1) History: Evangelism to Church Planting
Church planting is a relatively new term. Historically, the church talked about evangelism, both as the Bible's mission as well as the means to that mission. Only recently has the concept of church planting been so popularized that 'evangelism' in its broader sense seems improper. Without the greater goal of church planting, evangelism is often thought of as irresponsible.
2) The Bible and Church Planting
So what does the Bible say about church planting, if anything? Actually church planting is not so quickly seen or understood in the Bible as some would seem to indicate. Nor do we learn of any sense of irresponsibility attached to those who are busy evangelizing.
Let us look at two ways church planting is taught in the scriptures.
a) The Goal - a mature body of believers interworking (Ephesians 4)
Ephesians 4 is one of those great passages that summarize the overarching goals that God is achieving in and through the church. Although Christ works for individuals, He has corporate goals and means including salvation. His plans for 'me' are greatly affected His plans for 'us.' In fact, it is probably more proper to think what He has revealed to us as a whole before trying to understand God's will for our own selves.
Ephesians 4 speaks clearly as to how and why God has gifted and appointed different people in His kingdom. God is building up His people and shaping them into His 'called out ones' (literally meaning of the church). Salvation can never be separated from sanctification. Baptism in Christ incorporates them in the church as Christ's body. This compels them to identify themselves with the earthly local church for it is there God has designed to accomplish many of His great goals.
b) A few examples will help us illustrate our point.
Before we begin, let us remember there are many examples of evangelism without the obvious focus on church planting such as the preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch and Stephen's preaching at his death. Evangelism is one part of church planting and should not be despised. Church planting describes the beginning stages of groups of God's people coming to know Him and asembling together before Him.
We see plenty of examples of 'church planting' in the book of Acts.We need to remember that it is the Lord who is doing the church planting. This seems to be the purpose of the persecution upon the Jerusalem church in Acts 8:2. That was like breaking open a hornet's nest. The disciples spread the Word wherever they went. In some cases such as in Damascus, they met together with other newer disciples.
The church was first established in Jerusalem, but local assemblies would still need to be planted in Euro-Asia. Paul (Saul) receives the call to do God's work (Acts 13:2). In many places he was not able to 'start a church' in its real sense. Through evangelism he laid the basis for the church to grow. This was his apostleship at work. It does not seem that he started a church in Cyprus but others later on would do this. In other places, though, where able and proper, Paul would actually appoint elders such as in Lystra and in other places.
"And when they had appointed elders for them in every church..."(Acts 14:23)
When there were enough believers and sufficient time, he would appoint elders over that flock. Paul knew what the church should look like. The purpose was not to have some church building but a group of God's people being responsible to the elders over them which in turn served God. Jewish believers with their background in the scriptures accelerated this process.
Church planting is the process of building up the kingdom of God clearly illustrated and taught in the scriptures. Rightly understood it helps us understand all the dynamics necessary in building a church so that it will be strong and protected. The establishing of its own leaders enabled them to say there was now a church there. Acts 20:17 says, "He sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church." These situations are illustrated over and over. In Paul's instruction to Timothy we see that Timothy as pastor appointed elders. He was cautioned not to anoint new believers to this position.
Church planting describes the whole process of what happens when God blesses the preaching of the Word of God to the lost and calls a number of people to become His people. Because of this, we can better identify the critical parts and help strengthen weak areas. An example of this is discipleship. People have so focused on evangelism that they have been slack in following up the lost. They are content to only preach and let God do the rest. We need to make plans for the baby and not just for his birth. We must recognize that God often uses others to raise the ones that were birthed while in our arms (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Church planting then describes the whole cycle from seed to maturity where people are called into God's kingdom, grow and then again multiply. Since these goals clearly align themselves with the scriptures, we should look forward to how God will help us to be part of this process, where churches come into being, grow and then reduplicate themselves.
What are some princples of good church planting? Next page