By Dick Brogden
Every year in Cairo, Egypt, we have a paintball war. Our church planting training team assembles on a surprisingly developed and diverse course to lovingly shoot at each other. I suppose the fact that I often get shot in the back must mean something, but I choose to ignore that lesson for now.
One of the course options places two teams on opposite sides of a gulley. There is only one bridge over the gully, and the goal is to cross the bridge, capture the other team’s flag, and return it to your base. If you are shot, carrying the flag or otherwise, you must return to your base.
My friend Josh laughs at me because year after year I have the same strategy. I line up my team in single file and charge the bridge. The first person in line gets a few paces, absorbs some painful pellets and drops out, but in the process ground is gained and the rest of the team shielded. The next person in line continues the charge, gains more ground, shields their companions over that distance, takes their bullet (or bullets), and so on. Simple mathematics dictates that the other team can’t shoot us fast enough, though many of us fall and most must sacrifice, we unfailingly win the game and capture the flag.
Planting churches among unreached peoples in teams isn’t complicated; it’s just hard. With resolve, we must charge our bridges and absorb our bullets. We must count our cost before we build our tower, then commit to the cost and press on despite pain and problems.
Because every analogy breaks down at some point, let me clarify what I am NOT saying:
I am not saying we should be cavalier with the lives, emotions, or souls of our teammates, national partners, or new believers. We are both apostles and shepherds, and we must steward our most precious resource—God’s sheep.
I am not saying we pursue random and foolish martyrdom for vain glory.
I am not saying that we have no plan, nor that we live out the definition of insanity—repeating the same erroneous processes over and over expecting to get different results.
What I am saying is:
I am saying that planting churches among unreached peoples in team is brutally hard, and we must count the cost before we begin, for once we begin we will take some losses. Yet once we begin we must press on despite casualties.
I am saying that the prize—the glory of God among every tribe and tongue—is worth the pain.
I am saying that we have to do this together and everybody is going to have to sacrifice.
I am saying we overcome our fears and charge. We do the simple and difficult things that lead directly to the church being planted and Jesus being worshiped where He is not yet revered—abide, learn language, pray (both weeping and believing), sow widely, disciple deeply, teach truthfully, heal constantly, love patiently, live faithfully, suffer graciously, and endure joyfully.
I am saying that when, with wisdom, we identify what needs to be done and done repeatedly until victory, that we do it and we do nothing else. We take up the single eye, we trim the fat, and we do one thing well. I am saying we say “no” to many good things for the one supreme thing—making disciples and planting churches where they do not exist.
I am saying we fix our eyes on the joy set before us and commit to the crosses that mark the way.
I am saying that for the Bridegroom, we charge the bridge, face the bullets, and complete the Bride.