Jer. 2:13 π Mt. 28:19 π 1 Cor. 3:1-4 π 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 π Gal. 1:8-9
On June 6, 1944, American troops landed on a beach in Normandy, France, code-named Omaha beach. As the ramps of the landing craft dropped, German machine gun bullets ripped through the ranks leaving most of the men dead immediately. What the machine guns missed, the dreaded 88 millimeter shells often hit. Most of the heavy equipment the Americans were attempting to land was immediately destroyed or had been dropped off too far from shore. Many of the men were also dropped off too far from shore as some of the landing craft skippers were afraid or unable to come in close to the shore.
One of the main reasons that Omaha beach was such carnage for the American troops was the failure of air and naval bombardment to neutralize enemy gun emplacements. The B-17 crews were afraid to drop bombs on their own troops and waited as much as 30 seconds past the point where they should have dropped their load of destructive munitions, thus destroying many acres of French farmland but doing little or no damage to the German emplacements. The naval bombardment of Omaha beach, which was to have been a follow up of the aerial bombardment, hit some targets but also did little or no damage to most of the well-constructed emplacements, some of which still stand today as a monument to the tons of steel and concrete Hitler hoped would keep the Allies off the Continent.
But from the viewpoint of the initial companies coming onto the beach, where most of them would be killed or wounded, it did not take long to realize that everything was FUBAR - Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition. Nothing was going according to plans. Those that managed to find temporary shelter were being decimated by mortar shells. Leaders on the beach, often NCOs, rallied some of the men by saying, "If we're going to die, let's not die here!"
Having recently seen the movie "Saving Private Ryan" that realistically and graphically recreated a portion of the landing on Omaha beach, I am still haunted by the image of machine gun bullets ripping through the men at the very second the landing craft ramp dropped into the water. And yet, had I been a German operating the machine gun, that's the very time I would have wanted to hit them too - long before they could get close enough to toss a hand grenade into my bunker!
I believe the devil has a similar scheme in mind for baby Christians. In reading the story of the man who began the Navigators - a man led by the Lord in his lifetime no matter what the institution he left behind might have become - I saw that he was fixated on one of the key principles of making disciples and that he recognized, even during his time, that the "church" was failing in its duties to the young believers.
Dawson Trotman, a man known for his knowledge of the Word, would often challenge the men he was discipling by saying, "You're not going to park your babes on my doorstep." Trotman told at least one of his disciples, "If you can't do it," (that is, share the gospel and teach spiritual truths), "then I have failed." May Trotman's tribe increase!
Trotman also said, "It really wasn't until about 1940, even though I had been saved since 1926, that I realized that whatever I did, that's what my men would do regardless of how much talking I did. I began to see that the people that I was working with must lead their men and women to the Lord and then follow them up and get them into the Word like I was getting them into the Word. Like begets like!"
Oh, what a powerful statement! Today the majority of people claiming to be a Christian are presented with the example that a strong Christian is someone who can stand up in front of a crowd and tell Bible stories interspersed with entertaining quips and jokes. They never see anyone, like Jesus, wrap a servant's towel around their waist and humbly wash feet. They have never had a mature believer take time out of their busy lives to follow them around and make sure that they got their life with Jesus off on the right foot. Of course, since most "Christians" are part of a mega-"church" where everyone kisses the ring of the "pastor"-pope and swears allegiance to his peculiar doctrines, there are very few mature believers anyway. No one can hope to be spiritually mature while following the doctrines and traditions of men to the exclusion of the living Word of God. ( 1 Cor. 3:1-4; top )
In essence, as soon as this spiritual baby "pops the chute," or as this new recruit watches the ramp being lowered, he is already being shot full of holes by an enemy who has been emplaced for centuries. The ignorance of many well-meaning saints has preserved a grotesque heritage of man- made "church" traditions that do nothing but make the Word of God of no effect in the lives of the people regularly exposed to otherwise great Bible teaching. And while it is true that the ekklesia will survive even in the face of a multitude of hellish "church" traditions, the impersonal mega-"church" of today obliterates almost every true function of the ekklesia and replaces it with some institutional "church" function.
Trotman saw that following up on the spiritual babes was the great need of the church and this conservation of spiritual fruit, following newborn Christians personally, became his consuming desire. He saw it as a weak or missing link in Christian ministry. Trotman, in a message to seminary students, said, "Because there are missing links, do we throw the chain away? No! We're not trying to do that. We're just trying to put those links back in, because they are so important. And a chain is as strong as its weakest link. Follow-up of new Christians is one of the weakest links today in the church, in the Bible schools, and seminaries. I'm not saying they don't teach follow-up; in fact, they are trying to strengthen it. But we do feel that there's one link that's really weak, and that's the one-on-one principle."
In light of the revelation that the institutional "church" is the worst enemy of the body of Christ, Trotman's efforts to restore the weak and missing links is really a tragic misguided effort on his part. But his emphasis on one-on-one discipleship of new believers is extremely right on.
There is another aspect of Trotman's life that brings another view to the problem. When screening missions applicants to be selected as missionaries, Trotman would ask, "Do you know someone today, by name, who is living for Jesus Christ as a result of your ministry of winning and helping him in spiritual matters?" In screening the applicants, he found that the majority were ready to cross an ocean, learn a foreign language and attempt to do something in a strange culture that they had not yet accomplished at home or in their own neighborhoods. At a conference in 1949, Trotman said, "If the gospel will work here at home, it will work out there. It won't work out there until we do it here. The very plan we are given for missionary work often starts wrong. I was taught to deal with strangers, hitchhikers and cold contacts, but I wasn't told how to witness to my family, my neighbors, nor the fellows I worked with at the lumber company." This is because you can present "gospel information" to a stranger but you have to present Christ to those who see how you live. And it remains true that until you can regularly and consistently present Christ with reasonable precision and accuracy to those you are around the most - your spouse, your children, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors - until you can do this, any "Christ" you present to anyone else is going to either be a fraudulent mask or some watered-down pseudo-copy of the real Christ.
The gospel information can be transmitted by radios and computers - but only sold-out humans can live the life of Christ and demonstrate it to others. And unfortunately, this impersonal trend continues unabated as we have the ultimate in the "impersonal gospel." Now you can go to a mega- "church," hear a sermon, convince yourself you're improving your morals and think you've been obedient to God! In some of these abominations, a whole 30 seconds is given for fellowshiping with one another - the time it takes the "pastor" to climb the large number of stairs to get up to his pulpit and spew forth yet another dose of pablum.
Jesus said, "Go and make disciples." ( Mt. 28:19; top ) He did not say, "Go and invite people to sit and listen to your favorite teacher." A different gospel, whether perpetuated by preaching or by practice, is still a different gospel. (see Gal. 1:8-9; top ) Until we can reach our families, friends, neighbors, co- workers and associates with the light of Christ's gospel - and not just get them to come to our "church" - then we are not sufficiently equipped to go anywhere else in the world. It is still much easier to present the gospel on the other side of the world where we, having gone home at the end of our short-term trip, will have no ability or responsibility to stand by that new convert. Whereas if we lead our neighbor, friend, spouse or roommate to a deeper walk with the Lord, we cannot easily escape the costly consequences that might occur in their lives as a result of them committing their life to the Lord.
There is yet another aspect of Trotman's life that bears observing. His primary ministry for a number of years was that of inviting sailors to his home for dinner with he and his wife. He and his wife would personally lead these men to the Lord. Trotman said, "I believe with all my heart that one of the greatest soul-saving stations in the world is the home."
Oh, when will we hear what the Spirit is saying to God's people? We have committed two sins against the Lord: 1) we have forsaken His wells of living water and 2) we have dug for ourselves reservoirs that leak. ( Jer. 2:13; top ) We have neglected the personal, one-on-one, in-home discipling of the newborn and we have erected huge monuments to some man's ego and called that "church."
For those who are determined to live out all that Christ has for His children, we cannot simply embrace a "one-on-one" principle or a "home-church" theology. We must embrace the Person of the living God, the Lord Jesus Christ. But we can be sure that He will indeed lead us to minister one-on- one to a few disciples - and we can be certain He will lead us to abandon the mega-"church" (perhaps not the people within, but certainly the abominable practices) and move into more intimate fellowship within the context of some truly gifted spiritual leader's home. For those who truly embrace a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, an impersonal gospel is not an option.
And meanwhile, the "church" with all its impersonal "ministry" programs - even where performed by true but misguided members of Christ's ekklesia - will still be FUBAR. New recruits will still be machine gunned down and crippled for life as they attempt to come off the landing craft. Very few indeed will reach spiritual maturity once they are taken into an atmosphere where one man is expected to hear from God and relate to his passive listeners what he thinks he hears.
God has said, "'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.' Therefore, 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.' Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." ( 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1; top )
Quotes from The Navigator, by Robert D. Foster, NavPress, 1983.
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