The news for churches coming out of 2020 is not particularly rosy. Consider exhibits A and B:
- The Barna Group predicts that one in five churches will not survive the next 18 months. Read about it here
- The National Association of Evangelicals’ survey of churches found that 34% of churches reported a decline in giving by 10-20% or more; 22% reported a decline of 30-50% or more; and 9% reported a drop in 75% or more. Read about it Here.
Less people. Less Money. Such news has caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Will the church survive? What will we do? Is all of heaven in a panic?
Hardly! Let me remind you of Jesus’ words to Peter concerning the church: I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)
Those words typically produce this conclusion: Hell won’t overcome the church. Hell can throw at us the vile and terrible things in its arsenal, but it won’t work. The 2020 list of taxing arrows include: pandemic, partisan politics, racism, sexual misconduct by Christian leaders, societal unrest, and carnality among other things. But as the thinking goes, we might get beaten up and smacked around but by the skin of our teeth, we’ll make it because we are protected by the super shield of Jesus and Hell won’t overcome us. Whew!
Is that what Jesus meant? We are in a war. The enemy is strong and on the attack. We might get beaten up, but we win in the end.
Confession: My knowledge of military strategy can fit in a thimble. It comes mostly via TV or movies. But here’s what I recollect or maybe, better stated, what I don’t recollect from my limited history channel and war movie experiences: Never have I heard a general (neither real nor fictional) when facing an enemy say, “Bring out the gates, men! We are going on the attack. Roll in the gates.”
When facing a menacing foe, military strategists call for tanks, bombers, and missiles– offensive weapons. Gates are defensive barriers. According to Jesus, Hell has gates not the church.
Jesus is not saying the church is playing DEFENSE against the onslaught of the Devil. In fact, it is just the opposite. Hell is on the defense. Hell’s gates are to be stormed by the church! The gates of hell can’t hold off the onslaught of the church of Jesus Christ! We are to reclaim those who are on the highway to hell (pardon the AC/DC reference). At our best, we are rescuing the perishing and caring for the dying.
WE ARE THE CHURCH built not by human hands lest anyone should boast, but by Jesus Christ! Before, during and after the pandemic—we are still the Church of Jesus Christ and we are here for the world. My fellow believers—no need to gnash teeth or shed tears of worries. Instead, let’s storm the gates. Take on the injustices, sin and the troubles of this old world. WE ARE THE CHURCH! What can stop the might of Jesus and His bride? Certainly, not the rusty gates of hell! WE ARE THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST! Let’s be about the Savior’s business!