The gospel advances when established churches seek to establish new churches. In the book of Acts, we see several new fellowships established, such as Corinth (Acts 18:1-17), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), and Berea (Acts 17:10-15). The New Testament epistles also establish this priority. They were written to encourage, exhort, and provide theological clarity to burgeoning local churches. At the very least, we read in the New Testament a pattern of gospel advancement that includes planting new churches.
More Than A Pastor
Fast Forward to the 21st century and what you will see is church planting, once again, at the forefront of gospel advancement. Networks of churches and denominations are creating a context to raise up, train, and equip called men with the singular purpose of beginning new churches. Even academic institutions offer bachelors and masters degrees focused on church planting. I applaud the efforts taken by gospel-loving networks and denominations. I am a beneficiary of these efforts. As I have been a part of a church plant in Des Moines, Iowa, I have realized that a man’s calling to plant a church is not enough. The calling of the church planter’s family is not enough. The calling to plant a church extends to those people who join the church plant (Commonly called a core team, launch team, etc.). This group of people might be five or 50. The bottom line is that people who leave their current church and/or relocate with the church plant require sacrifice. Relationships will change. Education may change. Homes need to be sold. Resumes need to be polished and sent out. It is a holy calling and sacrifice to join a church plant.
Church Planting in the New Testament
Back to the Book of Acts for a moment. In Acts 20 we read about Paul speaking to the elders at Ephesus. Paul teaches them one last time before he departs to Jerusalem. Acts 20 is vital because it provides us insight into local church polity. But as you thumb your way through the entire book of Acts, you see individuals like Lydia (Acts 16: 11-16) and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:25-40) saved when they heard the gospel. After they were saved there was clear participation in the gospel mission. (I’ll speak more to what the calling looked like for Lydia and the Philippian Jailer in another blog post.) The response of Lydia and the Philippian Jailer is germane to being called to join a church plant because obedience to the gospel changes everything. The gospel constantly calls us to respond. To lay down our life. To make Christ our all-satisfying joy. The gospel makes the calling to join a church plant sweet and the sacrifices worth it.
And I have seen saved sinners pray to God and then join Redemption Hill Church. Not to follow a man and his family but to follow Christ. They are responding to the gospel by which they have been saved. God is building his church (Matthew 16:18) by raising up men to lead but by also calling individuals and families to join in the gospel mission through church planting.