Why do we plant churches? The answer is simple: Jesus Christ is the reason why we plant churches. The foundation of church planting and the entire Christian faith is Jesus Christ. Churches fall into error whenever they move away from Christ as their foundation.
Sadly, I have seen people try to plant churches for many different reasons. Some have tried to plant out of pride. Some for fame or recognition. Others have tried to plant churches out of strife or envy. Christ must be the reason and the foundation of every new church plant.
There is no other rock or foundation to build our church upon than Christ himself. Jesus told Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Paul reminds us that He is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Make sure that your church planting endeavors are built upon the solid rock of Christ.
Christ Centered Movements
When we look at the pages of church history, we see that every major Christian movement begins with a life changing encounter with the living Christ. Think about it. Moses met with God in the burning bush. Paul encountered Christ on the road to Demascus. Wesley encountered Christ at Aldersgate. Augustine encountered God under a tree. Luther encountered Christ in the Bible. St. Francis encountered God at the cross. St. Patrick encountered God in a dream. Church history is full of stories of individuals who had a life changing experience with the risen Christ that forever changed their life.
In Movements That Change the World, Steve Addison says, “History is made by men and women of faith who have met with the living God.”_ Are we any better or different than them? We need to have the same life changing encounter with Christ faith that inspired the great heros of the faith if we are going to plant churches.
Church history warns us that new churches must always keep Christ at the center of everything they do or else they will become institutionalized. C.S. Lewis said, “There exists in every church something that sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence. So we must strive very hard, by the grace of God to keep the church focused on the mission that Christ originally gave it.”_ The thing that Lewis is warning against is institutionalization. The cure is to constantly keep our eyes on Jesus and to remain faithful to the original mission of the church, which is the call to make disciples.
As the Methodist movement continued to grow in size and influence, Wesley observed that the movement was following similar patterns of institutionalization. He lamented that this was the natural course for them to follow. He felt that a grim fate might befall the Methodists if they ever lost their zeal. He wrote:
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
Proclaiming Christ in New Church
Experts say that church planting is the number one way to reach unchurched people and make new disciples for Jesus Christ. C. Peter Wagner says, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.” Likewise, statistics show that it is much harder for traditional churches to reach the unchurched. Therefore, there is an even greater need to plant churches that reach the unchurched in our nation. Church planters are modern day missionaries to North America.
From the beginning, church planters must share their faith with others. Sharing our faith is the duty of every believer. This is commonly called evangelism. The word evangelism comes from the Greek word evangelion, which means Gospel or good news. We are all called to share the good news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness with the world. It is not as important how we share our faith but if we share our faith. There are many different ways that Christians can share their faith with others.
Prayer and Evangelism
Sharing our faith with others begins with prayer. Pray that God will give you the right opportunity and words to say to others. You would be surprised how many opportunities there are to share your faith with others. The Holy Spirit will open the hearts and the doors when the time is right. Many times people never share their faith because of fear, but the Bible says that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7). The Holy Spirit will help you move past all of your fears and share your faith with boldness. It’s like fishing, you don’t know what the fish are biting until you cast your line into the water.
The best way to share the faith with friends and family is by personal evangelism and missional living. Being an authentic Christian day after day is the best way to lead somebody to Jesus Christ. To be a living witness does not remove a Christian’s responsibility to share the faith; rather it gives the opportunity. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 to let your light shine before men. A Christian’s life becomes a light for others to see God. Therefore, believers should show the world that our God is real through actions and deeds. In the words of St. Francis, “Preach at all times, but if you must use words.”
Our Greatest Duty
Upon departing departing for America, Thomas Coke asked Wesley what do I tell them. Wesley responded by saying, “offer them Christ.” As church planters, we have nothing to offer people but Jesus Christ. Our call is to still simply to “offer them Christ.” Let us end with the burning words of John Wesley, “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go not only to those that need you, but to those that need you most.”