There’s a connection between spiritual warfare and church growth:
Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
1 Timothy 4:1
The greatest tool Satan has used against the church is biblical ignorance. The current American church model has been the model for more than fifty years. This model generally evaluates the size of facilities, finances, and fellowship as markers of whether or not a church is pleasing to God. However, none of these criteria are spiritual markers, but rather temporal and material. It has been my experience that there is little church growth without persecution. The Scripture bears this out in many instances. The church growth models of today experience little if any persecution. The plans do not even factor in such a thing as spiritual warfare, interference from the enemy. This growth model is mainly due to the mindset of “if you do things right” you will begin growing and continue to grow. Church growth as described in Scripture has as much subtraction as addition and an equal amount of multiplication (i.e., mission work).
My experience includes multiethnic churches, large and small Southern Baptist Convention churches, large and small traditional African American Baptist churches, along with various church plants, both domestic and international. I have observed that fast and consistent church growth over an extended period is detrimental to the ability of a church to adopt a model of growth based on spiritual markers. Therein lie its weakness and its lack of relevance. Once the church plateaus, it goes into a state of preservation of its material self. It becomes a monument to God and has little or no spiritual impact on its community. That is as far from the New Testament church as one can be. It is exactly what the enemy has orchestrated to render the church spiritually ineffective. He has been extremely effective at this.
Some would eagerly argue this point, so I want to offer one example that is so disproportionately material and unspiritual that it is the only one needed to defend my point. Let us look at our facilities. Do you think God is pleased with us building multimillion-dollar sanctuaries that we use less than ten hours a week? Meanwhile, there are three billion people on the globe who live on less than USD 2.50 a day, and almost half of those live on less than USD 1.25 per day. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. Yet, we build income tax-exempt organizations, which build tax-exempt properties with interest-bearing loans, and call that giving back to or blessing the community. Jesus Christ invested in people rather than property. Jesus Christ served people in the streets of their communities. He created the first-ever social safety nets for the poor, widows, orphans, and the infirm.
We call ourselves evangelical when less than 1 percent of any Protestant church’s membership has ever shared their faith with a non-believer, with a view of leading them to faith in Jesus Christ. The term “evangelical” in its etymology means to share the good news of Jesus Christ. It does not mean Republican, nor does it mean a strict biblical constructionist or conservative. Media networks and political pundits use this misapplication to describe a certain voter bloc. The misapplication of the word “evangelical” appeals to the biblically ignorant and leads them to believe that they are the moral and justice compasses of our nation. Even a casual study of Scripture will reveal that those who are evangelical do not support or vote for sexual harassers or those accused of sexual improprieties (national political context of late). Paul said to Timothy, as it relates to growing the church at Ephesus: “For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach because we trust in the living God …” Because the church, for the most part, walks by finances today, it has no experience in walking by faith. As a result, it is not in a position to please God. It is only by faith that God can be pleased.
This article is an excerpt from the chapter “Spiritual Warfare and Church Growth,” from Robert L. Williams book, Not on My Watch.