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Circle the Wagons

Picture in your mind a common scene that is found in dozens of old movies about cowboys, Indians, and the wild west.  In the scene, a wagon train of frontiersmen is under attack by a band of Indians, so they circle the wagons into a defensive formation so that the women and children are protected in the center and the men can shoot their rifles from behind cover.  This common movie scene is actually based on the real-life experiences of wagon train travelers in the old west, although the movies exaggerate these situations for entertainment purposes.  Despite Hollywood dramatization, the idea of such a scene is accurate in that there were times when circling the wagons was a matter of survival for those people.

Christians can take a lesson from this scene, for we are in a time when we need to “circle the wagons” like a wagon train under attack.  Derived from the scene described above, the phrase “circle the wagons” has become an idiom that means to bring a group together to defend it against an attack.  As the attacks from Satan against our faith and our families build and multiply, there is an ever-growing need to draw ourselves together for the defense of us all.  The Scriptures advise us to take a defensive posture, saying, “Do not be bound with unbelievers,” and, “Come out from their midst and be separate” (2Cor. 6:14-18).  God’s word warns us that “bad company corrupts good morals” (1Cor. 15:33).  We are also admonished to assemble with other Christians for encouragement and strength (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 10:24-25).  In other words, we need to circle the wagons and “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3) that is under attack.

Unfortunately, many Christians have not seen the need to circle the wagons.  This is probably because they do not sense the danger.  Their minds have been “taken captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world” (Col. 2:8), so they do not detect the threat against them.  Instead of being on the defense against Satan (1Pet. 5:8), they remain ignorantly vulnerable to the filth and corruption of the world.  Perhaps they do not want to be perceived by others as abnormal or strange, so they stay on the wagon trail while their faith is being ambushed and their souls are in peril.

The failure of Christians to circle the wagons is evident within many churches.  Membership and attendance in the churches of Christ have been in decline for some years.  For what it is worth, The Christian Chronicle reported that the growth rate of membership in the churches of Christ in the United States was much less than the growth rate of the general population (“Population Outpaces Church” – 2/1/07).  Specifically, a study found that in the nearly 13,000 churches of Christ that do not use mechanical instruments of music in worship, membership grew only 1.6% between 1980 and 2006.  This compares to a growth rate in the general population of the nation of 32.2% during that same time period.  In relative terms, this means that the church is shrinking rather than growing.  We are not only failing to convert others to Christ, but we are not even regenerating ourselves.

One of the main causes of the church’s decline is the careless and naïve approach of members of the church toward their own children.  The prevailing practice among many Christian parents regarding their children is not to circle the wagons for their children’s protection, but rather it is to throw the children to the wolves.  They allow their children to be exposed to nearly everything the world has to offer.  This is justified by saying that children must be exposed to difficult situations early so that they will be prepared to handle them when they are older.  Let’s not deceive ourselves – the difficult situations children face today are not those faced by Beaver Cleaver and Opie Taylor.  Through peers, schools, sports, television programs, movies, etc., today’s children are faced with challenges and temptations that even adults struggle to handle.  Parents have simply become too neglectful, selfish, and/or lazy to protect and train their children.  It is no wonder that the church is not regenerating.  When parents turn their children over to the world to be trained, the result will be a generation of worldly children who become worldly adults.

Therefore, let us circle the wagons.  Satan is a menace, and the danger is real, so we must be on the defensive.  We need to stand together with our fellow Christians and build up one another in the most holy faith (Jude 20) lest Satan carries us away.  Those of us who are parents need to attend to every aspect of our children’s lives to protect them from the evil one.  Of course, we need to practice evangelism, but we must save our own before we can save others.  Individually and collectively, we need to be separate and come out from among sinners.  If we fail to make a defense for our faith, then we may be destined for the fate of the Israelites, who mingled with the nations, learned their practices, served their idols, and even sacrificed their own sons and daughters to demons (Ps. 106:34-39).  God destroyed them for their worldly wickedness, and He would surely do the same to us if we follow the same faithless course.  So then, let us circle the wagons, and pray that God will save us from this crooked and perverse generation (Acts 2:40; Phil. 2:15).

Stacey E. Durham



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