In Act 1:8 Jesus offers His disciples this strategy for spreading his good news: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” What is Jesus telling his disciples to do? In the words of Genesis, He’s telling them to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.
This seems like a pretty clear directive to me and yet how do the disciples respond to it?
They stay in Jerusalem. They hunker down and work to grow the church in Jerusalem instead of scattering all over the world. It’s not until persecution breaks out against the church in Acts 8:1 that believers begin to multiply and fill the earth.
As my friend Jeff McDaniel likes to say,
“If you don’t do Acts 1:8, you get Acts 8:1.”
Meaning if you don’t obey Jesus’ command to scatter and multiply, He’ll cause some sort of disruption to make it happen. Perhaps COVID-19 is a part of that disruption which God’s using to help his church decentralize ministry and scatter.
In my personal estimation, God doesn’t honor Tower of Babel churches.
He doesn’t honor the vision of a leader to build a big church, so they can make a name for themselves. However, I do think he honors Antioch churches (Acts 13:1-3)–churches that are openhanded with their resources. These are churches that intentionally equip and send their best leaders out to start new churches and other kingdom initiatives.
We need more Antioch churches.
I mentioned in my previous article how Buffalo, NY, was the 8th most post-Christian city in the nation when we were planting back in 2011. Well, today I’m happy to share that Buffalo is now the nation’s 13th most post-Christian city and evangelical churches there have seen a significant increase in the number of people connected to a local congregation.
A few years ago, I sat in a meeting of church leaders from all over the Buffalo area. During the meeting we tried to name all the churches we had helped start in the last several years in our region. We came up with a list of over fifty and knew we were missing some.
That day, I thanked God for allowing me to work with a group of churches that partnered together to plant more churches in the effort to give every man, woman, and child repeated opportunities to see, hear, and experience the gospel of Jesus. It wouldn’t have happened if churches would have isolated themselves, accumulated their resources, and tried to compete to see who could build the biggest church in their neighborhood, district, or denomination.
Is your church sensing the call to follow the example of that Acts 13 Antioch church?
If you are sensing the call to multiply, make sure to count the cost first. It will require faith and sacrifice as you invest your resources in churches that won’t help your bottom line. It may mean celebrating when the church down the street is growing and yours in not. Starting new churches will present you with many challenges. But there are great organizations such as Passion for Planting that are here to help you along the way.
Passion for Planting is the church planting ministry of New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA. Renew.org leader Brett Andrews started New Life in 1993 to be a church planting church. He had no strategy or plan for how to do this, but he knew that was God’s vision for the church. So he pursued it and started planting new churches even when it hurt. (Read Give God Some Credit to learn more of our story).
By following God’s leading, New Life CC and Passion for Planting have been able to help start over 270 churches here in the U.S. We’d love to come alongside of you to help you multiply disciples and churches.
Have you personally considered that God might call you to plant a church?
One resource we offer churches to help them multiply is our Distance Church Planter Residency Program. It prepares leaders to start a healthy, multiplying church while staying in their local context. During the 9-month program, residents train and network with nationally recognized church planting and disciple making leaders like Bobby Harrington, Todd Wilson, David Young, and Brett Andrews just to name a few. Residents leave the program equipped with a contextualized comprehensive launch strategy along with the friendships they’ve built with a cohort of other church planters.
To learn more about our residency program or to apply, click here.