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Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches

Have you ever wanted to be an answer to prayer? How about an answer to Jesus’s prayer? Well, your church can be.

John 17 is that prayer. It’s the conclusion of what is known as the “farewell discourse,” wherein Jesus informs his followers what will take place after his departure, tells them what they should expect from the world, and reveals rich truth about his relationship with his Father.

The discourse ends with Jesus interceding on behalf of his followers, akin to a high priest, and thus it has come to be known as the “high priestly prayer.”

High Priestly Prayer

Contextually, Jesus’s prayer appears to center on those who have believed in him up to this point in his ministry—his disciples (John 17:6). But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus widens the circle and prays for the future witness of his disciples in the world:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20–21)

Jesus prays for the unity of his people through the ages. He’s not just asking for any unity, but that which models the unity between the Son and the Father. It’s a unity not only of spirit or mission, but of relationship. God means to display his glory in the church before the nations, so that the nations will come to glorify him in the church (see also Eph. 3:10).

God means to display his glory in the church before the nations, so that the nations will come to glorify him in the church.

The high priestly prayer is a hope-laden, faith-fueling prayer. Here we have the King of the universe interceding for his people. We aren’t merely a part of God’s plan for reconciling the world to himself; we are central to it. That’s the glory of the church.

One With Christ

When Jesus expands the scope of his prayer to include “those who will believe in me through [the disciples’] word” (John 17:20), he not only reveals his heart for the future people of God, but also the means by which they will become his people. Sure enough, as we read the book of Acts we see the Father answering the prayer of his Son. We see churches being planted, beginning in Jerusalem and extending to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Jesus’s prayer, in other words, isn’t just a prayer for the apostles; it’s a prayer for church planting. Knowing this should spur churches today to consider partnering with like-minded church-planting organizations, be they networks or denomination-based.

When we link arms to plant churches, we continue to be an answer to the prayer of our great high priest.

Plant Churches

That’s why my local church has prioritized church planting not just as something we do, but as who we are. It’s why we’ve chosen to be part of a diverse, global family of church-planting churches in Acts 29. It’s also why we founded the Houston Church Planting Network (HCPN). We wanted to see other gospel-centered, mission-minded churches demonstrate unity and reach our city. More than 100 local churches from various denominations have formed a coalition that has trained individuals from Asian, Hispanic, African American, and Anglo backgrounds and has planted approximately 50 new churches in the Houston area.

When we link arms to plant churches, we continue to be an answer to the prayer of our great high priest.

In addition to these new church plants, we’ve seen almost 100 future church planters enter into HCPN’s training pipeline. We’re seeing increasing numbers of churches joining HCPN, greater racial diversity among our planters, and a deep sense of unity through it all. This excitement is only surpassed by the thought that HCPN is one small way that the Father is answering his Son’s prayer for the unity and expansion of the church.

So pastor, your church can be an answer not just to any prayer, but to one uttered by the Savior himself. You become an answer when you heed the call to church planting.

How will you heed that call? What groups can you partner with? Who in your church might have the potential to become a future church planter? Or is God calling you to plant? How can you foster a vision before your congregation for planting churches around your city, nation, and world? Whatever answers you find, remember that you’re not just joining the mission of church planting. You’re also an answer to prayer.