What is at the root of every church-planting movement? Jesus gave the mandate to go and make disciples of all nations. Although Scripture never refers to a church-planting movement, it is clear God intends for his Church to spread across the earth. Let us look at how the Bible points to making disciples as important for expanding Jesus’ Church.
I will make you fishers of men
Before Jesus ever talked about building his Church – or even used the word church – he called his first disciples to be fishers of men. Mark 1:17 shows us in following Jesus, we can expect him to equip us to disciples others. Just as a building must start with individual bricks and stones, so Jesus’ Church began with individuals who invited other individuals to be a part of God’s family.
Unlike much of the modern Church, Jesus had a bigger vision than just individuals coming into the family of God. After calling Peter to become a fisher of men, Jesus told Peter he would be foundational in building his Church. This was about more than one person here and another person there coming to faith. It was a vision for a group of people coming to worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
It is necessary for individual disciples of Christ to go make other disciples, potentially one at a time. But the end-goal is a church, or gathering of many disciples. As the following Scriptures illustrate, churches need to start other churches.
Acts: The Church Built Through Disciples
Acts is probably the clearest vision the Lord gives of disciples reaching individuals, families, communities and even multitudes with the gospel. As we see story after story, we are amazed at how the Holy Spirit moved through the early Church to bring others into the faith.
At Pentecost, about three thousand souls came into the family. From there the Lord added to the number of believers day by day. It could be said that the disciples were a church as they were together on the day of Pentecost. And the Holy Spirit used this one church to start many other churches in Jerusalem.
In Acts 6, the word of God continues to spread. As a result, “the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” This, again, points to the reality that it is about disciples making disciples. They, in turn, form churches that start other churches.
Acts 11 takes us to Antioch, where “a great many people were added to the Lord.” This is the place that disciples were first called Christians. While in Antioch, Barnabas and Paul give the example of training this church. This continues to be essential in today’s church-planting movements.
Jesus’ example, as well as the book of Acts, direct us to God’s model for spreading his fame all across the earth: faithful disciples who make more disciples who start churches that start more churches. This is the beauty of God’s way. It is both simple and powerful when the Holy Spirit is the one leading.
Let us join our Father’s plan for taking the gospel to all nations by faithfully making disciples and prayerfully expecting him to form churches and church-planting movements through these changed lives.