A Biblical Portrait of Church Planting (Part 1- Incarnational Ministry)

Biblical Portrait of Church PlantingA Biblical Portrait of Church Planting (part 1)
Acts 20:17-38
     What does a Biblical church plant look like?  In this 8 part blog based on Paul’s summary of his church planting experience in Ephesus, found in Acts 20:17-38, we will see a Biblical portrait of church planting.

1.  Incarnational Ministry:  “I lived among you the whole time from the first day I set foot in Asia.” (18)

Paul clearly understood that living among the people he was called to reach was of utmost importance for properly engaging unbelievers with the Gospel, making disciples and raising up leaders.  This incarnational approach shaped his preaching and teaching, evangelism and approach to church structure and leadership.  Church planters should strive to live among the people to whom they have been called for these same reasons.  Those that might argue that Paul would be setting up video venue campuses if had the same technology as we do today clearly do not esteem the importance that Paul placed on incarnational ministry.

“We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.  So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.  For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.  You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.  For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 1:8-12

Notice how in this passage that Paul relates himself to the church as being like a nursing mother, a disciplined father and a hard working brother.  Each of these relationships are only effective when one is living among the people.  Like a mother, Paul not only shared the Gospel, but he gently and affectionately shared life with and cared for the community God had called him to.  Like a brother, Paul not only proclaimed the Gospel from the pulpit, but he proclaimed if through his daily work as a tent maker.  He reminds them that they had the opportunity to witness his lifestyle and conduct up close. Like a father, he exhorted, encouraged and charged “each one” of the people on a personal and relational basis.  Paul was the polar opposite of the untouchable and unattainable superstar pastor on the big screen in the way that he approached the churches that he planted.  Clearly, Paul would have utilized technology in a variety of ways, but we should not assume that he would have compromised his entire philosophy of incarnational ministry in the process.

The picture that we must paint in our minds is one of a pastor who lives among the people and a church (the people of God) who live among the people.  Incarnational ministry is the very bedrock of true Gospel centered church planting.

* The next post will explore the impact of “Leading by Serving” in a church plant.