God’s mission is to gather together a people who are his very own. God has always accomplished this through his Word.
God called Abraham through a promise in Genesis 12 and told him he would be the Father of a great nation.
In the Exodus God gathered his people out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where he constituted them as a nation when he spoke to them, through Moses (Exodus 19).
God’s Word was always meant to be central to his people. The King was called to be a student of God’s Word (Deut 17:18). The nation was called to obey the 10 Words (the Law). David praised God for his revealed Word and delighted it (Psalm 19).
In the OT God’s people were gathered by God’s Word and in response to being drawn together were called to live out that Word.
The prophets spoke God’s Word to the people as they called them to repent and taught them how to live in the light of God’s saving grace.
God’s Word is central throughout Salvation history in the OT
When we move into the NT we again encounter God’s Word, but this time in a person, namely Jesus Christ (John 1). As we read the NT we discover that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Seed of Abraham (Galatians 3), the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the fulfillment of the temple and God’s dwelling place on earth.
Jesus message was simple and clear: The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and Believe.
At the end of Jesus time on earth, after he had completed his mission of dying as a substitute for our sins and rising to conquer death and bring us life, he left the disciples (and by implication the all disciples) a mission to carry out.
Mt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Mt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Mt 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
How would this task of going and making disciples be carried out? Through the Proclamation of the Gospel Word.
Jesus sent out the disciples on training missions to this end before he ascended to heaven (Matthew 10).
After Jesus left the disciples he sent the Holy Spirit and at that point Peter speaks, proclaims the Gospel. At the end of his preaching the following took place:
Ac 2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Ac 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ac 2:39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Ac 2:40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Ac 2:41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The next section of Acts gives us our first glimpse of what the gathering of the church was like:
Ac 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Ac 2:43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. Ac 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. Ac 2:45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Ac 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, Ac 2:47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The point is that just like in the OT God is concerned with a gathering a people together, and he does that around his word. Peter did not set out to plant a church at Pentecost, but to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. Jesus did not tell the disciples to go plant churches, but rather to go and make disciples. The preaching of the Gospel (word) gives people the opportunity to respond in faith to the God who brings salvation, and become his disciples.
Ro 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Ro 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Ro 10:15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
That is how God’s people are gathered together. In the NT the word Ekklesia is translated as church in our English bibles. This word carries with it the connotations of assembly, congregation and gathering of people.
Therefore the primary driving force behind church planting is actually the proclamation of the Gospel to those who have not yet believed. We might call it a number of different things but at its most basic people are being gathered together around God’s Word and out of this Churches are planted.
If we examine Paul’s methods in Acts we discover that in his missionary journeys he went to various regions and proclaimed the word of God (Acts 13:44). People were converted and became disciples, after a period of time (this time varied from place to place) Paul would move on to another region and do the same thing there. At the end of each Mission Paul would retrace his steps (rather than taking the shortest route home) to make the sure that the Disciples and been established into Churches and appointed Elders in those churches.
Ac 14:21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, Ac 14:22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Ac 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
In conclusion the driving force behind church planting must be disciple making. To plant churches for other reasons robs them of the mission that God intended. We need to learn to be more intentional in our Evangelism and Outreach as we go out to the lost people of God and seek to bring them into the Gathering of God’s people through the proclamation of the Gospel