Satan loves to lie. It’s his chief M.O. in his efforts to thwart the advance of God’s kingdom. And since the planting of churches is God’s primary way of advancing his kingdom, Satan particularly loves to lie to church planters.
Some of his lies are obvious. As hard as it is to functionally believe at times, we at least know that our worth isn’t found in our ministry output. We know that Christ’s love for us and our identity in him don’t depend on our effectiveness. But some lies—perhaps the most dangerous ones—sound more believable. Like the whispers to Eve in the Garden, they sound just enough like truth to be credible.
Over the past several years of planting, I’ve heard—and believed—some of these lies. Here are the top five.
1. If you want something done right, do it yourself.
The balance between appropriate ownership of responsibilities and allowing others to carry the load is challenging. The captain must steer the ship. But he can’t do that while manning the sails, checking for land, and reviewing the maps—at least not at the same time. And if he tries, he certainly won’t do everything well.
Trying to implement the ministry philosophy of someone with a different skill set, or of a church with different resources is an exercise in foolishness, not faithfulness.
You may have many gifts, and you might be more qualified, but there is likely someone else who can do that task better with their whole attention than you can with a fraction of yours. What’s more, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11–12 that the role of the pastor is to equip others for the work of ministry. That becomes difficult if we insist on doing all the ministry ourselves.
2. You must do a lot of things to be successful.
Ever wonder why Google won the search engine race against Yahoo, despite Yahoo once being in a position to acquire Google for only $1 million? It’s because while Yahoo tried to do it all, Google focused exclusively on being a search engine. Yahoo’s page consists of news, weather, tabloids, and more. Google’s page is simply a search bar. And that’s why today, you “Google” something instead of “Yahooing” it.
Planters are tempted to do it all. Social media floods us with pastoral FOMO as we’re bombarded with ideas that create the urge to add a little extra to our ministry. Resist that urge. Say no to things, and say it often. Discover what you can do well, and do it. Be Google, not Yahoo.
3. You must be a dynamic communicator to be an effective preacher.
Few lies burden a church planter like the one that says faithful preaching can only look a certain way. We assume our churches will expect next Sunday’s service to mimic what they share on Instagram and Twitter. Don’t mishear me: preaching ought to be compelling and affection-stirring. Its goal is to elicit worship, not just disseminate information. As Tim Keller says, we aim to change the listener “on the spot.” But that can be achieved through myriad styles.
As pastors, we should strive to better our preaching. But we must remember that true power lies not in “lofty speech or wisdom,” but in “demonstration of the Spirit and . . . the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4–5).
4. Faithfulness to the gospel can only look a particular way.
It’s a privilege to live in the information age. The amount of helpful content just a browser search or Amazon order away is a blessing. We can, more easily than ever before, learn from those wiser and more experienced than ourselves. But the downside of all this access is the lie that our ministry philosophies must reflect the most recent book we’ve read.
Effective church planting means knowing which variables are independent and which are dependent. While a church’s tight grip on orthodoxy and commitment to its mission should never waver, the resources and contexts will change regularly. We must discern how to solidify the former and evolve with the latter.
We labor for what Satan loathes. We embrace what he tries to erase. So keep sharp. Stay alert.
Again, we learn from our brother Paul. He believed that matters of “first importance” remained just that: of first importance (1 Cor. 15:1–5). Yet he had no problem contextualizing his message and adjusting his approach depending on his circumstances (Acts 17:16–34; Rom. 14:14–15). Trying to implement the ministry philosophy of someone with a different skill set, or of a church with different resources is an exercise in foolishness, not faithfulness.
5. You build the church.
All of these lies find their source in perhaps the most dangerous one that Satan wants church planters to believe: this is on you. If he can get you to believe that the church rests on your shoulders, he’s succeeded in thwarting the advancement of God’s kingdom, because now you’re only building your kingdom. And he’s more than ok with that.
Church planter, remember Jesus’s promise: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus builds his church.
Satan loves to lie to church planters because we endeavor to bring about his greatest fear—the spread of God’s kingdom on earth. We labor for what Satan loathes. We embrace what he tries to erase. So keep sharp. Stay alert. Our enemy stands ready to lure you with his lies. Remain faithful to your first love (Rev. 2:4) and trust the endgame to the One who is infinitely more capable than we are.