What do you know about war? How much do you know about hand to hand combat? Have you ever been around covert warfare? How about things like espionage, extortion, blackmail or the insidious, multifaceted killer known generically as chemical weapons?
Is “warfare” a “concept” or a reality to you? When you see or hear references to the “armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10ff), is your mind’s eye seeing a children’s Sunday school illustration, complete with the coloring book cut outs of paper replicas… Or, by contrast, do you envision a bloodied, battle-wearied, well-worn, armament, complete with the fiery arrows of the Enemy snuffed out but still stuck in the enormous shield that protects the life-sized warrior that, even now, stands, in the ready-position before you?
Friends, I am a decorated veteran of the United States Army, a recycled businessman with over 10 years of corporate experience within 2 global, Fortune 100 companies (and 1 small software firm). I have been a church planting missionary, and today, am the Lead Pastor of the church that God used our family to plant. I say all that to say this… I have been classically trained and exposed to world class warfare. I know warfare from the military perspective, the large corporate boardroom perspective, and the small upstart business perspective, where I saw the savagery that a survival-mode can generate within an otherwise socially polished people.
None of what I saw “in the world,” when it comes to warfare, can compare to what I have learned and experienced since coming into missional ministry. Nothing.
As a pastor friend put it (when we were still at Southern Seminary and I was in my 3-year season of preparation), “Jeff, you’ve come from a world that fights with axes… into a world of spiritual warfare, where your adversaries (within church life) tend to fight with scalpels.” My friend was in the process of being running out of the mega-church that he pastured… by a board of wolves who were disguised as Elders.
I have also seen spiritual warfare’s devastating affects from the trenches up… Even as I type, I can’t escape the imagery of my friend Eddie and his recent battles. You see, Eddie and I shared space together on God’s mantle of grace. Eddie’s eternal life began about 8 weeks ago… His transformation was amongst the most God-honoring, infectious and awe-inspiring that I have seen in my 9+ years at THE BRIDGE. Three Sunday’s ago our church celebrated Eddie’s new life in Christ with his baptism at the end of service… Then… three nights later, Eddie gave in to a friend’s tempting invitation to do what they used to do “one last time.” Sadly, and as a testimony to the seriousness of spiritual warfare, those words: “one last time” proved to be prophetic. Eddie died 3 days after I baptized him. One Sunday I baptized him, seven days later I presided over his funeral.
Spiritual warfare is real! (1 Peter 5:8) The stakes are higher than most people realize and far too many professing Christians are ill prepared for the fight. We need to live in (and lead the people we love to live in) the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10ff).