I remember a member of my church saying “I just want the church to be a safe place for us to escape liberalism and the pressure from people hostile to my faith.” I totally understand that desire to feel safe - to be protected. Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). It is good that we find rest in Christ and his church, but there’s a danger to reducing the church to a bunker of protection.
In world affairs, protectionism usually refers to an insular reaction against exterior forces militarily or economically - protecting home interests rather than engaging in the broader world. Post-World War I isolationism and protectionism was broken by the bombing of Pearl Harbor - dragging the United States into significant engagement with the broader world in World War II.
Christians can be tempted to withdraw and protect themselves from the world. Some thoughtful academics actually argue that this mindset is the best hope for a thriving Christian community in the future.
Did Jesus send the church into the world to be a bunker? Most of the imagery for the church seems to be the imagery of advancing, not retreating. We gear up with the armor of God like warriors in Ephesians 5. The kingdom advances against the gates of hell in Matthew 16. All ends of earth remember him and worship him in Psalm 22. He smashes the nations with his rule in Psalm 2. Jesus gathers followers from every tribe, tongue, and nation in Revelation 7.
How can we hide in a bunker when our captain and hero, Jesus, is out there advancing? How can we possibly move our church out of the bunker and onto the front lines as ambassadors of Christ? We could try and just tell people to do it. Guilt them into. Set up a program to do. But here's the thing: fear, guilt, and shame aren’t great motivators for an advancing force. Rather, confidence, courage, gratitude and joy are powerful motivators for the army of God.
It’s the hope of the gospel that moves people out of the bunker and into the mission of Jesus. When the gospel moves us past our guilt, shame and fears and into humble, joyful confidence we are free to engage the world around us instead of fearing the world. When we have the joy of the gospel we can hear the arguments, criticisms, and the attacks against the church without getting defensive.
The world is a scary place, but the perfect love of God casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Fear of the world leads to the bunker. Fear of the Lord leads to confident wisdom.
Are you struggling to get out of the bunker? We want to hear about your struggles and share some ways we're seeing churches move from the evangelism plateau to the front line. How are you and your church overcoming fear and remembering the joy of the gospel? Get in touch with Flourish today and share your church’s story. Find us on Facebook and Twitter and let's dig in to the ways Jesus is renewing his church.