Church Planting

Church Planting – What is it?
“Church Planting” is a strange phrase; two words that seemingly do not go together. It conjures an image of someone sticking tiny buildings with steeples in the ground. Unfortunately, we often picture a church as a building, something static, not alive. The Bible’s view of a church, however, is of a living, growing, dynamic organism. The church, in the original language of the Bible, is not a building, but people; a “called-out assembly.” If we can begin to see a church like a cell -- a simple, living organism capable of growth and reproduction -- it is becomes much easier for believers to envision the idea of planting a church themselves. In fact, until we understand that starting or planting a church is a normal and natural part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, Christians will not be able to fulfill Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Church Planting – An Apostolic Pattern
The phrase “church planting,” is not found in the Bible, but it is used by Christians to describe the process found in the Scriptures by which churches are started. They see the Apostle Paul as a prime example of a church planter. If one were to look at the steps by which he planted churches, one would observe this pattern:

  • He prayed, fasted, and was guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-2, 4; 16:6, 9)
  • He was sent out by another group of believers (Acts 13:3)
  • He joined with other believers (formed teams) to start churches (Acts 13:2; 15:36-16:3)
  • The team travels to a new area where Jesus was not known (Acts 13:4, Romans 15:20)
  • They proclaim the word of God from the Old Testament and taught about Jesus, the Good News (Acts 13:5-ff; 14:21)
  • They perform miracles so that people would believe (Acts 13:9-12; 14:8-9)
  • People believed in Jesus (Acts 13:48)
  • The word of the Lord continues to spread (Acts 13:49)
  • They travel to a new place to plant more churches (Acts 14:1, 6, 20)
  • They return to strengthen and encourage the disciples in each place (Acts 14:22)
  • They appoint leaders in each church and commit them to the Lord (Acts 14:23)
  • They return to their original sending church to report on the work (Acts 14:26-28)
Some have distilled this process of apostolic church planting by identifying five key areas in the church planting cycle or continuum: 1) prayer and building an effective team; 2) evangelism; 3) discipleship; 4) training and releasing leaders, and; 5) watchcare, when the church planter periodically mentors the new leadership. A key to effective church planting is entrusting the new church to the care of local leaders as soon as possible, thus avoiding unhealthy dependence on the church planter.

Church Planting – Don’t we have enough churches already?
Some resist the idea of church planting citing how in many places there is practically a church building on every street corner. Others argue there are too many denominations already. While that may be true in their given area, we should remind them there are vast populations and people groups around the world where the local bodies of believers (churches) are almost non-existent. We must also remember we are not talking about buildings, nor organizational expansion, but small, organic, living groups of believers, meeting as house or simple churches. Such churches become the body of Christ in their local neighborhood. Studies have shown that church planting is the most effective way to see lasting fruit from evangelism by creating life-long disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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