Let’s just file this away into the “things we don’t ever talk about” folder. We say it’s real, incessant, and painful, but we don’t train our people for it. If you’re getting ready to come into the enemy’s territory, he’s waiting to meet you.
In WW2, Hitler’s German forces readied themselves by erecting telephone poles called “Rommel’s Asparagus” to stop low flying planes. The enemy peppered the countryside with pillboxes equipped with mounted machine guns, and strewed the beachhead with tank-stoppers, mines, and barbed wire. What will the enemy use to stop you?
It’s a question worth asking, and the answer is “whatever he can”. He will press your defenses until he finds a weakness. That’s why Paul tells the Ephesians to suit up and put their big boy armor on. If the Ephesians walk in love, walk in the light, and walk in everything else that Paul told them in his letter, so that they radiate the light of God’s glory like the temple, then rest assured, the army of darkness will come to plunder it in response.
Therefore, he tells them to make their “stand”. The term stand is repeated 7 times in that short passage. He’s telling them to dig in. The enemy is coming in for a blow, and they don’t have the required strength, prowess, or skill to stop him. Like Rocky Balboa, they just need to stand their and take the beating until the bell dings. Sometimes standing is all you need to make you a champion, so that you can shout speckles of spit through your swollen face, “Yo Jesus…I did it!!!” But you’re not alone. In fact, Paul terms standing in that armor as standing in “the armor of God” and rephrases it as “the power of HIS might”.
After all, that’s what armor is…borrowed strength. A suit of armor, is a second skin, worn because yours isn’t strong enough to last the attack. And neither are you. But are you willing to stand?
Falling back is a form of attack. Standing, enduring, and staying put means that you stay in the fight. And that’s enough…for now. You’ll be maneuvering on the offense and defense before this battle is won. That’s how war works. It’s how church planting starts, and continues until the war is won.
When people joined my core team over the years in the churches I’ve planted, my welcome included a backhanded apology. “Welcome” I’d say, and quickly add, “And I’m sorry…your life is about to fall apart.” In my first church plant ever, everybody’s lives fell apart rather quickly. The same happened in my second. It’ll happen every time I plant. Guaranteed. I don’t think many people really believe in spiritual warfare until they go on mission. That’s because they’ve not experienced it intensely until they put their toe to the line, and cross over into enemy territory.
The military knows that it can’t have a bunch of individuals running around in a squad. It needs a functioning unit, and to accomplish this, each individual needs to stop thinking of themselves as an individual and reinvent themselves as a member of a body with a specific function that acts on behalf of the squad. The first step in this identity transformation is to buzz the head of every recruit, issue identical standard issue clothing, and teach them to march in formation as a single unit. The Army requires this to instill the principle that there are no individuals in a squad. Individuals get people killed. Therefore, they have to train them to think as a unit. In the same way you have to train a church planting core team about their corporate identity.
They need to know that they’re no longer christian consumers who attend church services to meet their own needs. They are no longer merely autonomous individuals. They are soldiers. They are missionaries. When Paul spoke to Timothy, he told him to reframe how he saw himself, “Endure hardship as a good soldier.” They need to know that they are picking a fight with the enemy, and the second they enlist, they are in the enemy’s crosshairs. Just like my congratulatory welcome and condolences in the same breath over a handshake, every drill sergeant is aware that he’s training men for death. That’s why he’s hard on his soldiers. I’m not hard on my team, but I know that they’re about to get made into soldiers. As they head out into mission, these thorns in their flesh are going to be paving the way to greater power. Their weakness becomes exposed through thorns in the flesh, opening up a channel for Christ’s power to rest upon them. Their flesh dies daily as they reckon themselves dead. They become toughened up. In short, I’m asking them to develop a war mentality.
In times past, men and women embarked on pilgrimages to places of religious worship, but in order to truly make a pilgrim, a soldier for Christ, or a missionary, one makes a reverse pilgrimage, away from centers of religious worship. It’s the outward propulsion of a soldier deployed on mission, or a missionary leaving Father, Mother, brothers, sisters, that resembles Jesus leaving heaven. If you want to be Christ-like, you must be on mission. The rest of the time, we learn in the trenches, on deployment. Boot camp doesn’t make a soldier, it just trains him to start thinking like one. John Bunyan echoes this:
“Who would true valor see, Let him come hither;
One here will constant be, Come wind, come weather; There’s no discouragement Shall make him once relent His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.