How to Be Brave from an Expert on Revolutionizing a Culture

Friday is for Hear Songs

Ambrose of Milan is one of my heroes. Not just because he was part of the powerful move of the Spirit that brought Augustine to faith but because of his courageous and creative confrontation of Arianism (think of them as 4th Century Jehovah Witnesses). So it is always great to learn something new about how he shepherded his generation of pastors. Ambrose speaks of a “courage of the mind” that comes from training the mind to value the right things. The following is from Kairos Journal.

How to Be Brave—Ambrose (c. 339 – 397)

Ambrose, bishop of Milan between c. 374 and 397 A.D., was a man of extraordinary courage and wisdom. He confronted emperors and soldiers, apparently unconcerned with the consequences for himself, so long as he could glorify God and protect his flock. His treatise on “The Duties of the Clergy” was distributed in about 391.1 Ambrose urges pastors to fortitude (courage), warns them of their responsibility to protect those in their care, and advises how courage may be fostered. To be courageous, you must understand what is valuable.

The glory of fortitude, therefore, does not rest only in the strength of one’s body or of one’s arms, but rather on the courage of the mind. Nor is the law of courage exercised in causing, but in driving away all harm. He who does not keep harm off a friend, if he can, is as much in fault as him who causes it. . . .

And in very truth, rightly is that called fortitude, when a man conquers himself, restrains his anger, yields and gives way to no allurements, is not put out by misfortunes, nor gets elated by good success, and does not get carried away by every varying change as by some chance wind. . . .

This, then, is the first notion of fortitude. For fortitude of the mind can be regarded in two ways. First, as it counts all externals as very unimportant, and looks on them as rather superfluous and to be despised than to be sought after. Secondly, as it strives after those things which are the highest, and all things in which one can see anything moral . . . with all the powers of the mind. For what can be more noble than to train thy mind so as to not place a high value on riches and pleasures and honours, nor to waste all thy cares on these? When thy mind is thus disposed, thou must consider how all that is virtuous and seemly must be placed before everything else; and thou must so fix thy mind upon that, that if aught happens which may break thy spirit, whether loss of property, or the reception of fewer honours, or the disparagement of unbelievers, thou mayest not feel it, as thou wert above such things; nay, so that even dangers which menace thy safety, if undertaken at the call of justice, may not trouble thee.2

Marty Schoenleber, Jr. is the founding pastor of one church, the interim pastor of another and the church planting trainer/mentor of over 200 other church planting pastors. He is adjunct professor of Church Planting at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and has taught Preaching at the International School of Theology, and Evangelism at Moody Graduate School of Theology. He is also the Director of the Saint John’s Pastoral Center, a pastoral care and retreat center located in a growing number of Bed and Breakfast houses across the mid-west. Marty also serves the Great Lakes District of the Evangelical Free Church as a Church Planting missionary consultant. His latest book is Picking a President: Or Any Other Elected Official (CrossBooks, [late May 2012]). To enjoy a free subscription to his blog, log-on to, where you can post your comments, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest reflections on church planting, Biblical Expositions and musings about church, culture and spiritual formation. Follow Pastor Marty on twitter @1Chosenrebel4JC.


This is the most likely date of distribution, although it is undated.

Ambrose, “Duties of the Clergy,” St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 10, 2nd ser. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Printing Company, 1996), 31-32. In other versions, see 1.36.179-182.

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