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The Church Is Meant to Attack - Always Attack

by Pastor Douglas Shearer

 

Napolean, a brilliant military genius of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, once summed up his key to victory: "Attaque, attaque, toujours attaque!" "Attack, attack, always attack!" And that's precisely how the Bible sums up the church's key to victory.

Tragically, however, the church here in America has slipped into a defensive posture - unwilling to "go over to the attack" - unwilling to put herself at risk anymore - unwilling to "rock the boat" - unwilling any longer to make salvation of the lost the focal point of her mission - unwilling any longer to preach an unabashed, straight forward gospel message.

item14Listen carefully on a Sunday morning to what's being preached from the pulpit - not in every church, of course, but in far too many:

  • It's not that Jesus has come to save sinners from hell, but that he wants to be our best friend.
  • It's that Jesus has come to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • It's that Jesus is the key to worldly success and upward mobility.
  • We preach Jesus our surfing buddy, not Jesus our savior.

Ever since the "Jesus Movement" finally lost momentum in the late 1970s, Evangelical Christians have been backing away from any kind of frontal assault against the gates of hell - meaning, once again, that we don't preach a straight-on gospel message nor do we make salvation of the lost our top priority - indeed, our very "raison d'être."

item3And that doesn't bode well for the church. Why? Because the Church was never designed to withdraw into a defensive shell. That's why! There's a simple truth that stalks the pages of the New Testament: anytime the church makes safety her primary objective she ceases to be safe.

Nowhere in scripture is the church cast in a defensive guise. Nowhere is she likened to a fortress - with the devil's minions hovering around her - encircling her - and launching assault after assault against her - with believers cringing in fear behind protective walls.

It's certainly true that God himself is likened to a fortress: we're told in no uncertain terms that he's our high tower - our shield and our buckler - our defender. But that's not the description the Bible gives of the church. Jesus' first description of the church - his archetypical description of her - is found in Matthew 16:18 - and it's not at all the description most pastors and teachers have been disseminating over the last thirty years or so . . .

And I say also unto thee, That you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matt. 16:18

Look closely at the final clause: "... and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her."

  • It's the church that's on the attack, launching assault after assault - not the devil;
  • it's the devil who's cast in a defensive posture, not the church;
  • it's hell, not the church, that's shuddering under a relentless battering.
  • It's the devil's followers, not Christ's followers, who are shown cowering behind protective walls, cringing in fear and trepidiation.

We've got it all wrong! We've turned it all upside down! And it's all so subtle.

Just the other day, a pastor asked me my opinion on a program that his youth ministry was developing. It was designed around one over-riding purpose: to shield their youth from the ever encroaching flood-tide of anti-Christian bias now taking hold in American society - especially in our public schools. He went on to ask, "How long can we continue sending our children to public schools? Shouldn't we begin developing our own schools and pull our children back into them? Fortress Church!

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not at all suggesting that we shouldn't pull our children out of public schools. Nor am I suggesting that it's wrong to shield ourselves from the insidious impact of secular culture. But we'd better take stock of how doing that might affect our attitude toward the lost.

  • Just how much can we wall ourselves off from secular society and continue to reach the lost with the saving message of Jesus Christ?
  • And on an even deeper level: Isn't it likely that in so doing we'll forget that the lost are objects of God's mercy and that we've been called to tender them God's offer of forgiveness?

Isn't it possible that the more we fall back into a defensive posture, the more we'll actually put ourselves in jeopardy - the more vulnerable we'll actually become? Think about it. We've been pulling back into a defensive posture for the last thirty years - and . . .

  • Are we the better for it?
  • Has it kept our children safer?

The answer, of course, is "No!" The church is a pathetic caracicature of what she was during the Jesus Movment years. Believers are less sanctified, less committed, and less robust in their witness - what little witness there is.

And what about our children? Are they any safer? Has our defensive posture proven to be effective in assuring their security? Hardly! One recent survey has found that while 95 percent of 20 to 29 year old children raised in evangelical homes attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years, only 55 percent were still attending church during high school; and by college only 11 percent were still attending. (See article #1, article #2, and article #3.) Effective? Take a good look: it has been an abysmal failure.

No, pulling back into a defensive posture has not served the church well. And it has been a down-right tragedy for our children.

It's not wrong to guard our flanks as we move forward to the attack; but it is wrong to become so defensive-minded, so preoccupied with keeping ourselves and our children safe and protected that moving forward to save the lost ceases to be an option - especially when, in point of fact, that's the church's prime directive.

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