Categories
Ministry

What if Paul Planted Churches Like We Do Today?

An updated version of Acts 14:19-23:

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposed that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day, he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.

When Paul and his team gathered a core group of Christians from a few other churches in Derbe (as well as a few who tagged along from Antioch), held a vision and interest meeting, and finally had their public launch gathering, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples by telling them about the church they planted and the great attendance numbers. Paul encouraged them by saying that though other churches are there, there needed to be a new expression of the kingdom of God in that city.

After they had been meeting for about eight years, they finally started the elder nomination and selection process, eventually choosing one man who did not specialize in preaching. Paul stayed at that church for the foreseeable future until he felt called to do the same process over again in a different city.

Paul and his team never did return to their sending church to report how God had opened a door of faith to people who did not previously believe, because, after all, that was not the demographic they were actually seeking to reach in the first place. 

But that’s not really what it says, is it?

Categories
Ministry Theology

Some Characteristics of Paul’s Missionary Methods

The apostle Paul is the greatest missionary Christianity has ever known, behind only the Lord Jesus himself. Paul used many missionary methods in his journeys. Of course, all of his methods and strategies were subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This may actually be considered the supreme characteristic of Paul’s methods. Aside from this however, Paul’s methods contained a number of others which still inform our missionary efforts today. Here are five, and each of them build upon the previous one.

  1. Paul committed to preaching Christ where he has not already been named. In Romans 15:20, Paul makes clear that this is his intention and goal in his ministry. Paul saw himself as a minister of the gospel who would reach new people and not build on someone else’s foundation (Rom. 15:20; 2 Cor. 10:16). He was not a “pastor” in our modern sense. He was a multi-church planter who constantly moved from one location to another. This does not mean that in our day we should not plant churches in already reached areas; Paul’s time and ministry was unique as the church was in its formative stages. However, the principle still remains: there is great importance for the church to recognize and send those whom God has called to a Pauline-type ministry to spread the gospel among the unreached. This leads to a second characteristic of church planting.
  2. Paul’s missionary ministry focused on church planting. Paul’s goal was not to simply evangelize people in order to gain a host of individual converts. His goal was to evangelize and gather God’s people into local congregations. As mentioned above, Paul was not a planter-pastor who planted a church and stayed there for a long period of time. Once a church was established and functioning, Paul and his team moved on. This informs our missionary efforts today, reminding us that establishing local bodies of worshipers, not simply getting individuals saved, is our main task. This leads to a third characteristic of how converts and congregations were established.
  3. Paul’s preaching centered on the story of Jesus. Paul was less interested in evidential apologetics and philosophical debates and more interested in simply sharing the story of God’s work in the world. His goal was to “preach Christ” (1 Cor. 1:24; cf. Col. 1:28) as the center and climax of God’s unfolding story of redemption. In our day, preaching denominational distinctives or simply external morality should not be the content of missionary preaching. As Paul did, so too we preach Christ and the fact that he is the fulfillment of God’s redemptive drama. This characteristic leads to the next, which answers the question, “What happens after people believe in Jesus?”
  4. Paul desired to develop believers so that they might experience their inheritance in Christ and be ready for his second coming. Paul did not want shallow Christians. His goal was not to gain converts but to make disciples. He wanted mature believers who knew of the incredibly spiritual riches they had in Christ. The letter to the Ephesians, particularly 1:3-14, shows Paul’s heart to develop Christians to, in a sense, become what they already are in Christ. Paul wanted believers to be ready for Christ’s return (1 Thess. 3:13), and he was confident that God would provide everything necessary to make this happen (Phil 1:6; Phil. 2:13). The churches needed godly leadership to accomplish this, which is the last characteristic.
  5. Paul worked to develop local leaders over local congregations. Paul appointed and empowered elders in Ephesus to watch over and care for the flock (Acts 20:28). The pastorals explicitly show Paul’s effort to establish local leadership in churches. This is particularly important for our contemporary situation. Churches may mature and be effective with foreign leadership. However, for local churches to truly thrive and operate optimally there must be godly, indigenous leadership. Only then will the local believers “own” the life and ministry of the church.

These five characteristics are not exhaustive, of course. But they do provide a good “big picture” structure of Paul’s ministry. If you are a missionary, does your work reflect this model? What are some other characteristics of Paul that are essential to biblical missions? Let’s pray that all of our modern missionary efforts to unreached and under-reached people’s reflect God’s work through the apostle Paul!

Categories
Ministry

More on Multi-Site and Bigger Buildings

Back on June 6, I shared some thoughts about multi-site churches.  Now, on the Gospel Coalition blog, there is a conversation going on about churches and buildings. Whether you are a pastor or a lay-person in the church, it’s good to be thinking about these things.

David Platt: Should Churches Spend Money on Nice Buildings

David Gobel: Reforming Church Architecture

J.D. Greear: We Want to Stay Light and Mobile, Flexible and Ready

Matthew Lee Anderson: Buildings Matter Because Bodies Matter

Categories
Theology

Acts29 in Africa

Here’s a short video from Mars Hill about church planting in Africa.

Categories
Theology

Don’t Screw Up the Church

It’s a weighty thing to read, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.  For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:17).

In other words, Paul warns that if anyone destroys the building of God’s church here on earth, they prove themselves not to be true Christians.  How do we know that’s what he says?  It’s simple.  Paul says that God will destroy that person.  God doesn’t destroy Christians.  He only destroys those opposed to the true Foundation of Jesus Christ.  This isn’t the same thing as what Paul says in verse 15 — that a person’s who’s work is shoddy will suffer a “loss” of rewards.  Shoddy work and destructive work could be the same, but Paul seems to be differentiating between the two.

This is one of those verses that makes me pray harder, confess more, and repent quicker.  I want to do my best to present myself to God as one approved, as a worker who is not ashamed because I have rightly handled the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15).  O God, help me be one approved.  Help your church and those in it be skilled laborers and not destroyers.