Ministry and witness
In 1983, the University of Houston had one of the greatest basketball teams of all time. Their coach was Guy V. Lewis. They were the PHI SLAMA JAMA! Maybe you remember them. No one could stop them. They ran, ran and ran! They scored at will. They easily made it to the National finals. Their opponent was North Carolina State, coached by their legendary and late coach Jim Valvano. They were a good ball club, but in this man’s opinion, they were not in the same league.
But something happened on the way to the final buzzer. Houston ran out to a comfortable lead and then in the second half, their coach went to a four-corner stall offense and relied on defense and running out the clock. I was not believing my eyes. This allowed North Carolina State to play their style ball and it completely threw Houston out of their rhythm. And at the buzzer, NC State won.
So, why are we addressing a 38-year-old basketball game? Just this. They were a potent offensive machine, that at the most critical point, became defensive. And that is how I see the Church in America today. We should be impacting the culture with aggressive ministry and witness, but we seem to be on the defensive. The gospel message is being watered down in many denominations, afraid to call out blatant sinfulness, and offer the remedy; Jesus, him crucified, risen, and ascended.
Jesus said to Peter; “and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16.18). Prevail is not only the strength to fight; it’s also the strength to win. A good translation would be to overcome. It’s a military term.
The Church’s testimony is you are the Christ, the Son of the living God;
the Church’s foundation is upon this rock I will build my church;
the Church’s assurance is the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and, finally,
the Church’s authority is I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Does any of this sound defensive? We are in an eternal war for the hearts and souls of mankind. Above is our battle plan for victory. It’s assured. What I think has happened is similar to the Israelites. They were in bondage, God heard their cry, authorized Moses and then Joshua to lead them to their Promised Land. God warned them not to forget his great works and blessings, for if they did, it would bring great suffering, even destruction. They did, and he did! I believe we have been blessed by God in incredible ways, and like them, we have turned away from our true worship of him and started worshipping our blessings.
On the offensive
We are way too busy building our own kingdoms while God’s kingdom is secondary. You have to look no further than in Haggai. The returning people were to build the Temple, but soon they were more interested in building their houses. God asked them why they were building their own paneled homes rather than building his house. He declared a drought, and eventually, they repented, and under Zerubbabel, the Temple was built.
Jesus came and for his entire life here on earth, he was on the offensive. He feared no one, no government mandates, Satan, nothing. He has called us to ‘go and make disciples’. To feed the hungry, care for the widows and orphans, the poor and needy, and while you’re doing all that, preach the gospel to the lost, in season and out of season. “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”. (I Jn. 4.4) Church, get on the offensive!! Fear God, not man!