Church planting is all about contextualization and so is church plant preaching. Context includes not just where you are, but when you are in the life of your church. As I thought about preaching in church plants, there were a few specific sermons that came to mind—some were significant moments in the life of our church and some are simply texts that point us toward how we should all live a life of faith. Each of these 5 passages represents a contextual word: A word that God needed to say to our community at that time. You have to decide your own top 5 passages to preach at your church plant. Here are the top 5 passages I’ve preached for my new church, Christ Fellowship in San Antonio, TX.
1. Exodus 14:13-14
I preached this passage on the night of our very first preview service. We had a large crowd of people, mostly from our mother church and many were asking questions like, “Why do we need to plant a church?” “How are we going to pay for a church plant?” “Why are we sending some of our people out to a new church?” My launch team was nervous; I was nervous. We all knew that we had a lot riding on this first preview of our new church. I believe this passage is a great one to preach early in a plant because it reminds us that the work we are doing is ultimately the Lord’s and He will fight for us. I know that our folks (myself included) really needed to hear the words, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today….The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (NLT)
2. Matthew 10
Matthew 10 is a passage I go back to quite often to remind everyone that our ministry to connect the disconnected is something we ALL do – not just the pastor. Jesus sends out the 12 and gives them authority to do the very things he had been doing: casting out demons and healing the sick of every kind of disease and illness. It’s important to remind people often that the work of a church plant is work we all share and that we have been given authority from Jesus to go out and do the things He did (see also Matthew 28).
3. Psalm 32
If we are doing what we are supposed to be doing in a church plant then we will be preaching to folks in need of hearing the good news that God loves them and that through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus they can be forgiven of their sins. Psalm 32 paints the picture of the amazing joy experienced when we are forgiven of our sins. Many hearing it will understand exactly what the psalmist is talking about when he says, “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.” The psalm unpacks the power of confession and being honest with God as the key to experiencing the joy of being forgiven—a great message for any new church!
4. Acts 2:41-47
A new church is a new community. It cannot be assumed that everyone understands the elements of biblical community. (In fact it should probably be assumed that people do not understand those elements!) Acts 2:41-47 lays out the essential elements – being devoted to teaching, fellowship, sacrament, prayer, generosity, etc. This is a text that should probably be taught in various ways each year as your church is starting out. It is a necessary foundation for what God is building through your church.
5. 2 Corinthians 8:1-12
The fact that I list this passage last should not in any way diminish its importance. Honestly it could be listed at the top as one of the most important passages to preach in a church plant. One of the biggest mistakes church planters make is not preaching about money until it’s too late.* This passage teaches us that giving is a test of our faith and that the standard for generosity is Jesus. New churches need to be taught the importance of generosity early and often not just for the funding of the ministry but for the spiritual growth of the people as well.