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Church Planting Increases The Intensity Of Light Theology Religion Essay


Church planting is an effective strategy for growth, even in areas where churches already exists. I am going to suggest several reasons for this. Firstly, our God is a God of infinite variety. He has created a world where every single human being is definitively unique. It seems the most obvious assumption to expect that the church should reflect this variety.

I personally think that it is wonderful that there are over 22,000 Christian denominations in the world. This merely serves to underline the fact that God loves a rich assortment. To want to make all churches the same is to react against nature and consequently against God's nature too., Nowhere does the Bible try to define exactly what a church should be like. It describes it as a body, but all bodies are recognisably different. Churches need to work out how to retain and display their uniqueness in the Lord. Church traditions are fine, but it is equally fine to strip them away or to change them. Many of our man-made expressions of church life are completely negotiable. Quite deliberately, there are so few biblical guidelines and models that we are allowed a total freedom for individual expression. We are crazy to insist on conformity to tradition or other things, when the Lord encourages spontaneity and variety. Church planting at least gives us the opportunity to wipe the slate clean from past customs and cultures, and enables us to start again. Interestingly, having been involved in church planting for many years I notice that we can still needlessly impose old forms and formats.

In the book of Revelation, seven churches of Asia are described (chs 2-3). As the Lord speaks to them, he describes the different qualities he sees in each, and tailors his message accordingly. The situations of these churches, and their assets and deficiencies, are all totally different. So, as the Lord looks at any church, he sees definite distinctives, some good and some bad. Every Christian has certain emphases which he believes are important and these are going to affect the kind of church which he plants. Because each leadership group is unique, the churches they lead will be unique too. These distinctives are part of the spice of life, and should be respected and encouraged.

Gailyn Van Rheenen, Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies, (Grand rapids, Zondervan. 1996), 8.

Craig Ott, Stephen Straus, Encountering Theology of Mission.(Ada MI, Baker Publishing Group.2010), 89.

Miley, George. Loving the Church...Blessing the Nations: Pursuing the Role of Local Churches in Global Mission.( Authentic Media.1969), 45-56.

Paul G Hiebert, Anthropological Reflections on Missiologically Issues. (Ada MI Baker Publishing Group.1994),23-24.

J D Payne, Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel. (Colorado Springs, Authentic Media.2007), 45-49.

Biblical Models of Church Planting and Missions.

Church planting provides task/team orientated churches

We enjoy our relationships in church life together but the reason we exist is to bring the kingdom of God into the world. There is nothing like church planting to turn a group into a team, where relationships, as on a battlefield, become shoulder to shoulder rather than face to face. Interestingly, we have discovered that the most outward-looking cellgroups, those which are particularly concentrated on evangelism, have often been the more effective pastoral care units. Perhaps this is because they provide an alternative objective which prevents people focusing too much on their own problems. The members of such a group are also more aware of the need for everyone to be fit for the task and so they perhaps look after one another more intensely. We get fit, and display our fitness, by applying ourselves to the task. When footballers are sitting around a 'pint in the pub' you can't tell who is fit and who isn't, but when they are chasing down a loose ball, you can soon tell.

Creating teams with tasks is the challenge for the leadership of the church. We need to get beyond being introspective. There was no element of self-indulgence when Jesus was training his disciples. He didn't seem to spend time getting them to 'open up', sharing how they were feeling or bringing up the hurts of their pasts. He led them into action-orientated service, focusing on others and their needs. This is the heart and lifestyle of Jesus and this was the way he operated with his team.

Church planting increases the intensity of light.

The more churches there are in any given area, the more light is created there. This makes it easier for non-Christians to see truth more clearly and become more spiritually aware. The first things he saw were, actually, the churches, and then he noticed Jesus walking between these larnpstands.

The scene, depicted in the mind, is of seven candlesticks burning brightly and it is the light from these that allows Jesus to be seen. He is walking around between them. Initially the impression given is that he is only visible owing to the light provided by these candles. It is also interesting, in this picture, that Jesus is not in the churches but between these lights. To me that places Jesus in the world, walking around the community. Does the light shining from the churches allow non-Christians to see what the Lord is doing as he passes by.

Claude E Payne, Reclaiming the Great Commission. (New York, John Wiley & Sons Inc.2000), 43-49.

W Stephen Gunter, Considering the Great Commission. (Nashville, Abington Press.2005), 100.

Daniel L Butler, "Go Into All the World" A Study of the Great Commission Texts. (New Jersey, Xlibris Corporation.2009), 150-156.

Mathew Backholer, Revival and the Great Commission. (Haslemere, Chance Ltd Exposure Publishing.2007)

Perhaps the light from the candlesticks helps non-Christians to become accustomed to the light, leading them inevitably to see the glory of his face 'like the sun shining in all its brilliance' (Rev 1:16). For this reason it makes sense that we plant as many churches as we can. The more light there is, the more people will be converted, and then all the churches in that area will grow as a result.

Church Planting provides relevant evangelism

The idea of planting a church every 800 metres means that it would be possible to gauge the character of each estate in order to find the most appropriate evangelistic strategy. Like the Apostle Paul, we need to be all things to all men. To the Jews he became a Jew, so that he could w the Jews. To the Gentiles he became as a Gentile. As we live and work in an area, we seek to relate, in a relevant ways to the people who live there. Finding the right seeds to sow in each situation and the best manner in which to sow them is just part of the equation. The other factor to consider is how we can best identify with any particular community.

These concepts are sometimes referred to as 'contextualisation'. Within reason, we should adapt to the cultures and customs of our planned evangelistic environment in order to relate the gospel as much as possible into the context of the hearer. Some church growth principles suggest that we should only evangelise people like ourselves, because like attracts like. However, even if this is true in practice, I do not entirely agree with this as a biblical evangelistic strategy. There are occasions, for the sake of the gospel, when we try to win people who are not like ourselves, just as Paul did for the Gentiles. Maybe homogenous units (groups made up of similar kinds of people) grow faster than mixed groups, but our challenge must ultimately be to break down all divisions, whether of age, sex, status, religion or race and to build a fellowship, for example, from every kindred, tribe and nation.

Church planting provides involvement in the community

The church doesn't just do evangelism, the church is evangelism. The visual aid of love, unity and hope from the church becomes the example for the neighbourhood. Society should be able learn these objective qualities by watching what is going on in the church.

Ronnie Floyd, Our Last Great Hope. (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers.2011), 89-90.

J Donald Scott, Living on the Wavelength of the Great Commission. (Bowmanville, Clements Publishing.1989)

Kevin DeYoung, What Is the Mission of the Church?.( Wheaton, IL Crossway Books.2011), 47.

Ross Paterson, What in the World is God Waiting For? (Kent, Sovereign World Ltd.2005), 20-27.

Carl F Ellis, Going Global - Beyond the Boundaries Workbook. (Calumet City, IL, Urban Ministries, Inc .2005)

The practical care for one another, loving submission in the relationships and the servant heart of God's people couldn't be a better model for civilisation, as a whole, to follow. In the next chapter I suggest various evangelistic events which seek to bring non-Christians into the environment of the church, so that they can get a glimpse of genuine community at work.

Being a community within the community also becomes the base from which to serve the rest of society. The early church found areas in which to serve their community, such as caring for the widows and supplying their needs. This became such a task that they had to appoint seven deacons to deal with it (Acts 6:1). Getting to grips with the needs of those around the church is part of our pastoral role. Among any 1,000 people in any community there are an awful lot of pastoral needs. There is space for many more churches to be planted to be able to fulfil their caring vocation by coping adequately with these demands.

Church planting makes church accessible

The more churches are planted, the more accessible they become. This is particularly vital in the poorer estates where a large percentage of the people don't have their own transport. It is a good idea to put a church within everybody's walking distance. I reckon a biblical Sabbath day's journey is not a bad guideline, i.e. 890 metres. Ideally there should be a church within half that distance from any given point so that people can get there and back within the permitted limits. Imagine a town or an estate where churches were planted no more than 890 metres from each other. Wouldn't that provide an excellent base for evangelism? It is similar to the Challenge 2000 objective to plant a church for every 1,000 members of society. If we applied this principle to Hemel Hempstead, for example, every estate would need several churches still to be planted in them.

Christopher R Little, Mission in the Way of Paul. (Gossai, Peter Lang Publishing Inc.2005), 33-39.

Goulder, Paul and the Competing Mission in Corinth. (Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers Inc.2002), 56.

Paul S. Chung, Reclaiming Mission as Constructive Theology. (Eugene, Wipf & Stock Publisher.2012), 90.

Michael F. Bird, A Bird's-eye View of Paul. (Nottingham, Inter-Varsity Press. 2008),110-112.

Paul D L Avis, A Ministry Shaped by Mission. (London, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd..2005)

Church Planting provides localised spiritual warfare.

There is no doubt that in any neighbourhood non-Christians are being manipulated by spiritual forces. Paul describes them as walking according to the prince of the power of the air. He goes on to affirm that, 'the spirit is now working in the sons of disobedience'. Our task is to so bring the atmosphere of heaven into an area that people's lives are influenced by the fresh air of the Holy Spirit.

We understand that our choices are essential in how the supernatural realm interacts with the natural one. That is, of course, why we pray. This is also how demons gain their entrance to possess individuals' lives. Both choices and, even more powerfully, group choices, open the doors for spiritual activity. Jesus reveals that it only takes two or three people asking together for something to cause it to come about (Mt 18:19). Presumably, unholy alliances operate in a similar way so that if there are the two and three people making evil choices in our communities, wicked things will result. Our aim should be to influence these evil alliances, seeking to get them converted or to see them scattered and driven from the area. We have for years implemented a prayer strategy of asking the Lord to put us in touch with the enemy 'king pins' on our local estates. This is rather a dangerous ploy because you can stir up a lot of trouble! But we have seen some real darkness-to-light conversions in this field. These have included criminals, drug dealers and even self-confessed witches. When they become Christians, there is a significant shift in the spiritual dynamics of an area. We have also, as a result of prayer, seen the Lord remove significant enemy agents from our districts.

Another area to identify in spiritual warfare is whether, in the present or at sometime in history, there have been community decisions made which might affect the kind of demonic strongholds reigning in the various parts of the town. A typical scenario we have come across was where a bomb, dropped in the last World War, exploded on a local school. This wiped out the whole community's children at a stroke. You can imagine the anger and the bitterness felt by everybody, not just by those who had lost their children. It is not surprising that demons seek to exploit such situations.

Robert L Gallagher, Mission in Acts. (Maryknoll, USA, Orbis Books.2003), 29.

Paul M Collins, Receiving the Nature and Mission of the Church. (London, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. T.& T.Clark Ltd.2008), 70.

Paul Borthwick, Mission. (Bucks, Scripture Union Publishing.2001), 129-130.

Wendell Paul Karsen, The Church Under the Cross. (Grand Rapids, William B Eerdmans Publishing Co.2012)

E P Sander, Paul. (Oxford, Oxford University Press Oxford Paperbacks.2001), 62-69.

Although that atrocity happened more than a generation ago now, yet the same spirits of anger and bitterness were to be found controlling the present population. The people had changed but the territory was still controlled by the same demonic principalities. Understanding this gives us a clear strategy in evangelism to encourage the present residents to make different choices from those made in the past and to choose to live in an opposite spirit to this principality. They learned to live in forgiveness and love. The deliberate choices of two or three individuals can make a significant difference.

Church Planting because of divisions and splits

Sadly, many churches get planted as a result of divisions and splits. This is not altogether bad, in that usually both halves of a split carry on and grow into viable units on their own. Their differences also underline the legitimately rich variety able to exist in church culture and life. Valid theological differences are, on the whole, healthy. These should provoke each of us to think issues through and to be fully persuaded in our own minds as to where we stand. To be free to emphasise certain pragmatic or theological distinctive is essential for believers to be true to their own revelation and leading. We should, however, never dishonour other believers, or churches, because they see things differently from ourselves. Spiritual maturity should allow us to agree to disagree and, if necessary, to work separately, while at the same time loving, honouring, respecting and relating to those who differ from ourselves. Everybody reaches theological conclusions from the information which is available to them. Because our sources of information differ, we are bound to reach differing conclusions. But these intellectual processes have nothing to do with the integrity of the individual's heart or the validity of their love for the Lord. Too often I think we are mistaking the true values of spirituality. God accepts, loves and uses his children, even when they come from totally opposite extremes of the theological spectrum. What right do we have to reject what our Father accepts?

This doesn't mean of course that certain emphases aren't wrong, or that we shouldn't try to help one another to understand or think through areas of difference. The Apostle Paul sought to shine as much light as he could into each synagogue he attended. He would argue and reason to the point where, either his hearers got converted or they threw him out. This makes a good model for those of us persevering in dead or dying institutional settings. Watch out though! They might drag you out and stone you! When Paul was thrown out he would start again with a new church plant somewhere down the road. 'But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way.

Robert A Spivey, Anatomy of the New Testament. (Upper Saddle River, Pearson Education.2006), 78.

Timothy E Byerley, The Great Commission. (Mahwah, Paulist Press Internationa.2008), 23-24.


Church planting is a risky business. Like all evangelism, you can never quite guarantee that people will respond to what you are offering. But the world needs pioneers who are willing to experiment and take the risks necessary to bring church to the people. Maybe we just start small, getting a foothold, like Paul when he finds a woman in Philippi who opens her heart to respond to his message (Acts 16:14). But this led on to her family being baptised, and then to a church being planted there.

Researching our town or estate, like Paul surveying Athens, when he discovered a key to use for his message, is the way that we become relevant in evangelism and spiritual warfare. Listening from history, from the public at large, from the local newspapers and from the Lord, are the sources for us to create short-term and long term objectives in planting effective, relevant churches.

Finally, church planting is no different from starting your own business. I have often encouraged people to branch out on their own and to start their own company. I have also done this myself. To encourage such free enterprise is to be applauded in the business world. No one likes to see monopolies, the more choice and variety available the better it is. So why should we frown on energetic, adventurous pioneers starting up new churches? Why should older denominations hold a monopoly? Free enterprise challenges us all to make sure we are providing what is necessary to serve the community.

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