When he was in the truck with me and the boys heading off to the next work assignment, he would be making introductions and asking who is Christian and who is not. I was stunned. I still had enough liberal in me to think that was really encroaching on people’s private business. But I was amazed at how, esp the other foreign kids responded. To them this was not a mere private matter of personal piety, they were eager to talk about religion – sometimes other religions entirely. We had Muslim kids, Hindu kids and a few off beat kids (and I am not talking about the fashionable American kids with black trench coats here). I remember being stunned and uncomfortable around Andrew, and I was there to study Bible, but he was boldly going where this man had never gone!

    I know, believe me I know, as a former liberal, I know… that there are Christians who make effort to shove their faith down other people’s throats, as you said. They are out there. It does happen.

    But it is rare.

    AND….

    And… there is a delicate dance happening there that never gets any press. The people who sense that religion is being forced down their throats, well some (not all) of them are over reacting.

    I felt really awkward around Andrew Bakuru asking people in a southern Christian university whether they were Christian or not. Wow! How did I get that mindset??? It’s not such an ugly question, and it opens doors more often than you’d like to think.

    I am all for honoring people’s freedom and if they say no… well that goes as much for Jesus as for sex. You need to honor that kind of boundary. But some of those “boundaries” are artificial too.

    I have a lot more to share on this topic that goes in other directions as well, but this is just a simple comment box. But I think honing the perspective on this is in order, and Andrew Bakuru helps me to do that.

    Oh… And Jesus is plenty offensive in his own rite. He knew this about himself. Other people’s offense at us is not the gold standard in measuring appropriate boldness. Plenty of people take offense at my Master, and that will come back to bite them in the end.

    Nevertheless, we surely can be respectful of others as we are true to him. And that is worth considering – I would agree.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been reading about the Christian modesty movement lately. I’m challenged to think about how our physical clothes say a lot about us too. They say one element of it is a symbol of our faith to the world, but then how far is too far? Do we turn people away by our weirdness? Not sure. But definitely your words about our behavior as clothing are challenging enough. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yay! Loving boldness describes why I listen, think, ask questions, and am unable to dismiss religion, despite its blatant perversion by highly visible rogues who are loudly and continuously in my face. ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ

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    1. I’m sorry about the rogues! Unfortunately, those who are loud and angry tend to get more attention than they deserve in religion, politics, etc. It truly makes me joyful that you are still open to listen to religious people who aren’t the loud, angry ones. I have said numerous times that you have a big heart. ๐Ÿ™‚ โ™ฅ (and that big heart is what many unfortunately lack)

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  9. I do believe God provides the right timing ๐Ÿ™‚ and sometimes I do think it may seem odd or uncomfortable for us to bring things up. I honestly back down on some strong urges when I felt God wanted me to say or do something that seemed really out of place. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t, and I hope the Lord uses these examples to remind me why I must go forward even when it may not seem “right.” Great thought provoking post!

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