Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Qualitative and Organic Growth

II. Qualitative Growth – what does God’s Word say?

A. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)

B. Then there is all the teaching found in the Epistles on the quality of life of new believers and its importance.

III. Organic or Infrastructural Growth – what does God’s Word say?

A. Organic growth must accompany quantitative growth as seen in the early church’s amazing growth.

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:1-7 (ESV)

B. This is one of the reasons for what are called the “Pastoral Epistles.”

Now putting all this together, in the next blog we will look at the first of ten qualities of a healthy reproducing church.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Planting Healthy Reproducing Churches

The more I study church planting and multiplication, the more I am convinced that it is not enough to plant and multiply churches. We must plant and multiply healthy reproducing churches. So the question comes to the forefront, “What is a healthy reproducing church like?”

What I propose to do in this study is to put together those characteristics that, when put together, help us to see a healthy church. But as I start, I want to acknowledge being helped to understand the question of a “healthy church” but the following seven sources:

1. First and foremost, the Word of God.
2. Then my own experiences in church planting and work with church planters.
3. Research that I have been involved in.
4. The research done by Christian Schwarz and outlined in his book Natural Church Development.
5. The teaching given by Mark Dever in his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church.
6. The church health survey as compiled by Jim Fann and his team in the Evangelical Free Church movement.
7. Other help that I have received in understanding each of these ten qualities from others.

But the question comes, “Why is it so important to have a healthy reproducing church?” The answer to that question is double.

First of all, that is what a truly biblical church is like.
Second, a healthy church leads to three kinds of necessary dynamic growth.

1. Quantitative growth – growth in the number of true disciples.
2. Qualitative growth – growth in the quality of true disciples.
3. Organic or infrastructural growth – the growth of healthy structures within the church energizing both the growth in number of conversions and the quality of those who are converted.

Let’s explain each of these three elements:

I. Quantitative Growth – what does God’s Word say?

A. This kind of growth is very predominant in the Acts of the Apostles.

Acts 1:15 “a group numbering about a hundred and twenty”
Acts 2:41 “about three thousand were added to their number that day.”
Acts 2:41 “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 4:4 “But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.”
Acts 6:1 “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing
( multiplying).”
Acts 6:7 “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased (multiplied) rapidly.”
Acts 9:31 “the church…grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”
Acts 16:5 “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”

B. This kind of growth continues to be mentioned in Paul’s letters.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephes. 4:15-16 (ESV)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sound Theology and Church Planting

I want to affirm again the relationship between dynamic new church planting and dynamic theology. Now, lest any misunderstand, I would also affirm that dead theology never plants churches and certainly not dynamic healthy churches. So, let’s consider the question, “why does theology need to be central in church planting?”

First, there will never be any churches effectively planted if the theology of the lost condition of people is not central in our ministry. This is so evident in the letter that Paul writes to the planted chuch in Rome, “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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ “(Rom. 1:16 ESV). I remember Dr. Richard Longnecker stating that Paul’s letter to the Romans was a theological tractate based on his teaching during his evangelistic church planting journeys. So both in the introduction to Romans and in the development of Paul’s doctrine of salvation including condemnation, justification, propitiation, and glorification his effectiveness in church planting was solidly based on his fully-orbed theology. Is yours and mine?

Second, the churches that we plant will not endure long without solid biblical theology. Paul was so convinced of this that he wrote letters to churches he had planted, to those he had not planted, to apostolic helpers (such as Timothy and Titus) constantly affirming the importance of biblical doctrine. Particularly in what we call the pastoral epistles he hammers home the fact that “I am writing these things [doctrine which includes practice] to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” and then he gives the great confession of faith: “ Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.” 1 Tim. 3:16 (ESV)

Third, the health of the church will be dependent upon a clear theology. Now when I speak of a clear theology I am including both right doctrine (orthodoxy) and right practice (orthopraxy) so that is exactly what is meant by the “apostle’s doctrine” in Acts 2:42a. The great scholar of the history of doctrine, Jaroslav Pelikan pointed this out stating, “When the Old Testament speaks about ‘instruction’ or the New Testament about ‘the doctrine,’ this includes teaching about both confession and conduct, both theology and ethics. A separation between them is fatal…” (Pelikan 1971, 2)


1. Biblical doctrine needs to be the basis of all that we do and say in church planting. So the question comes to us as church planters, “Is the priority of biblical doctrine evident in our ministry?”
2. Biblical doctrine means teaching “all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) So the question comes to us as church planters, “Are we teaching all the Word of God and not just those sections that we like?”
3. Biblical doctrine needs above all to be taught to leadership in church planting. So the question comes to us, “Are we taking time to develop leaders with solid doctrine including knowing and being?”
4. The test of Jesus is both orthodoxy and orthopraxy as he looks at the planted churches in Asia Minor in Revelation 2 and 3. So the question comes to us as church planters, “What does our Lord think about the church or churches we are planting as he looks at them?”

References Cited

Quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV). 2007. Wheaton, IL: Crossway

Pelikan, Jaroslav. 1971. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. Vol. 1.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.