Some people want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell; but I want to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell. The first time I read this statement from C.T. Studd I knew it would be the mission statement for my life.
I have always resonated with the fact that God has not called his church to a life of relative ease and comfort; I believe God has called his family, the church, to be a dangerous, violent, and vicious force that assaults the gates of hell for the salvation of lost souls.
Matthew 16:18 says that Jesus will build his “church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”The gates of hell are meant to look like the doors of a fort that’s been made out of a cardboard box when the force of the church is brought against it.
Matthew 11:12 says that “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”
The kingdom of heaven, here on earth, was meant to be a dangerous and violent place where the forces of hell are continuously fought and defeated by the power of the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus until his return in glory and final triumph.
2 Corinthians 10:3 – 5 says that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
These lives we have been given were not meant to sit on the beach or in the church pew in comfort. Our lives, as soon as we surrender to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, are meant to be like those who have enlisted in the military and are immediately sent off to war with the forces of hell.
In this war, our weapons are made up of the very power of the living God who defeated Satan, Sin, and Death with three nails, two pieces of wood, and one empty grave that will become many empty graves at the final resurrection when the resurrected saints join their Captain in a final battle against the forces of evil. Our battlefield is the battlefield of the mind and the heart.
Ephesians 6:12 says that “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Therefore, we are called in Ephesians 6:10 – 11 to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
If we are going to heed this call to stand toe to toe with Satan and all the forces of hell, we will need some kind of indestructible armor; some kind of spiritual weaponry that we can count on when the war against Satan, Sin, and Death gets bloody. This war that you and I signed up for, the day we surrendered to Jesus, was not meant to be fought with squirt guns.
This is why God says in Ephesians 6:13 – 18, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”
This armor that is available to us is absolutely indestructible. With this armor, you and I can stand against the horrors of hell and actually become a force to be reckoned with. Every piece of the armor we have available to us is made up of the person and work of the crucified, risen, and returning Christ.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; he is the embodiment of the belt of truth. Jesus is our breastplate of righteousness; he is our perfection when we fail in sin. Jesus is the center of the gospel which brings true and eternal peace between us and our Father in heaven; we are no longer God’s enemies; we are God’s family. Jesus is the author and the perfecter of our faith; he created and continues to perfect the shield of faith that we use to defend ourselves against the accusations and lies of Satan, Sin, and Death.
Jesus is our helmet of salvation because he purchased our salvation in his victory at the cross and the empty tomb. Jesus is the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us; it his very presence that we use like a two-edged sword by the power of the Holy Spirit to cut down the lies of Satan, Sin, and Death. When we pray, we pray in unity with Jesus as his Spirit enables us, because he is the one who prays for us in the throne room of heaven. Our armor is more than adequate for the war we get to fight.
So, when I say that I believe that the church was not meant for comfort because it was meant for war, I think there is more than enough biblical context to support that belief. This is why I laid hold of our mission statement years ago. This is why I believe that we are not called to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell. This is why I believe that we are called to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell. I believe this because it’s the image I see in Scripture.
It’s the image I see when Jesus sat with the woman at the well in John 4. I believe that every part of Jesus’ mission and ministry here on earth was spent within a yard of hell. From his conversation with a wealthy young man (Matt. 19:16 – 30), to his conversation with a tax collector (Lk. 19:1 – 10), to his many conflicts with religious snotheads (Lk. 20:1 – 8), to his unlawful arrest, brutal crucifixion, victorious resurrection, and hope-filled promise of Heaven (Lk. 22 – 24), Jesus was always running a rescue mission within a yard of hell.
But there’s a practical question for us: “What does it look like to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell?” This can’t just be Pastor Joe’s mission statement. My hope is that I would persuade you to make it your life’s mission statement. And if you are going to make it your mission statement then there must be some practical ways to tangibly get after it; to enter the warzone and to get on mission making it a living hell for the forces of hell to do what they want to do.
So, how do we do this? How do we run a rescue mission within a yard of hell together like a well-trained, heavily armed, fully committed band of brothers and sisters? Do you have to be a biker to do this? Do you have to have tattoos and a beard to do this? Do you have to have a seminary degree to do this? Do you have to have a crazy salvation story to do this?
Of course, the answer is no! There are people living within a yard of hell in every one of our lives. Every day at the grocery store, at the workplace, at the gym, at the gas station, at the library, in our school halls, in our hospitals, in our mental health departments, in our fields and our coops, in our city offices, in every business throughout our city, there are people living within a yard of hell.
And the great thing is that this old biker with tattoos and piercings and a beard ain’t going to reach them. You are going to reach them! But how do you do it? How do you run a rescue mission within a yard of hell? The answer can be captured in four words: Sharing, Planting, Training, and Multiplying.
Every disciple who was ever made and will ever be made must go through the process of coming alive from the dead or being born again (Eph. 2:1 – 10; John 3; Rom. 10: 8 – 17). And then once a new disciple is brought to life or born again, he or she must become rooted in a local church for ongoing encouragement and spiritual growth (Acts 2:42 – 47; 4:32 – 37). And as a new disciple grows spiritually, he or she needs to be trained to lead as a servant foot-washer (1 Timothy 4:6 – 16). And then finally, a new disciple must be made into a missionary who starts the process all over again with other lost people within a yard of hell (Matt. 28:18 – 20; Col. 1:24 – 29).
This is the process of moving someone from being dead in their sins to becoming a reproducing disciple of Jesus. There is a process of growth for every one of us that is much like the process of growth that happens in a person’s physical life from the point of birth to the point of being a fully functioning, contributing adult in society.
There’s a baby phase, an adolescent phase, a teen/young adult phase, and a full-grown adult/parent/grandparent phase. Spiritually speaking, we capture these phases with those four words: Sharing, Planting, Training, and Multiplying. Think about these four words with me for a few minutes…
#1: WE RUN A RESCUE MISSION BY SHARING THE GOSPEL
Romans 10:9 – 15 says that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”
The reality here is that you are either someone who needs to hear the gospel and surrender to Jesus for salvation, or you are someone who has believed and has been saved and is now being sent with a message of salvation for those who have yet to believe and be saved and be sent.
Which one are you today? If you have not yet surrendered to Jesus, I would plead with you not to wait another moment because that sinful lifestyle may seem hot to you, but hell is hotter, and it lasts longer than the sin that has you wrapped up in its strangle hold. If you have surrendered to Jesus, then you get the privilege of sharing the gospel with people you know who are living within a yard of hell.
This can be a really challenging and scary thing to do and the fear or uncertainty of sharing the gospel can cause you to tap out. But if this, is you, I wouldn’t wait a second longer. If you have surrendered to Jesus and are not sharing the gospel, our elders would love to teach you how to do this. We will be offering some training very soon on how to personally share the gospel with your lost friends. I encourage you to participate in that training and start running a rescue mission by sharing the gospel!
#2: WE RUN A RESCUE MISSION BY PLANTING DISCIPLES
Acts 2:42 – 47 says that all the new baby believers that responded to the gospel through the preaching of the apostles “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
There is no such thing as the rugged individualism and personal autonomy that has so infected the western religious landscape. Biblical salvation does not produce people who hop around from church to church looking for the latest fad or the most entertaining or ear tickling preachers and it certainly doesn’t produce grumpy believers who leave every time there’s a conflict.
Biblical salvation produces disciples who get planted and rooted in a local church so that they can grow personally and help others grow too. These kinds of biblical disciples make it a priority to gather regularly with other believers for preaching, teaching, prayer, fellowship, worship, baptism, celebrating the Lord’s supper, giving generously, and proclaiming the gospel. It’s the model we see all over the book of Acts and then throughout the New Testament.
If you haven’t taken the leap into a serving role, a community group, a women’s or men’s Bible study, or if your Sunday gatherings are inconsistent, you going to stall out in your spiritual growth and people who could be brought into the kingdom of God by you will not be brought in by you. How can you bring them into a place you only frequent when it’s convenient for you?
You are either a planted disciple who is helping other disciples get planted or you are a baby disciple with no roots who has yet to grow up and begin helping other disciples grow some roots too. Harsh as that sounds, it is what it is! We run a rescue mission by becoming planted disciples who labor hard to help other disciples get planted.
#3: WE RUN A RESCUE MISSION BY TRAINING LEADERS
2 Timothy 2:1 – 2 says “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” New believers can be won by sharing the gospel. Baby believers can be matured when they get planted into the ministry of a local church. But spiritual growth doesn’t stop there.
Though sadly, most people in the western church don’t get beyond the baby phase; it is said that eighty percent of the time, talent, and treasure it takes for a church to minister is done by twenty percent of the people who call that church their home. Can you imagine if eighty percent got on board with the mission?
What is needed to get beyond the baby believer phase is to become a servant leader who takes responsibility for the spiritual care and growth of another young believer. This is why the passage I just read encourages young Timothy, Paul’s young, son-like disciple in the faith, to find other faithful men and to train them to be servant leaders as they all rely on the grace of God for the strength needed to lead.
At the end of the day, we were not created to be consumers in the church; we were created to be contributors. We are called to give our time, talent, and treasure to the mission of rescuing the lost within a yard of hell and then getting them rooted and then training them to lead from a servant’s heart.
We have multiple areas of service that people can commit to. Our hope is not to use people to get ministry done but to use ministry to get people done. We absolutely love identifying spiritual gifts, personality mixes, temperament makeup, and helping with areas of character growth. All of that is important to ensuring the right fit for servant leadership ministry throughout the church. But nothing beats a person who decides to jump into the game saying “Send me, I will go! Let me serve somewhere so I can be part of someone else’s spiritual journey!”
This is why we say that the next phase of our mission is training leaders. We want everyone in this church to be actively engaged in ministering to one another’s spiritual needs. We want everyone here to be responsible for their own leadership journey and to be responsible for helping someone else with their spiritual growth. We run a rescue mission within a yard of hell by sharing the gospel, planting disciples, and training leaders. And lastly, we want to multiply missionaries.
#4: WE RUN A RESCUE MISSION BY MULTIPLYING MISSIONARIES
The reality here is that nearly every passage of scripture I’ve referenced today has a multiplication factor built into it. Everything Jesus said to his disciples was intended to help them become missionaries. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 instructs us to make more disciples who will make more disciples. The book of Acts is a description of how the original disciples made disciples who made more disciples. Every true disciple sees himself or herself as a missionary to every person they meet.
And the outcome or the result of true discipleship is that more disciples begin to see themselves as missionaries and they begin multiplying into more missionaries. Discipleship is not about gaining more and more head knowledge. Discipleship is about becoming a missionary who makes more missionaries.
This is why I believe the apostle Paul says that it is Christ whom “we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:28 – 29). I don’t believe for a minute that the apostle Paul thought that Christian maturity looked like a bunch of Christians with fat heads full of biblical knowledge who don’t reproduce themselves in others while warming up the church pews every Sunday.
I really believe that when Paul says that he labored with every ounce of energy God gave him to make mature believers, that he had multiplication of missionaries in his mind. To be a missionary is to see yourself as someone who has first been saved by the message of the gospel and is now sent with that same message to see others ransomed from the edge of hell. I think that’s the image of Christian maturity. My hope is that everyone who calls The Well their church home would become missionaries who share the gospel, plant disciples, train leaders, and multiply into more missionaries.
In conclusion, I want to remind us that while some people want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell… I believe God would have us run a rescue mission within a yard of hell. I believe the church was meant to be a dangerous, violent, vicious force to be reckoned with at the gates of hell.
I believe that the gates of hell shudder every time we share the gospel, plant a disciple, train a leader and multiply a missionary.
My hope is that many of you would join the rest of us in this room who are beating down the cardboard box doors of hell as we share the gospel, plant disciples, train leaders, and multiply missionaries. Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).