Burn Notre Dame the Rest of the Way Down

Forgive the hyperbole.

I’m sorry…but not.

Initially, the news of Notre Dame’s burning generated little more than mild ambivalence for me. I love history and I love old buildings, not to mention the sheer loss of property, the damage in dollars, well francs anyway.

People’s responses pushed me over the ledge.

     “Praying for Paris.”

          “Praying for Notre Dame.”

And, “We will rebuild!” amid Macron’s defiant pledge to rebuild the historic cathedral within 5 years, though most experts predict it will take at least a decade. Many cathedrals took more than a century to complete.

One thing the effort won’t lack is resources. Before the ashes even cooled, they raised more than $1 billion dollars in donations…for a building. Let that sink in. Less than a week.

I have a much simpler and more cost effective solution.

Burn it the rest of the way down.

Institutionalization of the Body

It’s not so much the dollars (francs), it’s the principle.

Notre Dame epitomizes the institutionalization of the church.

Jesus tells the parable of a mustard seed that grows into a tree, larger than all the garden plants, where birds come and make their nests. (Matthew 13:32-32) The problem is that a mustard seed is only meant to grow into a bush, 9 feet at its highest. A tree is an unnatural growth of the seed…and the birds come and eat the sown seed that is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.

The church was never meant to be Notre Dame.

I’ll resist a libertarian urge to denounce the actual construction of the building. Although the exact amount is unknown—one study predicted $280,000,000 in adjusted cost—it took nearly 200 years to complete, starting in 1160.

During this same period, the average European could barely survive. Famine, disease, rampant illiteracy, and dire economic prospects were the norm. Amid this squalor, the church constructed no less than 1400 Gothic cathedrals in the Paris Basin alone, an estimated 21% of the GDP…on cathedrals.

Ignore this though, the poor stewardship of God’s resources.

In Notre Dame, we see the culmination of process, the rendering of the faith into a procedure. This is what men do, slander the grace of the Lord Jesus in such a manner.

Notre Dame represents the unattainability of the faith for the commoner, the purported denial of grace but by the hand of the church as administered by the hierarchy.

Deny common men the word of God. Speak only Latin as the average man could never understand Scripture anyway. Restrict them to grace via the sacraments, administered exclusively by the church of course. Confuse them with rites and rituals, deemed necessary by a superior authority. Leverage grief for deceased loved ones in generating revenue. Leverage guilt for base lusts and sell indulgences, generating further revenue.

Build more cathedrals. Simple.

Effective.

Lucrative.

I find it highly appropriate that 700 years later, Napoleon Bonaparte chose Notre Dame as the sight for his coronation, validating the sacralistic blend of church and government.

Today, European cathedrals sit as white-washed tombs, beautiful and ornate on the outside, dead and decaying on the inside. The European church wilts under secularism, postmodernism, progressivism and several other -isms I’ve forgotten to mention. The cathedral is the tombstone for a dying European church.

Also highly appropriate—nearly 20 million pilgrims (tourists) visit Notre Dame each year. With not so subtle irony, tourism supplanted church business in generating revenue, a reality for countless other European churches and cathedrals. Hundreds of others are rubbled each year due to lack of interest.

Lest you think the west or even Protestantism is immune to such institutionalization, have you taken a look at the western church lately and the gaping fissure.

Many of the traditional denominations cling to Romanesque rites and rituals, immersing the attender in processes and confirmations and other extra-biblical proceedings. For others, the Walmart effect is in full force. Build it bigger and better with a great coffee shop, awesome children and youth programs, and entertaining worship services.

The evidence that it’s not working…is that it’s not working. Each subsequent American generation is more unchurched than the previous. Generation Z will supplant the Millennials as the most unchurched American generation in history.

Veneration of the Worthless

“What about the crown of thorns!?” someone pleaded.

     Huh?

Institutionalization generates wealth; idolatry is a by-product.

The church pushes the worship of numerous competing things to include, but not limited to, Mary, men (saints, sigh), relics, tradition, and celebrity pastors (ouch).

Notre Dame housed the famed crown of thorns. Gifted to Louis IX, King of France, in 1238, it found its home in Notre Dame following the French Revolution in 1801. A twisted circlet of Juncus balticus rushes, the crown is protected and contained by a special glass tube.

On the first Friday of each month, they wheel it out for a special veneration mass, as well as each Friday during Lent. There you can wait in line to kneel and kiss the thorns in reverence, well, the glass tube around the thorns anyway, after an attending official has dutifully wiped the glass with a sanitizing napkin. Piety is no excuse for bacterial recklessness.

In case you weren’t paying attention, this is the actual crown of thorns that Roman soldiers fashioned and smashed unceremoniously onto the head of Christ, mocking Him as the King of the Jews. Hmmm.

Erasmus once quipped that there were enough pieces of the crown around, all demanding veneration, that they could fill a merchant ship. That’s quite a crown.

Thank God a French chaplain saved it from the fire.

We ought to use it as kindling to restart the fire.

Veneration is characterized by reverence. The Bible is quite clear in that we worship or venerate one thing and one thing only, the LORD our God. Angels refuse worship. The Apostles refused worship.

Let us suppose for a second, a brief one, that this actually is the crown of thorns from the head of Christ…so what? It’s a plant, an inanimate object. The Bible gives no basis for the worship or reverence of anything other than God Himself.

As a Christian, indwelt of the Holy Spirit, I have Christ. Period.

I have no need nor mandate to worship another.

“This is holy ground,” argued a priest in speaking of Notre Dame. Really? Says who? What makes it holy?

Is it more holy than the basement house church in China? Is it more holy than the rural assembly in southern Illinois or Liberia? Is it more holy than the living room where a man sits and quietly teaches his sons about Jesus?

One woman even claimed to see Jesus in the flames. Good grief.

Will our desire for veneration outside of Christ ever end?

Response of the Believer

We ought to grieve.

In Notre Dame, we ought to grieve for the institutionalization of the Church. We ought to grieve at the veneration of that which is worthless, the idolatry.

In our grief, we ought to repent. We ought to examine ourselves and see if we ourselves venerate another, if we harbor an idol, if we slander the grace of the risen Lord Jesus with process and ritual.

Let us burn this affront to a holy and righteous God to the ground…

…salt the ground while we’re at it.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford’s third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

FOLLOW THE 413!

Do Good, Go to Hell…the Message of the Modern Western Church

I had a conversation with a man the other day.

This man faithfully attends church every Sunday and has for decades. He participates. He plays in the worship band. He attends Sunday school.

This man could not articulate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“I try to do good,” he offered, “and the longer I’ve attended, the better I’ve been, the better it’s been for me.”

This man works, hard. He helped build a new sanctuary. He delivers meals to shut-in members. He stocks the food pantry. Whenever a helping hand is needed, he is there. He gives, generously. He went on a mission trip to Haiti.

“Do you know the Lord Jesus,” I asked.

“You know, I don’t think that I do,” he admitted.

Another man confessed to me, “I just want to do what’s right and teach my kids to do what’s right.” The idea that all sin condemns equally was foreign to him, total depravity a strange concept. Interestingly, his pastor agreed, telling him, “no one is as good as they think or as bad as they think.”

I sometimes wonder if some pastors ever actually read the Bible.

These statements, these thought patterns, epitomize the theology of much of the western church, a theology firmly rooted in the pride of men.

New Pride/Old Pride

We’ve institutionalized works and concealed it beneath a veneer of ritual, draping it with religiosity and Jesus-language. It’s nothing new.

When Constantine co-opted the church and blended it with the government, he doomed the institution to millennia of impotence. The theology of works, the religion of the Pharisees, proliferated giving rise to such perversions as infused righteousness, the elevation of church tradition, and the cursed doctrine of papal infallibility.

The Reformers rightly fought against this false gospel. Ironically, many of the faith traditions spawned by the Reformation did not fall too far from the Roman tree.

I grew up in one of these traditions. I attended church regularly. I was a moral and upstanding citizen. As a teenager, I attended a series of classes and through the process of Confirmation, was declared a member in good standing of the church.

I did.

Ticket punched.

I’d have split the gates of hell wide open. I had no idea who the Lord Jesus was and more urgently, He didn’t know me.

I lived enslaved to my sin for another two decades.

Hollow Message

“Do Good” is a meaningless message.

What’s the point of religion?

To make you a good person, one who does good things. The average American would unfortunately agree with this sentiment.

“Do good”, is a hollow message, worthless and empty. It does not resonate or inspire. A thousand secular organizations echo this same sentiment. A thousand secular institutions urge their people to do exactly this. Atheists picked up on it asserting that you can, “Be good without God.” And indeed, you can, depending upon what you mean.

Doing “good” does not require God.

“Do good,” is a message that does not save.

“Do good,” is a message of damnation.

It’s not the Gospel, not even close. It’s the antithesis of the Gospel. It’s a false gospel that Jesus came to destroy. He reserved his harshest condemnation for those who do exactly this, seek to earn the favor of God by their religious works and good deeds.

And it’s the message of the modern, western church.

Hollow Church

How could a man sit under the preaching of a series of ministers, sit under the ministry of the same church for years on end, and not know the Gospel message? I could understand if he had not yet been saved, but had he never even heard it?

We lament the fall of the church from prominence in the west. The church long-ago ceded its place of authority. It’s been neutered, rendered obsolete and irrelevant to the life of the vast majority of Americans.

The American church is a caricature.

The American church is not surprising.

How could a church that institutionalized and proliferates numerous false gospels—prosperity gospel, liberation theology, the white empowerment gospel, and here, the gospel of works—how could such a church accomplish all that God intends for her? It cannot. It never will.

It’s filled with people who are not saved, people bound for eternal conscious torment in hell, people who believe in a false Jesus, who put their trust in a false gospel.

I was there. I don’t recall ever hearing the Gospel of the risen Lord Jesus. I’ll acknowledge that in the blindness of my sin, the hardness of my heart, it is possible that they preached the message and that I had no ears to ear. It’s possible.

But you’d think that over the course of say 10 years, something would’ve stuck.

I’ll caveat that it’s not always cut-and-dried. I’m sure in many of these churches, Christ is preached. It’s just buried beneath layers of tradition and ritual, rites and processes. And men cling to process because process frees me from the discomfort that the Gospel inevitably yields.

The Gospel offends, it’s the most offensive message ever, and if I can avoid it by yielding to rights-of-passage and rituals masquerading as the real thing, then so be it.

I’m sure I can find a church that’ll allow me this.

An Angry Message

I was angry. I called this man’s pastor in frustration.

I wanted to know if he was preaching the Gospel. I wanted to know if his church preached Christ and Him crucified. I wanted to know if the false gospel of works was taught in his church. I didn’t ask any of these things.

Instead, I expressed my concern for this man, that he was a nominal believer. The pastor agreed to check on him specifically and ask him some questions concerning eternity. As his church numbered over 2,000—don’t get me started—he obviously had no way of knowing the eternal status of all of his congregants.

Sadness replaced anger.

How many of the 2,000 were in a similar condition? As the vast majority of Americans profess Christianity and the vast majority of Americans likewise do not exhibit even the most basic fruit of salvation like say…sporadic church attendance, the problem is evident.

We’ve filled our church pews with false converts and I can think of few things more tragic. Imagine the horror of many on that day…

“I did things. I helped at church. I attended pretty regularly. I donated some money…I went to class. I was confirmed into the church. I’m a good person. They said I was good to go!”

“Depart from me, I never knew you,” the tragic words of our Lord and Savior.

The Message…no, not that one

The Gospel confronted me. It shocked me.

January of 2005, I walked into a friends church and heard the Gospel for the very first time.

The things that this preacher said stunned me, astonished truly. This man preached the Gospel in all of its power, with all of its authority, with all of its teeth. He held nothing back. I’d never heard anything like it.

For the very first time, I was confronted with my sin and the worthlessness of my own self-righteousness. For the very first time, I understood that I deserved nothing of my own merit other than condemnation in a place called Hell. For the very first time, I heard that my works, my baptism, my morality, would all fall woefully short in justifying me before a holy and righteous God.

And then, I heard about Jesus, the Savior and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

I heard the message that told me, I didn’t need a priest, I didn’t need a ritual or even a church. All that was required of me was repentance, to confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and to believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead.

After several weeks of resisting the grace offered, I crumbled.

I went forward, found a little old man, and fell to my knees with him and prayed, “Lord, I am a sinner, save me.”

If you’ve never been saved, never surrendered your life to Christ in willing submission and acknowledgement of your own helplessness, would you do that today? Forsake your works, forsake your righteousness. They won’t save you…but I know one who will.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford’s third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

FOLLOW THE 413!

The Evisceration of Casual Christianity

The world is winning its war upon the American church.

What Happened?

American Christendom wanes daily as the church falls from prominence, fading into the landscape of obscurity, receding from relevance.

Very few consider the church a factor in their lives. For most, church is a place to go on occasion, something to do periodically to satiate our innate legalism. We ought to be doing something, so we’ll attend a random church service.

Or, church has become a place to go and feel better about yourself. Church is but one of a vast litany of self-help programs to enable you to rise above your circumstances, to achieve and obtain, or just restore your self-esteem your sense of identity, whatever that means.

And Jesus is a great teacher, gentle and kind, certainly non-threatening. He would never make demands upon anyone as he just loves everybody. We can literally choose our own Jesus this day. I guarantee I can find a church that preaches whatever version of Jesus with which I am most comfortable.

And stemming from this incomplete and varied knowledge of the risen Lord Jesus stems an obvious byproduct—a casual and timid church.

Casual or Reverent

I loathe the modern casual approach to Jesus, to church.

The casual attitude permeates every aspect of church from worship to evangelism to the various ministries of the church. My son just returned from the Southern Baptist MFuge camp and I guarantee there were kids there sporting ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ shirts. Before worship service, the students actually formed a conga line.

“Jesus is my friend,” is a popular refrain.

America is beset by a casual view of Jesus.

Irreverence pervades.

Why wouldn’t we be when we can pick and choose the aspects of Jesus we wish to acknowledge or consider legitimate? As we focus on kind Jesus, on loving Jesus, on friendly Jesus holding a lamb, surrounded by children, with a perpetually gentle smile gracing his countenance, we miss the very thing that would drive our reverence, our awe, our fear!

Scripture paints a slightly different vision of Jesus.

According to the Psalmist, God will speak to the nations in his wrath, he will terrify them in his fury saying, “As for me, I have set my King [Jesus] on Zion.” (Psalm 2:5) The Father will declare to the Son that the nations are His heritage, the ends of the earth His possession, and He “shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (v. 9)

The New Testament quotes Psalm 110 more than any other Old Testament verse as God the Father says to Jesus, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” (v.1) Of Jesus, the Psalmist declares that “he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgement among the nations, filling them with corpses.” (v.5-6)

Paul tells us that the name of Jesus has been highly exalted and is the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-10) Every knee, even the knee of those who do not acknowledge Him, will bow at the mention of His name, either in submission or under the rod of His wrath, in judgement.

Does this sound like the Jesus you learned about in Vacation Bible School?

A complete understanding of the person of Christ will drive one thing, reverence.

John, standing before the glorified Christ, fell to his face as if dead. (Revelation 1) We ought to respond similarly. Confronted by the fullness of Christ, his mercy and love coupled with his wrath and justice, we are driven to our knees in awe and fear. 

Jesus demands reverence.

One may not trifle with He to whom everything has already been given.

Bold or Timid

A church worshipping this faux Jesus reeks of timidity.

Concession testifies to this.

The timid church makes concession after concession to the world, often in the form of denying sin, in an attempt to satiate the demands of the world. The desire of the timid church is friendship with that which by definition is antithetical to the Gospel. The world hates Jesus, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most offensive thing that there is. How could the world ever befriend that which speaks death to it?

The options are truth or concession.

This is why we see large groups within the church, even entire denominations, conceding to the world things up to and even including the essentials of the faith, things that if you do not believe them you may not rightfully call yourself a Christian. This is where we get female ‘reverends’ issuing public blessings upon abortion clinics. This is where churches ordain openly homosexual ‘clergy’. This is where we get churches that ‘welcome’ and ‘affirm’ and refuse to preach the Gospel in all of its power and authority, with all of its teeth.

This is where we get the pitiable Jesus, the pleading Jesus.

This generates weak evangelism.

Jesus is a gentlemen, standing at the door to your heart, gently knocking. He’d never force himself on you. You have to open the door and invite him into your heart. He’s just pleading for you, yearning for you.

Excrement.

Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who will one day return in power and authority and He will set all things right. Jesus is the owner of all things, not some things, but all things, including my heart.

I am here to testify that I never once sought Jesus. I never once searched for Him. I never once invited Him into my heart. He kicked in the door to my heart with all the fierce authority of the Lord on high and He said, “You are mine!”

“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” the very words of Jesus. (Luke 13:5) Repent, surrender, submit to me, or you will die, I will kill you, ultimately. Again, is this the Jesus you learned about in Sunday school?

Our evangelism ought to sound similar. Repent or perish. Repent and believe. This world is under the judgement of God. There’s not much time! Turn to Jesus in faith, submit, surrender. Jesus is your only hope.

Urging people to invite Jesus into their hearts just isn’t working.

Closing

The world is winning its war against the American church…
…and I’m okay with that.

In a strange way, I welcome it. The decline of American Christendom has only served to reveal that which was hidden beneath our cultural Christianity, the uncomfortable fact that many people in the church were never actually of Christ in the first place.

Now, the façade is over, the pretenses demolished.

With no culturally beneficial reason to claim Christianity, the chaff is blowing itself away revealing a purified church, a church that may be reverent and bold…just as God intended it to be.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

FOLLOW THE 413!

C’mon Church, Quit Playing Checkers While the Enemy Plays Chess

In October 2005, Coalition forces in Iraq captured a letter from Al Qaeda’s #2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri to their Iraqi affiliate leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (AMZ) detailing their plan for defeating America in Iraq.

The letter revealed AQ’s strategic view of the conflict. That they refer to their enemy as Crusaders and Zionists should have been a cue. For them, this is a generational conflict necessitating a long-term strategy. While American commanders were busy trying to minimize casualties and just make it through their year-long deployment, AQ leaders were looking to the future, globally.

They were playing chess…for an evil and doomed ideology, but chess nonetheless.

We were playing checkers, much like the Church today.

Checkers

As the newest pastor in the local association, I was privileged to attend a luncheon with the other pastors. These pious men of God truly love Him and desire to see His will accomplished. At the luncheon, they invited a high-level leader of our denomination to address us and he spoke about…tracts.

His church had developed a new tract around a great Bible verse and you could get them by the truckload and give them to your congregants and exhort them to get out there and hand them out and tell people about Jesus.

Last year, our state grew by 60,000 people but there were only 20,000 baptisms. We are losing ground and have been for years. Only 5% of believers actively share their faith. What if we could exhort 10% to share, maybe we’d get 40,000 baptisms! Yet, every year the church loses ground and every year we invent a new campaign to “get people out there”.

Insanity has been defined as doing the exact same thing and expecting different results.

This is checkers.

The Enemy plays chess.

More Checkers

Southern Baptists—I cannot speak for other denominations—have mastered the art of demanding as little as possible of our congregants while still giving them a sense of having done their duty, perhaps out of fear that they may leave and attend somewhere else, where less will be expected of them.

Handing out tracts, engaging strangers is good, as a part of a broader construct. I have a friend who is gifted and excited about street evangelism and personally, when I participate with him, my faith and wits are sharpened. Christ is proclaimed; seeds are planted. The Kingdom moves forward.

Yet, we should ask more of God’s people.

Seeking out a stranger to tell about Jesus is one of the safest things a believer can do. There is literally no risk. You will never see this person again. Whatever happens in the encounter, it is likely that they will NOT plug into a local church and become a disciple.

Yet, we exhort the believer to “get out there”. We establish pre-planned corporate opportunities. I don’t even have to do anything, just show up to the booth and that’s it. We even add trinkets and props to make the process as easy and painless as possible.

At the cost of time and a bit of discomfort, the Christian can be well affirmed that he has done his part. If he has enough zeal, we’ll tell others that he’s “on fire for Jesus” or perhaps label him a “soul-winner” and after a few hours, he can return home satisfied. By itself, this costs us very little.

This is easy!

This is checkers.

We ought to always be prepared to offer a reason for the hope that is in us, to anyone, be it a friend or a stranger. (1 Peter 3:15) I find scant biblical precedent for seeking strangers in the manner of the contemporary American church as a central strategy.

The greatest indicator is that it’s not working! The American church continues to slide into mediocrity. The teenagers from the mission trip go right back to smoking weed with their hands down one another’s pants and the man you gave the tract to has forgotten all about you as he returns to the harsh existence of his reality.

Chess

While we tarry, the Enemy busily destroys the American family, effectively segregating children from the most effective evangelist, a loving and engaged father.

Way more shocking than the lack of baptisms is the lack of male engagement and presence in the home. For those homes with a father present, he is almost assuredly not the spiritual leader of the home and is likely too busy and/or uninterested in becoming one. The widespread feminization of the church is symptomatic of disengaged men.

Men currently abdicate their responsibility in almost every area of life: the leadership of the home, the leadership of the church, the defense of the nation.

The epidemic of fatherless homes epitomizes this abdication and apart from the engagement of a loving and godly father, everything tells us that the children will likely not become of the faith. Satan does everything he can to leverage this outcome, employing the weight of the world, the deception of the Church, and the lust of the flesh against the man and the family unit.

The enemy is playing chess.

More Chess

I see very little of American Christianity in the Bible. The biblical precedent is:

– Send missionaries/plant churches (The NAMB has a great campaign for this)
– Send money
– Disciple children

As Paul took the Gospel to the Gentiles, he planted churches and installed elders and then went back and checked on them. Yes, he did public preaching and evangelized strangers, but always under the auspices of accomplishing the above and it was always “as he went”. I can’t find where Paul intentionally sought complete strangers to spend a few minutes telling them about Jesus with no deeper intentions.

Oh yeah, they took up a collection and sent money to struggling brothers.

God’s very first command to the couple, “be fruitful and multiply”, reveals God’s primary method for evangelizing the earth—making disciples of our children. We exhort believers to get out their and win strangers to Christ when we ought to spend the bulk of our time exhorting them to make disciples of children, theirs and others.

Consider the efficacy of our current strategy. Pastors do cheetah flips to get a few men to hand out tracts to a neighbor or come to an evangelism event. Yet, we cannot get men to consistently engage their families as the spiritual leaders of their homes, to make disciples of their children.

And as you make disciples of your children, consider the thousands upon thousands of fatherless children, who will likely never know about or know Christ apart from the intervention of a man to say, “I’ll be your father. I’ll teach you about Christ.”

Our state has literally thousands of children available for immediate adoption and each year our nations graduates tens of thousands of children from the system who have never been adopted. These young men and women all struggle greatly with addiction, incarceration, homelessness, pregnancy out of wedlock, and most of them don’t know and will never know Christ!

Chess not Checkers

We ought to send missionaries to plant churches. We ought to send them money. We ought to disciple our children and exhort men to seek the fatherless to make disciples of them as well.

The difference between these things and what we do now is that these things come with a cost, be it time, money, and really, standard of living.

Yet, imagine the power. The Gospel exploded across the Roman empire in a few short years, not with a cheap faith that costs nothing. Imagine the power of a Church mobilized, done playing at faith, willing to actually pay a cost to further Kingdom, maybe by something as simple as opening up a home for a fatherless child.

Imagine the power of a Church done playing checkers.

The Enemy quivers at such a thought.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

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