Genesis 22:17 “Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies.”
I have heard this passage used numbers of times, especially in conferences like the one I am attending now. It generally is used with tones of triumphalism, somewhat removed from the nitty gritty of normal church life. Marc Estes has not used this passage, but last night he said something that relates strongly to this. He said, “You will never get the city into the church until you get the church into the city.” That struck me, both for its simplicity and its truth. God does intend for us to express His victory in this world. If that were not the case, Jesus would not have told us to pray for God’s kingdom to come. The thing is, you can never have victory without going into battle. In spiritual warfare we have the “air campaign,” with focused prayer and intercession. That is indeed essential. However, we also have the “ground campaign.” You can’t take territory without “boots on the ground.” That’s what Marc is talking about. We can’t expect people to walk into our churches asking to be led to Christ! That sometimes happens, and it is glorious, but it is certainly rare. This isn’t talking about door-to-door evangelism necessarily, though that can have its place at times. Such things sometimes have the effect of turning people off to the church. Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly don’t have a very good reputation among most people! However, church members need to be consciously present in society as Christ’s representatives. If your neighbor, coworker, or classmate doesn’t know you are a Christian, they won’t turn to you when some circumstance in their life opens their heart, and you will have missed an opportunity. Paul tells us to “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) We have to be present to recognize the opportunities we are given. We have to be in the fight to take the gates of our enemy. We can claim, “the gates of Hades will not overcome us,” (Matthew 16:18) but we can’t conquer without being there.
Last night as I was hearing this message I was thinking along the lines of having to go to coffee houses and such, which has never been my lifestyle. That isn’t necessarily the case, though it wouldn’t be a bad idea. The thing is, I need to set the example for my flock of consciously being present in society. I am widely known in the city, but I’m not necessarily conscious about it. Japanese are very private people, and so less likely than Americans to open up about felt needs to even their close friends. However, if I’m not “within reach,” so to speak, they won’t turn to me regardless of the level of their need. As I am reminded fairly frequently, the fact that I am Caucasian makes it all the less likely that a Japanese would open up to me, but at the very least I need to set the example for the flock so that they will be available to those who are close to them. Lecturing them isn’t the way to go! I am to be active in seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance as to how to apply the things He’s speaking to me in these days.
Father, thank You for the opportunity to come here and be challenged like this. May I not slough this off after I get back and return to “business as usual,” but remember and apply all You are saying to me, so that I and the church may be transformed as You intend, for the salvation of many and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!