Servants of God,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”
-Jesus in Matthew 28
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
-Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu in The Art of War
The church of Jesus has been commissioned to disciple the nations. Jesus promised to be with us to the very close of the age—in other words until the job is done. If Christians get distracted from the mission that Jesus gives us, we will lose focus and momentum. The key to fulfilling the great commission is to stay on task. That means we always must have the “end state” in mind. God is pursuing human beings from all nations and He is doing it through His church—the company of the redeemed who are committed to the Master’s plan.
The Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu was a wise man. He knew the difference between tactics and strategy. I am not certain that the American evangelical church does. Americans are captivated with tactics. Therefore, there is no end to “new” and “cutting edge” and “next level” programs, studies and events and very little teaching on repentance, prayer and the daily sacrifice so that the gospel can spread to every nation.
If we do not keep God’s strategic plan in mind, we will not shape our daily lives to achieve God’s desired ends. If we do not understand that disciple making is the tactic that will bring about the goal of obedience to Christ in every nation (think people group) we will not work wisely and with purpose.
Sun Tzu warned that “methods” can be deceptive. They can appear to bring success. A big event or a large number of so-called “decisions” for Christ can be very deceptive. Decisions without discipleship is noise. God intends for the gospel message to go deep into the soul and change the life. Our brothers and sisters in places like North Korea know that disciple making can be very costly. But God’s strategy is clear. Keep pushing. Keep teaching truth. Keep requiring Christ-exalting faith-filled obedience. Keep trusting the supernatural work of the word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
American Christians are often afraid we will offend our lost neighbors who are on a bullet train to hell, if we speak the truth to them. The persecuted believers around the world live with a healthier fear. They fear God. Like the earliest disciples they have decided they must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). They understand that without a life that is set apart for God’s purpose, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Can you imagine a church with no buildings, no bank account, limited trained leadership and limited numbers of Bibles? Well, that fairly-well describes the church around the world that is growing the fastest. Christians in these churches long for Bibles. They long for freedom to meet with other believers and worship the living God. They long for solid, practical biblical teaching. But they do not let the lack of these blessings stop them from making disciples. They speak the word of God to another person. They are rescuing the perishing by calling them to trust Christ and obey him. They tell others that God has a wonderful plan to make the messed-up world a beautiful garden again—in His time and His way. They preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins for those who trust Christ alone for salvation. And they do this under the fear of prison, violence, and death.
The American church—you and I—must regain our sense of God’s strategic plan. And we must tactically employ the tools God gives us. Little is much when God is in it. Of course, we must have tactics. We must understand a meal with a neighbor can be more than just being “nice”; it can be the entry point for compassionate care and joyful truth telling. Teaching, preaching, writing, giving, going when and where we can are tactical. Supporting others who go where we cannot is tactical. Watching God call men and women out of darkness and into the kingdom of the beloved Son allows us to enjoy tactical victories. Knowing that our small part in God’s grand operation keeps tactics and strategy in proper perspective. If our hearts are set aflame with the truth of the Bible, we will not lose sight of the grand goal even while we engage in the smallest of kingdom work.
A blueprint is not a building. It is a strategic plan for a building. To borrow another biblical metaphor, the church of Jesus Christ is a great and beautiful temple (1 Corinthians 6:16-19). God has laid the cornerstone—Jesus (Isaiah 28:16 and 1 Corinthians 3:11). The Apostles and the Prophets were part of that foundation and every Christian is a living stone in the great structure (Ephesians 2:20-22). Every action, prayer, gift that has as its goal the ultimate glory of God is a tactical contribution to the final and glorious strategic victory of God.
Sun Tzu warned that tactics without strategy or strategy without tactics would lead to an undesirable end. Jesus said that he would build his church and that even the gates of hell would give way before his humble and holy army. I hope we can all give prayerful thought to the importance of both godly tactics and a clear biblical strategy for all we do and say (1 Corinthians 10:31).