Is six months too long to get to know someone and—together—to affirm God’s calling on someone? How about 10 to 14 years? Depending on how you read Galatians, Paul indicates that he was a part of his local church for a considerable length of time. Take just a moment and compare Acts 11:19-26 with Galatians 1:11-2:5. These two passages show a man possessed by the sovereign call of God, who displayed radical obedience to the voice of the Spirit, and still respected the local church. God’s call, God’s gifting, even obedience to our destiny in God are all worked out in the local church.
(3) The Gospel wasn’t enough: Paul planted churches:
It’s true that the Apostle Paul had a unique and powerful ministry on the road. It is also true that he did more than “preach the gospel.” The record of the book of Acts and the epistles is that he planted churches. Everywhere he went, he shared the good news of Jesus—and established bodies of believers to provide a context for living out the gospel. Each of his letters testifies to this second fact—establishing churches. Even the letters to Timothy and Titus are about corporate church life. That leaves only the letter to Philemon, which was likely read out loud in front of Philemon’s home church.
(4) Paul knew what church planting requires — the LOCAL church.
Paul felt the weight of every church he started. He knew he would give an account to God for his work. He never gave up on the church—even when there was plenty of reason to do so. The passages in his letters are too many and too varied to list here (and I have no interest in proof-texting), but the weight of evidence is overwhelming: Paul knew that the local church was God’s plan for every community in which he preached the gospel. He entrusted churches to Timothy and Titus; he pleaded with the Corinthians to come to their senses; he agonized over the health of the church in Thessalonica; he knew that the path to individual maturity was found in community. Structured, organized, accountable, loving, Spirit-breathed, grace-filled community. Paul presented many a picture of a glorious, eternal church. He also poured every ounce of his ministry into non-glorious, sinful, people-filled, local churches. There was no separating the two.
If we have lost this connection to the role of the local church, we have lost our way.
Part of what church planting requires is to ask for the grace to open our hearts to His value system, not ours. And in North America we should be on guard against biblical interpretations that simply affirm our biases. It is deeply ingrained in our culture: “Be yourself.” Isn’t it shocking that we cannot become ourselves apart from the family of God?
This article on what church planting requires originally appeared here, and is used by permission.