Since church planting is a work that is mandated by the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament to His first disciples, Christian workers or those who do the work of church planting nowadays must follow the same directives that the Lord has given which, in turn, His apostles had passed on to their disciples. Where can one find these directives and pattern for starting a local church but in the Gospels (biographical account of Jesus’ missionary work), book of Acts (a record of Jesus’ first disciples missionary endeavors), and Epistles of the apostles?
Although there are many non-biblical books available on church planting in the bookstores, all of them are just “expansions” or personal applications of the authors of those books of the Biblical strategies. Because many things have changed in the passing of time in these two millennia – like means of transportation, advances in knowledge, high-technology gadgets, etc. – Christian workers/missionaries of today are being pressured by these “changes,” and as a result, instead of simply adapting to the times, many are tempted to “bend” or adjust even the essential biblical truths and strategies.
A quick comparison of two New Testament passages might help the modern-day Bible student to see and understand how to preserve essential biblical strategies in the midst of the fast-changing times. From the time of Jesus’ ascension to the writing of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, a span of roughly more than 30 years have lapsed. But looking at the inspired record of the Scriptures, one will find that as Apostle Paul was giving His last and final instructions to Timothy on how to spread the gospel message and multiply disciples, there was no bending of the “essentials.
” Before Jesus ascended to heaven, the commission He gave to His disciples was, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” . More than thirty years after the Ascension, Paul’s words to Timothy were, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” . The gist of the Great Commission was preserved in Paul’s instruction to Timothy.
There still had to be a “making of disciples” and the “commissioning act. ” The biblical substance of church planting is maintained. Today, as Christians and missionaries continue to uphold this church’s mandate to multiply disciples, it is of great importance that as Christians adapt to the times and employ modern-day gadgets and methods in spreading the gospel, the biblicality or the nature of the churches being formed is preserved. There has to be no compromise or slight adjustments of the biblical truths, or else, the vital character of the church will be altered in the process of time and lose its distinctives as church.
Church planters must bear in mind while doing their work that the looming danger is always the losing of the church’s true identity as secular influences are ever-present. For one thing, too much adoption of secular methods will eventually get the church assimilated into the current culture rendering it ineffective while trying to be effective. It is indeed a great challenge to be relevant and biblical at the same time. This paper deals mainly with the Biblical principles of church planting. Questions dealing with the definition and nature of the church will be discussed, and also biblical principles that are still applicable until today.
Discussion It’s important in dealing with anything about the church to start with its definition. The strategies and their application which is the actual work will become a lot easier when understanding of the church’s make-up is achieved. DEFINITION Although the idea of church is latent in the Old Testament, it is nevertheless there. It is even way way back before time began. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” . In short, the church is God’s idea. It’s not something that was originally concocted by human mind, nor was it an apostolic modification.
Because the nation of Israel was called out of Egypt, and therefore an “assembly” of God’s “called out” people, in this sense, they are called “the church in the wilderness” . In the New Testament, the idea of the church is clearly made known. One Greek word which has become very common is EKKLESIA, a compound of two Greek words (ek and kaleo) meaning “to call out from” . It is used several times in the New Testament, and at times, in a secular sense as in Acts 19:39, which imply an ordinary gathering or meeting of people as they discuss things.
When applied to the gathering of believers in Christ , the idea shifts from ordinary to a special gathering/assembly of people; a people “called out” by God to be separated for Him . Another Greek word which is equally important and expands the idea of the saints’ being “called out” is KURIAKON; it means, “That which belongs to the Lord” . There are certain things in the Bible which are expressed as being of the Lord like “the Lord’s supper” , and “the Lord’s day” . In other passages, the picture given is “that over which the Lord has dominion and authority” as in Luke 22:25 and Romans 14:8-9.
To state it succinctly, therefore, the church comprises people who believe in the Lord Jesus as their Redeemer who took them out of the life of darkness into God’s marvellous light, and who are now under the rule and authority of Jesus Christ. NATURE OF THE CHURCH As suggested at the introduction of this paper, it is imperative of those working as church planters that they fully grasp the nature of the thing which they endeavour to form and establish. Since church is very much unlike any earthly organizations, the tendency to pattern it to the way successful worldly institutions are run is wrong.
Here is where most of church strategies being advocated today are terribly amiss, and this is enough reason that when church planting is discussed a clear distinction is drawn, so that at the very outset of the work (church planting), the very character of the church that the worker is trying to form would be in his full view – thus securing in its foundational stage, its true nature. What then is the nature of the true church? Considering its definition, and putting it in most simple terms, we can think of the church in two ways: 1.
) the church universal, and 2. ) the church local. The church universal is composed of people who are saved by virtue of Christ’s atoning death and physical resurrection, both alive and deceased. This universal nature of the church encompasses every believer in Christ since the New Testament times until He comes again at the Second Coming. The local church, however, is a body of believers/Christians (saved people) located in a specific area who do the work of God in that particular locality and worship together as one congregation in the same place.
Contrary to the universal church which includes already dead believers and those who will be saved in time yet future, a local church is composed only of believers who are still alive physically . What church planting is trying to achieve is the establishment of a local congregation in an identifiable geographical position. The church is described in many meaningful ways in the Bible. It is called the “body of Christ,” “household of God,” “the temple of God,” “the kingdom of Christ,” and “the bride of Christ. ” BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH PLANTING
The best and sure way to start a church is to follow the methods laid down in the Scriptures. There are certain principles that must guide every church planting effort. Since the very nature of the work is primarily spiritual and addresses the most fundamental need of man, the procedure must be done bearing in mind first and foremost this need. 1. ) Preach the pure Gospel. When Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples, He said “Go and preach the gospel. ” If there is someone who knew perfectly man’s deepest need, it was Jesus. He was God in the flesh who practiced what He believed to be true.
But more than this, He did not just live His life trying very hard to obey the Father in certain occasions while struggling with some feelings of uncertainty regarding what might be the best tool in securing the salvation of people. He perfectly knew everyone. Apostle John said, “He had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. ” The point is, if missionaries and Christian workers are to become effective and fruitful in reaching souls for the kingdom of God, there’s no better way than to follow Christ’s instruction to the Apostles.
Twenty centuries have already passed, and yet the most effective tool in saving the lost is still the pure gospel which tells about God’s salvation in Christ. The gospel must not be changed as it was first delivered in Jesus’ time and as He outlined and modeled it to be in the first generation of disciples and believers. Just as it was, so it must be for the current and the succeeding generations, even when the pressures around seem so overwhelming that compromises as to the “tools” of evangelism are becoming widespread in the church.
Despite modern breakthroughs, the pace of life in the fast lane, the complexities of life that make it more confusing, the barrage of stimuli all around the individuals’ physical senses, as well as the latest inventions that inundate people’s relationships, work and hobbies, all these have not changed the nature of man and the bible’s clear declaration of who he is and what he is like apart from the saving grace and dominion of God in his life.
As elaborated by David Fisher in his seminal book The 21st Century Pastor, for as long as the church exists in its earthly setting, there will always be the pull between the “human and the spiritual. ” It is in this context that the pastor and/or worker must bore through his soul, so that the very struggle that he recognizes as the negative pull that tries very hard to make him compromise or bend/adjust a little certain truths to mitigate too much pressure, might be confronted and dealt with every time it resurfaces. This had become the major problem of the Christians in Galatia.
Some of them have already given in to the pressures exerted by the Judaizers of their day. And so Paul had to remind them of the necessity of sustaining the purity of the gospel even under extreme and relentless attacks. Today, probably the forms and methods of assault may have been modified, yet the aim is still the same for the church – for it to dilute and water down the gospel message. 2. ) Send the right people for the job. Another biblical principle in church planting which is uncompromisingly true today is the need for the “right man.
” Along with the increasing speed nowadays in terms of doing things is the impatient attitude that it is leaving behind in everybody’s sub-consciousness. This is one of the causes in some of the major blunders in church planting. Existing problems in many established churches could actually be traced back to its beginning days. Pastors and elders are coping with much difficulty with problems which, if only dealt with early, i. e. in the church’s formation stage, would not be present in the otherwise flourishing church.
If the wrong person is sent to the mission field and tasked to start a church, without the necessary knowledge on Ecclesiology and the possession of spiritual maturity, the ramifications which could have been underestimated at the time would be devastating to the church’s future. For example, one problem could be the appointment of local spiritual leaders who are actually not yet converted or have not fully grasped yet their stature and specific call in Christ and therefore not fit for the particular job of leadership. Another possible negative consequence is the employment of unbiblical methods.
Because discernment comes only to people who have spent considerable time in applying fundamental truths in their lives, a newly converted missionary (which is an oxymoron in the Christian church), for lack of discernment could easily give in to the lures and temptations of adopting worldly methods – methods that are deemed effective by a worldly or secular mind. 3. ) The sending Church must be prepared for the task. While there are exceptions to this, the assumption is church planters are sent by a church who understands its mission.
There are many who have proven themselves through time and by the kind of fruit that their work has yielded that they were called to church planting work. Inspite of the fact that there was no sending church or no group who sent them, these people appear to have a very keen and accurate sense that they were called to the task. And indeed, as they have gone to the respective places where they felt God had called to go, supernatural provisions were made available, thus enabling them to continue until an indigenous church is established and able to run on its own.
This third principle is made clear in certain passages of the New Testament. One example is the church of Antioch who sent Barnabas and Paul for a missionary work to Seleucia, the Island of Cyprus, and around Asia Minor. Missionary work is not a cheap “enterprise. ” It needs adequate financial support; no successful missionary work has ever succeeded with the support of its sending church. Crucial and prerequisite to church planting is a group of believers who believe in the urgency of the task of reaching the lost.
When there is no sense of confidence that a church planter is exuding because he is sent by a group who believes in him in the first place, and regards his work to be that important to the extent that they invest financially for the cause that he is pursuing, it would become difficult for that missionary to convince anybody else. Although the endeavor of anybody who preaches the gospel for the sole sake of saving souls will definitely yield positive spiritual result, the would-be church planter who tries to do the work alone on his own will, in all likelihood, come to a halt along the way.
Those whom he has reached will eventually find a more capable and stable church to fellowship in for spiritual growth. 4. ) Aim for biblical goals. As people get converted, their hunger for spiritual food increases as a consequent result. This stage is crucial as it creates more momentum on the work. The work of discipleship has to be immediately put in place teaching the newly converted ones the ABC’s of the faith, making them in turn workers in that area that will effectively reinforce the work which the missionary has started.
If the worker lingers and waits instead for a more favorable time, the work’s spiritual momentum subsides, and when the awaited occasion comes for the worker, it will be too late as the time when these converts were ripe, when they had that spiritual hunger to absorb spiritual teachings had lapsed; the appropriate time for them to be discipled has expired already. Unfortunately, rudimentary work has to be done all over again. They had to be taught and preached at once again with evangelistic messages as though it is the first time they will be hearing those kind of messages.
It’s not, in any way, suggested that the basics of Christianity such as teachings that deal with redemption of humankind, salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and all the foundational lessons of Christianity, are not beneficial at all to mature Christians. The point that is being emphasized, is that, all the times that were spent by the supposed church planter in laying the foundational work of salvation for the people in the mission field, were almost wasted so to speak, if the church planter would not proceed to implementation of the biblical goals to which the worker had been trained and equipped for.
So, in the work of establishing the church, there has to be no room for loitering, nor hesitation. In church planting, the complete work of the Great Commission must be implemented if the work must succeed. After laying the foundational teachings of salvation clearly to the new believers, the missionary must proceed quickly to the work of discipleship. 5. ) Sustain the work with dynamic prayer and fellowship. One of the most beautiful aspects of the early church’s life is the way they are portrayed in the New Testament.
The record says, “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. ” Actually, these are the features which the modern-day church has difficulty imitating. While many of the churches today have the appearance of possessing those qualities, they are yet to be realized, at least, in the dynamic sense that they were practiced by believers in the early days of the church. Some churches these days refer to fellowship as Shared Life.
The rising trend on mentoring is the outcome of this missing dynamic in relationship between pastors and their parishioners. Mentoring’s emphasis is on the relationship aspect of discipleship. Because, they said, the pastoral work does not start and end in teaching and preaching alone, it is therefore expected that an open relationship be established between the mentor (pastor) and his mentee (disciple/pupil) where they not only learn from the Scriptures through Bible Study, but pray together and take time out together on a regular basis.
Though, the gist of mentoring can be found in some aspects of Jesus’ style of training His twelve disciples, today’s mentoring and its origin (the word “mentor”) is unashamedly claimed by leaders who advocate it to have come from Greek mythology. Ulysses entrusted his son Telemachus to the care of a man whose name was Mentor, before he set himself on a long journey which is recorded for us in Homer’s classic story “Odyssey. ” According to the story, Mentor was such a wise and trusted counselor and a tutor to Telemachus.
” Being a true teacher to his newly harvested spiritual fruits, is definitely one of the emphases of church planting. “Make disciples” and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” are exact words derived from the Great Commission. Conclusion In conclusion, I would admit that to truly emphasize the Biblical Principles of church planting these days (i. e. the actual methods that Jesus and the Apostles utilized and taught), is a kind of setting one’s self in for a lot of complaints and murmuring from the very people who want to be “Biblical.
” If the pastor’s or the church planter’s approach or method in reaching lost souls is primarily to present them the pure gospel which according to Apostle Paul is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,” many from within the ranks of those who call themselves believers will not agree that the means being used is enough to secure a large harvest of souls. The reason for this disagreement is the mind set of many Christians that believe “numbers” are what truly count in the Kingdom of God. This is a misconception of true conversion.
In the eyes of God, to whom everything that we do must be measured, number is not of value. Scripture say that “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” and “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. ” Number is actually deceptive. That’s why, in the first part of this paper, emphasis is given to understanding the nature of the church. Unless one understands clearly what kind of people are those who comprise the church, that person is not ready for church planting.
The reason why effective church planters are fruitful in the work of planting churches is mainly because they what kind of people they are dealing with. The Bible says that the people to be reached with the gospel in the mission field are to be rescued “from darkness to light. ” They are not naturally inclined to spiritual things nor are easily attracted to the Word of God. Given these Biblical profiles of non-believers, the knowledgeable worker of the church is prepared for any rejection coming from these potential converts.
He knows full well that the odds in church planting are that greater number of people will be resistant to the presentation of the gospel message. Nevertheless, trust in the power of God to touch those lives is what continually grips his heart. It keeps him praying and praying till his preaching of the gospel yield the fruit of genuinely converted souls. His mind is not absorbed in numbers, for quantity is misleading; instead, he is after the birth of Christ in the hearts of those whom he is seeking to win.
The provision of God is with those who have answered the call to form His church in whatever geographical location, may it be in a bustling city, or the remotest region elsewhere. The most important thing in church planting is the employment of Biblical principles as revealed and preserved for us in the Scriptures. It is a sure sign that the missionary believes the prescribed weaponry and methods that our Lord has spoken two thousand years ago. Bibliography Arrington, French L. Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament.
Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Acts 13:1-3). pp. 597-599. (1999). Fisher, David. The 21st Century Pastor. Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Pp. 177-179. (1996) Evans, Williams. Great Doctrines of the Bible. The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. p. 141. 1974) Nickols, Fred. Mentor, Mentors and Mentoring. 2002. Accessed June 22, 2007 < http://home. att. net/~nickols/mentor. htm> Spurgeon, Charles. The Soul Winner. Whitaker House: New Kensington, PA. pp. 11. (1995). The New King James Bible. PC Bible CD 2002.