46-47They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. (Acts 2:46-47) Message
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18) NLT
There is a church planting movement currently sweeping across the globe. This is not just happening nationally, but internationally. There are a lot of conversations going on as to how we should plant, who we should follow, what methods and patterns we should use. However, there is the original blueprint as recorded in the book of Acts.
A local church is not planted overnight. There is a period of preparation that must take place in order for a new congregation to succeed. The book of Acts is God’s training manual for church planting.
Church planter preparation begins with preparing the planter. Jesus spent three and a half years showing His disciples the one and only way into the kingdom. He is that way. By looking to Him, and then leading others to look to Him, the kingdom of God will be seen. The purpose of planting churches is not to establish an organization, it is to bring people into a personal relationship with the one true God, and then raise them up to be mature followers of Christ, so that they can go out and share their personal relationship and experience with others.
There is a clear pattern presented in the book of Acts. Therefore, a clear understanding of Acts is necessary for a church planter who desires to plant a Christ-centered, Biblically based, community of faith. Additionally, a well rounded understanding of the entire Bible is essential.
From the book of Acts we see:
Jesus instruction to His followers. “Wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and then you shall be my witnesses."
The disciples obeyed and waited, and then the Holy Spirit came, as Jesus promised. Then they went out, filled with the power of God, and turned the world upside down.
They preached the gospel; the good news of a risen Savior, who came to take away the sin of the world.
The preaching of the word pierced the hearts of those who heard it. It was not reaching for a decision, but it was the supernatural flow of what happens when man hears the word of God (Heb.4:12).
Those who heard the word of God responded. They asked, “What must we do to be saved?” Peter responded. Believe on the name of Jesus and be baptized.
Those who believed were baptized and IMMEDIATELY added to the church. There was no membership class; no “Church as we do it 101” They believed, they were baptized, and automatically added to the church—not by anything the disciples did (except for being obedient to Jesus’ instructions) but what the triune God did. “The Lord added to the church, daily, those who were being saved.
No slick marketing campaigns, no “How to break the next growth barrier strategies,” just the power of the gospel at work in the hearts of people as the disciples obeyed and did what Jesus commanded them to do.
The results? The rest of the book of Acts.
We see this same pattern repeated over and over throughout Acts as the gospel traveled through Jerusalem, then to Judea and Samaria, and to Rome and the ends of the earth.
- The gospel was preached
- The hearts of people were pierced with conviction of their own sinful nature and their need for what Jesus came to provide
- The people who heard the word responded in faith and believed in Jesus and were saved.
- The new believers were baptized and assimilated into the body of Christ.
- They met regularly for
i. Teaching – together they learned and grew from God’s word. I heard John Piper refer to sound doctrine as "Putting edges around our understanding of who God is and what we can know about Him." Through the teaching of the word of God we come toknow God's purpose and plan for our own,personal lives, as we live together in community as the people of God; born-again, adopted children of God
ii. Fellowship – together they learned how to live as a family; a unit; the body of Christ; living, breathing and moving together in the same direction (upward towards the summit of God’s holy mountain).They shared life and all of its facets; good times, bad times, pain and suffering, struggles, victories, etc.
iii. breaking bread – always remembering the reason we assemble together in the first place; to celebrate our resurrected life in Christ and to recognize Him as the head of the body that each follower of Christ is a part of. When we meet together for meal, and we break bread and have a time of community, something supernatural takes place. The God of the universe enters our midst. The one who lives inside of each of us becomes magnified. One believer in the community at large would not stand out. It would not make much of a difference. But 3,000 people assembled in one place, singing and praising God, rejoicing, happy, exuberant, where people’s lives are being changed, their problems and struggles are no longer dragging them down, paralyzing them with fear, and crippling them with physical and mental illnesses. That makes a big impact. People can’t help but notice; either negatively or positively, what’s going on in that growing band of Christ followers.
iv. Prayer – Someone (I’d like to say it was D.L. Moody, but I don’t remember where I heard the phrase) once referred to prayer as the glue that binds us and holds us together. Prayer maintains our connection with the living Triune God. He reaches inward to each of us, as we reach upward to Him. He then uses us to reach outward as He lives His life in us and through us. Through prayer He breaks down the walls that our fallen human nature has erected; walls of separation; racial, social, religious and denominational, etc. Then there are the personal walls that have been built by pain, suffering, being hurt by others; walls of guilt, shame and fear. Then there are things like anger, depression, anxiety and addictions that become defense mechanisms. We use these emotions and fixations as excuses to keep people out of those places where no one is allowed to go. Personal prayer breaks down these walls and takes us outside of ourselves and our own problems and, through corporate occasions of prayer, we come together and are connected to Christ, who is the True Vine. As fellow branches in the Vine, we are no longer out there all alone fending for ourselves. God is with us and among us and as we pray together, we learn how to live together and to love one another and to stop biting and devouring one another, and before you know it, the kingdom of God is present; right here in our midst, because WE are the kingdom of God on earth. If we truly desire to present in Zion, His eternal kingdom, then we must let “His kingdom come and His will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven."
That’s was it. No long business and committee meetings, not too much structure, except for what was necessary to maintain order and discipline within the body. They met both in the temple (large gatherings) and from house to house (small gatherings) all the while enjoying fellowship, breaking bread, and maintaining simplicity in Christ, which merely means pure and undivided devotion to the One who shed His blood for them.
As new believers were added to the body of Christ the rest of the body welcomed them and together they nurtured them and helped them to grow in their personal relationship with God, so that they overcame their problems and struggles in life, and became equipped and empowered to go out and tell others what they had seen and heard and experienced in their own lives, as they met God and walked with Him daily.
The idea and picture of “community” is present throughout Scripture, and particularly in Acts. This is what came out of the new believers meeting together, in the bond of the Holy Spirit.
Church multiplication happened supernaturally as the body of Christ lived, and breathed, and moved together.