A church committed to growth - both spiritually through discipleship & numerically through evangelism and outreach
Resources and structure and coaching is all in vain if there's no warrior spirit. You see it again and again in the sporting world, two equally matched individuals, or two equally matched teams, the same resources, the same structure, the same leadership, but one of them wants it just a little bit more, a determination to win. A warrior spirit.
1 Samuel 14 tells the wonderful story of Jonathan and his armour bearer fighting the Philistines. That's right. Two men against an army. The story goes that having separated themselves off from the rest of the Israelite army, Jonathan and his armour bearer found themselves at the bottom of an incline with the Philistine battalion at the top. Jonathan turns to his armour bearer and says:
PERHAPS GOD will give them into our hands.
And so they attack. The Philistines are forced into such a state of confusion that they panic and are easily picked off as they run towards the rest of the Israelite army. All as a result of a man who said, "Perhaps God."
If there's no warrior spirit then it's all in vain. If there's no desire to win, then defeat is imminent. And so very often the church doesn't look as if it wants to win. It sometimes doesn't even recognise what it's fighting for. It's forgotten what it is for:
· It is not a fundraising organisation - there are many organisations that do that better.
· It is not a custodian of ancient monuments - English Heritage and National Trust do that better.
· It is not a social club. There are lots of other clubs who do that better.
· It is not a place just to enjoy a few songs - Aled Jones and the Songs of Praise team do that better!!
We are an organisation called to sound a clear and distinct message. To proclaim God. The church is God's primary vehicle for changing the world.
William Tyndale was burnt at the stake for translating the Bible so we could all read it in our own language; Thomas Cranmer suffered a similar fate for helping establish the Church of England and bringing us the Prayer Book. These men didn't die for a half hearted social club with a spot of singing and the odd exhortation from behind the pulpit.
In 1882 Booth Tucker of the Salvation Army went to win India for Jesus. He took with him three ladies armed with tambourines and he played a tuba. They were sent to prison on numerous occasions for breaching the peace, but eventually they would see thousands of Indians become Christians and set up numerous social regeneration projects across India.
What sort of people set out to convert a nation with a tuba and three tambourines. Those who say "perhaps God."
One of my favourite Star Trek legends is the account of how James T. Kirk became the only Starfleet cadet to beat the Kobayashi Maru simulation. The Kobayashi Maru is supposed to be the ultimate test. A star fleet vessel surrounded by Klingon Warbirds with no chance of victory. No possibility of success. It tests how you respond in a no win scenario. But James T. Kirk can't cope with this. He doesn't believe there is such a thing as a no win scenario. And he does the only thing that is possible to beat the simulation.... He reprogrammed the computer.
I have been to so many meetings recently where the subject has been, what do we do about the projections of falling attendance and how can we best reduce clergy numbers. The suggestion is that all clergy should be prepared to cover multiple parishes because of those declining numbers.
But I sit in these gatherings and I simply ask:
It's not compulsory though is it? Declining congregations are not compulsory! We can grow?
My comments are invariably greeted with surprise, sometimes with humour (the assumption being that I couldn't possibly be serious). As if nobody had considered that option before. We are so used to buying into the statistical projections of dwindling church numbers that we forget that the no-win scenario doesn't need to be our reality. We can reprogramme the computer. And I desperately think that our churches may need some reprogramming?
We need to believe that we can grow. With the right people, the right structures, the right leaders and with a warrior spirit, we can see churches grow and recognise again that they are God's primary vehicle for changing our world.
Graham Kendrick in his song ‘The Fighter’ wrote:
Where have all the Christian soldiers gone?
Where is the resistance will no one be strong?
When will we stand up tall and straight?
Rise up and storm the gate?
How can we fail to get excited?
The battle is ours, why don't we fight it?
Battalions of darkness rise above me,
But God put a fighter in me.
The battle is ours, let's fight it.