Anatomy of a Church Plant
A survey of the book of Acts will reveal that God’s primary plan for the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ is through the multiplication of local churches (i.e. church planting). Acts 18:1-22 provides us a first hand look of Paul’s church planting efforts in the city of Corinth, a city much like Seattle. What is church planting? Why do it? What role do we all play in it? What should expect from it?
The book of Acts records the spread of the Jesus movement, known as Christianity, throughout the known world – a movement that continues to this day in our city and the cities of the world. The last half of the book zooms in on the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ through a man, the Apostle Paul, from Jerusalem to Rome. Today, in Acts 18:1-34, we get watch Paul as he goes about the work of planting the first Christian (i.e. Christ-ian) church in the city of Corinth. Church planting is used to describe the process of the gospel taking root in a given location that results in a new, forgiven, redeemed people around the person and work of Jesus Christ.
In fact, a survey of the book of Acts will reveal that God’s primary plan for the spread of the good news of Jesus is through the multiplication of local churches (i.e. church planting). So, today we’re going to spend some time looking at church planting: What is it? Why do it? What role do we all play in it? What should expect from it? This passage is primarily descriptive of what happened during Paul’s time in the city of Corinth, but there are some incredibly helpful principles for us here. My prayer, hope and goal today is to bring everyone in on what Jesus has done, is doing and look to where He’s leading us as a newly forming Jesus-following people in the city of Seattle.
Corinth was located 40 miles west of Athens, about a two day walk. It was a major port and regional capitol, therefore very strategic and prosperous. It has a population of roughly 200,000+, making it a very large city for its day. It also has an interesting history. In 146BC it was destroyed because it revolted against Rome. It became a ghost town for 100 years, until it was re-founded by Julius Caesar in 44BC. By the time Paul walks in the city is relatively new – by city standards – only a 100 years old. Therefore it was a new city, with new opportunities, new money, and new hopes. It also happened to be very immorality. Much like the Las Vegas of our day. it was a highly ambitious, aggressive, bold, charismatic, competent, smart, pick-yourself-up-by-your-boot-straps-type of city. In some ways, like Seattle. Seattle is only 150 years old, highly innovative, ambitious, smart and has maintained its frontier/edgy character. So, we have much to learn from Paul as he goes about planting a church in Corinth. Today we’re going to get a first hand look at the anatomy of a church plant.
#1 Jesus-dependent messenger.
Church planters need to be thick skinned, soft hearted, determined, risk-taking Jesus followers. Paul fits that category, but may not be what you’d expect a church planter to be like. From what we can tell, he was not eloquent. Tradition tells us that he was a short, bald, unattractive man. He wouldn’t be the Corinthian type of guy – or Seattle for that matter. Corinthians would have wanted pastor that was smart, funny, eloquent, w/ big vision, and ambition. Paul would not have been a leader they would have naturally been attracted to but Paul still has a fruitful ministry. How does he explain that?
1Cor2:1-5 “When I came to you brothers…” What is he saying in this passage? Paul wants the object of faith not to be in the preacher, but the power of God in the gospel. A Jesus-dependent messenger wants your faith to rest in Jesus, not in him or any other preacher. The point is the message, not the messenger. This is beautiful. God uses weak, Jesus-dependent messengers to display his power. Too we often think like Corinthians, looking for eloquence, humor, ear-tickling. Don’t get so caught up in yourself that you lose sight that its about message, not messenger.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:1-5
Paul had an urban strategy. He moved city to city: Athens (intellectual). Corinth (commercial). Ephesus (religious). Rome (power) Why? Cities are hubs of influence. Whatever captures the city is what will capture culture. This is Christianity displaced Roman paganism. Early Christianty was primarily an urban religion that spread city-to-city. By 300AD 50% Roman Empire was Christian – the vast marjority of which was in the cities. 90% of the country were pagans.Paul knew if could get the gospel into life-blood of the city, he could reach the nation/province.
Why are cities important? Density. Diversity. Technology. Media. Arts. Sports. Education. Law. Politics. Literally, in nearly every way, to reach the city is to reach teh culture. Sociologists have noted that the early church grew in three primary ways: (1) culture makers, (2) transplants, (3) marginalized. i.e. avenues to alleyways.
Clearly, there is no biblical warrant for saying “Every Christian has to live in the city”. But, Christians should think, “I shouldn’t just live in place that makes me most comfortable but where i can do most good.” The problem is that most Christians move out of city and then complain about the culture, politics, etc. All the while refusing to move into the city where culture is shaped.
The role of the city is only growing in importance. In 1850 there were 4 cities of more than a million. Today there are upwards of 400. Today there are 21 megacities > 10million. The point is that there is an urgent need for Christian planners, architects, politicians, business, developers, community social workers. We need to move into cities to experience the pains and pressures of living there in order to connect city-dwellers to Christ.
Christian: Live where you live for Jesus’ sake. Not only b/c its comfortable, but b/c you can meet the most needs. If you can, consider moving to the city. it is important to point out that this work doesn’t happen overnight. Our hope is develop a long-lasting faithful presence of Jesus followers in the city.
Aquilla and Priscilla were forced out of Rome by an edict of Claudius. Most historians agree the edict was a restul of riots among Jews over whether Jesus is the Christ. By God’s good providence they moved to Corinth where they got connected to Paul. The entire course and direction of their life was changed. This is why so many of you are here. Lost a job, transplanted to Seattle, don’t even know wbhy you’re here. God brought you here. This was a godly couple, risk lives, faithful, loving, sacrificial people, not ordained, not pastors, just faithful, dependable. Rom. 16:3-4 “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus who risked their necks for my life…” Our church is built on people Aquila and Priscilla.
Paul was a bi-vocational tentmaker who worked in leather goods for military/commercial/industrial purposes. He would then teach on the nights/weekends. Then, Silas/Timothy brought support so Paul could be occupied w/ the Word full time. The point here is simple. Church planting requires a lot of time and energy. Thank you for those that are giving sacrificially, generously so that Jesus’ mission can go forward.
To shake off your clothes is to shake off unbelief and blasphemy. Paul is saying that the decision is w/ the people to respond and to act. He is not completely abandoning them, but re-focusing his efforts. The responsibility is ultimately on the hearer to turn from sin, trust Jesus, join church, etc. There does come a time when you need to give folks space – loved, graced, patience, still resistant. Opposition comes in various forms. Q: Main opposition here in Seattle? Just not caring. Our city often just doesn’t care and that posture creeps into the church too. Unknowing, Christians can oppose the work of God in their own life and the life of the church by doing nothing.
Paul gets kicked out of the synagogue and immediately goes next door. A church is a people, not a place. Early on, church plants need to meet wherever they can. Most churches start in houses or community rooms. You have to go w/ what you got. Ex. Community rooms, donated office, 33rd conference rooms, underground tour, apartments, cafes.
Jesus doesn’t have to say “do not be afraid” and “don’t be silent unless Paul is afraid and intimidated. Paul is probably considering leaving and getting out of town. He is not a weak and half-hearted man. But, in Corinth, it seems he hit the wall – Jesus shows up! Jesus gives him three promises: I am with you + No man shall harm you + I have many people in this city. What’s interesting is that these are common promises that God gives to his people throughout the Bible.
Jos1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened..for the Lord your God is w/ you wherever you go.
Mt 28:20 “I am with you always, to the end of the age”
Is 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers…shall not overwhelm you.”
In other words, Jesus is saying that there will be pressure and hardship…but there will be fruit. Paul needs courage to keep going because there is much to be afraid of: people will reject, run out of resources, unbelief, etc. But, Paul also needs love in order to keep sharing the gospel.
Jesus to DCC: “Don’t be afraid..don’t stop talking about me…many in Seattle belong to me…” There are many here that belong to him. Many who God has pre-destined, foreordained in this city. The way he brings that about is by you and I not being afraid and telling people that God loves them. Do you believe there are already people God is working on? Many people in this city reached thru us. We need courage to not be afraid.
We need love because the city needs us. The city will be a better city if people love jesus and live like him. We love the city. Not here to fight, but embrace. Not here to impose, but propose Jesus. Not refuge from, but mission to. We are here to make this a great city through the gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God. What the city needs is to see Jesus and we’re here to show and share about him.
This was a deeply encouragin word from Jesus because it was just about to get worse…
Gallio. AD49-50. Roman law Jewish religion = legal religion. Christianity floated under the Jewish umbrella. The Jews were trying to get Christianity declared illegal. If they could do that in one region, it would likely become the precedent for all regions of the Roman Empire. Unknowingly, Gallio paves way for Paul preach and plant churches throughout Roman Empire for at least the next 10 years before Nero arrives on the scene.
We’re just starting, so no one cares about what we’re doing. I’m fine with that, but if God continues to move and work among us we will grow and attract attention – some of which will be critical. It will be crucial during that time to ensure that it is the Gospel that is offensive, not us. 1Peter2:12 “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God…”
Paul hangs in for another year and half, longer than any one single stay up to that point. As of vs22 he completes his second missionary journey. He perseverses. Our call is the same, to peresevere in the calling given to us by God in planting this church downtown.
Conclusion and Call
We have a strategic opportunity in a strategic city. Lord willing, I’m going to give my life to you and the city. Our hope and goal is to send out lots of church plants within this city and the cities of the world. Seattls is the 15th largest market in the US. We are a city full of creative, hip, cool, arty, educated people. Seattle is a city on the rise, just like Corinth.
Acts 17 “God determines times and place in which we live” This means that you and I are not here on accident. God is bringing together a talented, gifted, competent people so we can help shape future of the city as we spread the message and mercy of Jesus. There are issues of the heart that can’t be touched by legislation or government programs. Nothing lifts up society more than a community of people whose hearts are right before God. We want to have as many people fall in love with Jesus, get connected, churches planted as possible. Seattle is in deep need of a fresh work of new churches.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Col 1:15-20
We are all broken people, in a broken city. Jesus came for broken people. In fact, he became broken, that we might be made whole, by forgiving our sin and bringing us to him. Let’s pray, be dependent, humble, serving, giving, sacrificing people – as Jesus has for us. Let’s be known in community, trust our Bibles, give our days, dollars and time – and multiply impact of our lives beyond our lives. There is a lot of work to do. Most of us are young w/ many years to love/serve Jesus. Together, let’s commit our lives to him again, today.
You might be thinking, “This is it, this is all we have to work with?” Yes. God loves to take was is foolish and shame the wise, what is weak and shame the strong. Today, ask yourself, “How will you serve? Spend time? Use your dollars? Steward your gifts? Live? What will you live for?” Jesus is with us too, just like Paul. There is a great harvest awaiting in Seattle. this morning he Invites all of us into the story of all stories. With Jesus, let’s build a great city through the gospel for the glory of God.
J. Hudson Taylor, “I find there are three stages in every great work of God: first its impossible, then its difficult, then its done.”