This blog entry has been excerpted from my upcoming book, The Church Planting Journey.

These are two topics you don’t always see in the same sentence. Yet I’d argue that they are inextricably linked. When you are planting a church, you are encroaching on what the enemy considers to be his territory. There will be spiritual resistance—guaranteed.

I remember once leading a time of prayer with some denominational leaders from different groups about church planting. I was having each of them spend some time praying aloud about what they were sensing fromGod. One pastor said, “We’ll be engaged in spiritual battle.” This guy was from a conservative denomination that did not at all lean charismatic, so I was surprised.

I took him out to lunch, and asked him about his background. I said, “It’s interesting what you shared about church planting being a spiritual battle. What is that?” His response was immediate: “Well, it’s biblical, of course.” “I agree,” I responded. “But spiritual warfare? How do you justify that to your tribe?”

He went on to quote Matthew 16:18:  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Then he explained, “‘Build my church’– that’s church planting. And the ‘gates of hell’– that’s spiritual warfare. I spend two days training new church planters in my denomination on this. We also talked about Ephesians 6:12-13. In church planting, we’re helping people transfer kingdoms, and there’s an opposition to that in the heavenly realms. Planters need to be prepared for that.”

Indeed. More than ever in a western context, we are becoming cognizant of the reality of the spiritual battle. Don’t go into church planting lightly. It’s scary. Things will go wrong. The unexpected will happen. Things will go wrong. Sometimes it will be your fault and sometimes not, but it’s a guarantee that things will go wrong at some point. This happens to every planter, without exception.

You’ll face opposition, challenges, obstacles, spiritual warfare, and discouragement. You’ll want to quit. Yet it’s also truly exciting and thrilling to be gathering and reaching people who previously had no relationship with Jesus. That’s the tension inherent in church planting.

And here’s the tension for you as a planter: Jesus’ job is to build the church. Your job is to follow the Spirit. Personally, I have always found that reality comforting. I can pray to God, “Jesus, you said you’d build the church. Please do that — and show me what you want me to do.” My role is to be faithful to what the Holy Spirit is calling me to do. The outcomes are up to God.

If you found this blog post helpful or encouraging, you might also be interested in the Church Planting Coaching Guide and Storyboard.

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash