Jesus, in one of his only two references to the “ekklesia” (church), verbalizes, “And I tell you Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). At the core, the church exists as an offense of God, carrying out his mission in the world. In fact as some scholar note, it was God’s mission that gave birth to the church. As the church carries out the mission of God it acts as an offensive measure by which the gates of hell will not be able to thwart, or stop it. Think about various offensive scenarios and what is required when a body of people takes the offensive position.
What kind of preparation is there when a military body gears up to invade a territory? Now keep in mind, I am no military expert, but I would assume (given that I have watched my fair share of military movies J) they gather intel (intelligence) on the land, the people, the structures, and the other military—their numbers, weapons, and capabilities. They then strategically outline a plan of attack.
What kind of preparation is there when a football team gears up to face off against another team? Even at the pee-wee level (the only level where I played football) preparation exists, which includes understanding what the other team will do. And when it comes to winning a football game, a good defense is needed, but more importantly a good offense is needed if the team wants to win. You cannot win if you do not score. Therefore, before every offensive play (whether in the huddle or on the line) a play is called with the intention of beating the defense and advancing the ball towards the goal.
Just like in a military campaign or a football game, so does the church prepare herself for gospel advancement. Let’s not confuse preparation with accomplishment. Proverbs denotes, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Prov 21:31). In addition, Jesus specifically says in the Matthew 16 passage, “he will build his church.” Thus we need to understand our preparation is solely an exercise of faithfulness that positions us in a place for God to accomplish his mission. So, the question is how do we prepare ourselves in a way that positions us in a place by which God carries out his mission? There can be at least three ways we and our churches can prepare ourselves in a way that positions us in a place for God to carry out his mission.
1) We must keep at the center of our lives the glory of Christ and the advancement of his good news. This is the ultimate purpose of our lives and of our churches. It will be near impossible for either individuals or churches to fulfill God’s purpose and mission in this world without having the glory of King Jesus and his purpose for us as the center of our lives. This means that in every area of our live, in every area of our church we seek to please and honor him—thereby reflecting his radiant glory through our lives. In order to do so, everyday we must preach the gospel to ourselves, surrendering and sacrificing our lives and churches at the altar of his glory and his purpose.
2) We must beware of the deceptive attacks of the enemy. The enemy will try and thwart the ultimate purpose of our lives and of our churches. Thus we must prepare ourselves against the incoming attacks. The attacks of the enemy are against our hearts, our allegiance to Christ, by which we replace Christ as the center of our lives and of our churches with idols. Growing in our faith, in our relationship with God and with other believers helps ward off the attacks of the enemy as we are used by God to advance the gospel. Think of it this way, as we advance God’s mission in the world, it is important that we do not get in front of the Holy Spirit, but instead walk by him so that we may not gratify the desires of our sinful flesh.)
3) We must seek to understand the territory or context we are invading in order to clearly demonstrate and share the good news. If we are going to be used by God to be the offensive tool by which God advances his mission in the world, we must understand the context he has placed us or called us. This includes contextualizing the host area in order to “be” and to explain the good news of Jesus and his kingdom.
When a church creates a strategy in order to lead their people to keep Jesus at the center, to grow in their faith (their relationship with the Lord and other believers), and to be the missional people in their area and the world, they are in essence preparing themselves to be in a position by which God uses them to advance his mission in the world. Therefore, in my opinion there is nothing wrong with a church creating a mission, a vision, a structure, or a strategy; or in other words preparing themselves for God to move. However, the only caveat to this would be, the church should not begin to rely on their strategy, creativity, and ingenuity to accomplish (or advance) the mission. In other words, if a church places more emphasis on their preparation and strategy, and comes to rely on their strategy, creativity, ingenuity, and preparation to fulfill the mission rather than the power of God, they have essentially erected an idol in their midst. They have succumbed to worshipping (trusting) the created not the Creator. We cannot fulfill God’s mission in this world apart from his power that powerfully works within us. As Paul writes, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21).
In closing, I believe there is nothing wrong with a church preparing herself as the offensive tool of God. In fact, I believe we should prepare ourselves in a way that positions us for God to move powerfully. We must remember, our preparation does not accomplish God’s mission, it simply only positions us to be an offensive weapon by which God advances his cause in the world. As I stated earlier in this post, preparation is solely an exercise of faithfulness that positions us in a place for God to accomplish his mission.