You: A Church Planter
Have you ever considered the possibility that you could be a church planter? Yes, you! If not, why not? Maybe when you hear the term “church planter,” a very narrow concept comes to your mind that does not seem to describe you. So maybe the question that needs to be asked at the outset is this: what is a church planter?
The terms “church planter” or “church planting” do not appear in the New Testament, but the concept is certainly present as we watch God establish and multiply His church beginning in Acts and continuing throughout the New Testament. In our modern era, it is easy to think of church planting as a job for a pastor or pastors. After all, the Bible has established them as leaders in the New Testament church (Ephesians 4:11). But is the multiplication of churches the job of a select few? Is this the picture the New Testament paints of gospel growth in the early church?
One only has to follow the journeys and ministry of probably the most famous church planter—the apostle Paul—to get a different perspective on church planting. Paul was undoubtedly a gifted minister of the gospel, and he clearly had a successful ministry of church planting. But Paul was not single-handedly planting churches. He regularly had a team around him that consisted of people from various backgrounds and with different vocational experience. Here are just a few examples.1
Timothy and Titus – young proteges who became future leaders themselves (Acts 16:1-3; 17:14-15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4; 1 Cor. 16:10-11; 2 Cor. 2:12-13; Gal. 2:1-3; Phil. 2:19-23; 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 4:9-10; Titus 1:5)
Aquilla and Priscilla – a mature couple united in their love of the gospel and using their trades and abilities to help further gospel proclamation (Acts 18:1-3, 18-19, 26; Rom. 16:3-5; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19)
Luke – a physician who used his abilities and flexibiliy to help further the gospel (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1; 16:10-18; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16; Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Tim. 4:11)
Lydia – “a businesswoman with an open heart and an open house” (Acts 16:13-15, 40)2
Epaphras – an intercessory prayer warrior as others ministered in areas he could not (Col. 1:7-8; 4:12-13; Philemon 23)
Aristarchus – a faithful servant who was simply willing to go anywhere and do anything to help advance the gospel (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Col. 4:10; Philemon)
Epaphroditus – a trustworthy believer who was known for his ministry zeal (though likely not a pastor – Phil. 2:25-30; 4:18)
Onesiphorus – especially gifted to minister to church leaders in times of most desperate need (2 Tim. 1:16-18; 4:19)
Phoebe – a godly lady looking for opportunities to minister (2 Tim. 1:16-18; 4:19)
Stephanas and family – an intentionally active family in their local church (1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15-18)
Which of these people qualify as church planters? From a human perspective, would Paul have had the church planting success he did without them? God’s plan for gospel expansion in the early church included all kinds of people, not just a select few. They all had unique gifts to bring to the table, and they did not see “church planting” as the job of someone else.
So what about you? You live in a time when gospel expansion is desperately needed. Do you have this kind of church planting mindset? Are you willing to consider creative ways you can strategically contribute to church planting, now and in the future? Many have already chosen to be involved by praying for and financially supporting church planters and missionaries around the globe, and that is undoubtedly a wonderful blessing to those already faithfully serving. But is it possible that God might call you to take on a church planting role similar to those on Paul’s team? It might mean expanding your current prayer support (see Epaphras above) and/or financial contributions. Or maybe you will become an active encouragement and participant as your current local church plants a new church in your city. Or you may possibly take the significant step of relocating for the purpose of helping an active church planting project. Whatever the case, will you consider how you might be able to intentionally participate in strategic church planting?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
1 Biographical summaries gleaned from D. Edmond Hiebert, In Paul’s Shadow: Friends & Foes of the Great Apostle (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 1992).
2 Ibid, p. 167.