Don’t Mention the War!

The Cunard ship the Queen Mary was a floating palace when it started to carry the exceedingly rich across the north Atlantic before the second world war. It was fitted out in the most opulent and sumptuous manner, with the finest materials that money could buy, with staterooms that were fit for a King. Then came World War Two and all resources had to be turned over to the war effort. The luxurious cruise liner was commandeered and converted into a troop carrier. Out went all the opulence, bunks replacing palatial beds in the staterooms, as the ship designed for just over 2,000 very rich and famous passengers was converted to carry over 15,000 troops.

When a nation is at war all resources are turned over to the war effort, if you want to win that is! For example, in Britain, the peacetime army was massively increased to a wartime size by conscription. There was no choice, apart from really exceptional cases every man was required to leave his peacetime life and join the fighting forces.

Factories were turned over to producing munitions, car factories to producing tanks, the Rolls Royce plants to the production of Spitfire engines and so on. All available land, including sometimes bowling greens, tennis courts, even the strips alongside airport runways, were utilised for the growing of food, largely to replace that lost by the sinking of ships carrying food across the north Atlantic. In terms of labour, housewives were brought in to work in factories to replace the men away fighting.

In short, the nation was at war and all of life was reorganized and disrupted in order to maximise the war effort, there were to be no passengers.

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The Bible makes it very clear that the church, the body of Christ is at war. In Ephesians 6:10-18 Paul exhorts us to equip ourselves with the clothing and equipment of a soldier, for we are at war with spiritual powers (vv. 11,12). We have an enemy, the Dragon (Satan) who is making war against the ‘saints’, the (spiritual) offspring of Christ (Revelation 12:17) that is why Timothy (and so we) is urged to wage the “good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18).

However, in the church it seems to have become a case of ‘Don’t Mention the War!’, for while the church is indeed engaged in a cosmic war, and in Australia losing badly; attend most church services and you would never know! In general, the church, while intellectually acknowledging that Christians are at war (in sermons, Bible studies etc.), seems to believe it can fight the war with something like a ’peacetime army’ with everybody staying safe and comfortable at home, even as the statistics consistently show we are losing. Tell most church members that when they became a Christian they were conscripted, they themselves and all their resources for the use of the King, their saviour and commander, in order to wage war against the spiritual forces that are currently creating carnage in Australian society.

Garibaldi the famous Italian military leader said to potential recruits-

“I do not offer pay, provisions, housing.
No! I offer hunger, thirst, battles and death.
If you love your country-not just with your lips; follow me.”

Jesus in effect says the same thing to would-be recruits (disciples)-

“I do not offer pay, provisions, housing.
No! I offer hunger, thirst, battles and death.
If you love God-not just with your lips;
‘deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me’.”

Church attenders happily sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” or at more contemporary services “To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain” but anything remotely like fighting, or being prepared to die for Christ seems to be just a quaint silliness, perhaps for fanatics but certainly not for them.

Rather, they get seriously “entangled in the civilian affairs” that the bible warns against (2 Timothy 2:4). These “civilian affairs” are often the same idols that ensnare 21st century secular western society e.g. Family, children, sport, career etc. affairs that drain away resources from the war effort. The “Dead Hand of Apathy” so prevalent among church members towards serious and sacrificial involvement in the spiritual battle that is their God-given mission (see the article elsewhere on this site) means that the war will be lost.

The church is at war in Australia, but to fight the war with the demands and commitment level required of a peacetime army, without the wholehearted turning over of all resources to the battle (mission) will mean that the war is lost no matter how good our missional strategies might be.

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In short, the church is at war and unless there is a significant reorganization of the lives of members in-order to maximise the war effort, and with there being no passengers, the war will be lost. It is because there is virtually no sign of this happening that the need for ‘Another way’ is very so urgent.

This other way is to ‘unbind’ the church from its paralysed, missionally ineffective, battle-losing apathy to anything like denial of self and personal Cross-carrying, and create a new truly missional wartime army.

Such an army, church, will look more like the small church networks established by the Apostles, or the small missional communities of the Celts in northern and western Europe, or the missional movements of the 19th century Chinese missionaries. It needs to be a church the members of which are truly willing to turn their resources over to the war effort, and to be soldiers that actually fight at personal cost for their king and His glory, and for the gospel of Christ Jesus that is the only weapon that can prevail against the ‘spiritual forces of darkness’ that are destroying the land.

Without that, the war in the Australian, western, theatre is lost.

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