August 9, 2012

Don't Do What I Did: Mistake #3 I Made in Church Planting

In church planting, my first mistake was my attitude, my second mistake was my heart, and the third occurred because of my inaccurate beliefs: I did not actually understand or experientially know about spiritual warfare. I found out quickly enough that as the true work of church planting begins, spiritual warfare does as well. It is sudden, and it is overwhelming, but, despite its all-encompassing nature, it is often also subtle and difficult to pinpoint.
This is how I experienced spiritual warfare in the beginning stages of church planting: overarching discouragement, consistent and urgent thoughts of being stuck in a hopeless situation, temptation to resent my husband for putting me in this situation, sleeplessness due to running fears, circumstantial oppression or setbacks, a constant feeling of heaviness and lack of energy, and, ultimately, thoughts that caused me to doubt God's goodness and provision. Everyday for probably two years, I battled almost overpowering thoughts of giving up.

My mistake was my erroneous belief that church planting would be briefly challenging and then everything would be fine. Our church would make it, we would make it, it would all be so easy. I did not expect how the church planting process would shake me to the very core and challenge my every belief, thought, and heart attitude.

I think I thought, too, that my husband would bear the brunt of any discouragement or spiritual attack. He certainly experienced it, but I recognize now that I was the ideal target. If I gave up, my husband could not sustain his efforts and might even leave ministry altogether. If I lived in a constant place of discouragement and resentment, it could cost my marriage, instantly dismantle the church, and discount everything we had moved here for.

I've seen it happen. And I believe that more difficult cultures, places where the gospel is needed and not preached, create an environment that makes it extremely easy and acceptable for people to leave their faith, to go their own way, and even for church leaders to lay down their callings and float along with the culture. I've seen that happen too.

If we have blinders on to our enemy's subtle deceit, or if we don't rely on God and the truth of His Word to be the power with which we fight attack, we will, simply put, be chewed up and spit out.

Spiritual warfare is very real. As we shine Light in dark places, there will be resistance and response. Not only that, but the enemy actively seeks the weak and unguarded to devour. Don't make the mistake I did: Be aware! Fight, sisters! Don't let the enemy take down your heart, your marriage, your family, or your church through subtle deceptions.

If there is anything the enemy will tell you, it is that God's way is not the way of joy, that what He is asking of you is too harsh or too hard. This lie is easy to believe because church planting is so hard. It will seem sometimes as if He has forgotten you. But He has not, and He will not. His way is the way of joy. Sometimes that way is full of obstacles, but it ends in fulfillment. His enemy is subservient to Him, and we stand with the One who is victorious and able. Don't believe otherwise.

"We went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment."
Psalm 66:12

How have you experienced spiritual warfare in church planting? What have you learned through that?