Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Biblical Basis for Church Planting

Kurt Miller gave a presentation where he ran through the Biblical Basis for Church Planting. Below are the items he mentioned:

Church planting is based on the biblical mission of God.
Mission describes everything. We needto be reminded that “while we are going, make disciples” (Matt 28:19). The assumption of God was that his disciples would all live on mission. God lives on mission. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son…” We must live on mission because our God is a sending God. He operates on mission.

Church planting is based on the teachings of our Lord.
Remember the parable of Jesus about the master who prepared a great dinner for his guests. Many turned down his invitation to eat, so the master said, “Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

Church planting is based on the Lord’s commission.
The main part of His Great Commission is “making disciples” (Matt 28:19). This is what Jesus asks. He is the one who commissions making disciples and the gathering of those disciples into new churches.

Church planting is based on God’s plan for building the church.
Ephesians 2:19-22 “…you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” God is building the church this way. Jesus said, “I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18 NASB)

Church planting is based on an apostolic gift and function.
Paul was an apostle. He was the starter of many churches. But Paul wasn’t just an apostle. Consider 1 Timothy 2:7, “And for this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” Paul functioned in at least three roles as mentioned in this passage. In a similar way, I (Kurt) seem to play a multiple role. Primarily I’m an evangelist, but I serve in an apostolic function to see new churches started. 1 Corinthians 12:28 gives us order for church planting, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,…” The apostolic gift and function leads the way for church planting.

Church planting is based on God’s initiative.
God makes it grow. Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). He is the initiator. He is the most interested in this enterprise. The apostolic and evangelistic functions are “seed-scatterers.” The more seed scattered, the more reaping will result. The more reaping is glory to God.

Church planting is based on the mission of the local church.
Every living thing reproduces after its kind. Churches reproduce churches. Additionally, churches must be active evangelistically and socially. For far too long we have held these as opposites in church work. These two functions of church life must go together. Evangelism and church planting are part of the mission of the local church.

Listen to the words of Emil Bruner, “As the fire exists by burning so the church exists by mission.” Both neighborhood evangelism as well as cross-cultural evangelism should be given equal emphasis. Both the home mission and the foreign mission must be emphasized in the total missionary involvement of the local church.

Theodore Williams explains it clearly in his book, The Local Church and Mission: “A church that has no concern for cross-cultural evangelism is not fulfilling its mission.” He emphasizes this point from a quotation from the constitution of the Church Of South India which he feels states this point beautifully: “Every congregation of the people of God is basic to mission in its neighborhood and to the ends of the earth. The mission of the local church does not end with the mere proclamation of the gospel. There must be the planting of churches among the people to whom the gospel is proclaimed. The mission of the local church is evangelization with a view to planting churches in the neighborhood and in the world. Local churches reproduce themselves in their neighborhood and on the mission field.”

Church planting is based on the growth pattern of the New Testament church.
The book of Acts documented with numerical figures the growth of the early church. Somebody was counting. The pattern in the New Testament was growth—an increase in numbers of disciples.

In our circles, we are often uncomfortable with the growth because we are concerned about the quality of the disciples. It is good for us to recognize the “quality and quantity” tension won’t go away. There were certainly problems with the Church Growth Movement heightening the attention to the quantity aspect. At the same time, God expects us to see disciples being made and churches being planted. We must make quality disciples and more of them. Let’s celebrate the tension.

Church planting is based on the nature of the gospel.
Start in Romans 1:16; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The Gospel is the power! Paul goes on expounding this in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “ For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”(NIV).
The faithful and effective communication of the Gospel should win people to Jesus and the planting of churches. We need to ask an important question, “Why aren’t more people coming to Jesus and more churches being planted?”

Church planting is based on the work of the Holy Spirit.
We see the example in Acts 13:1-3, where God in the person of the Holy Spirit sent out the first missionaries. They were to reproduce around the world. That is the work of the Spirit. The missionary or the evangelist should live in conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit. No amount of study, training and experience would substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit.

Philip Hogan of the Assemblies of God has rightly emphasized this fact. “I am persuaded to believe, that after taking advantage of every tool, pursuing every possible human plan, all one needs to do to find plenty of service is simply to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. When one engages this truth and begins to live by its principle, there will be whole communities, whole cities, whole nations, whole cultures and whole segments of pagan religions that will suddenly be thrust open to the Gospel witness...”

The Lausanne Covenant states, “The Father sent the Spirit to bear witness to his Son; without this witness, ours is futile. Conviction of sin, faith in Christ, new birth, and Christian growth are all the Spirit’s work. Further, the Holy Spirit is a missionary spirit; thus evangelism should arise spontaneously from a Spirit-filled Church. A Church that is not a missionary Church is contradicting itself and quenching the Spirit. Worldwide evangelization will become a realistic possibility only when the Spirit renews the Church in truth and wisdom, faith, holiness, love and power.”

(Presentation by Kurt Miller to the Fellowship Council of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches Feb 2005)

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