I've never fought in a war, but I've read my share of war stories, watched my share of war documentaries, and visited my share of war memorials. Every war had some objective, some overriding purpose that drove men to sacrifice their lives.
Spiritual warfare is no different. What is the overriding goal of spiritual warfare? To plunder the enemy. Spiritual warfare is about rescuing sinners enslaved to Satan and his kingdom. It's about conversion—the transfer of precious souls from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God's beloved Son (Col. 1:13-15).
Plundering Satan's kingdom is the mission of the church and of the church planter. When Jesus charged the apostles to "make disciples of all the nations," they responded by preaching the gospel and planting churches, plundering the enemy's kingdom one soul (or 3,000) at a time (Acts 2:40-47). And we'll be plundering our enemy until Christ returns, when converts from every tribe and tongue and people and nation will worship the Lamb forever and ever.
Church Planting and False Conversions
If church planting is to be ultimately about conversion, church planters must be more than good neighbors. We must be faithful gospel heralds and competent soul physicians.
Most of you reading this article have already embraced the need for gospel clarity. But why all this talk about conversion? Isn't conversion a matter between the individual and God? Don't we believe that, once saved, always saved? Will not God save his elect?
Yes, yes, and of course, yes. And yet, Jesus and the apostles spoke often about true conversion. They knew what was at stake, and they wanted their listeners to be clear. They warned the people against false faith—unfruitful faith (Mark 4:1-20), spurious faith (John 8:30-58), vain faith (1 Cor. 15:1-4), devil faith (James 2:14-26). They warned them not to be deceived—about themselves, or about anyone else (see Gal. 5:19-24, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 John 3:4-10). And then there's that most haunting warning, in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness."
Church Planters as Soul Physicians
Church planters must be clear on the nature of conversion because false conversions abound, and precious, eternal souls are at stake. Jonathan Edwards was right when he said there is no question of greater importance to mankind. And, for pastors and church planters, the question takes on particular importance, as they will one day give an account for the souls in their flock (Heb. 13:17).
That's why The Gospel Coalition, 9Marks, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and The NETS Institute for Church Planting are joining forces in Boston this fall for a TGC regional conference called Plant New England. On October 14 and 15, churches, church planters, pastors, and lay people from throughout New England will gather to become better plunderers, better soul physicians. We'll be learning from men like Mark Dever, Stephen Um, Jim Hamilton, Collin Hansen, and Owen Strachan. And our theme? True Conversion: Church Planters as Soul Physicians.
The battle rages on, but the objective remains unchanged: rescuing precious souls from the kingdom of darkness. Will you pray for us as we become better warriors for the soul? And won't you join us for Plant New England?