Every sports fan has been there. Your favorite team comes out of the gate flying and builds a huge lead. It seems like an easy win is all but guaranteed, and you and your fellow fans are enjoying every minute. Then, all of a sudden, they decide to change their strategy. Instead of continuing to play in the way that had given them such a big lead, they stop playing offense and only sit back on defense. This strategy almost always backfires, as the competition gets chance after chance to close the gap. The team with the big lead can only hope that the clock runs out before the score is made even.

Though that’s a terrible strategy that regularly leads to teams giving up large leads only to lose in the end, it’s still a fairly common occurrence in the sports world. As a fan, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch. You know what’s even more frustrating, though? The fact that the church has been employing this strategy for 50 years.

I’ve often heard the stories about how strong the church was in the 1950s and 60s, often with accounts of weeklong Gospel meetings that resulted in dozens of baptisms or of the effectiveness of Christians who took the Jule Miller filmstrips into the homes of their neighbors and friends. To continue the analogy, that’s the big lead we built by going on offense.

We were able to bring thousands of new converts into the church by aggressively engaging the culture and our communities with the Gospel. Why did we stop? Imagine what the early church would have looked like if, after baptizing 3,000 on Pentecost, they used the contributions brought in to retreat to nice, new buildings, and stop preaching the Gospel in public, and stopped dedicating their lives to God and to each other. It’s chilling to think of the kind of negative effect that would have had on the world. So many would have continued to languish in sin with no knowledge of Jesus or His saving words. It would have looked a lot like… well, America today.

Think of how Christians to every major controversy or attack on it from the outside. Whether it was the Chick-Fil-A issue, the Phil Robertson issue, or any other occasion on which Christians feel attack, we all come together and vocally show where we stand. Then, when the issue goes away, instead of going on the attack we simply go silent again until the next attack. Playing perpetual defense accomplishes nothing.

The last two generations of the church have traded in the offense-minded strategies of those before us for a strategy of running out the clock while desperately clinging to the good that was done a long time ago. As we see almost every week in the sports world, that’s a losing strategy used by losing teams, and it’s foolish for us to think our result will be different. Where has our sense of mission gone? When did our zeal for truth disappear?

It’s time for all of that to change, and we need a new generation who are ready to take the world back. That generation should be the Millennials, but instead we lose a large majority of them. Until that changes and we cultivate a generation of warriors, we can’t efficiently go back on offense in this contest between the truth and the lies of the world. Why not? Because any gains we make like those before us will be lost if we can’t pass them on to a new generation of torchbearers.

Parents, this means you need to view your children not as future lawyers, doctors, teachers, or anything else until you first view them as future soul-winners, future elders, future preachers, future teachers, and future servants. Train them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) by showing them how to love God and follow Him (Deuteronomy 6). Teach them discernment, wisdom, and the knowledge of the Lord (Psalm 1, Proverbs 1).

Church leaders, please don’t have that attitude that some churches have that young people need to wait their turn until the older generations die out. Lean on them. Put them to work. Equip them to serve and to lead. As Esther came to power “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), who knows if this young, energetic generation isn’t here, during a period of such turmoil and belligerence toward God, for such a time as this?

We have to stop running out the clock. We have to stop relying on the victories of the past, and we have to stop conducting the business of the church in a way that only preserves what we have. Our faith should lead us to risk it all for God, to put everything we have on the line for Him and let Him take care of the details. It’s time we go back on offense and start putting some points on the board against the world.

By Jack Wilkie