by Jim Reapsome
The advance of the gospel has all the earmarks of trench warfare.
The first time I visited Belgium I wanted to see the monuments at Waterloo, perhaps the most famous of all battles on the continent of Europe. Looking across the green fields, it was hard to comprehend what had happened there in 1815 when Napoleon went down to defeat. Later on, across eastern Belgium, I noticed rolling levees. They were not protecting farmlands from raging rivers. Their pattern seemed irregular. What were those green mounds? I asked my Belgian friend. “Those were the trenches where the First World War was fought,” he told me.
Trench warfare is all but forgotten, except on the history channel where they seem to keep reliving The Great War of 1914-18. Time and again we watch brave soldiers tumble out of their trenches into the teeth of enemy machine-gun fire.
The advance of the gospel has all the earmarks of trench warfare. It’s mostly hand-to-hand combat. The soldiers of Jesus dig in, surrounded by hostile foes who stubbornly resist every yard of advance. True, in some places, whole populations have been known to surrender to Jesus, but a quick glance at a world map shows that resistance to Christ is firmly embedded in the soils of many countries.
Therefore, just as year after painful year the Allies tried to break out of the trenches against the Germans, so Christians continue to pour their resources into countless head-on battles around the world. They pray for victories, they cheer up their warriors with e-mails and care packages, and they eagerly await good news of even small advances.
However, it is possible to forget the vital link between trench warfare “over there” and trench warfare in our own churches. The outcome of the battles in our pews will have profound long-term consequences for the outcome of the battles overseas. The battles at home erupt when the church committees for world missions growth and development take the offensive and climb out of their trenches.
Intense enemy fire erupts. Machine guns spit bullets labeled, “We can’t afford this. Our budget won’t stand it.” Other bullets zing over the committee’s members: “We have enough to do right here.” “We need more room.” “We need a new sanctuary.” “We need more staff.”
The enemies of mission advance launch tear gas, smoke screens, and even poison gas. Poison gas kills mission advance by saying that in this day of multiculturalism, political correctness, and religious pluralism, it’s rather bombastic and imperialistic to suggest that we have the only answer to the world’s cry for religious knowledge. Surely our general, Jesus Christ, does not have the only battle plan for victory. Those other generals must know a thing or two.
Smoke screens raise questions about what our troops overseas really are accomplishing. How do we know what they’re doing? Their letters and e-mails sound great, but we don’t have any noncoms and officers on the ground to check on their battlefield progress. For all we know, they may be retreating. Certainly there’s no reason to increase the money we’re sending them. In fact, perhaps some of them should come home.
Tear gas sends us into confusion about our battle plans. We can’t see the road ahead because people seem to be running into battles everywhere, without any clear consensus about what to do. We’re bombarded by fresh troops coming to our doors for help. What plan are they following? Who is sending them into battle? Where is the real battle anyway, Madrid or Uzbekistan? How are we supposed to know?
This is what the battle looks like from the trenches in churches where people really want to do what’s best for our commander-in-chief. But they are hamstrung by a multitude of serious questions, for which clear answers are not readily available. Where do these people start? With the latest appeal in the mail? With the latest missionary candidate to come down the pike? With their own candidates who tell them what God has called them to do? With the missionary sending agencies?
Their strong desires to invest their best for Jesus are swamped by confusion and lack of factsaboutsuch matters as who to support, how much to give them, what agency to send them under, and where to serve. When they do send and support people, how can they find out what’s happening in the trenches overseas? They want accountability, but how?
Once we recognize that our warriors in the trenches at home are fighting battles equally as critical as those “over there,” we will begin to offer them specific information relating to the issues that trouble them. Our sending agencies and missions mobilizers cannot assume that people at home will continue to fight for them without their receiving much-needed guidance. This guidance must not be loaded toward one agency’s agenda, or toward one slant on the worldwide missions front (e.g., 10/40 Window). There is too much confusion in our churches and their missions committees. Until these people get clear, impartial answers, our warriors in the trenches at home will continue to suffer heavy casualties. And the battles in the trenches overseas will grind on without significant gains.
Copyright © 1998 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.