By Chris Moore, Vista Grande Baptist Church
My daughter played soccer when she was younger. I know very little about soccer, but no one else was stepping up to coach. I found myself in this role that involves more childcare than coaching. At the first practice I figured it would be good to teach the basics, which is all I knew. I asked if anyone could explain offense. One of the kids raised her hand and said, “it’s when we try to score.” I then asked if someone could explain defense. Another player enthusiastically said, “that’s when we let the other team score.” I had a perfect teaching opportunity to explain that defense is when we try to prevent the other team from scoring. I am not a soccer expert, but I know that!
Playing defense is important in almost every sport, but we often get more excited about high scoring offenses. However, if you score many points but can’t defend, your team will lose. Just ask the football teams from the Big 12 Conference! Interestingly, Christian ministry involves both playing offense and defense. Just like in sports, we often get more excited and talk more about the offensive aspects. The Bible certainly emphasizes our call to go on offense and make an impact. But we are equally called to prioritize defense. In both his letters to Timothy, Paul urges him to guard the deposit entrusted to him (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14).
Jesus warns us there will be people who will say, “did we not … do many mighty works in your name?” He will reply, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt 7:22-23). In other words, there is a real category of actual people who will think they have scored, but they will come to realize they have not. If we get to the end zone but don’t retain the ball, we lose!
I want to be a part of a church that is willing to take great risks for the gospel and advance the gospel in as many ways as we can to as many people as we can. I also want to be a part of a church that is equally passionate about making sure we have guarded and contended for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Christian ministry is about faithfully transmitting the message that has been handed down to us. Our task is not to “clean it up” so that a new generation will more readily receive it. We will be held accountable if we sit idly and do nothing. But we will also be held accountable if, in our attempt to do something, we fumble. One of the keys for advancing the faith is to guard it.
Guarding the gospel begins with faithful preaching. One of the primary roles of the pastor is to explain regularly what the gospel is and what the gospel is not. I think this is most effective when the pastor shows how the good news organically flows from the text. I try to avoid “tacking on” on the gospel to the end of a sermon. I look to find ways a text naturally leads us to see our desperate need and His gracious provision through Christ and the cross. If a pastor is not regularly coming back to the themes of sin and salvation, he is not advancing or defending the faith.
I want to score so much the opposing team gives up! I want to score in so many ways the only possible explanation is a supernatural work of God. I believe the only way this happens is when we become passionate about guarding the gospel entrusted to us even as we seek to advance this great news.