Text: Luke 10:1-16 (click)
Is this a church planting related text? I do think we find very important principles we can use in the area of church planting. There are not that many times where the Bible says, “Go and plant churches,” but it does say “Go and make disciples.” But it was the normal practice of the NT church to be engaged in church planting; it was the assumed undercurrent of the early church to be planting churches. Mission is wrapped in theology in the practice of the church.
The normative practice is no longer church planting today. What was normal in the NT has become abnormal today that is to the fault and detriment of the church in America.
We are to be engaged in church planting. We are not to be a cul-de-sac in the kingdom of God. I want you to see six things in this text:
1. They began in prayer (1-2)
God is a sending God, and they lived under the missional mandate as “those who are sent.” God is at work in the world, drawing men and women to himself. The harvest is there; therefore, we should pray to the Lord of the harvest. That prayer is essential and fundamental because church planters have the tendency of not being prayerful people but workers, self-starters, etc. When you begin to pray for the place you are going to plant a church, God is going to break your heart for the people there. It frustrates me that people are deciding where to plant based on demographics reported six months earlier.
2. It flows into a radical reliance (3-4)
When you fall in love with God’s mission and love for his calling, then a radical reliance is the natural outflow that began in prayer. We have created a three-tiered level of Christian spirituality. The bottom tier is lay people; the second tier is those called to ministry; the top tier is those called to missions. This is one of the most unhelpful, unbiblical distinctions because people begin to say, “Well, I am not called to be on mission. We pay you to do that.” All Christians are called to ministry; all Christians are called to be on mission. We are all sent on God’s mission–the only question is where and among whom you will go.
Jesus is unapologetic about the “go.” Jesus is talking about us in prayer transitioned into a radical reliance. The gospel is not a promise to comfort, but a promise to mission. The call of God is not determined by any human agency. People will try to talk you out of being involved in church planting. Don’t be distracted by people along the road–focus on the mission. You will never have enough money, never have enough people, never have enough resources to plant a church. But when you let them go, God will bless and provide.
Let’s bring forth not only historic theology and historic missiology. The only church planting movement that took place was called “The Western Frontier” (1795-1810). It was the era of the Baptist farmer preacher. It was a time when poor farmers went out and started churches.
3. It blesses a community (5-6)
We come with a blessing, leaving the results to God. It is the acknowledgment that God is at work, bringing people to Himself. Sometimes we revel in rejection. Yes, the gospel is offensive; there is always the stumbling block of the cross. But perhaps people are stumbling over the cross, they are stumbling over the church along the way.
<< Jer. 29:4-7 >>
4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
In the name of Jesus, and because of the agenda of the kingdom of God, bless the community, pray for the welfare of the city, and seek to bring good to the people. We can’t get around the fact that we are to speak blessing into the community; Jesus models this and commands us to do it as well.
4. Build relationships and settle in (7-8)
Be incarnational and an expression of the Christian community. We should engage and give honor to the people we are seeking to reach (“eat and drink what is before you”). If you are going to plant a church, you need to become a part of the community where you are planting the church. You should identify with the people. We have to unpack our bags and become a part of the people. Dig deep in your relationships with unbelievers. We should be like John Knox who said, “Give me Scotland or I die!”
You will be in places that are not growing, not popular, not sexy. And it is tempting to look at places where other people are and develop a “mistress” mentality seeking bigger and better opportunities. But we must be faithful to where God has placed us and be able to say, “Give me ____________ or I die.”
5. Meet needs and serve people (9)
God has called us to meet needs. I know that we often beat down “felt needs” but people have real needs where we can connect with them. We need to them understand what their real needs are. Jesus is unapologetic about meeting the real needs of people. Evangelicals have to find a way to bring back a divided Jesus, to reconcile the Jesus of Luke 4 and the Jesus of Luke 19:10. Liberals want justice without Jesus; fundamentalists want Jesus without justice. Jesus is the Savior who both performs justice and saves sinners.
We are not known as being good at sharing Christ, or showing Christ, but if we are going to get back to the Great Commission, we need to recover both. We need to get back to being, doing, and telling the gospel to the lost. The church is not the kingdom of God; it is a sign and instrument of the kingdom of God. When we serve as God’s people with God’s agenda, we are a sign of God’s kingdom. The world does not see us as seeing and showing the good news.
We must live Jesus-shaped, Scripturally-defined lives.
6. You are announcing the kingdom (10)
We don’t talk much about the kingdom of God. We’ve lost some of the things that Henry and Ladd were talking about. When Jesus showed up, the King showed up. When we plant churches, we are extending the boundaries where Christ reigns–a church as a sign and instrument of the kingdom of God. The world around us sees what the kingdom of God looks like when visible saints express the love and life of Christ. Part of the problem is that we believe that church planting belongs to denominational agencies and not local churches. Less than 5% of SBC churches are mother churches. This is a movement that was birth from a missions movement. If you really believe the agenda of the kingdom of God, if you want God’s name and God’s fame magnified, how can you not want to be a part of church planting?
We need God-centered, biblically-saturated churches planting God-centered, biblically-saturated churches. I have a reaction when people say they want to go into deeper things. It seems to me that the things people want is not meat but minutiae. Deep things are being, telling, and doing the good news to your neighbor. When our churches are not about our churches but about the agenda and mission of God, we are going deep.
My encouragement to you is: God is saying to us, “Now go . . .”. I hope what drives you is that one of the attributes of God is a sender by nature, and we are to be a missionary people to reflect the character of our missional God. Because He is a sender, we must now go.