Much is written about exegeting culture, being contextually aware and relevant. Whilst these are true and valid conversations, the church planter must first remind himself that he has been called to war. Victory cannot be negotiated around being cool, hip and current. That may gather a crowd but will not truly, fully and weightedly defeat a highly intentioned foe. These pieces of the puzzle are essential and we will explore them later. However we must prepare for war.
The prophet Joel proclaims: "The Lord has spoken. 'Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say: "I am strong"'... Bring down your warriors, O Lord.'
May I suggest that the planter, seeking to push through the limits of 150, needs to engage in the theology of God the Commander in Chief and we His army. Satan fought to gain dominion in the garden by taking man's authority from him. This defeat brought about a journey of combative redemption culminating at the cross and empty tomb. The wonder and genius of this ransom paid, paved the way for us to gain the victory that Christ made available to us. However, as with the closing months of World War 2, we are fighting pockets of resistance to prepare the way for the Lord's return.
When we planted Glenridge Church in the 80's, we found ourselves focussed to get the church rooted in the city. However, we were also fighting for our country as South Africa was slowly imploding with the apartheid years drawing to a most needed close. But Satan wanted chaos and blood shed. We prayed. We fasted. Every year. Often. Regularly. From daily fasting to many three day fasts, to a 10 day water only fast to a 3 week fast [of soup and fruit juice] meeting every night, to cry out to God for our breakthrough, we prayed and prayed and prayed. I am absolutely convinced it would not have been possible without a culture of prayer and fasting.
May I suggest strongly, planters must accept that going through this most challenging of ceilings, is an act of war. He and his community must be mobilized to fight the enemy and destroy the dominion of darkness. Glenridge grew from about 40 of us who started, to 120 where we got stuck. We had to fight our way through. We then grew to 500 which felt so good but seemed so incomplete. Prayer and fasting pushed us through this ceiling toward the 1000 mark when M and I handed over. Real, true authentic growth with a sense of compelling community fashioned by a raw fighting gutsiness, is part of the church planting story.
The ceiling is secondly shattered by the destroying the mindsets that fight this most necessary evolution. The scripture says that: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:3 - 6. The very knowledge of God mobilizes us, that we are to "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth..." Gen 1:28. With many other texts, they tell us, that this is the Father's divine intention. When we have reasons that counter this clarion call, we are using arguments and pretensions that need to be broken and repented of, as they are fighting and resisting the very purposes of God.
Unfortunately these times of war, often lead to casualties that really hurt the growing church. The church plant is often built around a very high relational quotient. Declarations are made that these relationships are for life. However, these are both biblical and sentimental. The biblical part the Father with endorse. The sentimental, He will remove. Jesus would not let sentimentality get in the way of His obedience. Even Paul, when Agabus prophesied over him, refused to let sentimentality get in the way. They pleaded with him not to go. He however was "compelled by the Spirit" Acts 20:22.
Ephesians 6:10 - 19 is not to be a neglected text. The leader must be called to war. The people are to be called to war. However, it is a spiritual war. Do not find yourself in a combative engagement with folks in the church. Do not use the pulpit to bludgeon folks who do not want growth and who hijack every growth effort. Go to war — but in the heaven-lies. Be found in prayer dear leader. Be found in the text, on your knees, crying out for God's will to be done. Ask Him to let those who fight growth "repent or be removed," keeping the relationships healthy and current, but they cannot interfere with the call of God. That dear sir, is what we will ultimately be asked to give an account for. The fear of lost relationships is paralyzing for too many planters. Sentiment must surrender to obedience.
"Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men!'". Acts 5:29