So, we have been talking about this journey of discipleship for us individually and for the culture within our churches. We said this journey involves the valley.
We wish it didn’t, but it does.
As leaders we have a choice to walk into this valley and lead our congregations through that place.
This week, let’s take a closer look at what it looks like to approach and step into the valley. What would stop us? What would confront us? What would keep us where we are, rather than continuing along the “paths of righteousness” we started out on?
As we have worked with and walked alongside many leaders we have seen a common enemy waiting in the valley. This enemy often stops us from even entering:
This fear may come and visit us in many different forms, but underneath it is the same enemy.
If we are to head towards what God has for us and our congregations we must confront fear. And, as leaders, we must go first in this battle.
Here are some of the forms this fear may take, and some of it’s favourite sayings –
Fear of change – “I like what I know and I know what I like”. This is the mindset of those who fear that the uncertainty & unknown of the future will bring challenge, disaster, loss or hardship. This fear says that it is better to be safe with what we know than risk the uncertainty & change that would come with something or somewhere new. We have often found that those who have invested the most in the current situation are often those who find it hardest to embrace the new.
Fear of failure – “I don’t like to get things wrong”. Getting things right is linked with approval and status. We want to have the answers. We want a guaranteed return on investment. Stepping into the valley means taking a chance, potentially getting it wrong, learning as we go – this is a challenge for those with a fear of failure.
Fear of rejection – “I don’t want people to reject me”. Too much of our identity can be formed by what others say about us. Stepping out means potential rejection. Moving forward means that not everyone will follow. Speaking out means that not everyone will agree. Are we more worried about what people say than what Jesus says? Is what other people think of us more important than what Jesus thinks?
When any of these forms of fear take a hold, we’re alive but paralysed – we cease to be able to move. In the same way that the venom from a predator disables the bodily functions of its prey, fear disables us.
We wish it didn’t, but it does.
Fear controls us and holds us back.
Fear means we stand at the entrance to the valley. Not wanting to move.
So how do we move? David’s response in the valley was this:“I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
When the Lord walks with us, He brings His resources with Him. We overcome fear by continuing to walk in the direction that He has called us, knowing that He is making a way through the valley for us.
At some point, if we want to grow a discipleship culture, we will stand at the entrance of the valley. We will need to take that first step.
And then another. And another.
It will get darker and harder but there is a prize to head towards: Empowered disciples following Jesus and calling others to do the same.
Where do you need to take the next step?