We never really talked about it. I knew my grandparents had lived through the horror of the Second World War in Britain, but it was not a topic of much conversation in our family. To learn more about it, I had to read the book that my Grandfather wrote called “The Foolishness of God” or Norman Grubb’s story of the founding of CLC called “A Leap of Faith”. In both cases, however, it was not the difficulties or deprivations of the war that they focused on. Instead, they highlighted the steady hand of their heavenly father leading the way to victory. It is true that both books were written many years after the war was over, so that certainly had an impact on the way the story was told.
This week, a friend of mine unearthed some correspondence that shed a little more light on that dark time. Ken Adams (my grandfather) was writing to Norman Grubb and said, “I can’t wait for this war to be over so that we can begin to expand by 10 or 20 shops!” The year was 1943 and VE day was still two years away. The bombing of London was still fresh on people’s minds and hearts and the fledgling little ministry called CLC was barely two years old. In the midst of this Ken Adams was longing for the end of the war like everyone else, but not so that he could experience peace and quiet. He saw things through spiritual eyes and realized that a different kind of war was also raging all around him and he couldn’t wait to take the battle to the enemy. He was looking to go on the offensive.
“Being on a war footing” was the mantra of many Christian ministries during the 1940’s and 1950’s. While the rest of the world paid attention to fallout from World War II and the growing Cold War between the superpowers, these ministries decided it was time for the gospel to be preached in every corner of the earth no matter how remote these places might be. WEC International even had a magazine of that era entitled “World Conquest”. It was during this same period that Campus Crusade (now Cru) and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusades were born and flourished. New technology allowed the gospel to be broadcast on radio and television and the world grew smaller as planes could now transport evangelists to virtually any part of the globe.
Seeing the spiritual battle that was now growing in intensity, the leaders of CLC and new organizations like Operation Mobilization (OM) realized the need for refueling and new ammunition for troops on the front line. Bibles and books were produced in many languages, young people went door to door with free Christian literature and gospel tracts were being printed and distributed by the millions. New American publishers like Zondervan and Baker Books joined the ranks of stalwart British publishers in producing books for an increasingly literate world. In one of the most important developments of that era, Cameron Townsend founded Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1942, one year after CLC. It was clear that as people were coming to faith for the first time all over the world, they would need Christian literature to help them grow and mature as disciples of Christ.
Today, a world war is in a distant past. I grew up in a generation that did not even experience the draft and has grown accustomed to an all-volunteer military. The enemies of freedom have changed, grown more creative and utilize innovative tactics that are increasingly hard to predict. That is also true of our ultimate enemy. With the advent of the internet, communication has exploded and so too has sin and deprivation. At the very same time, it seems like the church has forgotten who they are fighting and far too many battles take place with fellow saints with one theology claiming the high ground while shooting at brothers and sisters.
The devastation is all too clear around us. Casualties pile up within evangelical circles while our enemy grows in strength. He no longer has to convince people to choose other religions, he just has to assure them that believing “nothing” or a little of everything is the path to happiness and ultimate satisfaction. In my world, this carnage looks like stores closing all over the place, publishers selling out and distributors shutting their doors once and for all. It is time for a recognition of the real battle, a willingness to understand the tactics of the enemy and then a developing plan for taking the battle to our enemy once again. While this will require creativity and innovation, it will also require humility, repentance and prayer.