Dunkirk or Normandy
Which Mindset Typifies the Church?
Upon its release in the summer of 2017, Christopher Nolan’s epic movie "Dunkirk", chronicling the rescue of the British army from the beaches of northeastern France in May 1940, became a worldwide box office success.
The movie was based on the historical events of May 1940 where Germany had advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.
The English people were euphoric about their “success,” celebrating as if they had won the war. But the withdrawal was very deceiving. Though a great and successful military maneuver had been executed, victory had not been secured. Defeat had only been avoided, and that only temporarily.
On June 4, 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed Britain’s House of Commons and attempted to cool England’s misplaced confidence with a dose of military realism. In his speech, he made this dramatic announcement: “Wars are not won by evacuations!”
Wars are not won by evacuations! And yet, almost all Christian activities finally amount to strategic evacuations. At the bottom line, church-going is an evacuation (it removes us from the actual battle field into the security of our “faith fortress”), your personal quiet time is an evacuation, disciple-making groups and Bible-study groups are evacuations. These activities are vital and necessary, but they must be kept in proper perspective. The hostility of the world is largely forgotten and the attacks of the enemy are tempered into mild aggressions in these settings.
Pastor Wallace Hendley uses the 1940 Allied evacuation of Dunkirk, France and the 1944 Allied invasion at Normandy, France to contrast spiritual mentalities within the church today:
"There is, then, a "Dunkirk mentality" and a "Normandy mentality." The belief and attitude the church adopts regarding the beachhead of the 21st century will determine whether she sees the year 2018 as a moment of escape or a time of unprecedented challenge and opportunity.
Consider the contrasts between the two perspectives:
- The Dunkirk mentality sees primarily the onslaught of the enemy; the Normandy view is that of the enemy being routed and driven back.
- The Dunkirk attitude is preoccupied with escape from the place of battle; the Normandy mentality is focused on not leaving the battlefield, but moving forward with the expectation of victory.
- The Dunkirk view is that of the enemy displacing the army of God from the world; the Normandy perspective is that the kingdom of God is displacing the kingdom of Darkness.
- The Dunkirk mentality sees the enemy's occasional victories as the whole war; the Normandy understanding is that the enemy will rally occasionally for counter-offensives like at the Battle of the Bulge-but that such forays are simply the dying gasps of a defeated foe.
Thus, the church with a Dunkirk mentality sees itself as a weak fragment of Christ's Body, whipped back to the place of retreat by the onslaught of the enemy and the blitz of his evil on the world. She looks longingly for the rapturous removal that will pluck her from the place of war. She spends her energies and wealth writing books, composing songs, attending conferences, recording tapes whose theme is the Grand Removal.
If she had a Normandy mentality she would understand that the leaven remains in the lump until the whole thing is impacted, that the end will not come until the Gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the inhabited world. The sweat and resources she puts in her focus on leaving what to her is a spiritual Dunkirk, would be spent on advancing toward the final stronghold of the enemy.
One should not be surprised that the Normandy invasion was coded "Operation Overlord"; Christ is Lord indeed of the Church with the Normandy mentality.
For the Dunkirk-mentality Church, the beachhead of the 21st century is a point of escape. For the Church with the Normandy mentality, it is the place of strategic advance. It will make all the difference in the world how the Church views that beachhead. She must abandon her Dunkirk theology and way of thinking, and embrace the Normandy."
John Piper reinforces the imperativeness of the Normandy type mentality as he writes: "The Christian vision that feeds battle-winning prayer is not the imagining of a possibility but the grasping of an inevitability, namely, the triumph of God in world evangelization. I picture it like this: when you reach out and take hold of the infallible promise of God's triumph you are reunited to the source of your life. You owe your life to the progress of God's gospel triumph in the world. And when you reach out the hand of your faith and grasp the promise of God's triumph in world evangelization as your inevitable future, there is a tremendous spiritual dynamic released.
"God has ordained to respond to the pleading of his people and perform great triumphs through prayer. He has decreed to make the prayers of his people the cause of his triumph in many battles. The prayers that win these battles come from Christian vision. And Christian vision is not the imagining of a possibility, but the grasping of an inevitability. That inevitability is the triumph of God in world evangelization: "All the families of the nations shall worship before thee. For dominion belongs to the Lord."
Charles Spurgeon said, "Now, my brethren, do not get into a state of fright and fear that everything is going to the bad, and we shall be all eaten up by the devil." Nonsense! There is a stronger arm yet than that black arm of Satan. In God's eternal goodness resides a power and majesty that cannot be found in the infernal malevolence of the devil. I know which is the winning side, - I am sure of it.
Courage, brethren, we are not beaten, and we are not going to be beaten. We shall win the victory as surely as God lives, and his Son lives who has risen from the dead. "Ever this our war cry - Victory, Victory!"
Dunkirk or Normandy -- Which Mindset Typifies the Church?