Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Christian Warrior: Mission & Strategy

Re: The Christian warrior must understand the King's broader mission and strategy in order to contribute to ultimate victory.

Before you look to the future, sometimes it helps you gain perspective if you look back. Thus, to better understand and apply the mission and strategy set down in Scripture to the world situation today, perhaps it would help to look at a monumental failure to accomplish that mission as seen in world history.

The early North African Church of the fifth century (Period of Augustine) had become a bastion of the faith. Seminaries flourished – the greatest teachers and apologists coming from there. The whole society had become generally Christian, but had adopted dualistic theology in its last century. The problem was that Manichaean (dualistic) philosophy had infected the church. This form of mysticism taught that the world is evil. Anything physical only hampers the Christian life. Thus, spirituality is determined by what one does not have. Furthermore, premillennialism, familiar bedfellow with mysticism, had convinced the Christian world that Christ would remove them from carnal encumbrances. He did, but not the way their theology anticipated. 

A false prophet, Mohammed, came down from the mountain with a monistic world view and totally eradicated Christianity in that area. The pacifistic, pietistic church was no match. Did God bless this view of spirituality No. The church has never regained that area of the world. Today, it is still the toughest mission field. Perhaps that is because missions generally have the same theology as the early North African Church. (James Jordan, "The Church as a Shadow Government" in The Tactics of Christian Resistance, Christianity & Civilization #3)

The Church in North Africa had neglected the implications of Christ's command to disciple the nations and to teach them to obey His every command. (Matthew 28:19-20) Moreover, they had neglected the strategy He had laid down in His teaching.

Look, for example, at two of our Lord's parables:

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:31-33)

The first parable expresses the breadth of the Kingdom of God. From a small and seemingly insignificant beginning, it grows to dominate the field -- the earth -- in which it stands.

The second parable teaches that the rule of the kingdom is not something imposed on society from outside. It involves a transformation of the social fabric from the inside out. This means not only winning souls, but also placing converts into Christian communities where they can function in a Biblically oriented alternative to the surrounding culture.

Now, I'm not referring to some schlock-y, evangelical, smile-Jesus-loves-you ghetto that apes the prevailing culture. I'm talking about a city set on a hill that shows new Christians (and the world) how God intends for His people to function in communion and community.

This strategy entails a commitment to display the glory of God through institutional and cultural expressions that conform to His Word. I believe that Christ's Great Commission requires that we thoughtfully structure our community of faith as laboratories of the Spirit such that any observer can see what Christianity looks like when applied to marriage and family, education, business, architecture, self defense (and you knew I would get there, didn't you?) or any other social expression that you can think of.

The Church in the U.S. has made some piecemeal efforts in some of these areas -- notably in Christian schools, home education and family nurture -- but it has lacked the vision of community life in a comprehensively Biblical context. To be faithful to the fullness of the Great Commission, churches must think of worship services, Bible classes and prayer meetings as the hub rather than the whole of Christian community.

When communities of believers accept the mission that the King has laid upon them, they will see that the answer to the ever growing tyranny of Washington lies neither in political action nor in armed revolt. It lies, rather, in a faithful demonstration of the way things ought to be done -- God's way (Deuteronomy 30:16).

James Jordan, in the essay quoted above, has referred to this function of the Church community as a shadow government.

When one sphere like the state collapses, the church is left to fill the gap. She cannot, however, take the place of the state and pick up the sword. Like a Christian wife married to a rebellious husband, the church must bring the civil sphere to obedience by proper activity in its own category. The best description of this role is shadow government. A shadow government is understood as representing the true government, acting and waiting in the shadows for the present system to fall. When it does, the shadow government becomes the ruling government, or appoints another to take proper rule.

Jordan makes it plain that he's not advocating that ecclesiocracy (political rule by church) displace civil authority. He simply means what Jesus said: that it's the Church's job to show nations how to govern themselves under the rule of Christ.

As the institutional structures of society -- including but not limited to civil government -- become moribund and begin to collapse under the weight of their humanistic presuppositions, the King intends for His people to be waiting in the wings with alternative solutions that follow His principles (i.e., that really work).

The Banyan Tree

Earlier I referred to the parables of the mustard seed and of the leaven in the dough. It occurs to me that had His listeners know of the banyan tree, Jesus might have combined the two parables into one.

The Kingdom of God is like a banyan tree.

The banyan tree, which grows in India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia, is a variety of fig with a distinctive growth pattern. Birds eat the figs of the banyan, and when they relieve themselves, some of the seeds lodge in crevices of other kinds of trees, which become the hosts.

The seeds germinate and send down roots towards the ground, and may envelop part of the host tree or building structure with their roots . . . .

Older banyan trees are characterized by their Aerial prop roots that grow into thick woody trunks which, with age, can become indistinguishable from the main trunk. Old trees can spread out laterally using these prop roots to cover a wide area. (Wikipedia)

You see, the banyan tree grows parallel, alternative structures to the host tree and eventually displaces it altogether. This precisely depicts God's kingdom as we see it portrayed in the teachings of Christ.

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