As we enter this brand-new year, I am determined to make no apologies for the God-sized vision that is burning in my heart for the glory of Jesus.  Secondly, I reject much of the petty discourse that is divisive and distant from fellow believers attempting to invest in God’s gospel purpose for the local church.  Instead I choose join the bold band of brothers and sisters who today look into the future with bright zeal and robust calling.  In the first century, “fellowship” rarely meant sharing food together like it does today; it almost always indicated shared suffering without shame!  Besides several rich Scriptural texts that will be shared on Vision Sunday at North Life Baptist Church, I kept coming back to an often labeled “anonymous” declaration of bold vision for the gospel entitled “The Fellowship of the Unashamed.”

This prayer, originally titled “A Zimbabwean Martyr’s Prayer,” was actually found among the papers of a young African pastor who was martyred in Zimbabwe over one hundred years ago.  According to documentation from Southern Nazarene University, the prayer was passed on by missionary Louise Robinson Chapman who served in Africa from 1920-1940. Years later the prayer became known as “The Fellowship of the Unashamed.” While some of the surrounding circumstances are not specifically recorded, it seems clear that this tenacious, resilient pastor was martyred for his refusal to renounce his faith in Christ.

With the Spirit’s enabling, I add my feeble-growing-stronger voice above the timid, apathetic din of the crowds in 2018:

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made — I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifices, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me … my banner will be clear.

I was recently reading through Acts 14 and was struck by how the pioneers of our New Testament faith unashamedly stuck together as the world swarmed around them:

Ac 14:19-22 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

Let’s go all in on dynamic faithfulness and fruitfulness!  Would you join me in renewing and expanding this “Fellowship of the Unashamed” by committing not only your name but life, fortune, and soul?  It is not going to be easy, but our fellowship is not temporal.  It is the prelude to a kingdom “with no end.”  Don’t be ashamed of that kingdom; be bold!

This ultimately culminates with God not being ashamed of us:

He 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Please share specifically which phrase of this prayer most resonates and challenges you in this new year.