Preaching and Church Planting
‘Church Planting is not a very popular option for men aspiring to enter the ministry but it is a biblical one.’
The final year students in the year I began my theological studies were tense. There seemed to them to be too few pastoral vacancies for them to have any hope of a call to an established church. In another part of the country a final year student at a well known Bible College was told bluntly that his only hope of a future in the ministry was to plant a church. He did so, beginning to preach in the lounge of a tiny handful of believers in an area where there was a need for a sound church. He did it so well that in a matter of a few years he was the pastor of a large church. The mustard seed had become a big tree.
Church planting is not a very popular option for men aspiring to enter the ministry but it is a biblical one. Jesus wanted his gospel to be preached in every possible location. ‘And he said to them, Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out’ (Mark 1:38). The early church only began to grow extensively because they were led by the Holy Spirit to plant churches and that planting was achieved through preaching. Acts 13 tells the wonderful story. The best men were not assigned to existing churches but were sent out to plant churches. Paul and Barnabas were the trail blazers.
It is a proven fact worldwide that the church only really grows when vigorous church planting takes place. Every evangelical church was once planted, a fact often forgotten. Once in each church’s history there was a man who began to preach in the given area and then as a result a church came into being.
It is time for more serious attention to be given to this vital ministry. It is an urgent necessity. New residential areas are springing up in many parts of the world. Even in many towns and cities which have a long history, solid and anointed preaching is rare. The solution? Preaching with a view to the coming into being of good and spiritual churches.
What are the requirements of a church planter?
A clear call to the ministry confirmed by those whose mature judgement assures the candidate that he has been chosen by God to preach.
Selecting a place of operation which is both strategic and needy. Paul could say of his highly successful ministry in planting churches: ‘. . . from Jerusalem and all the way to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ, and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand”‘ (Rom. 15:19b-21). Paul’s statement is brilliant in that it says what church planting is all about.
Finding a suitable location to begin, be it a house, a hall or some other suitable meeting place.
Preaching that is the result of thorough preparation in study and in prayer and where Jesus Christ is the heart and soul of the sermon.
Marketing the fledgling church by word of mouth, local advertising or other ways of making the existence of the preaching point known to inhabitants in the area.
Beginning to preach even if numbers are very small to begin with. Jesus preached to only two men on the Emmaus road and that fact is on record to encourage preachers of all ages. In the years when I planted four churches I sometimes preached to as few as three people on a Sunday morning but learned that even a small handful of the body of Christ is worth preaching to.
Perseverance. The enemy loathes any attempt to church plant and will give much opposition to the attempt. God’s answer is: ‘Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain’ (1 Cor. 15:58).
John Wesley whose wide ministry in Britain prompted so many new church plants had sound advice to the preachers he sent out. He told them that if they wanted a crowd they should start a fire! When preaching is what it should be that is what happens. Preaching that is done in ‘demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ and which at its heart is preaching ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2-4), will certainly draw people who will become the foundation members of a thriving church in an area where that is needed.
I have sometimes been asked how I did church planting. My answer has been short and sweet: I did what my Master Jesus did in those other towns and villages he spoke about. I preached his gospel and he honoured it for his glory and for the benefit of the people who responded.
Martin Holdt is Pastor of Constantia Park Baptist Church, Pretoria, South Africa. Taken with permission from Preaching & Preachers, August 2010.
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