Church Planting is Hard: Spiritual Attack
Depending on your denominational flavor you may or may not have a good understanding of spiritual attack. In our culture it’s not exactly something you talk about freely if you want to be thought of as sane. Spiritual attack conjures up images of horror movies and psych wards. A quick Google search revealed that while 70% of Americans believe Satan exists only 60% of Christians do. Hopefully those studies are wrong. My experience has been that many who believe in Satan haven’t felt spiritual attack and minimize the work of Satan. Regardless your theological perspective, I often tell church planters that the one universal of church planting is that you will be under spiritual attack. This is why one of the first milestones I have church planters work on is developing a prayer team. Spiritual attack is real and if you are planting a church, you are a target.
Here are a few quick ways I’ve seen this manifest:
- Depression. I’ve seen the strongest must upbeat church planters go through spells of depression. It is usually marked by self-doubt, fear, and obstacles to planting the church. While most climb out of the depression, I have seen it paralyze people as well.
- Family. When Satan can’t get after you, he will go after family. One planters parents divorced shortly after he moved to start the church. Another’s mom died. Another had marital troubles shortly after declaring he would plant. Others have had sick family members, unsupportive family members, etc.
- Divisiveness in the Body. Satan loves a church that is not united. Maybe this is why Jesus prayed so fervently for it in John 17. I’ve seen sponsoring churches withdraw support over small issues, staff members quit just before launch, affairs between staff families, embezzlement, arguments over “territory.” It’s sad to me when the church does the work of Satan for him.
- Temptation. I’ve talked with planters who have confessed having temptations they never had before. This is a confusing and scary experience.
There’s no doubt about it. Planting a church is hard. You will face spiritual attack. Here are some practical ways to combat it.
- Spend time in the Word. Scripture is an amazing weapon against spiritual attack. Don’t get so busy that you forget to meditate on God’s Word.
- Talk about it. Don’t hide what you are going through. Find a group of people to talk with about your experiences.
- Prepare for it. You know spiritual attack is coming so get prepared. Take seriously the task of building a prayer team. Don’t build the team as a way to conveniently ask for money. Get them praying. Have a smaller group of people that you can call in the dark times to pray for you.
- Be accountable. Live your life as an open book and give people access to you. This is the best way to be accountable. I’d also say listen to your spouse. Ask them to be open and honest with you. They will often notice before you when things are awry.
There are many great Scriptures about the victory we have in Jesus and the struggle we face as Christians. Here’s one that I read on Sunday and had the opportunity to share with a planter facing spiritual attack on Monday.
“Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.” Philippians 1:28-30 NLT
Though it is counter-intuitive it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. Remember that you do not struggle alone and that we know that Jesus Christ has already won the war. The power of the Holy Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit that lives in you.