Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches

Every faithful Christian will endure some level of hardship for the sake of Christ’s name (2 Tim. 3:12; Phil. 1:27; Acts 5:41). In the midst of difficulties, we need motivation to endure. The same is true for church planting. Whether you’re part of a core team hoping to start a new church, a leader of an early church-planting project, or a faithful member of a newly established congregation, you need soul-sustaining hope and inspiration.

You also need realistic expectations. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose heart.

So how are we to “not grow weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:9)? Obviously, we must tend to our hearts. We need to feed on the gospel, rely on the Spirit, cultivate a vibrant prayer life, and be in biblical community. These kinds of spiritual practices are absolutely essential.

But we also need to elevate our concept of church planting. It’s greater, more beautiful, and more glorious than most realize, because we don’t think about it from a perspective informed by the narrative of Scripture.

In fact, members of a church-planting team may need to reflect on these things even more than the lead planter(s), since leaders are usually committed for the long haul. Why should you, as an “ordinary” member, stick with it?

Bigger Picture

There are many aspects of church planting that should stimulate awe and wonder. Certainly, the reality that the resurrected Lord—the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth—has commanded us to make disciples should drive and sustain our efforts. But we also ought to keep in mind a truth that Steve Timmis loves to cite: “God’s purpose has always been to have a people for himself—a people that he reveals his glory to, and displays his glory through.”

Remember, church planting is more than starting a meeting. It’s more than putting on an event, raising money, or finding a building (as important as these things are). Church planting involves taking part in what God has always been doing, and getting a foretaste of where history is headed. This is an enormous privilege! God is gathering a diverse, global people to himself. We must not lose the wonder of being participants in this grand drama of history.

People for Himself

As you trace the narrative of the Bible, it’s impossible to miss God’s determination to gather a people for himself (Gen. 12:1–3). This merciful commitment pervades the Old Testament (Neh. 9:1–37), and then develops further in the New, as we see the Spirit working in the book of Acts.

Through the preaching of the gospel, individuals are brought to repentant faith in Christ—individuals who become part of this new community called the church (Acts 2:1–47). Believing Jews and Gentiles are now brothers and sisters (Eph. 2:11–22), empowered by the Spirit to become Jesus’s missionaries on earth.

In Acts 18, Paul appears discouraged from his evangelistic efforts in Corinth. So Jesus appears to him in a vision and says, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (vv. 9–10).

Did you catch that promise? God assures Paul that he already has “a people”—lost but chosen—in Corinth. This promise encourages and emboldens Paul, and he continues ministering in the city for more than a year. Indeed, we now have two inspired epistles to the church there.

Be Encouraged

So when times get challenging in ministry, remember this grand story. God is gathering a people to himself, and he displays his glory through us in this great mission. May this promise give you confidence as you share the gospel. May this motivation drive your social action.

Finally, let this unfolding story encourage you as you survey your local gathering. See it in light of the bigger picture. As you gather for corporate worship in a storefront, a home, a school, a secret location, or an old church building, remember that you are a microcosm of something greater, something diverse and beautiful, something global and glorious, something in the present that will extend to the future—and beyond to eternity.

God’s purpose has always been to have a people for himself—real people who gather around the Word, break bread together, sing together, laugh together, weep together, pray together, dream together, and do ministry together. God is in our midst, revealing his glory to us, and displaying his glory through us. Let’s not lose the wonder of this grace.