THE CHURCH MILITANT
By Randy Nabors
FIT TO FIGHT
It kind of amused me when I realized that the Army wanted me to be as healthy as possible before they sent me to war. The Army didn’t want me to go to war if I was sick, had bad teeth, or any kind of injury. I had to be healthy and fit or else they wouldn’t send me. At any given moment, in the Army, there are thousands of soldiers who are “non-deployable. These are troops that cannot be mobilized because they have something wrong with them. They might have bad teeth, been hurt in training, contracted a disease or virus. Their eyes, ears, and feet might not be working well, whatever, and if so they will not be sent to war.
In other words the Army wanted me to be in perfect health so I might possibly be blown to bits on the first day I arrived in a war zone. This seemed counter intuitive to me. They could send just anybody if all they needed was cannon fodder, but that is not what they want. No, they wanted me to be agile, hostile, and lethal- a lean, mean, fighting machine. The reason for this kind of thinking is that the U.S. Army doesn’t exist to fight wars, it exists to win wars. Their concept of warfare was not to prepare us to die for our country, but to help the enemy die for his.
The U.S. Army has a long and proud tradition of military medicine. The U.S. Army has some great hospitals, lots of clinics, and thousands of highly trained medical personnel. Yet, hospitals are not why the Army exists. It does not exist for medical research or new therapies and medicines, though it has helped to create such things. All of those things exist to help soldiers get well and get back to combat; to find, fix, and finish the enemy.
Christian theology and thought has a concept called The Church Militant and The Church Triumphant. The Church Militant is the Christian Church here on earth that fights against the world, sin, and the Devil. The Church Triumphant is the Christian Church in glory, in heaven, for all the saints whose rest is won.
The battles of the church are not those of flesh and blood warfare. These military terms are merely allegorical; metaphors for the spiritual war of the Church. Our weapons are not carnal (fleshly or earthly) but mighty—spiritually mighty. We don’t kill Jews or Muslims, and Protestants don’t kill Catholics, no matter what has happened in history as an aberration on what the Church is supposed to be. Our weapons are love, mercy, and peace. Our captain is the Lamb of God who gave his life for the world.
OUR CHURCHES ARE ABOUT RECONCILIATION AND MERCY
In the New City Network we seek to start new churches among the poor, bringing together different ethnic groups into a reconciled community. Reconciliation is a miraculous work of God to bring peace between God and man, which happened at the cross of Christ. Jesus also brought about the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles through his blood. This means every ethnic group that has ever had hatred for another can find peace through Christ.
RACIAL RECONCILIATION IS NOT OUR MAIN AGENDA
We do not seek to plant cross-cultural churches so we can continually work out reconciliation by sorting out our issues. Jesus will eventually settle disputes between nations, and the nations will be healed in the New City, as both the book of Isaiah and Revelation teach us. This work does go on right now in our churches, and it is not only valuable healing work, it is invaluable. It must go on as injury, pain, and hurt must be addressed in terms of our history of racism and oppression. It is inescapable that this kind of healing reconciliation must continually go on in our congregations.
Yet, this is not why churches exist, as in the same way the Army doesn’t exist so we can have hospitals. They are necessary, but that is not the mission of the force. Healing wounds is necessary, but we are healed in Jesus and made fit to fight to pursue His will upon the earth. We plant cross-cultural churches among the poor but not to be all about ourselves, or all about our afflictions, or all about the things any of us have endured from our own sins or the sin of others against us. We plant such churches because we are at war, and we do not simply intend to win it, we know that in Christ it will be won! The gates of hell shall not prevail against his church!
WE INTEND TO DISCIPLE THE NATIONS
We plant these churches because we intend to disciple the nations. We intend not simply to show acts of mercy, but to help people find ultimate mercy in Christ. We plant these churches not simply to talk about reconciliation, justice, and social righteousness but to send the saints out to win others to Christ. Churches must have the passion to see people born again, converted, come to faith, and saved. The Army of the Lord must grow, more must be recruited, more must be trained, and more must be healed in order to be sent into the fight.
NOT EVERY SAINT IS IMMEDIATELY DEPLOYABLE
If our churches are healthy not only do they act as spiritual hospitals, where the wounded may recover, but they are launching pads of offensive spiritual warfare. We understand not every saint is immediately deployable or is able to be mobilized just because a preacher tells them to get out of Bible study and go do something. However, if our churches are healthy they not only preach the Gospel in a building but they go out with the Gospel, and as they call people to faith they live out the love and truth of Christ while the saints do good works among men.
It is probably impossible to have a healthy cross-cultural church if we do not speak the truth in love to each other about injustice About how Jesus can help us be healed from it and how we ought to deal with it. That is what we do in the church as we stimulate each other to love and good works. However, our hope and ambition must be to move toward the fight, to move against the enemy who has blinded the eyes of those that believe not. We must pray for the conversion even of the abusers, the oppressors, the vicious, the racists, and the haters. We recognize systemic evil as those rulers of darkness in high places that permeate all kinds of human systems and behaviors. We wrestle against those kind of spiritual principalities, and in doing so we must speak truth to power and against sin.
GO MAKE DISCIPLES!
If we create churches where we exist only for ourselves, where we keep trying to straighten out all the wrinkles and blemishes that we see in each other and in the institution, always trying to perfect our and everybody else’s theology– but have stopped seeing people come to Christ, stopped hearing salvation testimonies, and no longer see baptisms of the converted; then we have forgotten we are in a war. We have forgotten how to fight, and we have forgotten what it takes to win. Go make disciples, go evangelize, go call people to Christ!