Church Planting


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.

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international-church-planting-1Why should your church be involved in church planting and especially internationally?

The Resurgence says:

Planting Churches Fulfills the Great Commission

In Acts, God’s means of changing the world is through the planting of churches. It is no coincidence that right after God gave his apostles the Great Commission in Acts 1:8, the first thing he did was to plant a church (Acts 2:42-47). The church was to be the operational means of fulfilling the Great Commission.

When a local church was placed in a community, the gospel would be preached from house to house and in the streets, and the generosity, joy, and worship of a local body of believers caused “great fear and awe” to be on everyone, favor to be had with the community, and God to “add to the number daily those that were being saved.” Thus, everywhere the apostles went, they planted churches. They didn’t simply do preaching, miracle crusades, or community ministry. They planted churches that would do preaching, perform miracles, and serve the community. As Tim Keller said, the apostles’ strategy was very simple: go to the most strategic cities in the world and plant churches. The church is the one institution of the New Testament.

To the Ends of the Earth

What we sometimes overlook is that the scope of God’s commission, from the beginning, was to “the ends of the earth.” When God sent the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, the apostles spoke in tongues of every language, a clear sign that the gospel should go to every people of every nation on earth. This gospel was not to be centralized in one city or one culture. God would be glorified by his gospel taking root in every culture.

However in Acts 2-7, despite God’s clear command and signs to go to all the nations, the apostles do not budge from Jerusalem. So in Acts 8:1, God sent persecution on the church, and believers scattered throughout the region. The parallel language of Acts 1:8 and 8:1 is not coincidental. If the apostles weren’t going to obey God’s commission to go to the world, God would make them. In a truly bizarre move, God even beams one of the apostles, Star Trek style, into a place where he can engage a foreigner with the gospel.

On one hand it is refreshing to me that the apostles were not too dissimilar to us, preferring to stay in their own city and culture, and to build a megachurch there. On the other hand, it is a little alarming that God is so determined for his people to plant churches internationally that he will bust them up if he has to and beam a few of them overseas if they won’t obey. While the beaming sounds kind of cool, the busting up does not. So we have decided, from the beginning, to plant churches internationally.

(HT: TR)

6/9

Today, I met Audrey Shultz, Justin Shultz’s mom. Justin is a dear brother in Christ and fellow member at my church. What was significant about meeting Audrey is that she and her husband were missionaries in Brazil for 34 years. Audrey and her husband came to Brazil though the IMB and her husband would later become a Baptist seminary president in Bahia, Brazil.  While in Brazil and serving at the seminary, the Shultz’ took part in planting 24 churches.

This was an incredible opportunity for me, not only to knock the dust of my Portuguese, but to speak with a woman who was a missionary in the country, I feel the Lord has given me a desire to reach with the gospel. It was of one of those experiences that Lord drops along the way to keep you going in the right direction; I pray.

But I had some time to ask her a few questions as I was waiting for the rest of our team to arrive at the airport. I asked her how she would describe her experience as a missionary in Brazil. She said, “I don’t have any regrets. We loved it!” There is something about walking in God’s will and doing what he has called you to do. There is no greater joy. It is for this reason we were created. Proverbs 3:6-8 says, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

When she left many people discouraged her from going, since she had a 10 month old child, saying, “It will be difficult and dangerous.” Her response was, “If God can provide here, he can provide there.” And then I said, “It’s that simple isn’t it.” God’s provision in our lives is not limited by location, because he is God of all the earth. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers (Psalm 24:1, 2).” He can provide accordingly whatever the circumstance might be. 

It is exactly this type of trust in the provision of God that has a 34 year impact for the kingdom of God. When I arrived in Brazil, I immediately began to see the fruit of their many years of hard labor in Bahia. One of the translators who worked with our team, Josie, was basically adopted by the Shultz’. She is now a full time staff member at her church and is a passionate follower of Christ. No doubt where she is today is owing to the the labor of these two missionaries and their sacrificial love in Josie’s life. Another one of our translators was a talented young man named Tiago. Tiago is a member of one of the churches that Audrey and her husband planted. His father is also the pastor there! This young man spoke of Justin’s father as being a legend in Brazil (His words). The legend began to grow in my own mind too, when I met a lady who attended the church that we were working with, an hour away from where the Shultz’ served, who grew up under their ministry. She spoke very highly of them all these years later and she is still faithful to the Lord. 

Me, Camila (Just Saved!), and Tiago

But what if they would have listened to those good Christians who were concerned for the safety of their children? What if they would have doubted the goodness of God? I’m sure God would have fulfilled his purposes, but despite those casting doubt they went, sacrificed, and served and today there are 24 churches and many others worshipping the risen Savior!