The Biblical rationale for church planting is so plentiful that it cannot be adequately summarized in this brief space. Nevertheless, the precedence for such an endeavor can adequately be seen in the book of Acts, where Paul and Barnabas are first set apart by the Holy Spirit for the work by the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1-3).
Paul and Barnabas preach the gospel in Cyprus (13:4-21), and continue on to Pisidian Antioch where “the word of God spread through the whole region” (13:49). Despite severe persecution and nearly being stoned to death, Paul and his band continue on to Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe where the Gospel is received with varying success. Nevertheless, before returning to their home church (a more direct geographic route) Paul and his companions retrace their steps in order to “strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith” (14:22). Here a crucial decision is made as Paul “appointed elders for them in each church, and with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord” (14:23). In these actions, we clearly see church planting as a God-ordained, and carefully measured apostolic activity.
These bold and courageous tactics are replicated on Paul’s second and third missionary journeys as well (Acts 15:39-18:22 and 18:23-21:17 respectively). We note Paul’s desire to reach unbelievers with the Gospel (Acts 17:16ff) by taking extraordinary measures to ensure that the pagan (unbelieving) audience of his day heard the saving truth of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of his journeys, Paul becomes the founding pastor of a number of churches, his letters to which would eventually become a major portion of the New Testament corpus. Thus the books of 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1-2 Thessalonians can rightly be considered the by-product of the church planting work.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is not, however, the product of his own church planting efforts. This church was likely formed by Jewish and Gentile Christians of the Diaspora, perhaps as early as 49 BC. However, in this letter, Paul clearly reveals his church planting ambitions stating, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20).
Paul’s church planting zeal is carried over in his pastoral epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus) wherein he urges the latter young pastor to “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). By this, Paul meant that the work of evangelism is not completed until the local church is fully organized. He is also careful to make sure the young pastors have a carefully organized leadership team of elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3), and that various programs are developed to care for the needy (1 Timothy 5).
Paul’s letters indicate that the three marks of a True Church are to be present in all Christian churches: 1) The Word is preached with authority (2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5), 2) the sacraments are rightly administered (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), and 3) church discipline is in affect (1 Corinthians 5).
All of the above events, of course, are founded upon Jesus’ Great Commission (variously articulated in Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47-48, and Acts 1:8). Thus, church planting is an endeavor sanctioned and ordained by the Lord Himself.
How Can This Be?
I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered what God is “doing to you” before—say in taking away a job that you loved, or in causing you to lose a relationship that you had really valued; or even by giving you a stress or a burden that you supposed you could not handle—I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered what God is “up to” before, but consider for a moment the plight of Mary.
Everything was going along just fine, she probably thought, until God got involved! Like most young gals, Mary probably had great dreams; dreams of a beautiful traditional wedding. The whole village would gather to celebrate the nuptials of Joseph and herself. Dreams of raising a family. Perhaps raising crops. Starting a business. And then one day, apparently out of nowhere, Mary receives a stunning, beautiful, shocking and upsetting announcement. Mary will conceive, out of full wedlock, and she being a virgin (untouched, innocent, sexually pure) will bear the Messiah. Luke 1:29 says it best, Mary was greatly troubled at these words.
I want to ask a great question. Maybe the greatest question that has ever been asked and certainly one what would plague Mary for those nine months of pregnancy: Why would God see fit to visit humanity by means of a miraculous virgin birth? Or to say it another way, why would God become man at all? I suppose there could have been any number of possibilities for how God could save the world: He could have sent down a fully formed, mature man from the Heavens. He could have taken a normal guy out of any Jerusalem street and “zapped” him into a divine messenger. But no, God chose to become a man himself in order to redeem the world. In this article, I want to ask one of the greatest theological questions that can ever be pondered: Why did God choose to save the world through the incarnation of Christ?
(Read the full article by clicking on the Pastor's Desk button on the left).