What she heard, however – and, of course, every attendee hears a slightly different sermon – was that it’s okay for churches to be as unproductive, inwardly-focused and passive as the stereotypical psychological support group. (‘anybody remember Bob Newhart’s therapy groups?) If that had been what I had meant, her point was well taken.
Before Jesus gave anybody the New Commandment or the Great Commission, He gave His followers what we can justifiably call The Great Prediction of Matthew 16:18 (NIV):
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
I’ve been saying in this forum that Jesus’ words constituted a confident prediction of an aggressive pursuit, with cosmic ramifications. He was declaring that we, His followers, would bring His message of freedom and forgiveness to a lost world. Some who hear would be born again; set free from Satan’s kingdom and made living stones in the ever-expanding kingdom of Christ.
I’ve shared Five Reasons Why We Must Storm The Gates, and in a subsequent post, How We Can Storm The Gates Of Hades: three ways we can make this happen, in our own generation.
1.We can take advantage of the invitation to pray. Prayer is the way we download God’s power from heaven. It is the ministry which results in the empowerment of every other ministry.
2.We can adapt our methods while protecting our message. Changing our methods is necessary as the world changes around us, but changing our theology is both unnecessary and unproductive, as it forfeits the power and blessing of God.
3.We can make and keep it about Jesus. What a relief to know that our good news is not us, it’s not the church, it’s not our music. Our good news is Jesus and He’s just as wonderful as ever.
The following are more ways in which we can effectively storm the gates of hades:
4.We can leave our politics at home. Again, it’s about Jesus. It’s not about politics. Jesus’ kingdom is not to be confused with any kingdom which is “of this world” (John 18:36). Allying our message with any sort of political movement is unnecessary and harmful. Leaving politics out of our churches makes our message as accessible as it should be to lost persons of any and every political persuasion.
5.We can unapologetically promote an all-in lifestyle. Jesus didn’t do the evangelical bait and switch. He didn’t present a cheap grace gospel and then tell people a few months later that they would need to pick up their crosses and follow Him.
When we present a cross-free, cost-free version of the gospel, we are inadvertently telling non-Christians that our gospel is not that profound and our Savior isn’t all that special.
But when we present Christ as someone worthy of our lives, our love and our loyalty, we are presenting Him in all His glory. The all-in lifestyles of the students who led me to Christ helped me to see that their Savior was someone worth taking note of, and, ultimately, giving my life to.
6.We can re-design our churches for action. I’m talking about what we do with our constitutions, by-laws, mission, vision, values, membership philosophy, disciple-making strategies; the skeletal structure of our churches.
Here’s a blunt truth: some of our churches are built for action, while others are designed for discussion.
Here are some blunt questions: When people complete your membership class, are they prepared to do church ministry or are they ready to do church politics? Have they been prepared to serve or to deliberate? Has your church been structured to storm the gates or just to talk about the great “walls and gates” problem?
7.We can joyfully serve our communities. We American Christians have a huge credibility problem on our hands. Lost people have not seen the love which was supposed to be our hallmark (John 13:34,35). We are known for what we are against, not for what we are for. People desperately need to seethe gospel before and after they hear
Fortunately, more and more churches are discovering the joy and value of serving their communities with no strings attached. There are innumerable ways we can demonstrate the love that sent our Savior. Let’s start small if necessary, but let’s not fail to start somewhere.
8.We can keep reminding each other of what and who we are for. As individuals and as institutions, our “default” is to turn from serving others to serving ourselves. This tendency puts every human institution on the road to a gradual death.
Have you been in a K-Mart lately? How about a Ponderosa? How long would the Department of Motor Vehicles last if it had any competition?
Our bottom-line decisions regarding money, time, space, programming etc. must be governed by a commitment to putting lost people first.
Just like the life saving stations in the famous parable, churches just naturally tend to turn from an outward focus on the lost people “out there” to the needs and wants of the members inside the clubhouse.
This is so natural, and deadly, that somebody in every church – and that somebody is usually the senior pastor – needs to constantly remind the church of why it exists. He must keep his hands on the steering wheel and keep returning the church’s course to an outward direction. This is a challenging task, but it is not an impossible one. Churches can stay vital and effective for decades with the right leadership.
9.We can be consumed by the love of Christ. We honor our missionaries for their willingness to change, to adapt themselves, for the sake of reaching non-Christians. They change the place where they live, the way they live, the way they get paid, the vehicles they drive, the way they dress, the way they talk and the way they eat. Don’t miss the opportunity to make examples of your missionaries while honoring them!
We marvel at the Apostle Paul’s willingness to adapt himself for the sake of the lost. In I Corinthians nine he basically said that he’d do anything except sin to reach lost people. In Romans nine he went further, intimating that he would be willing to lose his salvation for the sake of the salvation of his Jewish brethren.
But – even more astonishing – think of the love of Jesus Christ and His willingness to adapt Himself for a lost humanity! He laid aside His glory and left it in heaven. He gave up – our theology books say – the independent use of His divine attributes. Think of the difference between His life in heaven and His life on earth, and that’s not even mentioning his substitutionary suffering and death!
Like the Apostle Paul before us, any and all of us can be consumed by the love of Christ. Letting Him control us brings an overwhelming experience of His love, as in Ephesians 3:14-19. Letting Him control us leads to living lives of love, as in Ephesians 5:2.
Storming the gates of hell is not beyond us because we are not beyond the reach of God’s grace, we are not beyond the touch of God’s love, we are not beyond the help of God’s power.