By Joel Comiskey, Planting Churches that Reproduce, Spring 2022
Jesus built the church upon the confession of Peter—that He Himself is the Christ. The church is built on Jesus. And when Jesus left the earth, He promised to sustain His church through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:16-18, “ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. . . I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
The Holy Spirit is the One who empowers the Church to grow. Although Paul cared for the leaders of the churches he and his co-workers planted, he depended on the Holy Spirit to guide the churches he planted.
The fact is that Paul planted churches and then moved on—even allowing young converts to care for the churches. Paul preached in a place for five or six months and then left a church behind. He preached in Lystra for about six months on his first missionary journey, and then he appointed elders and left for about eighteen months. He came back and visited the church in Lystra for two months and left again. After three years, he visited them again but only stayed for one month.
Paul probably stayed in Thessalonica for six months, and he did not visit the church again for over five years. Yet he writes to “the church of the Thessalonians” and speaks of this church as being on the same footing as “the churches of God in Judea” (see 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:14).
At Corinth, he spent a year and a half during his first visit and then did not go there again for three or four years. Yet he wrote letters to a fully equipped and well-established church. Roland Allen writes:
By leaving them quickly, St. Paul gave the local leaders the opportunity to take their proper place, and forced the church to realize that it could not depend upon him, but must depend upon its own resources (Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Grand Rapid, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, p. 93)
One of the ways that Paul taught people was through mutual encouragement. Everyone had the opportunity to minister. The power of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s living presence was sufficient to sustain the young churches.
In the book Heavenly Man, Brother Yun talks about church planting in modern-day China. God called him to start an “oil station”—a training center to send out church planters throughout China. These simple workers gathered in a cave to pray, study God’s word, and learn to love one another. They had little food and less money. Yet, the Holy Spirit prepared them to become simple church planters who eventually spread over the Henan province of China. Through the planting of simple house churches, 123,000 people were baptized in just two years. Through God’s protection and guidance and the Spirit’s conviction, many became Christ-followers, and so many churches were planted that they could not be counted (p. 223).
Let’s trust the Holy Spirit to plant churches and make disciples throughout the world.