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” (oikodomeô) 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.