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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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