D day was 70 years ago today. My dad and his three brothers all served in World War II. Only my dad at 88 years of age is still with us. My uncles served in Europe and in the Pacific, both men saw combat, neither talked much of it. None of us can imagine what 18 year old farm boys from Missouri saw, felt and experienced on the beaches of Iwo Jima and the beaches of Normandy. Being a Kansan I am understandably proud of Dwight Eisenhower. This iconic photo of Eisenhower is one of my favorite images of the General. Eisenhower knew that the success of these young men landing behind enemy lines before the beach landing and securing key bridges and communication centers was vital to the success of the mission. He also knew many of these young men who had volunteered for this mission would not survive. With the greatest commitment to his troops Eisenhower insisted on speaking with the them face to face just moments before they boarded planes and gliders for the journey across the channel. Eisenhower’s aids wondered what the general would say to these men. Would he seeks to encourage them with a patriotic speech? Motivate them by recounting the importance of the task? The quite man from rural Kansas, general Eisenhower surprised everyone by simply mingling among the troops. In the above photo Eisenhower ask solider Wally Strobel “Where are you from?” ”Michigan sir” replies Wally, ”How’s the fishing up there?” ask the commanding general of all allied forces. The soldiers could hardly believe it was THE general mingling with and talking to them, as if he were an uncle or trusted friend. It wasn’t a moment to challenge or motivate it was a moment to connect. Solider to soldier, man to man. It was one of the greatest moments in military history.
The scripture uses the imagery of battle, war and soldiers to describe the conflict in which we engage our enemy on a daily basis. Near the conclusion of his life Paul did not recount that he had walked the good walk or sang the good song, but rather that he had fought the good fight.
Anyone who has planted churches knows that church planting is a spiritual battle. In fact it has often been compared to storming the beaches, attack the enemy head on. As we equip and train planters we seek to equip them for the great spiritual battle in which they are about to engage.
Recently God has granted me the privilege of replanting dying churches. These are churches that are in many ways held captive by the enemy. They are his stronghold where daily he seeks to rob God of His glory. Planting and replanting are costly to all who engage the battle. It is hard, hard work. But all my experiences of planting and my recent experiences at replanting have led me to conclude that in my life church planting has been like storming the beach, but replanting has been like dropping behind enemy lines to attack the enemy at the heart of his stronghold. Those paratroopers who dropped in the dark of pre dawn D Day didn’t all land where they planned. Many were separated from their resources and communications. Many were battling against great odds in near total isolation. Yes, if you have ever replanted you can relate.
This past month our first group of Legacy church planting interns arrived here at Wornall Road to begin their one year residency in replanting dying churches. These are eager, brave and highly capable young men and their families. I am struck with the reality that these young families are about to undertake a very difficult and highly costly journey. Much like my fellow Kansas, Eisenhower must have felt that day 70 years ago, I am overwhelmed by the courage, passion and commitment of these who have volunteered for the difficult task. I want to give them every possible resource to ensure their victory and safety. But mainly I want to have a deep and lasting connection with them, solider to soldier, man to man.
Unlike General Eisenhower we are assured of success. Our great General, our Lord Jesus went before us in battle. He has already defeated our enemy. It is our privilege to engage the battle but the outcome is never in doubt. But the battle is real and the cost is high to those who engage it. But greater than the cost is the reward. The reward of using our strength, our treasure, our breath, our life to bring Glory to God through reclaiming His church for His glory and our joy.