Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fifth Biblical Pillar for the Multiplication of Churches

The Wonderful Power of “Spontaneous Expansion” Within the Church Fifth, although to a degree implied in the other reasons, the church of Jesus Christ has within itself the wonderful power of what the renowned missiologist Roland Allen called “spontaneous expansion.” He perceptively saw that this expansion was not just the expansion of this or that congregation but was more than that. This then is what I mean by spontaneous expansion. I mean the expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its ordered life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share; I mean also the expansion of the Church by the addition of new churches. (Roland Allen, Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Fourth Biblical Base for Church Planting

The Church Functioning According to God Will Manifest a “Yearning” Fourth, as Charles Van Engen explains, when the church functions as the “true church” it will manifest certain characteristics. One of these will be a profound desire to see others come into fellowship: The true church “Yearns” for the incorporation of those persons, groups, and cultures which will gather with it in fellowship around the one Head of the Body, and thus construct a true, loving, growing, serving demonstration of koinonia. This is true biblical motivation that causes new churches to come into being. This motivation is a supernatural, Spirit-given desire that incites to evangelism. Churches that have this “yearning” will never be content with one church in one area but they will reproduce themselves so that more and more regions are touched with the gospel and new churches are born. This is where daughter church planting finds its highest motivational level. The Wonderful Power of “Spontaneous Expansion” Within the Church Fifth, although to a degree implied in the other reasons, the church of Jesus Christ has within itself the wonderful power of what the renowned missiologist Roland Allen called “spontaneous expansion.” He perceptively saw that this expansion was not just the expansion of this or that congregation but was more than that. This then is what I mean by spontaneous expansion. I mean the expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its ordered life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share; I mean also the expansion of the Church by the addition of new churches.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Third Pillar of a Biblical Base for Church Planting

The Church is an Organism -- A Body ( 1 Cor 12:12-31) Organisms give birth to other organisms by reproduction as life generates life. The church is born to reproduce by giving life. When filled with and guided by the Spirit, the church not only reproduced by multiplying believers but it reproduced by multiplying new churches. We should be concerned to see churches born that recognize from the moment of their birth that they are to produce other churches. This will lead to the multiplication of churches. Commenting on the power of the reproductive model as seen in the church of Antioch, Bill Hull states, “We see the power of the model of reproduction: If you multiply a reproductive church, it creates other reproductive churches. This will remain true until modeling breaks down.” The powerful movement of life coming from the church as an organism led to the expansion of the church everywhere in the Roman Empire. Norman A. Niklas explains: The first element in this equation represents the most important factor. Without the supernatural resources of our sovereign God, the planting and growing of churches would be impossible. By His power believers are born, disciples are made and churches reproduce. A French missiological book, quoting a German pastoral theology (Grundriss der Praktischen Theologie), stresses the same truth: The Church particularly insists on the fact that it is not in good health without this expansion beyond its present frontiers. These remarks signify that one should not count missions among the 'works' of the Church, to be mentioned after many others, but missions is an integral part of her organism.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Second Pillar of a Biblical Base for Church Planting

The Activity of the Holy Spirit in the Birth Process

The second reason for this multiplication of churches comes from the activity of the Holy Spirit in this birth process. He works to bring new believers into being but also to bring new churches into being. Boer points out that the impetus for the growing church came not from the commandments to evangelize but from the impetus of the Spirit to move out. He says “Two things stand out with great clarity in Acts: the irresistible missionary expansion of the Church, and the power of the Spirit in that expansion.”

The expansion in Acts 13 comes about as the Spirit moves Barnabas and Saul to give themselves to the work of planting new churches. Much missiological thought has been involved in the discussion about whether this was a modality (church structure) or a sodality (mission structure) planting new churches. From an exegetical point of view, it seems as though a modality type structure of an “apostolic team” is present here. However, the sending out of this team was within the context of the believers in the church at Antioch. Their being sent out from the church to plant new churches was not planting daughter churches (where a solid group forms the nucleus of the new church). This event does show us, nevertheless, that when the Spirit is at work, the church (or at least its leadership) recognizes the need to be willing to let others move out from within the church to plant new churches.
Emil Brunner clarifies this:
Mission work does not arise from any arrogance in the Christian Church; mission is its cause and life. The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission, there is no Church; and where there is neither Church nor mission, there is no faith.

So how could a church not envision reaching out to begin new churches in new areas if it is truly “on fire”? The Holy Spirit is given to make believers “holy” by working in them for he is the Holy Spirit. However, he is also the Holy Spirit. As such He has a ministry to make these holy believers “moving” witnesses who expand the church geographically by the power of their testimony (Acts 1:8). The result should be the creation of new bodies of believers wherever these witnesses go. It is striking to note the multiplication of daughter churches among Pentecostals in France. One reason seems to be their recognition of the fact that groups of believers in an area become the core of a new church. France has long been recognized as resistant to evangelism, yet in this resistant soil, the Pentecostals have seen many churches planted. According to Operation World, Revised 7th Edition, the Assemblies of God alone have created 920 congregations in France with a membership of 65,714 and an affiliation of 230,000. Has their theology of the Spirit and the congregating of believers encouraged this multiplication?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Biblical Base for Church Planting - First of Five Pillars

III. The Question of the Biblical Base for Church Planting in the 21st Century.

It is just as important to establish a biblical base for church planting as we advance into the 21st century as a theological base. Here are five pillars for church planting and multiplication in this new century.

It is the Will of God that His People Multiply

In an insightful look at Matthew 16:18 where Jesus declares, “I will build my church,” Donald Carson explains that the Greek verb “to build” (oikodome├┤) used here is in direct line with the OT idea of “building” a people.” The Hebrew word banah is used in this sense in Ruth 4:11: “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.” To build up the house of Israel is to multiply the people of God. In Exodus 1 there is the same motif of multiplication. The same God who multiplies his people in the OT multiplies them in the NT as predicted in Matthew 16:18. He does this by building up his church. His church grows as his people multiply and churches then multiply because of this growth. The only way to accommodate the multiplication of believers is by the multiplication of churches. What could be more biblical than churches starting other churches by branching out and forming daughter churches?

Furthermore, Christ is Lord of his church and he is at work causing it to grow. It is not human know-how, techniques, demographics, and surveys. Iain Murray, in his book Revival and Revivalism, marks a clear distinction between these two often-confused subjects. For him, revival is the sovereign working of God where there are "times of quickened spiritual prosperity and growth in the church." Revivalism is men trying to fabricate this by techniques. Again Murray says:

True church growth and multiplication is the forgotten truth that the work of Christ
in salvation did not end with his ascension, thereafter to be carried on by the church and human energies. Rather, Christ remains the source of all authority, life and power. It is by him that his people are preserved and their numbers increased.

And it could be added that it is by Christ that the church multiplies into local churches giving birth to new churches and the marvelous process continues. When this promise in Matthew is fulfilled in Acts, the accomplishment of this “building” by multiplication is seen. A study of the structure of Acts that is informed by the key transition passages (Acts 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20 and 28:30) shows that each section of this book aims at "expansion." Acts shows the growth of local churches and their multiplication. The Antioch church is one of the best models of this as it extends out to begin new congregations. The Lord's command in Acts 1:8 is obeyed as the church occupies more territory and new churches are planted. If the Acts model is to be followed, churches should not only multiply believers but also churches. Acts 2:42-47 describes the church as meeting in the temple court and in homes. This two-pronged approach gives credence to the idea of the expansion of the church giving birth to new groups in new regions. Those committed to cell-groups point out that the church is just as much the church in the cell-groups as in the larger congregation. This does not prove that churches should start branch churches, but it does show that God wants his gathered people meeting in different geographic areas as a witness. Theoretically and practically this is best accomplished not only by cell-groups but also by some of these cells becoming functioning churches on their own and thus expanding the church into new areas. This will be dealt with later as the question of theory and practice are related.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Two Additional Theological Perspectives

Two Additional Theological Perspectives on Church Planting

As we continue to advance in church planting in the 21st century, this writer considers two other major theological perspectives to be very relevant in church planting: the gospel and its content and the glory of God.

The Gospel as the Content for the Church that is Planted

If church planting is not solidly built upon the gospel in this 21st century, we will be planting churches that are not truly biblically or theologically solid. In planting the church at Corinth, Paul states:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 1 Cor. 15:1-5 (ESV)

Anthony Thiselton in his prodigious commentary on I Corinthians explains that the word gospel here “denotes the message of salvation; in vv. 3-4 Paul endorses the shared pre-Pauline tradition which both proclaims the death and resurrection of Christ and interprets it in terms of the saving and transforming power of God as this receives explanation and intelligibility within the frame of reference provided by the Old Testament] scriptures.”

It is necessary to insist upon the gospel as being the foundation of a church plant as Paul states in the great church planting passage in 1 Corinthians 3 which states in verse 11 “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Church planters in this new century must know how to communicate the gospel in its integrity if they are to plant churches that make a difference.

In addition, they must insist upon the gospel as not just the beginning of the Christian life and the church life but that they must continue to live out the gospel day after day. Paul’s rebuke of Peter and others with him in Antioch was because “their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel…” (Gal. 2:16 ESV). This answers the question of how church planting fits the mission of God in this world—God saves people who then are to be “in step with the truth” they have received. The words “in step with” can be translated “consistent with.” Effective discipleship in church planting leads to people who live lives consistent with the message of the gospel.

When Paul states that he delivered this message “as of first importance” the idea is of “logical rather than temporal force.” Church planting in the 21st century, if it is to be effective, needs to capture afresh this Pauline emphasis as seen in the missionary journeys in Acts.

The Glory of God as Our Goal

In terms of this theological perspective, John Piper has made it clear that “Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory.”

As we see evangelism and church planting as bringing many into a personal relationship with God then those involved in this ministry are seeking what God is seeking as our Lord explains, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:24 ESV). If this is not the “mission of God” then what is? As church planters see new bodies of believers come into being by God’s working as we saw in the beginning of this article, there is the great sense of being representatives of that great mission for which he came and died. Although those who start new churches “plant” or “water,” “God gives the growth,” and he does so for his greater glory. God’s servants planting new churches in the 21st century with this motivation will be truly “God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor 3:9).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Church Planting and the Kingdom of God

There is one more theological perspective to consider in relation to church planting in the 21st century and that is:

The Kingdom of God and Church Planting
To consider this third theological perspective it will be necessary to clarify the relationship between the kingdom of God and the church. Murray states this correctly by stating: “A third theological perspective that might helpfully undergird church planting is the kingdom of God” but then he warns that “identification of church and kingdom is not justified biblically or contextually.”

The question of the relationship between the kingdom of God and the church is a vast one and it will not be possible to develop this question in this article. However, it may be profitable for 21st century church planters to think through Murray’s three perspectives to which will be added George Eldon Ladd’s insights on the relationship between the church and the kingdom of God.

Murray states that “First, the church is a community; whereas the kingdom is an activity: God extending his rule throughout creation.” If this theological insight is kept in perspective, Murray believes, churches will be planted that are not characterized by static but rather dynamic movement as “agents of this kingdom . . . on the move.” George Eldon Ladd agrees stating that “the Kingdom creates the church. The dynamic rule of God, present in the mission of Jesus, challenged men to response, bringing them into a new fellowship.”

Then Murray states that, “Second, the kingdom is broader than the church.” For him this means that the church gets a greater vision for action from “the implications of the kingdom.” While this is no doubt true, it would appear that the vision for action came from the working of the Holy Spirit rather than a vision for the broader implications of the kingdom. The kingdom and the Spirit work together but the emphasis in Acts is upon the ever and increasing outreach as the Holy Spirit led church planters into new horizons. The emphasis in the book of Acts is upon the Spirit of God constantly moving God’s servants to new horizons. This is powerful seen in Acts 13:2: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” – a work of evangelism leading to church planting.

Finally, Murray states that, “Third, the kingdom rather than the church defines the scope of God’s mission.” Ladd states in relation to this that “it is the church’s mission to witness to the Kingdom. The church cannot build the Kingdom or become the Kingdom, but the church witnesses to the Kingdom—to God’s redeeming acts in Christ Jesus both past and future.” Here, depending on how one interprets Ladd, it would seem that the redeeming acts in Christ Jesus are the scope of God’s mission. Again this would depend upon how one interprets God’s mission and refers us back to the relationship between church planting and the mission of God.

This author is convinced that if the mission of God (missio Dei) is interpreted to mean all that God is intending to do in the work today then that extensive definition of mission could slow down the intensive Great Commission which is the making of disciples integrating them into local churches. It is as the 21st century church planter majors on that vision that more and more dynamic churches will be planted and make a difference in our world today. It does mean, however, that the implications of the gospel will be worked out in the local church as people not only accept the gospel but live out the gospel as will be seen in this next section.