By Peter Meier | February 15, 2016
The love of Christ compels us. 2 Corinthians 5:14
There is no command in the Bible to go into all the world and plant churches.
You read correctly. What we are about is really not church planting or church multiplication or new church reproduction.
Church planting is not the Scriptural imperative; making disciples is.
Making disciples occurs as the Word of God is read, spoken, communicated from one person to another. My friend Mark says, "The Holy Spirit works through the Word along the avenue of relationships." That's disciple-making. It's God's work, carried out through means – through the Word and through ordinary people who speak and live it with their neighbors.
As the Word and Spirit and Christian people do their work, God makes disciples. These disciples naturally gather together in groups, they congregate in "churches" – not brick and mortar buildings, but as communities of Christ-confessing people. The best way to fulfill the mandates of making disciples, baptizing and teaching them, is through the multiplication of contextualized churches among the various peoples (nations) of the world. New churches reach new people, who reach still more new people.
Biblical church multiplication is simply discipleship that results in new churches. Evangelism and disciple-making leads to new (and existing) Christians who confess and follow Jesus in their personal lives and together as "church." Disciple-making results in congregations – some joining existing churches, others creating new churches to reach new people in new contexts with the Christian Gospel.
Why do we do this? Merely in response to a command, a mandate? No, this is no legalistic response. St. Paul offers clear, gospel-centered motivation: The love of Christ compels us. The love Christ has demonstrated by his life and death in our place, as one of us, for us, is what moves us to respond.
Literally, the word translated as compels means to constrain or guide, to press, mold, or organize. That makes sense. Our operating or organizing principle, that which molds and shapes us, is the love God has shown to us in Jesus, the Gospel message.
We have been loved by Christ, chosen, called, and baptized into His family, the communion of saints. We have received His gifts including a place in the Holy Christian Church. We have a place in our local gatherings and expressions of this Church. We know His acceptance and forgiveness and peace. There are more who need to know that there's a place for them too. There's a local community, a communion of saints, who will welcome and accept them as a fellow sinner/saint.
Our Missionary God, a sending God, takes the initiative to engage His people, His Church, in His work of reclaiming lost people to Himself. God sends us out to partner in His invitational, reclaiming, restoring, and reconciling work.
Could there be any greater privilege, any greater partnership?
God so loved the world that He gave His Son… God so loved the world that now He sends us. Why do we plant churches? His love compels us!
Questions for Discussion
- It is in the process of making disciples that churches are multiplied. Agree or disagree? Explain.
- What is the greatest gift of love you can give to another person?
- Why is church planting a work of love? Christ's love? Our love?
- Who do you know who needs to know the love of Christ right now? What will you do about it?
Resources You Can Use
Churches Planting Churches, a two-day seminar for congregation teams (pastor and lay leaders) is offered by the Center for US Missions. This seminar approaches church multiplication from a Biblical and practical point of view. Explore strategies, the advantage of starting new, when to plant, the process of multiplication, mother-daughter relationships and more. To host this seminar, contact Peter Meier at email@example.com.
For discussion and helps with disciple-making, check out Dwelling 1:14, named after John 1:14. Read the blogs posted there, and order Greg Finke's book, Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary. Simple, powerful and applicable insights show you how to be on mission and recognize where Jesus is already at work in your neighborhoods, workplaces and schools. You will feel both relief and hope. You may even hear yourself say, "I can do this!" as you start responding to the everyday opportunities Jesus is placing in your path.
How to Multiply Your Church by Ralph Moore. Churches are bigger than ever, but their rates of growth can't keep up with population increases… existing congregations simply cannot add enough believers. Veteran church planter Ralph Moore makes the case for steadily and strategically planting new churches that in turn, plant new churches.
Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions.
For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org
firstname.lastname@example.org | Rev. Dr. Peter Meier, Executive Director; email@example.com | Rev. Michael Ruhl, Director of Training; firstname.lastname@example.org | Kathy Meier, Coordinator; email@example.com | Mil Behnken, Office Manager; firstname.lastname@example.org