I remember listening to a UK football pre-game show several years ago. The host prompted his co-host with the following question: “What does Kentucky have to do to win this game?”
His answer? “Score more points than the other team.”
As obvious as his answer seemed, there was actually some substance to it. Kentucky happened to be playing a team with a high-powered offense. All season long they had put up shocking numbers and stats. The co-host’s point was that, if Kentucky was going to win, they weren’t going to win by stopping the other team on defense. If they had any chance of pulling off the upset, they would have to put more points on the board than the other team—they would have to win with their offense.
So it is with the church. Look closely at Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18. Peter has just confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and it’s on the rock of that confession that Jesus will build his church—and catch this—“the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Gates are a defensive mechanism. Nobody runs into battle to defeat the enemy while holding a gate, because gates aren’t weapons. Gates are meant to keep things out. And the gates of hell will not prevail against Jesus’ church.
The implication is that Jesus’ church is on offense—declaring the good news of the gospel, pushing back darkness, and making Christ known. Sadly, however, the church often resorts to playing defense. Too often, the church has been known more for what it is against rather than who it is for.
Are there times to play defense? Sure—we must defend the faith against false teaching and deceit. We must stand boldly against evil schemes that God’s Word would have us stand against. But by and large, the default position of the church should be one of offense.
I’m certain Kentucky didn’t win the football game that day (per the usual). But I’m even more certain that the church will win. Although the game is still being played, the outcome has already been decided. Victory belongs to Jesus and his church, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”