By David Brown
* But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house. Mark 3:27
How long will we as evangelicals continue to close our eyes and deafen our ears to the unsettling truth that so many of our churches have turned away from God’s path? Sadly, the signs are not hard to see. In fact, these signs have been staring at us in the face for quite some time now. Evangelical professors have pointed to these trending problems for decades such as revolving doors of pastors coming and going, believers that have drifted away from theological teaching and discipline, churches that have become more inward focused and interested in entertainment rather than sacrificial living.
We have closed our eyes and ears to these predicaments by making ourselves the zenith of our Christian faith and thereby turning God into our own personal genie that exists only to make us happy. This is a prominent deficiency in the understanding of God’s role in the order of the cosmos. As God’s servants, as HIS followers we are subservient to Him, hence the title of servant. He is Holy, we are sinners. Our God provided a path to salvation through the atoning work of His Son, Jesus Christ. He created the universe and all of its contents- including us! The inventory of His great works are infinite. He is God and He demands our complete and total dependence. It’s not about us. For the believer, this should be the level of understanding that frames our lives.
In Andy Stanley’s book, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, he suggested that believers are on a happiness quest and that the church must simply adjust our cultural sails to accept this phenomenon as the new norm in church life. He wrote:
Culture is like the wind. You can’t stop it. You shouldn’t spit in it. But, if like a good sailor you adjust your sails, you can harness the winds of culture to take your audience where they need to go. If people are more interested in being happy then play to that. Jesus did.
Ichabod! Ignoring or sidestepping the problem as Stanley suggested has failed to solve the problem and has actually exacerbated it. We have invited the secular world into our churches and instead of changing them through Christian discipleship as commanded in Matthew 28:19-20, we have become like them. We have yoked ourselves to an unbelieving world and have allowed it to steer us in a wrong direction. Sure- we can close our eyes and ears to these problems and pretend they don’t exist, but the signs are unmistakable now. The strong man has entered God’s church and we have invited him in.
So, how do we bind the strong man? How do we get our churches back on track to God’s path and to His ways once again?
First, as pastors, we must devote ourselves to much prayer and the commitment to God’s Will being done on earth as it is in heaven. The pastoral ministry is well described in 2 Timothy 4:1-5:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Binding the strong man (Satan) in our churches (house) will come at a high cost and could include the pastor’s termination or forced resignation and members may lose popularity or friendships when they stand for Christ and against the world. Satan will not go without a fight. What are we prepared to pay? Are we ready for that sacrifice?
Secondly, I would suggest using Mark 1:21-28 as an example of how we can bind Satan in our churches. It is important that we grasp this passage as a microcosm of how Jesus is going to bind Satan in Mark’s Gospel. So, as we go through this gospel notice that we find Jesus (the stronger man) regularly casting out demons, healing the sick, and curing lepers. He is in effect, binding Satan by plundering/rescuing mankind from Satan’s grasp.
The passage is organized in a chiastic structure that reflects the reversing effects of Jesus’ teaching upon a fallen world. The chiastic structure can be seen below.
A) Immediately Jesus went in the synagogue (v21)
B) They were amazed at His teaching (v22)
C) Man with unclean spirit (v23)
D) Unclean spirit saying (v24)
D) Jesus saying (v25)
C) Unclean spirit comes out of man (v26)
B) They were amazed and ask “Is this a new teaching”(v27)
A) Immediately Jesus comes out of the synagogue (v29)
Notice at every step Jesus reverses the effect Satan has upon a fallen world. Essentially, He is binding the strong man through the teaching of God’s word. We must do the same!
Adjusting our sails to accommodate the “cultural shifts in our society” is exactly why the evangelical church finds itself in its current predicament. As pastors we must be prepared to do the hard work of preaching, i.e., the educating and training of our congregations. The church also has a critical obligation of being obedient to the practice of following God’s path in sacrifice and at any cost. Without this synergy of discipline and commitment between the pastorate and believers many of our churches will continue to be bound by the strong man. We must be mindful of the cost, but focused on the reward that awaits for us in our Lord and Savior with His arms open wide to receive us into His Father’s house. For HIM, we give our all.
1 David F. Wells, No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 101.
2 In Southern Baptist life the average length service for a pastor is now down to eighteen months.
3 David W. Brown, Grounded: Anchoring the Evangelical Sermon in Theological Doctrine, (Atlanta: JEM Publishing, 2014), 1-5.
4 David F. Wells, God in a Whirlwind: How the Holy-Love of God Reorients Our World (Wheaton: Crossway Publishing Company, 2014), 15-40.
5 Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 2012), Kindle 1216-1234.
Dr. David Brown has served as a Pastor in Louisiana and Mississippi. He is married to Melinda. You can follow him on Twitter @davidbdwb