The Vampire Fallacy and Making Disciples

By Joel A Hess

“We might call the first of these the ‘vampire fallacy.’ This fallacy seems impossible to kill; it goes dormant for a period, but re-emerges just about every decade. In its last manifestation, the vampire fallacy emerged as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in the 1990s. Concepts with catchy titles such as ‘Shock and Awe’ and ‘Rapid, Decisive Operations’ promised fast, cheap and efficient victories in future war. Those who argued that these ideas were inconsistent with the nature of war were dismissed as being wedded to old thinking. Technology would make the next war fundamentally different from all that had come before it, because information and communication technologies had shifted war from the realm of uncertainty to that of certainty.

“The vampire fallacy is much older than the orthodoxy of RMA. It goes at least as far back as strategic bombing theory in the 1920s. Today, it once again promises victory based on even better surveillance, information, communications and precision-strike technologies. The vampire fallacy is based in an important suite of military capabilities, but it neglects war’s political and human dimensions. It equates targeting to tactics, operations and strategy and fails to take into account the uncertainty of war, the trajectory of which is constantly altered by varied interactions with determined and elusive enemies.”

– Lt. General HR McMaster; Discussing the Continuities of War and the Future of Warfare: The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum

McMaster proposes four fallacies concerning the conduct of modern warfare. One of them he titles “the vampire fallacy.” He submits that every ten years or so military strategists fall for the belief in new technology. They believe that war has changed and a certain technology will make accomplishing a mission easier than before. He calls it a vampire fallacy because, like a vampire, it seems impossible to kill the fallacy. And as Jocko Willink comments in his podcast on McMaster, like a vampire, the enemy doesn’t just roll over with new technology. Since the beginning of time, war is won man to man. The enemy must be brought into submission with one’s own two hands. In the case of vampire, it’s with a cross in the heart. That’s the only way to kill it. You’ve got to get down and dirty.

Could McMaster’s words be applied to the cottage industry of Church-growth strategies? Jesus gave the orders to go out, Baptize, and teach! That’s how disciples are made. That’s how the body of Christ will grow. That’s how the enemy, the devil, sin, and death is conquered! The Lord grows His Church through real people hanging out with real people, speaking His Word, one person at a time. You’ve got to get your hands wet. You’ve got to get your boots dirty. You just can’t avoid it. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to reach the tweens, teens, or senior citizens.

Yet, time and time again, we are told that everything is changed. They say that the world is different. Time and time again, someone has a new secret to growing the Church. Someone is selling new technology that doesn’t involve getting your hands dirty. Guys with three names push clever sounding methods in which success is assured. Just follow the scientifically proven plan. It’s been fifty years since we’ve been told that the times are a changing and new tactics and technologies will conquer the enemy. All sorts of new techniques have been employed, yet some say the number of Christians in America is shrinking.

New technologies and tactics are fine, but in the end, a church has to have boots on the ground. The same old tools given to us by our Lord are the only weapons that work. It ain’t pretty. It’s not always smooth. It might not be fun, in color with special effects. It looks quite plain, really. A cracked lipped preacher calling people in their own sprache to repentance and forgiveness in the blood of Jesus. An old grandma passing down the faith with prayers and cookies to her grandkids. A single mom listening intently to a friend at the laundromat who tells her she is wanted and loved by God in Christ.

Whether it’s from the mouths of clumsy little kids or powerful preachers, the same old God’s Word pierces Satan, that old vampire, through the heart and knocks him dead.

That’s how our Lord does it! All your other gods stand aloof and afar, speaking from their command post in the skies. Not the one true God, no! He wasn’t afraid to get dirty. He was born in a feed trough and sucked from a breast. He mixed dirt and spit and healed the blind man. He saw two thieves hanging on crosses, and he climbed up right with them. He lay His precious body in the clay of the grave. Boots on the ground. That’s our God! He personally wrestled Satan to the pits of hell, paid the price we owed him, and rose again never to die again. He sends his troops out as He was sent, to proclaim victory and untie prisoners from their sins and even death itself!

Now let’s get after it!