Fortify the City
by Mark Hisle
W

hat is the population of your city? In London, Kentucky, where I live, the city and surrounding area amounts to around 70,000 people. Yours may be much less or much more.

How many churches are in your city? A handful? Hundreds? The real question is, How many of them are life-giving churches? Do the life-giving congregations make up 10 percent of the total number, or is the number less? Is your community so blessed that the percentage is higher?

When Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms (Israel and Judah), the Bible gives us some intriguing details about the actions of King Rehoboam and the role that specific, strategic cities were asked to play (2 Chron. 11:5-12). Places not well known—like Etam, Sochoh, and Beth Zur—became instrumental. Rehoboam knew that Judah faced the threats of Israel to the north and Egypt to the south. If his nation were to survive, he had to fortify the cities.

The word fortify means “to strengthen” or “to build up.” These were not necessarily the largest cities, but they were strategic to the defense of the nation. They controlled mountain passes that allowed access into the interior. If an enemy acquired them, the whole country could be under threat. This was seen centuries earlier when Israel took the fortified city of Jericho first in the conquest of Canaan. Jericho wasn’t necessarily the largest city in the land, but was militarily strategic.

May I offer a spiritual application? I believe some cities are strategic for specific geographical regions. They may not always be the biggest spots on the map, but for some reason, it seems that whatever happens there, whether good or bad, carries influence for a much wider surrounding area.

We would certainly say that what happens in New York City or Los Angeles has repercussions for the whole nation and possibly the world. But could it also be that on some level, your place of ministry could be used of God for wider influence?

In your city, there are some “gate churches.” The leadership they give, or fail to give, often determines the direction of most other churches in the city, as well as the course of the city itself. Perhaps your church is one of them. These congregations have a bearing on the spiritual climate and future of the city.

Gatekeepers control access. They determine what comes in and what goes out. It is a vital role, and much of it is done through prayer and worship.

We often fail to comprehend our role in defending the places where we live. It is one of the reasons that a commitment to a local church is vital. What other entity will stand to keep evil out of the city? Community-service agencies may do some good, but they are not going to take the church’s place in keeping the devil at bay.

My church needs to be faithful and stay strong so we can defend our city in the spiritual battle that is waged for the hearts of the people who live around us.

Satan wants free access to our homes, schools, and lives. There must be fortified houses of worship. Without them, the city lies defenseless. Gate churches stand as fortified cities that turn back the tide of evil.

In the Book of Lamentations, we read about the destruction of Jerusalem resulting from God’s people not taking a righteous stand:

Her gates have sunk into the ground; He has destroyed and broken her bars. Her king and her princes are among the nations; the Law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the Lord. . . . The elders have ceased gathering at the gate, and the young men from their music (2:9; 5:14 NKJV).

The root problem, though, lies on a personal level. It is described in the Song of Solomon: “They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept” (1:6 NKJV). We lack the power to walk in spiritual authority for our cities because we have failed to maintain victory in our personal lives. We live enslaved to our lusts, appetites, and rage. When we cannot walk in victory in those areas, it is no wonder that we find ourselves powerless for our towns and cities. That certainly applies to pastors and leaders, but it also applies to any of us who have a heart for the city and intercede for it. Every land has a harvest, but it will only yield its harvest to one who loves the land and walks in victory in his or her own life.

The cities that Rehoboam fortified were located on the edge of the kingdom. They provided the first line of defense, so they had to be strong.

God does not call everyone to this place. Some are happy back in the center of the camp, providing supplies. But there are those congregations, preachers, ministries, and individuals that are summoned to the edge. There is something about their spiritual DNA. No matter how hard they try, they find it impossible to just blend in. God calls them to live on the edge. Then they turn back to others, calling and encouraging them to dare to move forward. It can be a dangerous place, and it is often a more difficult place to live.

Some of us have to be a little “edgy” in order to be at peace with God’s dealings with us, and others are not always able to understand that. To some, God says, “Come join Me on the edge. The lives and future of others depend on it.”

Please notice the most fundamental reason for these fortified cities. Jeroboam would lead the northern kingdom into centuries of idol worship, as they bowed down to the golden calves he had crafted. Judah, on the other hand, would certainly have her ups and downs. But if one was going to worship Jehovah, Judah was the only option. Most people would bow down to the idols, but for a remnant of priests and pure worshipers, it meant moving to Judah. Nothing else would suffice.

There are multitudes in our day satisfied to kneel at the altar of the spirit of the age. But there is a remnant who hunger for the living God. We must provide them a place to come. For those who long for undiluted worship, a strong gatekeeping church is their only hope.

We never want to cultivate an elitist mind-set, but we do want to be numbered among those congregations which help to turn back the Enemy and protect so many who are blind to imminent danger. It is time to fortify the city. Will you be a part of that movement?