Planting a Church, and the People Involved

Who are the people God uses to form a new church? Who qualifies? Must the leaders all be pastors? Can it take other Christians sent from other churches, or must a new church only start by reaching new Christians? These are good questions people have asked in both instances where I have endeavored to plant churches.

Acts 11 is a great place to go to answer these questions. In Acts we learn that the church begins in Jerusalem following Christ’s commission in Acts 1 (specifically Acts 1:8) and the Holy Spirit’s empowering in Acts 2. The rest of the book of Acts explains how the church went from Jerusalem to where you are today. In Acts 11:19-26 we see participants in one of the first new churches started beyond Jerusalem, and these participants all come from one of four scenarios. In starting a church, God will use…

1. Christians being providentially steered (11:19-20).

Providential circumstances led the Christians in the Jerusalem church to move beyond Jerusalem. They went out from the church they came to faith in, and wherever they went they continued sharing the gospel with the new people they met. These were everyday Christians, not preachers as we know them. And yet the Bible says they “were preaching the Lord Jesus.”

Most Christians could never imagine leaving “their” church for any reason. But God uses changes in the circumstances of our lives to lead us in expanding His Kingdom and keeping the church on the move with the gospel. Life is an adventure. It is likely, as God is providentially working in our lives, that He will use various Christians influentially participating in the start of a new church. Their circumstances and church origins might differ, but these Christians are needed in planting churches.

2. New Christian being saved (11:21).

Luke tells us that “the hand of the Lord was with them.” Being forced out of your city because of persecution is not usually a sought after experience. However, God uses changes in life and the difficulties of His people for amazing purposes. This was an unsettling and uncomfortable time for many Christians, and yet, “a large number who believed turned to the Lord.”

Many times church planting is the most productive way of reaching new people with the gospel. Some church plants will see new converts immediately, and some will labor years and new converts will be hard to come by. In some parts of the world, missionaries labor years with the gospel before they ever see their first convert. Nevertheless, it takes new people believing the gospel and turning to the Lord for church planting to happen.

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Heaven…Why It May Cost More Than You Think

It is common thought today, and has been ever since biblical times, that a man can earn or purchase heaven and its benefits. The most common expression of this idea is found in the notion that God grants access to heaven to those who earn it with good living. Behind this thinking is the belief that man is good enough to “deserve” or able to “earn” heaven.

This morning I read a vivid example of this in Acts 8 this morning. A man named Simon observed the gift of God being freely given to people who repented of sin and trusted in Christ. Simon saw the visible benefits these new believers in Jesus were given in God’s Holy Spirit. Seeing that Christians became beneficiaries of God’s presence and power through His Spirit when they believed, Simon offered the Apostles money in exchange for these benefits of God:

But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could ​​obtain the gift of God with money! “You have ​no part or portion in this ​matter, for your heart is not ​​right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, ​if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in ​the ​bondage of iniquity.” Acts 8:21-23

Today, as even then, people want to believe they can earn God’s gift (which ultimately is hope for eternal life in heaven). This gift comes with many benefits: forgiveness, wisdom for life, love for God and people, joy no matter life’s circumstance, peace, God’s presence in you. These benefits are the result of being made right with God. But most people who believe as Simon did, that this gift from God is earned, fail to see: God as perfect, themselves as sinners, Sin as worthy of everlasting punishment, and Jesus as the only sufficient remedy for a sinful person’s current standing before God (i.e. sin has ruined any good standing we had with God, so that without God’s gift, we are deserving of everlasting punishment.)

Consider the climax of the biblical story. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, is given by God in order to be killed in front of the entire on-looking world. The Bible says Jesus is by nature God (conceived in the womb by the Holy Spirit) and by nature Man (virgin born). He lived 30+ years without sinning even once. For these reasons, Christ is the only suitable payment to purchase the freedom of sinful people. This centerpiece of the Christian story, that God would sacrifice His Son to satisfy the debt caused by our sin, says everything about the seriousness of our sin debt and the price required.

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Providence Church: East Lee Planting Update 3

This has been an encouraging season for us, and we believe it is in part because God is using the prayers of our partners.

There have been three areas we have and will consistently ask prayer for: Leadership, Gospel Transformation, and Increasing Prayer for this mission.

1. Leadership – Leadership takes time, and comes in all forms. So continual prayer for this is important to us. I began in December meeting weekly with two men who are assisting me in the leadership of these early stages of leadership. Please pray that God would make us effective leaders and lead us in the right direction.

Also, Mary and I plan on attending a church planting conference with two couples from Providence Church in Orlando January 26-29. This will be an important time of training, planning, and praying.

We are praying for wisdom and leaders to start our third community group. We are looking for a facilitator and a host home.

2. Gospel Transformation – The Gospel continues to be central during our community groups. We are working to have the Gospel as the central strand of DNA in all our community group meetings.

We are encouraged by a new family attending one of our groups which is the direct result of serving with the Gospel. They are not church attenders, and are honest about their reservations about the Gospel. We encourage their honesty, and invite their questions and objections. They have grown more curious about faith in Christ over the past month, and good friendships are continuing to be formed between them and others in our group. This too, we believe, is a result of your prayers.

In December, the two community groups delivered nearly 200 New Testaments door-to-door in the neighborhoods where our small group meetings are hosted. We had many good conversations and met many neighbors. Afterwards our groups met together in the park to picnic and play kickball and ultimate frisbee. One family we met in the neighborhood earlier joined us in the park.

Also last month, each community group hosted Christmas parties and invited friends in our neighborhoods who do not attend church. Between the two homes, we had 10 guests that evening. This was a great time for visitors to meet members of our small groups and visit in the homes that host our Bible discussions. Over the past 6 weeks, the two community groups have had 19 guests.

3. Increasing Prayer – I am convinced we need to pray more. I need to pray more. Your partnership to pray specifically for God’s work within this planting endeavor is very important to us. If you have opportunity, feel free to recruit more friends to commit to pray. Share this with your churches, Sunday School classes, or Bible study groups. Mention it during you family worship times, as my family does for other pastors and missionaries. Continue reading