Recently I saw this post on a blog: “The Apostle Paul was never a member of one church and one church only.” Other people who posted comments quickly agreed with the statement. Both the author and those who agreed had it exactly wrong. I know: “Wrong” is an offensive word these days; it is a word used only by misguided traditionalists. It is the bane of Spiritual Progressives. But if I am headed in the wrong direction—toward danger—the most progressive thing I can do is turn around and head back until I find the right path again. The counterpoint to this issue is that, based on Paul’s example, church planting requires a home church.
Here’s a cultural truth: We bring to our reading of scripture whatever values we currently hold. Our eyes and hearts are sensitized to recognize the things we already agree with, and to ignore those things which run counter to our convictions.
Church Planting Requires a Home Church
When God graciously saves us he also has a plan to plant and nurture us. The Father isn’t in favor of theoretical family, he creates actual families of faith. Part of the yoke Jesus offers is our continued association with other believers. This association is more than friendship—it is a calling to become part of the people of God. Let’s allow Paul and his life to speak to us today. Here are at least four lessons we should learn from him:
(1) Antioch – Paul’s Church Home:
The first three verses of Acts chapter 13 are clear beyond any cultural leanings—Paul and Barnabas were fully invested in the body of believers at Antioch. The church in Antioch was a remarkable multi-ethnic community that embodied the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Paul and Barnabas were a part of a leadership team who heard the voice of the Spirit together and—even after hearing—prayed and fasted together before ordaining two of their own to mission the “mission field.” Then, to drive the point home, the Scripture reports that at the end of this journey Paul and Barnabas returned to their sending church and gave a report of what God had done (Acts 14: 26-28).
(2) The local church is the wellspring of ministry:
In the 15 years I was a pastor I would occasionally meet a new guy at church. “I need a ‘covering’ for my ministry,” he would say: “Will your church be my covering?” My response was usually something like, “Yes! We’re all about releasing people into their calling and ministry. Why don’t you hang out with us for six months or so and we’ll consider laying our hands on you and affirming God’s call on your life.” It would usually only take about two weeks, and that guy would leave!