Gaius Julius Caesar, who lived from July 100 BC to March 44 BC, was one of the most accomplished of ancient leaders, playing a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. In 60 BC he formed a military-political alliance with Gnaeus Pampeius Magnus and Marcus Lincinius Crassus known as the First Triumvirate. He became the first general to cross the English Channel by launching an invasion of Great Britain and the first to cross the Rhine when he built a bridge over it. The death of Crassus in 53 BC led to a political showdown with Pompey who, with the backing of the Roman Senate, ordered Julius Caesar to stand trial on various charges in 50 BC. His response was to march on Rome with a legion of soldiers, crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC. Pompey managed to escape to Egypt where he was assassinated. Politically unopposed, Caesar was appointed dictator by the Senate for two one year terms, then to a ten year term in 46 BC, and finally in February 44 BC as dictator for life. His life term lasted only one month. On March 15, 44 BC, as he appeared at a session of the Senate, he was attacked by approximately 60 Senators, stabbed 23 time and according to Shakespeare (among others) uttered his immortal words, “Et tu Brute?” before dying.
Is there a moral to this story? More than a few. In the context of spiritual journeys and church planting, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” just not too close!
Politics played a big role in my decision to plant. From my entrance into Baptist Church life as a child until 1993, I had witnessed, participated in and been the victim of church politics. Whether it was annual, quarterly or monthly business meetings, the politics of church life were the bane of Kingdom work. Historically, such democratic processes were born of the need for an antidote to hierarchical religious life that had produced such structures as the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, where all power and authority was reserved for the “clergy” (a term that is unbiblical and personally detestable). While empowering every believer with a voice in church life, it also provided a forum for the least spiritual to set the agenda.
I planted because I wanted the freedom to pursue God’s will without either having to ask for permission or apologize for having done so. Planting requires walking by faith, where, when and how it doesn’t make sense. Why should I, with the gift of faith, be denied the exercise of it by a vote of those without it? While some vestiges of church life benefit from a popular vote, vision does not. Someone has describe the perfect balance as that of “benevolent despotism”. A wise leader knows when and on what to vote on without giving up the responsibility incumbent on the position. I thought that I had figured it out.
In the beginning, God blessed, the ministry prospered, I was admired and respected and the people were happy. While there were a few who fell away, most weren’t noticed or missed because they were replaced ten fold. One area that didn’t prosper was in giving. Converted pagans have really messed up finances and require a while to give as they should. Consequently, we were never able to steal someone else’s highly qualified leaders, but rather had to do the best we could with what we had when it came to staffing.
The first time it happened to me was in 2000 and the last time in 2010. You would think that the greatest dangers in Kingdom work would come from the enemies of the Cross. Such enemies can be people, circumstances or systems. What Gaius Julius Caesar discovered was that conspicuous enemies are more easily dispensed with because you know who and where they are. He was successful against every one of those. His undoing was among those who had declared him “dictator for life”. Brutus, an assumed trusted friend, betrayed that trust to the dismay and demise of Caesar, hence the, “You too, Brutus?” Successful church planting brings out the best and worse in those who share the journey. There’s nothing like a “vote by blade” to thrill the soul of a planter!