Abnormal Strategies for Church Planting?
In Acts 13 through 21, the activities of Paul and his coworkers establish the first church planting movement and demonstrates a church planting methodology that is flexible, financially lean and operates under a surprisingly brief timeline.
Their work was taking place among very similar cultures and times to our own. We can look to their methods to re-examine and revise the church planting models we use today, and especially to increase our expectations of what God can accomplish through His people as He builds His Church. Here are seven key observations, which would be considered ridiculous strategies by the church planting movements in the West today.
1. On average, churches were planted and self-sufficient in 12 months
2. The work was unfunded, accomplished by bivocational servants
3. Paul planted multiple churches regionally, often from a base camp church in a major city (churches that planted churches)
4. There was follow-up by Paul and/or itinerants as well as letters to continue to support and encourage, especially through troubles
5. Whole households were being converted, not just individuals
6. After an initial time in weeks or months of reaching new disciples, they are left on their own as a church without formal leadership for months
7. Paul enlists additional workers from among the new churches as local elders (on average with 6 to 12 months experience as believers) and as itinerants (with about 2 years experience as believers). They all share the same focus (see Eph 4:11-16).
A dose of reality: Don’t try to copy a church model (maintain the principles and functions while staying expectantly and brutally flexible on the practices and forms that will uniquely emerge in the people God calls together where you are laboring); don’t expect an implausible growth explosion. A typical church plant will be well under 100 in the first year, and in the first five years.