31 Dec The Value of Godly Counsel
I speak in many churches each year and get bulletins and newsletters from other churches in which I do not speak. Many times these churches list the ministries of the church in the bulletins for the church congregation and others to see. This is a good idea so that members can see ministries in which they can be involved. Some of these ministries include: soul-winning, nursery, music, deaf, tape, youth, bus, and various other ministries that are too numerous to mention here.
One ministry that I don’t think I have ever seen listed in a church bulletin or paper sent out by a local church is that of church planting. I am sure there are some churches that do have it in their informational material but I really can’t think of any that list that ministry as a ministry of the local church.
A “ministry” of the local church is one in which the church is actively involved on a regular basis. For example, we list “soul-winning” as a ministry of the church because we have a weekly time to go out and witness to the lost in the community. We list the “bus ministry” because we actively seek those who do not have a ride to church and we use that to get them into the church in order to share the gospel with them. We have a “deaf ministry” because we actively recruit the deaf in order to share the gospel with them. This is true of each ministry in our local churches as it should be. Some will argue that they have a “church planting” ministry because they support a church planter financially. However do we have a “soul-winning” ministry if we support a soul-winner but never go soul-winning? A ministry is something in which we are actively involved.
Should we have an active “church planting” ministry in our local churches? I submit that we definitely should. Those of you that keep up with our ministry and our philosophy of ministry understand why this should be the case. We believe that the local church is responsible for the reproducing of new churches and since that is the case we should be actively involved in reproducing churches on a regular basis just as any other ministry in the local church. When you read the book of Acts, you find that the Jerusalem church actively sought to reproduce churches out of their local church. The first church planters in the Bible were laymen out of the Jerusalem church and they went out from the church to plant churches in Judea, Samaria, Galilee and other cities such as Antioch. If they had a church bulletin or news letter that went out to other churches that included the ministries of their church, I am sure it would have included the “church planting” ministry.
This is obvious to even the casual reader of Acts and it begs the question, “Why don’t our churches follow the example of the Jerusalem church and have a church planting ministry?” I think there are several reasons we do not have a “church planting” ministry listed among the ministries of our local churches. First of all, it is because our philosophy of ministry regarding church planting does not lend itself to having one in our local churches. Most of us have been taught in our Bible colleges and local churches that the church planter is responsible for planting a new church. He is the one to actively go out and work in a new community, holding Bible studies, visiting, knocking on doors, distributing literature, winning people to Christ, getting them baptized, and discipling them. He then forms a church with this congregation. This is what I call “pioneer church planting”. I have done that kind of church planting and have supported that kind of church planting. Pastors have church planters come to their churches promoting this type of church planting and I am thankful for every man who dares to plant a church in this manner. However, these men are mostly left to “fend for themselves” when they get to the new area with little help from others in planting the new church. Those who hold to this philosophy believe that Paul was the first mention of a church planting in the Bible and they take their example from what he did when he left the church in Antioch for his missionary journeys. However, church planting didn’t start in Antioch, it started in Jerusalem with laymen going out and planting churches out of the Jerusalem church.
Secondly, we don’t have a ministry of church planting in our local churches because we aren’t sure how to develop one. There are several steps that can be taken in a local church to develop a strong church planting ministry. First of all, the church family needs to be convinced that they have the responsibility to reproduce churches out of their church. Many times when I preach on church planting in a local church, I will ask that all the church planters please stand. I have only those who are there preparing to plant a church, missionaries going to plant a church and others who have heard me or Brother Clarence Sexton speak about this stand. Most pastors do not even stand. The vast majority of our people have no comprehension that they are supposed to be involved in church planting. Once the church understands their role in church planting, a pastor can lead the church to begin to bring men into the ministry and prepare them for pastoring churches reproduced by their church. I do not mean that they should start a Bible institute or college to prepare them but seek out good men to work with their ministry to prepare them to duplicate their ministry in another location. The Bible teaches “kind reproduces kind.” A system can be set up with the help of the congregation to bring these men under the ministry of the local church with the intention of planting a Baptist church for them in communities where there is not a good Baptist church. When you do this you have a “church planting” ministry. You do not have to plant a church each year but every church should always have a place where they are actively seeking to plant a church. Thirdly, the pastor should be praying about communities where a good church should be planted and prepare the church family to go there to plant the church for the young man that is preparing in the local church.
There is a third reason that churches do not have a “church planting” ministry. We can call it lack of faith, fear of losing members, or even too much planning and work. I think it would best be called a “lack of vision.” I had a very influential pastor in America with a very large congregation say to me, “I don’t have time to plant a church out of our church.” What he was really saying to me is that the schedule can’t include a “church planting” ministry. They have the various other ministries of a strong local church but this one is just too much work. I think when we read the Book of Acts; we find this was the primary focus of the local church in Jerusalem. Why should we eliminate what made the early church successful and what reached the world with the gospel from our list of ministries? It should be at the top of our list and maybe it would help stop the immoral and liberal trends in our countries today. I have met many pastors that do not want a church planting ministry because they are afraid of losing what they have. They fear that some of their members might want to leave and go to a new area to be in a new church. What if the Jerusalem pastors refused to let their church members go to other areas and plant churches? Where would we be today? The answer is very clear but another question must be asked. Where are we headed since we do not have this vital ministry in our local churches? I think we all know the answer to that question.
What can we do about this problem? First of all, we must admit we have failed to include this vital ministry in our “list”. Secondly, we can determine to make the changes necessary to change. Thirdly, we can begin to develop a philosophy of ministry in our local churches that will impact not only our country but also the world just as the early church did. It is our only hope for survival.
Written by Jim Townsley