Are you ready to be a missionary church planter? In order to start churches we need to define what constitutes a great church-planting church. In Part I we noticed that such a church is often purified in the crucible of difficulty. But a church-planting church is also…
Innovative in Evangelistic Approach
“But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus." (Acts 11:20)
In Acts 10, Peter learned in his encounter with Cornelius that it was theoretically possible for a Gentile to become a Christian. However, as a rule, Jewish Christians would not speak to Gentiles. Therefore the early Jewish Christians also avoided the Gentiles. The believers of Antioch, however, were most radical. They reached out to those who were different culturally. The Jewish men wore beards and covered their heads. The Jews followed the Mosaic dietary laws and their women wore veils and dressed modestly. The Greeks on the other hand consumed meat mixed with blood and their women did not dress modestly. Overall, the Jews were moral while the Greeks were amoral. The cultural differences were astounding. The Jewish Christians of Antioch, however, began sharing the Gospel with Greeks! This was quite innovative for the day.
In our day, there are people we sometimes avoid. For whatever reason, mostly related to our own comfort and convenience, if we evangelize at all, we tend to evangelize among those most like us, among those who seem "safe."
Ralph Neighbor, the author of The Survival Kit for New Christians, is an octogenarian radical. When he arrives in a new city for an evangelistic meeting he witnesses first in the bars (though Ralph does not drink). Neighbor did this when he trained our IMB missionaries in cell church planting in Brazil. Ralph claims that the bars are where the sinners reside. A church planting church is innovative in evangelistic approach.
Receptive to God-Given Growth
“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21)
I’ve always been struck with how many times numbers are mentioned in this passage about the church at Antioch. Three times in eight verses the word appears. Besides this passage, verse 24 says “and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. ” In addition, verse 26 mentions they “taught considerable numbers.” The early church rejoiced in growth. Such a phenomena begs the question, how large should a church be?
Many years ago, a small church in a city of only about 40,000 people called a pastor to lead a church of approximately one hundred. The new pastor preached the word, witnessed, and visited prospects. The church grew to 200, then to 350, and then to 500 and then suddenly attained a membership of 1,000. Within 10 years the church reached 2,000 adherents and in 15 years 3,500 and by 20 years 5,000 members. All this growth occurred in the medium sized town Lynchburg, Virginia through the ministry of the late Jerry Falwell. Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California commented on the issue of church size. Warren claimed that his church would be large enough only when all the lost people in his metropolitan area were either members of his church or other evangelical churches in the area.
Concerning numbers, Donald McGavran, the late missiologist said, “The church is made up of countable people and there is nothing particularly spiritual about not counting them.” McGavran also claimed, “There is no such thing as mere numerical increase.” A church planting church is open to God-given growth.
Following Godly Leadership
“The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul. And when he found him he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” (Acts 11:22-26)
It is interesting what the Scripture says about the congregation and their leader. The congregation possessed the ‘grace of the Lord.’ Barnabas is described as a ‘good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.’ Barnabas does try to do the work alone but obtains assistance. Barnabas and Saul taught considerable numbers for an entire year. They modeled the principles in 2 Timothy 2:2; “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Their efforts were successful because Acts 11:26 states, “and the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” This is true modeling because the word ‘Christian’ means ‘little Christ’. This was the terminology given to the Christians by those living in Antioch not by the believers themselves. Their lives so represented Christ they were called after their Savior’s name.
When I served as a church planting missionary in Tanzania and North Africa I also discovered I needed help. After baptizing the first two believers in N. Africa, I disciple them and two others I discovered later. I started the first church while the nationals began the others. When I realized I needed assistance, I wrote personnel requests for missionaries to come work with the Z people and other Muslim tribes in N. Africa. Since the day we arrived in North Africa in 1991, Southern Baptists have not lacked missionaries in our country. The number of churches has grown from 1 to 85 with another 87 preaching points.