Sacred Agents #104

The Ungated Community

On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.    – Mt 16:18

Gates are an unusual weapon. For laying siege to Christ’s church, to the City of God, I’m thinking catapults, crossbows and cannons. But gates?

It says something about our culture and current mindset that we quote the verse above to reassure ourselves in the context of feeling threatened. We can feel like Jesus’ kingdom is hanging by a thread, surrounded and vulnerable – in need of robust defence considering the forces aligned against us. Let’s take a moment, a breath and a step back.

It says something about our society – and our witness – that when most people think about heaven, the mental picture they have is of a fenced-off resort guarded by gates (pearly) and a bouncer (Peter). That is the go-to image for cartoonists. But is it so?

Consider the Parable of the Great Banquet – the party, the servants, the invitations, the excuses, the poor, the highways and byways – you know the one. Where are the gates? Where is the bouncer? Where is the security-conscious Host so anxious to keep out the riffraff? Not there at all!  Where are the shame-faced ones who got all the way to the front of the line only to be turned away? Not there either. The shame is borne by the Host when excuses are made. And His desire for the riffraff could not be more emphatic.

So where are the gates? It’s true, heaven does have gates. They’re right there in Revelation 21, described in pearly detail, including the pearly fact that they will never be shut. [Rev 21:25] (Surely, therefore, a better word would be entranceway?)

So where are the gates? Right there where Jesus said: It is hell that has gates, not heaven. And for 2000 years it is Satan’s kingdom, not Christ’s, that has been under siege. When Jesus says that the gates of Hades will not prevail over his church, he means they will not be able to withstand the church, because Jesus is surely saying that those very gates, used to trap prisoners in, will not be able to hold up against the rescuing work of his church that will press in on it in His name, with His power, by His authority and for His glory.

The constant challenge for every sacred agent is to read the world through the lens of Scripture rather than the other way around. In this case it calls us to be more confident, less defensive, and above all, re-delighted at the thoroughgoing goodness of our King and the true nobility of his mission.

What is there for us to fear or be ashamed of? There are so many captives still to find freedom, and so many outsiders to discover they are deeply wanted and sincerely invited.

In a recent survey of hundreds of Australian Baptist churches, the average rating they gave themselves for evangelism was 1 out 10. Even in these times – especially in these times – it’s time for us to step up. Please talk to your church leaders about supporting Crossover so we can expand our work of Helping Australian Baptists Share Jesus.

Andrew Turner is the Director of Crossover for ABM and author of Taking the Plunge and Fruitful Church

Photo by Jasper Bennett on Unsplash