Arrowless Bows and Stepping on Toes

I recently began to consider the common bow and arrow–how utterly dependent each is on the other for ultimate unit effectiveness. One without the other is pretty much useless.

A bow has tremendous potential of power. The wood is usually seasoned and processed with heat and moisture, then laminated and cured for extra power. It’s identified by its force: the number of “pounds” it takes to draw the bow to full extension.  However, without anything to shoot, the perfected bow only offers its potential.  You can draw and release the bow string without an arrow, but the odd twanging sound and imbalanced vibrations indicate it’s designed for something better. The result is noise and vibrations, but no penetrating reality. It is almost as if the bow itself resents and reacts against an inadequate and frustrated release of power.

Likewise, an arrow alone is of no value. It can be honed to a razor-sharp point, be as straight as a prairie highway, fletched beautifully, but if you try throwing it, it’s not going to go very far, very accurately. It may scratch or cut something at the end of its ungainly trajectory, but it will never penetrate.  An arrow is designed for penetration, but it needs propelling force to do so.

The bow and arrow imagery applies to some church circumstances. The church exists on planet earth to be the permeating and penetrating agent of the kingdom of God, representing Christ to the world, and as a result, from the world,  relationally alienated rebels become beloved sons and daughters of the King. However, by all statistical measures, we are not penetrating our cultures/communities. In fact, we are not even holding our own, but losing our children (75-80% of all young people will leave “the church,” and never return). The church is generally declining in both numerical size and cultural influence in the West.  I realize there are always bright exceptions, for which I rejoice. However, the overall statistics are accurate, and not positive.  We have become all bow and no arrow.

Sunday after Sunday there are twangy noises and odd vibrations in our services where we flex our spiritual bow string: singing, shouting, dancing, praying, spiritual warfare, prophetic acts, prophetic intercession, binding the strong man, and other activities abound. Yet in many churches, a genuine new convert hasn’t been seen in years, if not decades. There’s no shortage of church transfer growth, but very little actual net kingdom increase due to saved souls. We have no shortage of teaching and preaching and other activities and programs in our churches, yet they seemingly yield little or no fruit. We minister to the same crowd, week after week.  Why do we do all these things? What is the point in doing them?  Something is wrong with this picture.

I’m afraid that a lot of our spiritual activities have become nothing more than religious calisthenics of self-absorbed, cultural irrelevancy.  It’s not that these activities of all sorts are inherently “evil” in themselves. They have just lost their context and mission. Like a bow that has lost its arrow, they’re just not effective. Why do we keep doing them? It doesn’t mean the bow is “bad,”it’s  just missing a vital element.  These activities have taken a life of their own and have lost their kingdom context of legitimacy. Whatever the “stuff” is that we “do” in “church,”  it’s all designed to build members of the community into effective kingdom extending believers, not just bless them into contentedness in their church environment.  When the ethics of blessing, comfort, and ease supplants transformation, discipleship, and equipping for service, we are in trouble, regardless of how wonderful the singing is and how inspiring the preaching.

I’m also afraid that much so-called prophetic intercessory prayer activity has become a spiritual narcotic for inactivity and ineffectiveness. These activities can be highly charged cathartic events in which we “feel” energized and spiritual, but they do not yield significant, objective, measurable, and discernible kingdom fruit: saved souls and transformed lives in disciples.  We have lost the ability to discern between what is genuinely a move of the Holy Spirit in our midst and what is simply the increase of endorphins in our blood stream! The former produces converts, the latter produces thrills.  Being a “prophetic prayer warrior” too often means you get to keep your fingernails clean while someone else does the dirty work of actually relating to, and investing in,  desperately broken and needy humanity. Honestly, it’s just easier to pray against and “bind” the “spirit of narcotics” over a city than to feed and house a drug addict. Kingdom penetration will require both a bow and arrow: the spiritual and practical aspects of our faith.

Some of the things we engage in are understandably reactionary to decades of unfruitfulness, discouragement, and disappointment in the conversion of souls. This is exacerbated by ill-defined and poorly expressed evangelistic techniques of the last one hundred  years. In a typical congregation, mentioning the word “evangelism,” is like asking someone to volunteer a kidney at that moment. A congregation will turn into an oil painting in a millisecond. Our understanding of evangelism needs a complete theological and methodological overhaul at the most basic levels. Our message and  methods no longer accurately represent Jesus’ interests and desires for humanity.

What are we doing and why are we doing it?

Let’s be certain that we actually put an arrow in the bow of all our spiritual endeavors, keeping the target in mind: human souls won to the King. The Word of God, is and always will be, powerful. The Spirit is ever-present and ever-ready. The seed is incorruptible, and unstoppable. We just have to actually sow it. It will bear good fruit.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

3 comments on “Arrowless Bows and Stepping on Toes

  1. Hey Steve,
    You have analysed correctly again. I have often wondered, if we are to be all about others(lost) and community(our civil community) what actually is happening when all the “prophetic” expressions are happening? If they are to stir us to the lost, how accurate are these prophetic expressions? I am beginning to want less of the prophetic and more of the life touching. AS you know I am a pentecostal. If we all were about the life touching, all the “end-time” mumbo jumbo(which is what most prophetic is about now a days) would be left behind to minister to the lost. It is not a coincidence, that the “civil community” has suffered the loss in every area of the church being directly invovled with it.
    Thanks for you insights, They always challenge!

    • Totally tracking with you, Mick. If what we believe, and if what we do “prophetically” does not result in us living well with one another, and in our communities . . . what good is either? Not much to me.

  2. Just had a chance to read the article and thought it pretty good. Even though I am Pentecostal and Reformed I would rather listen to a Charles Stanley than all the wanna be “prophets, etc.” Running under their own steam. Spiritual maturity takes a life time. I wonder, where are the seasoned mentors?
    Pentecost has turned into what I call “Pentecostalism” The various isms running around are seductive. I guess I’m an old fuddy duddy as the saying goes. I hear the Father clearly. I love the presence of the Spirit in a church service, but life comes from the Word applied directly to the heart and lived out. I’m just a soldier in His army.
    No wonder the world is turning to other gods when they see past the charlatans who claim to be God’s anointed of the hour.

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