My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
Mission is the thing which followers of Jesus should be busy with, both in our own street and to the ends of the earth. So, is that mission, and church planting in particular, overwhelming? Is it so difficult that complicated planning will always be required and postponement often necessary? Is the cost often prohibitive? Will the means often prove beyond us? Surely not.
The spontaneous expansion of the church reduced to its elements is very simple. There is no need for complex organisation, big budgets or large numbers. As Roland Allen comments, “It’s beginning may be the work of one man, and that a man neither learned in the things of this world, nor rich in the wealth of this world … what is necessary is faith. What is needed is the kind of faith which uniting a man to Christ, sets him on fire.”
While the beginning of this simple work may be the burning heart of one man or woman of faith, the expansion of the church is generally down to the life and witness of the Christian community. What is needed is not for that community to be large, wealthy or exceptionally talented, but simply that they believe the truth and live it out faithfully in Christ.
These are the two essential elements for planting churches. Only faithful doctrine leads to faithful men and women and faithful Christian communities. Only biblical truth births biblical community. There’s great danger in enthusiastic but doctrinally allergic and theologically anorexic Christians setting out to plant churches. They may get a new community but not a church. But neither does every mission team and every church plant need a Professor of Theology and a renown preacher.
The simple recipe for planting churches is something like this:
- Take one faithful man, with the kind of faith which uniting a man to Christ sets him on fire.
- One faithful, biblical gospel.
- One small, or large, community committed to faithful Christ-like discipleship.
- Mix in to a local community (tribe, nation, language, socio-economic status irrelevant).
- Pray hard and wait patiently.
Simple. Cheap. Quick.
- Add a large spoon of sovereign grace: expansive.
- When another man is set on fire, repeat process.