Church Planting: a temporal picture of God’s eternal mission, pt. 2

Read Acts 13:1

Barnabas and Saul did not spend all of their time at the church in Antioch, what had now become their home church. They were called specifically to missions work and were doing that work under the commission of the church in Antioch. When they returned from a trip on which they were giving aid to a famine in Jerusalem (Acts 12), they returned to their home church.

It had been less than four years, but more than one. In Antioch, which was a young church, we already read about there being prophets and teachers. People, through the proclamation of the word, had become mature in the faith. Among those prophets and teachers were Barnabas and Saul.

Reading this, we remember the promise that Christ gave in John 15. Those who abide in Him and His word will produce much fruit. The church in Antioch was born out of a proclamation of the Gospel and nothing less could produce what had been produced there. From the midst of the new church, being sanctified and growing in maturity, also by the preaching of the word, came about more prophets and teachers.

When Barnabas and Paul initially went to Antioch, they went as missionaries and served as elders. In little time, the church was producing people who were capable of serving as elders or pastors. It surprises me that nowhere in the New Testament (or the Old) do we read about a church hiring outside people to come and be a “senior” or “lead” pastor. Nowhere do we read of a single pastor (elder) having charge of an entire body of believers. Nowhere do we read about churches hiring pastors or elders as employees. What we read about consistently is that missionaries (which serve as elders) will preach the Gospel and help a church grow into maturity. From the midst of that local congregation come prophets and teachers. In the Scriptures, we do not read of any other model that God uses. This does not mean that He will not transplant a pastor or graft a pastor into a church. It simply means that healthy churches are producing elders, teachers, and missionaries from their midst.

What I am not saying is that other methods are sinful, merely that we don’t receive any other method from the Scriptures. What this reveals about God is that He is the one building His church. He receives all glory. That is His eternal mission. His church is not a business. He is preparing a people. He is calling a people to Himself. He is raising people up and calling people to be elders in their communities for His glory.

Churches plant churches by the proclamation of the word and raise up pastors in their own communities. This is one thing that makes this model different from most modern church planting models.

Practically, a model consistent with the Biblical example would safeguard the longevity of a local congregation, promote genuine discipleship and mentorship, and safeguard the local body from, in the future, merely hiring someone they like or who tickles the ears. It would promote godliness and accountability. It would facilitate sanctification, growing in maturity, unity, and would frankly be refreshing in a world where there are so many worldly problems wrecking the church because of unhealthy (by unhealthy, I mean ungodly) leadership.

We desperately need to shift our focus from building worldly kingdoms to pursuing again the eternal mission of our God and Father.

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