Battle Formations

I saw a formation of battle ships steaming towards the war zone, which was still some miles ahead. The battle group consisted of fifteen or twenty

ships, surrounding a large aircraft carrier in its center. The other ships were support and protection for the aircraft: supply ships, fuel carriers, guided missile cruisers, anti-aircraft warships, submarines, anti submarine frigates, and a couple of large battleships. There were also cargo ships & troop ships traveling with the battle group. I was aware that all together, this formation carried an amazing amount of firepower.

The formation is the church, and she is going to war. She's moving slowly, but she's headed to the theater of war.

As I watched, the carrier at the center of the of the formation launched dozens, if not hundreds, of aircraft. Squadron after squadron swarmed off the flight decks, formed up their positions, and headed off towards the field of battle. The air around the battle group was thick with them, and with all different sizes, shapes and configurations. There were hornets and super-hornets, tomcats, raptors, corsairs, and many other fighters filling the skies and heading towards the horizon. There were also support aircraft: early warning radar planes,electronic warfare planes, anti-submarine helicopters in the air, watching over the battle group. Supply aircraft flew back and forth from the ships' base behind them.

The carrier deck was constantly busy as fighters returned from raining destruction on enemy strongholds, bringing down enemy aircraft, or otherwise completing their missions. Occasionally, a fighter would return slowly, trailing smoke, and the decks would be cleared so she could land safely. The fighters were constantly returning for resupply, new orders and refreshment before launching on another mission. The battle group was involved in a war, but the field of battle was a long way off, over the horizon. The reality was that if the battle ever came to this formation of ships, it would have already lost; a substantial number of the ships and not a few of the aircraft were dedicated to exactly that: preventing attack on the ships that were launching, retrieving and supporting warcraft.

After this had gone on for a while, some of the crew of the support ships and others not directly involved with the aircraft and their missions began to notice, and they began to ask questions about the aircraft who were always coming and going. Why were these people leaving the safety of the formation and heading into dangerous places? Didn't they know that life is safer on the ships than flying into battle? And when the fighters came back injured, or didn't come back at all, fingers were pointed: See! You shouldn't do such dangerous things!

The fighters became aware of the the conversations and it confused them. Don't they know that we're a battle group? That's our purpose: battle. But some of them listened, and wouldn't fly into battle anymore. Others flew towards the battle, but veered off for other destinations, imagining a community of only fighters, forgetting that the fuel and ammunition both came from the support ships. And a few threw themselves into the battle so completely that they no longer had fuel enough to make it back to the ships, and when their tanks were empty and they spiraled towards the earth, they imagined their deaths as glorious.

Brothers and sisters, our purpose is to expand a kingdom. The command is to "make disciples of all nations." Some of us are called to direct action, and are launched toward distant cultures or unfamiliar populations. Others have a primary responsibility in the realm of support, or early warning, or defensive action. But the ultimate reason for our existence, all of our existence, is "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done."

I believe that our present position as the Church is steaming our way toward the field of battle with a focus that I don't believe we have had since the birth of the modern missions movement early in the last century. Some from among our number are flying high enough to see the field of battle, a few are already engaged there, while many others, perhaps the majority of the Church, aren't even aware that we're on course for a very big war.

This war won't be fought with actual aircraft or literal guns; it is to be fought with weapons of prayer, of mercy, of relationships, all as fierce expressions of love.

David McLain, February 2008