Deep into the Iraqi War, the generals on the ground made a recommendation to President Bush. They believed that a “surge” of troops would produce the final blow to terrorist and Taliban opposition, thus winning the war and allowing the ultimate drawdown of American and allied forces. They believed a failure to provide the troops for a surge would prolong the war indefinitely and result in far more casualties. There was great debate, and the naysayers were very loud. Despite opposition, the President ordered the troop surge.
Today Iraq is closer to freedom and peace than ever before. The surge has been a great success. Many on the list of targeted terrorist leaders have been captured or killed. The number of American troops has begun to diminish, and the Iraqis are taking more and more responsibility for their own government and protection of freedom. The surge was a success—so much so, that President Obama is seeking to attempt the same tactic in Afghanistan.
When I think about the vast lostness across our state, nation and world, my heart is drawn to the countless “ground troops” sitting on the pews in our churches every week. Prepared for battle by years of Bible preaching, seminars and mission emphases, this fighting force must be deployed to invade enemy territory. All around them and beyond, those caught in the snare of the master terrorist desperately await the superior army of freedom to engage in the battle for their souls and provide a way for freedom and hope.
Will the army of the King of kings sit in the safety of the “army base,” or will they move to the battlefield? For me, this is the question most pressing upon the followers of Christ called Southern Baptists. Resurgence will come only when the troops surge forward onto the battlefield. What will it take to motivate the best trained spiritual army in Christian history to move from the safety of the base to the battlefield of the souls of men? The command has been given by the Commander in Chief. He has said, “Go into all the world.” It is time to move.
Simple answers are often overlooked and more frequently rejected. Forgive me, but I am going to risk offering a few simple points for the army on the pews to consider.
First, repentance for our lack of engagement is a good starting place. For too long we have poured energy and resources into providing for those already enlisted. We have failed to understand our reason for existence. Christ saved us and called us to Himself so that we might bear fruit, more fruit and much fruit to the glory of the Father. While evangelism and missions are not the only fruit of our relationship with the Commander in Chief, it is a primary outcome.
Second, spiritual surrender and empowerment by the Holy Spirit are the only motivators for foot soldiers in His army. Surrender to the Holy Spirit and willingness to walk in obedience are of supreme importance. Training, even biblical training, will not substitute for obedience. It is clear from Scripture that a surrendered believer walking in the fullness of the Spirit is a witnessing believer and a mighty force on the battlefield. Worship, tithing or service to the church cannot replace engaging the lost world with the Gospel.
Third, prayer that is focused on the battlefield will motivate us to go. Much of our prayer life is focused on “us four and no more.” It is a litany of requests for the well-being of our family members and their needs. Can you imagine the impact if believers would expand and focus prayer on their lost town, city, nation and peoples of the world? What if we took seriously the command of Jesus to pray for laborers to be thrust into the harvest field? Do you think the Father would answer that request? What if each family focused its prayers on a people group or regularly prayed for unreached peoples, asking the Father to send believers to bear witness of the Savior? Do you not believe He would do so? I am convinced He would call us and our children to be a part of the army that would “surge” toward these great mission fields.
Fourth, it is time we all re-examine our engagement on the battlefield. David Platt, in his new book Radical, calls for followers of Christ to take a year and commit to engaging people in another context. This may mean helping an inner-city church with ministry, volunteering at a homeless shelter, becoming a volunteer chaplain at the nearby jail or prison, helping an ethnic church do a Vacation Bible School or participating in a mission trip across the country or overseas. The opportunities are beyond calculation.
It is well past time for a troop surge into the battlefields of the world. The Army of God has sat long enough on the pews of our base camp. The battle is out there—not in here. Resurgence demands a surge of ground troops, not just rearrangement at headquarters. The command has come from the General. Move! Now! Engage! Empowered by the Holy Spirit and equipped with the liberating Gospel of Jesus, the army must take its place on the battlefield and fight for the freedom of those bound by the enemy. Forward—march!
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.