September 2009


Since graduating from seminary, God has really been speaking to me about church planting. This has developed into somewhat of an obsession! It’s amazing to see the different places that the Lord brings you to as you walk with him in this life and this is where he is walking with me right now.

Recently, I preached at my home church in WV and while preparing, the Lord opened my eyes to how Paul’s letter to the Colossians relates to church planting.

 

 

 

(Photos: Old Louisville)

So, here’s a few things I learned…

Epaphras (The Colossian Church Planter):

 1] Was Trained and Discipled in Relation to the Apostle Paul – “This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks(Acts 19:10).” Epaphras would have been one of those residents who heard the gospel message during Paul’s three year ministry at Ephesus.

2] Was a Faithul-Servant-Minister of Christ – “just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf (Colossians 1:7; 4:12). While Epaphras was in Ephesus hearing the word taught and seeing the gospel embodied, the Spirit began to mold him into a faithful servant of the people of God. This was indeed the apostle’s own testimony of this man.

3] Returned to His Hometown/Area to Preach the Gospel – “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant (Colossians 1:5-7).” The gospel that saved Epaphras drove him to concern for his city, Colossae and the surrounding region.  As Paul concluded his letter to the church at Colossae, he said, “Epaphras, who is one of you (Colossians 4:12).” He was a fellow citizen of Colossae now change by the glory of the gospel, which drove him to look homeward.

4] Enlisted a Prayer Posse – “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints (Colossians 1:3-4; 2:1, 2).” Once the gospel began to bear fruit, Epaphras told the good news to those who shared and lived the gospel with him in Ephesus. In response, they turned towards God in thanksgiving and prayer on behalf of this infant church.    

5] Battled in Prayer for the Church – “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God(Colossians 4:12).” Epaphras did not expect the church to stand on its own without the help of God, nor was he lazy, thinking that others are praying and that he could relax. He loved this city and the church God planted there and battled the principalities and powers on his knees.

6] Reported Back to Those Who Sent Him – “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints (Colossians 1:4; 4:12).” After the Lord caused the gospel to take root in Colossae, Epaphras shared this news with Paul.

7] Sought Godly Wisdom in Difficult Times – “and has made known to us your love in the Spirit (Colossians 1:7).” The Colossian Church at the time was experiencing some temptation to drift away from the gospel. So, Epaphras went to see the apostle Paul to ask his advice about how to deal with this situation. This is the letter of Colossians, a response to that situation. Epaphras was with Paul, when they received this letter (Colossians 4:12). 

8] Preached the Gospel Despite Threats of Persecution – “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you (Philemon 23).” It seems that sometime during his ministry Epaphras was imprisoned, because of the gospel.

So, this is the gospel, but what does the gospel do?  Well, it changes everything. Colossians 1:6, “which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.”  The first thing it does is create the church (Colossians 1:6).  Paul here describes the gospel as a plant, which when its seed is planted it bears fruit and grows.  Notice how he says it has been bearing fruit “since the day you heard it.”  This means that the gospel isn’t something that get’s you into the kingdom of God and then you forget about. Since the day the Colossians heard the gospel it had been bearing fruit.

The gospel should be applied to every area of our lives and the gospel should be the main point of every sermon that is preached, not just something tacked on to the end to get sinners saved. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”  Paul is talk to the church here as a whole, about the gospel being central.  Without it there is no church. 

Second, the gospel not only reconciles us to God, but to each other. Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  The gospel demands that the church be a forgving community of people, who don’t just do to others as they do to us.  We are to forgive. Are you forgiving each other? Or are there people who you just don’t really love and can’t really forgive.  We are to forgive “as the Lord has forgiven” us!

Third, the gospel is the foundation for marriage. Colossians 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”  Husbands how are you doing?  Are you loving your wives?  The gospel tells that Jesus sacrificed his life for his bride the church. The Spirit of God doesn’t give us an option here.  We are to love our wives or not be Christians. Will you love your wife?  Will you as a church make the gospel central to marriage?

Fourth, the gospel opens our eyes to a lost and hurting community and world. Colossians 4:5, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”  The gospel teaches us that Christ is the greatest missionary of all time, who left the comforts of heaven to indentify himself with the poor anf sinful of this world. How is the community you live in different, because of your church?