In life, there’s only one way to avoid facing opposition—just don’t do anything. Even elementary school science students understand that every action is met with an equal but opposite reaction. Why should we expect anything different as we revitalize our churches?
Opposition can come in many forms. I have distilled it down to primarily three:
Opposition Can Be Territorial
Having a sense of ownership for your church’s facilities and ministries can be a good thing. It’s okay to take pride in a ministry that’s near and dear to your heart. When you invest your time and effort into something, you naturally begin to have a feeling that it’s your turf. But understand this—your church, your ministry, your facility isn’t your turf. It’s Jesus’ turf. He’s the one who died for it, so it belongs to Him. When your church begins to have an impact in its community, things will get messy. Programs and ministries will change. Maybe even the ones that you really like. But remember, it’s Jesus’ territory—not yours.
Opposition Can Be Historical
You’ve heard the seven last words of a dying church: “We’ve never done it that way before.” That’s one form historical opposition can take. We can be so enamored by our history and tradition that it’s nearly impossible to move forward. But historical opposition can take a much more subtle and pervasive form. It’s sad, but true—grudges and bitterness about things in the past will often result in opposition to revitalization. “I got hurt doing that before, so I’m not going to allow myself to get hurt again.” It’s like the jilted lover who swears off dating forever. Historical opposition can result in those who have been beat up by the past refusing to step back in the ring. But there comes a time when you have to understand that the past is in the past—leave it there. The future is bright, but you can’t see it if you’re blinded by the past.
Opposition Is Always Spiritual
Regardless whether opposition presents itself as territorial or historical, understand this—opposition to God’s work is always spiritual. Jesus has called your church to be His witnesses to a watching world, both seen and unseen. Satan, our adversary, will do anything in his limited power to oppose that. The opposition to your church’s revitalization might seem like it’s coming from certain people or circumstances, but behind it all is spiritual opposition. The opposition you’re wrestling with is not against people, budgets, facilities, society or circumstances—it’s against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
The sad thing is that when many people face opposition, they quit. It is much easier to continue decaying with the status quo than fight the opposition that comes with revitalization. But Jesus didn’t call our churches to simply exist while the world around us goes to Hell. He called us to persevere and overcome the opposition so that we will revitalize and impact our world with the gospel.