Residencies Prepare Church Planters for Spiritual Warfare

Have you thought much about how the enemy might try to end your ministry as a church planter?

It can be helpful to think through it ahead of time, said Rick Duncan, who serves as Send Network regional equipper for the Ohio Valley region. That’s part of what church planting residencies do — they help you to be proactive and prepare for struggles that might come as you go out as a church planter.

During one of those recent trainings, Duncan’s church planting residency cohort in Cleveland brainstormed a list of ways the enemy might try to attack a church planter and how to fight against them.

1. Isolate and tempt the planter.
One of the greatest strategies the enemy has for tempting a planter is isolating a planter.
When Jesus did ministry, He was surrounded by people. When He sent the disciples out, He used a team approach, sending them out in pairs.

Church planter — don’t be an island. Surround yourself with a support system, a team of encouraging people who are empowered by you to ask you the tough questions. Send Network has a lot of resources in place to help connect you with other planters. Residencies and cohorts can provide friends to walk alongside you. Don’t plant by yourself.

2. Keep the planter so busy he burns out.
Sometimes planters can get so engaged in busy ministry activities that they’re not spending the kind of quality time alone with God they need. Beware the barrenness of a busy life. Fruitfulness doesn’t come from busyness; it comes from you, as a branch, abiding in Christ, the Vine. Don’t just run from one activity to the next — that is going to lead to burnout. Carve out time with God.

3. Surround the planter with yes-men.
It can be a pitfall for you as a planter to be surrounded by people who tell you how right you are and how great you are. When you’re putting your leadership team together, make sure you’re allowing the people on your ministry team to ask you hard questions and not just rubber stamp everything you want to do.

4. Distract the planter with secondary issues.
Secondary issues can keep a planter from the main things. Secondary opportunities can, too.

Remind yourself regularly to stick with the essentials of the faith and not get distracted with issues that aren’t central to the mission. You might also need to say “no” to taking on new opportunities to serve in your association or network in order to say “yes” to planting a strong church.

5. Focus the planter on numerical success, not spiritual fruit.
Sending churches are often looking for quick wins, for tangible successes. And that can lead a planter to feel pressure to produce. When you’re planting a church in a tough area, you might be tempted to look at the numbers, such as how many baptisms you have or don’t have. And you might get discouraged.

Think instead about legitimate fruit, not fast success. You’re not trying to get written about or asked to speak at a conference, you’re trying to see local fruit over the long haul.

6. Tempt the planter to be discouraged by the critics.
It can be discouraging when people criticize what you’re doing. If your identity is wrapped up in reputation, criticism can derail you. Make sure your identity is wrapped up in Christ so that when criticism comes, you can still stay focused on the task at hand.

7. Leverage conflict at home.
Even a healthy family has conflict, but the enemy will use it to try to drive wedges between husbands and wives. Plant as a team, and be careful not to spend too much time on planting and not enough time nurturing your wife.

8. Tempt planter to build his kingdom instead of Christ’s.
If your identity is wrapped up in ministry success, you can inadvertently drift into making your ministry about you and your success.

Don’t let the enemy use this to derail you. Evaluate your impetus to plant. Pray for God to help you put to death the desire to build your own kingdom.

9. Allow for too much “success” too fast.
You might hit it out of the park and experience so much success so quickly that you’re asked to speak all over the place. The enemy can use this against you — you may believe things are better than they are, or you may be tempted to ride the momentum of past success and not tend to the things that brought the fruit in the first place.

Or you may find yourself in a situation of upside-down pride, where the enemy tells you you’re not seeing fruit for a reason.

In both circumstances, remember that God is the one who brings the fruit — it’s not up to you. Your role is simply to be faithful.

What else have you seen the enemy use to defeat a church planter? Which do you need to guard against most? What are some steps you can take to guard yourself against the enemy’s attacks?

NEXT STEPS >> Learn more about how you or your church can be a part of a church-planting residency here.

Published July 14, 2021

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