“What’s your monster?”
That’s the question someone asked me recently in a conversation about the vision of our church, The Meeting House. Their point was that, in order to communicate clearly about who we are and why we exist, it’s helpful to also identify what we want to fight, conquer, and slay. What does The Meeting House exist to overcome?
Before I share my response to their question, let me ask you – What are your monsters? What battle do you live to fight? What are the monsters of your church? What should be the monsters of the Church?
Ultimately, we are engaged in a spiritual war against spiritual foes. Satan and his army of dark forces are our ultimate enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18). But I’m thinking beyond that. How does Satan manifest himself in our day-to-day world? What monsters are we fighting against every day online and in person. Here is my response to the question:
“The monsters of The Meeting House are BAD IDEAS about the GOOD NEWS.”
We exist as a church to, among other things, fight against the bad ideas that set themselves up against the gospel of Jesus.
While praying to the Father, Jesus said:
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Knowing God. knowing Jesus. This is life. And if we want people to experience the eternal life that knowing God brings, then we will be opposed to any barriers that get in the way of knowing God.
The apostle Paul wrote:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Our job as a church is to demolish arguments, pretensions, bad ideas that get in the way of people knowing God. We even go after “strongholds” – the Greek word used here means fortified military bases. These strongholds are those schools of thought, sometimes represented by a particular ideology, philosophy, or religion, that act as the source and sustainer of bad ideas. We want to demolish those strongholds, those thoughts and schools of thought, musings and memes that are so popular and powerful that they are like military bases of bad ideas, making it increasingly difficult for people in our culture to hear, understand, and embrace the good news of Jesus.
What are some of these anti-gospel ideas? I’m sure you can think of a few. Here are some that come to my mind. I’ll limit myself to a half-dozen:
- Jesus never existed.
- God is male.
- Jesus is one option among many, all of them teaching basically the same thing.
- Atheism is the antidote for religious violence.
- The Christian God thinks of people primarily as “sinners.”
- Avoiding hell is our primary motivation for preaching and accepting Christ.
I’m sure you could add to this list based on what you come up against in everyday conversations. (Feel free to chime in in the comments.)
Now wait a minute. All this “demolishing strongholds” talk sounds very militaristic and aggressive. How does that fit with the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:21-22 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)? The apostle Paul said this about how Christ-followers should talk to people who disagree with them:
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.
When someone has a conversation with a Christian, they should leave that conversation thinking about how gracious and “tasty” it was. We are never fighting against people, as groups or individuals. We are loving people, interested in people, and wish only the best for all people. But being gracious does not mean agreeing with and affirming everything someone else says, especially if their ideas are harmful or are getting in the way of people knowing God.
All of this means we are, with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:5), going to bring truth to bear wherever we see people are holding onto bad ideas about the good news, or more accurately, when bad ideas about the good news are holding onto them.