I love alien invasion movies. You know, the ones where super-advanced extraterrestrials attack from outer space, defeat our trained militaries, and just when they think they have humanity on the ropes, civilians beat their plowshares into spears, so to speak, band together and overthrow the invaders? Okay, maybe there aren't a lot of movies just like that, but if there were I'm sure I would love them. In fact, after I'm done with this article I may just consider writing a script… But, I digress. Back to the point. The reason this plot would appeal to me is because I believe the church could learn a lesson or two from it. How so? Hang with me, and I'll explain.
So we don't have little green men running around as enemies, but every time I walk down my city's sidewalks I remember that we surely are in the middle of a battle – a fight between kingdoms; the Kingdom of God, and the kingdom of darkness. We know who is going to win: God. We know his method for winning: the Church. But what we don't know is how many souls can be wrestled out of darkness and into the light in the process (and how many of those souls can live lives of fullness as Christ intends). This is the question that keeps me up at night – especially when I see evidence that the Kingdom of God is losing ground in places like Detroit, where there are 300,000 fewer churchgoers than there were 25 years ago. Or Jakarta, Indonesia, where the city will grow by 8 million over two decades, while only 2 million newcomers will hear of Christ. To me, this is unacceptable. Jesus describes the Gospel as a seed capable of producing exponential fruit to the tune of up to a hundred fold! So why isn't the Kingdom expanding faster? Why is this kind of growth so elusive? I know there are many factors that play into this, and no answer alone suffices to explain the phenomenon. However, I would like to address one issue that, if rectified, would position the church much better for unleashing the phenomenal power latent in the Gospel.
Numbers 32:27 says: "Every man armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the LORD, just as our lord says." In God's plan for the conquest of the Promised land, every man yielded the sword, every person had a part to play. Significantly, they didn't delegate the responsibility of fighting to a few professional warriors. Rather, the people of God were "universally activated". Each person assumed an essential role. There was widespread ownership of the vision. The entire community was deeply motivated, fully-committed, and wholly vested in the enterprise. Everyone's life (and death) was on the line. If we could somehow quantify the sum of the Israelites' energy and passionate commitment to the goal, the total would be astronomical. And this (plus of course, an essential dosage of God's mighty power) enabled the Promised Land to be successfully conquered. A similar situation was true for the mending of Jerusalem's wall during the time of Nehemiah: "Have every man and his helper … serve us as guards by night and workmen by day." (Neh. 4:22). Again, the burden of rebuilding (and protecting) the wall was shouldered by the entire community.
Now, back to the 21st century. Why do we as modern Christians bear so little resemblance to conquering Israelites, or wall-mending Jerusalemites? Our ministries and churches are staffed by a small army of pastors and missionaries – the "professional" builders of the church. But the vast majority of us Christians, have shirked our roles. We've relegated and delegated, dropping the sword and the trowel in the meantime. It's no wonder our cities aren't being conquered for God's Kingdom, hardly anyone is fighting anymore.
The power inherent in the Gospel is that God can use it to transform lives through every believer – not just the ones with titles. It's time the Church became universally activated. It's time we saw the Kingdom of God explode as an army of believers shoulder the responsibility together. It's time we unleashed the ministry potential of each believer (and thereby of the gospel) by following Paul's teaching, that we live "contending as one man for the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27). The outcome? A Church positioned to conquer promised lands, rebuild walls, defeat the Kingdom of darkness… maybe even fend off an alien invasion!