Where in the Bible are we commanded to plant churches? The simple and obvious response is, “it is not commanded.” Planting churches flows naturally out of making disciples. The heart of the church’s mission is to make disciples who make disciples.
In the New Testament, a disciple is more than someone who grows in their theological knowledge of God. A disciple fellowships with other believers, worships in a community, and prays like those assembled in a house in Acts 4.
“And now, Lord, look upon their (the Worlds) threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:29-31
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, a disciple then boldly declares the word of God such that more and more people become followers of Jesus.
This understanding of a disciple is highlighted throughout the New Testament. Through a study of the early movement in Ephesus, we see at least thirteen characteristics common to them all.
- Disciples are respectful of people and culture when they engage in God’s mission (Acts 19:7, 37).
- Disciples surrender to God’s will and maintain the work of their first love in a theocentrically focused missiological theology (Eph 1; Eph 5:18-19; Rev 2:4).
- Disciples declare the mystery of Christ to the nations (Eph 3:4-10, 1 Tim 2:1-4).
- Disciples are equipped by movement leaders for ministry (Eph 4:12; 1 Timothy).
- Disciples exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Eph 4-5).
- Disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses (Eph 5:18-19, 2 Tim 1:7).
- Disciples are godly fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, employees and employers (Eph 5:22-6:9).
- Disciples pray for opportunities to share the gospel because they know God is most glorified when more people are worshipping him (Eph 6:18-20, 1 Tim 2:1-4).
- Disciples stand up for the marginalized (1 Tim 2:8-15, 5:3-16; Rev 2:6).
- Disciples learn sound doctrine from movement leaders who can teach (1 Tim 4:7).
- Disciples are willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel (2 Tim 1:8).
- Disciples are committed to multiplying more disciples (2 Tim 2:2).
- Disciples defend the faith against false teaching (Rev 2:2).
Extracts from an article “Is Church Planting a Biblical Mandate?” October 28, 2020, by Jackson Wu