Tuesday Pastor Focus
Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells
But I want to run a mission a yard from the gate of hell
And with everyone you meet, take them the gospel and share it well
Look around you as you hesitate, another soul just fell
Let’s run to the battle
Steve Camp, Run to the Battle
I love that song. To hear a good online rendition try this youtube video only please don’t take the intro and the visuals too seriously. Someone got over-enthusiastic with the “battle” imagery, in my opinion. Close your eyes and think of it instead in terms of the spiritual battle we’re engaged in, which is conflict enough.
Within the Sound of Chapel Bells?
The opening lines aren’t Steve Camp’s. They came originally from C.T. Studd (1860-1931), a champion rugby player who gave his life as a missionary in Africa. ‘
It is a stirring call. But it’s dated. I don’t think anyone could or would say that today. The times were already turning when Camp wrote this song about thirty years ago (I’m working from memory there, since I can’t find the exact date). There was a time when “within the sound of chapel bells” seemed safe from the gate of hell, but they were beginning to come to an end even then. Now they’re long gone.
I doubt that feeling of “chapel” safety was ever real. Every church in every city has always been a missions post. Yes, there is something unique about cross-cultural missions, where the missionary leaves the familiar behind, and takes the good news of Christ to previously unreached peoples. This is the ministry by which the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) will be fulfilled.
Every Church Is a Mission Outpost
There was a period of time, though, when the church thought crossing cultures with the gospel meant going “over there.” And it seems that because of that, we forgot what it meant to reach out to others unlike ourselves back at home. We built our churches (their architecture and organizations) for people who were comfortable in churches. We did our best to get people to come to where we were comfortable. We produced our programs, played our sports, had our Vacation Bible Schools, saw some fruit from it all, and thanked God for what he was doing if one person came to Christ — as well we should have done.
We thought “within the sound of chapel bells” meant we could reach our neighbors with “chapel” ministries, and we did reach a few. We lost many, though; and I think it’s largely because we forgot we were still just a yard from the gate of hell. We forgot to think like missionaries.
Thinking Missiologically Everywhere
Missionaries know that when they travel to a new culture they have to learn the local language, and they have to speak the gospel in that language. They know they must learn the local culture, and “incarnate” (live out) the gospel in a manner that is true to the timeless reality of the gospel, while also connected with the culture where they are. This is Missions 101.
No one is a missionary who is not a student of local culture and language. No one is a missionary who is not discovering the principal local objections to Christianity, and discerning how best to answer them. No one is a missionary who is not, in addition, learning how to answer those questions in terms that the local people can make sense of.
C.T. Studd traveled thousands of perilous miles to plant the gospel flag “a yard from the gate of hell.” God is still calling people to travel thousands of miles for the same reason. But your church is just a yard from the gate of hell right where it is. Run to the battle? You’re in it! j
Thinking Missiologically In Your Neighborhood
“With everyone you meet, take them the gospel and share it well.” That’s good advice. What then does “share it well” mean where you are?
What questions are your neighbors asking? Do you know? What are their principal objections? Do they have intellectual issues? Or do they need to see the good news lived out more clearly before them? Is “everyone you meet” ready to hear the whole how-to-receive-Christ gospel message, or do they need to see its authentic reality on another level first? The answer to that will differ from person to person. Do you know what to do for each person or each neighbordhood around you? Are these not standard missionary questions?
Run to the Battle: Yet With Wisdom
“Run to the battle.” I love that song. Maybe there should have been another verse in it, though. It has to do with recognizing that “chapel bells” don’t mean everyone around you is “chapel-ready.” I won’t try to make it rhyme or scan; I’ll just give you the sense of it. Equip yourself for the battle. Study the battle. Fight the real battle: not the one that your predecessors fought thirty years ago, answering questions from thirty years ago, but the one that matters to your neighbors today.
Camp says, “look around you as you hesitate, another soul just fell.” I’m here to tell you that taking time to for equipping, study, and preparation are not “hesitating.” I don’t think Steve Camp would say they were, either. I think he’d say they were expressions of wisdom in action.
And I think that’s what the Lord would say, too, which is what really matters.