From a talk at a Pioneer Europe Conference
Dave Holden, leader of New Ground family of churches recently spoke at conference which looked at the risks and rewards of pioneering - the highs and lows of church planting. Here are some excerpts from his talk which seems particularly relevant given current cultural trends:
I'm going to talk this afternoon about Standing Firm. We need to be a people who stand firm, no matter what is going on around us at any given time.
The backdrop to this particular conference about risks and rewards is basically the review of church planting in terms of what does it really mean and what does it really cost? I can remember being on platforms and appeals were made for church planters. There were moments when crowds would come forward. I remember two things going through my head as all these people came. Firstly, where on earth are we going to send all these people and do we have the infrastructure? Secondly, do these people really understand what they're coming forward for, the cost to them?
Let's look at some scriptures.
"Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment..." Romans 5v2-5a NLT
Through Jesus, we have obtained access by faith into this grace, in which standing is important in all that God's called us to do. There are moments when the grace of God comes under attack. It's important for us to not move our ground, but to stand firm accordingly.
"A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness..." Ephesians 6v10-14 NLT
If you haven't got it already, as people who are involved in church planting, there will be moments where we will just simply have to stand firm. There are many, many other scriptures that we could look at. So I want to just cover three areas:
1. God wants us to stand firm in our calling. This is true for everybody, but it's especially true for leaders, and it's especially true for church planters, that we are to stand firm in our identity. We have to stand firm in who we are rather than in what we do. When things get a bit difficult, it's that inner certainty that God has called me to be who I am, in this place in this time, and there's no other calling that's happened to take me somewhere else.
Knowing God has called you doesn't mean that that calling won't be tested from time to time. It's not just a done deal. There will be moments of testing and those moments of testing are important to confirm to you that the calling of God is very, very real.
And if it's the calling of God, He will flood you with peace. That peace of God is one of the clearest indications that we know that we're called. Nehemiah, Moses, David are examples of people standing firm, not in their feelings, not their best circumstances, but in terms of the call of God upon their lives. Others were intimidated by their circumstances. They'd forgotten who they were - their identity. They'd forgotten who the enemy was and his incapacity to defeat them. They'd forgotten God was with them. They'd forgotten their prophetic promises of God.
2. Stand firm against the schemes of the enemy. Have we sometimes underestimated the issue of spiritual warfare and the opposition that we face towards planting churches? Jesus said I will will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. That doesn't mean that the gates of hell will have a pretty good try to prevent us from moving forward into God's purposes. There are so many reasons that, when we are involved in church planting, we hit genuine problems and difficult times and seasons. Sometimes those seasons are shaping us, training us, changing us in ways we can't see at the moment. Sometimes the tough things we face have got nothing to do with God at all but a lot to do with ourselves. In other words, we have put ourselves into positions that have caused us to have lots of difficulties and troubles because we're not living right or we're not pacing ourselves, or we've neglected certain spiritual disciplines.
But sometimes, the reason that we're facing opposition is because of the spiritual warfare that we find ourselves in. This is not to cause us to have fear, but to do what I believe the Scripture says we should do when we come to facing spiritual warfare, and that is to wake up, discern, come to life where we've been dull and we've been passive. These are not two equal forces - we're fighting against an enemy who has already been defeated. Jesus is interceding for us. He is here building his church. He is growing his church. He is filling us with the Spirit.
What should our response be to the reality of standing firm in the battle? Put on the armour of God as a regular thing - meditate on Ephesians 6. Wake up - it's one of the greatest exhortations for us in the Bible. Pray in the Spirit - If we make a stand, as a community together, praying in the Spirit, it has a huge effect in terms of spiritual warfare. The fourth thing is the word 'discernment'. I feel this is increasingly becoming an issue for us. Sadly, I'm finding Christians, even leaders, who are just not discerning the culture in which we live. There are spiritual gifts of discernment, of distinguishing spirits, It is remarkable how often Timothy is exalted to be very discerning, to open up his eyes to understand the things are going on. I would really encourage us to ask for these more and more.
3. Stand firm in our faith. As we come out of this difficult season we've all been through, I'm finding myself trying to encourage Christians everywhere to exercise faith. I do not believe we're meant to come out of this season devoid of faith. As a pastor, I want to be kind, patient gentle with leaders. I think we need a way to speak tenderly to people. I do know there are moments when Christians have gone beyond a place of caution into fear and then I think, "Now I've got permission to talk to you. You are giving into fear." I'm still tender and gracious. Fear is going to rob you of so much in your life. Don't give in to fear. If we are going to stand firm in our calling, and we're going to stand firm against the schemes of the enemy then we need to stand firm in our faith.
The Hebrews 11 crowd - the great heroes of the faith - were all exercising faith coming out of difficulties, of trials. You and I would describe these last two years is difficult time, not knowing what the future is and how we're going to do all God has called us to do. We're in great company.
Hear the full talk here.
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From a talk at a Pioneer Europe Conference, 14/02/2023