Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Genius of Church Planting

In preparing notes to speak on evangelism and the local church, I began considering the genius of church planting. Church planting combines many of the focal points important for local church evangelism and adds to them the entrepreneurial spirit of youth—a powerful mix!
Consider how church planting amalgamates the best of the following:
  • The gift of the evangelist
  • Follow-up and discipleship
  • Pastoral ministry
  • A zeal to starting something new

In addition to these four, church planting also:
  • Frustrates the plans of the Evil One
  • Glorifies Christ

So, church planting as an evangelism tool is a powerful motivational force that can and has captured the zeal of young minds to accomplish something truly substantial for Christ. In fact, church planting is a six-way “Win-Win” proposition!
#1—Church Planting Combines the Best of the Gift of the Evangelist
In Ephesians 4:11 Christ is described as giving gifts of particular leaders to His church. There are five in all:
“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11)
So the crucified and risen Christ poured out His gift of leaders upon the church to gather and multiply His elect. And one of those leaders was the “apostle,” among whom was the Apostle Paul, who penned the verse above. Yet, although Paul was an apostle he functioned in all five of the roles named above. Several verses focus on Paul’s role as an evangelist.
First, when Paul was seeking the leading of the Lord for his future ministry, God spoke to him in a dream:
“During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, ‘Cross over to Macedonia and help us!’ After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.” (Acts 16:9-10)
So God called the Apostle Paul to the ministry of evangelizing. Evangelism is also the first stage of church planting.
#2—Church Planting Includes Follow-Up and Discipleship
After evangelism comes follow-up and discipleship. Paul did not leave his converts unattended, but sought to follow-up with them and disciple them. In the Acts we find Paul following-up on the churches he planted at the end of his first missionary journey. Notice how Luke described the follow-up ministry of Paul:
“After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, ‘It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.’ When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” (Acts 14:21-23)
In these verses, we find the first three stages of church planting evangelism gathered in one place. We read of Paul (1) “evangelizing” the city of Derbe. This evangelism resulted in Paul’s team making “many” disciples. Next we find that they (2) strengthened the disciples and encouraged them. So their follow-up consisted of their gathering the disciples and encouraging them to press on in the faith.
#3—Church Planting Encourages the Gift of the Pastor
Then Paul’s missionary team (3) gathered the disciples into local church fellowships by appointing leaders for each church. What a great example of church planting by the Apostle Paul and his team we find in Acts 14!
As to pastoral ministry, another vision of Paul explained God’s calling for the pastor to evangelize. In Acts 18:8-10 God again spoke to Paul in a dream:
“Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed the Lord, along with his whole household. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized. Then the Lord said to Paul in a night vision, ‘Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.’” (Acts 18:8-10)
Verse 10 stands as particularly engaging to the pastor. Although the pastor’s number one ministry is shepherding the gathered people of God, he still needs to remember, “I have many people in his city.”
The pastor therefore needs to lead his people in evangelism and into evangelism!
It seems like that vision rang in his ears for the rest of his life. Around 20 years later Paul wrote to Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.” Fulfilling his ministry provided the context for this admonition.
“But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
#4—God Has Given Youth a Zeal to Starting Something New
God has often instilled into the psyche of youth the desire to start something new. It is part of human nature and it is part of God’s plan. Solomon encouraged young people:
“Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9)
The Apostle John picked up on this youthful zeal in an interesting way:
“I am writing to you, young men, because you have had victory over the evil one. … I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have had victory over the evil one.” (1 John 2:13, 14)
It is exciting to experience young people being filled with zeal for things of Christ. Church planting movements are founded. New music is written. New patterns of church life and worship are established. Spiritual awakenings happen. It is beautiful to see the creative work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of young people!
#5—Church Planting Frustrates the Plans of the Evil One
Interestingly, as noted by the Apostle John above, when youth are ministering with their God-given zeal, they are victorious over the evil one! Church planting results in the frustration of the plans of the evil one in two ways: (1) it frustrates his work the life of the young church planter, and (2) it frustrates his plans in the lives of those impacted by the church planter!
#6—Church Planting Glorifies Christ
Church planting also glorifies Christ by working together with Him to accomplish what He is busy doing in the world. Jesus said:
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Christ is in the business of “building His church.” And when we are involved in church planting we are joining Him in His work of building His church!
Paul described this work as building on the foundation of Christ:
“According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)
So church planting is genius. It is a six way “Win-Win.” It furthers the cause of Christ in history, frustrates the devil, and it amalgamates every stage of Christ’s Great Commission. May God give us the zeal to plant churches and may He call out many young people to this important work!