The Church is Offensive
As the Christian Church, we are called by Jesus himself to be on the offensive. According to Matthew 16:18, the gates of hell will not prevail against us. It is not the powers of hell that are storming the front doors of the church, rather, it is the power of the Kingdom of God manifest in the Church that is storming the gates of Hell!
If that is so, why do I so frequently feel beaten down and on the defensive?
A quick look around the North American spiritual landscape reveals that the Christian Church in this part of the world is rapidly shrinking and aging. We live in a culture that is increasingly out of sync with Judeo-Christian values, which have been at the center of western civilization for millenia. On an individual level, our particular pains, illnesses, sins, and failures frequently remind us that life is hard and faith is weak. It’s easy to feel bruised, beaten down, and on the defensive. But there is a deeper reality still.
I’ve been musing on the particulars from Matthew 16 in which Jesus asks his disciples what other people are saying about him. They replied, “Some folks say that you are John the Baptist (dead) or Elijah (dead) or Jeremiah (dead) or one of the other prophets…" Their response would have caused Jesus (very much alive) to raise at least one eyebrow.
Jesus then asked for the disciples’ personal opinion about his identity. They had seen, heard, and walked with him for years at this point. Impetuous, imperfect Peter blurts out the Gospel truth for the very first time, “You are the Christ! The Son of the Living God!”
Jesus takes this moment to affirm Peter and to affirm his words. Jesus calls out Peter’s testimony for what it is: the foundational faith conviction—that is, the rock— on which his church will be built. The recognition of who Jesus is and a relationship with him is the rock on which the church is built.
I sheepishly admit that I’ve spent most of my life envisioning the gates of Hell attacking the church. But Jesus says it’s the other way around. The church is like a mighty boulder perched on the side of a mountain. The gates of Hell are the target. When the rock gets rolling there is no way that anything will stand in the way of its powerful momentum.
I’m grateful that we were able to begin 2019 with an awesome season of Explore God. We’ve had seven weeks around Chicagoland to address big questions and invite friends and neighbors into spiritual conversations. But this offensive behavior is not intended for a brief season in the church year; it’s meant to be part of the permanent offensive playbook for the church.
The rock is going to crush the gates that currently stand against the Gospel. In the meantime, Jesus asks us to be part of the forward momentum. Are you in?!?