A Commission to Plant Churches
A Commission to Plant Churches – The Command
Churches must understand the biblical basis for urban church planting so they can prepare church planters. The New Testament unfolds this foundation by recording Christ’s commands and the apostolic response to plant new churches.
As Jesus concluded his earthly ministry, he reminded his followers to make disciples. Each gospel writer records his command.
Matthew’s account says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20) Disciples are commissioned to call others to follow Christ. Those who come must be baptized and taught to walk in faithful obedience.
In his gospel, Mark records Jesus’ statement like this: Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Christ expects the message of blessing to be proclaimed to all people everywhere. It is imperative that disciples obey his call to advance the gospel among those created in the image of God wherever they might live.
Luke wrote, “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48). Here, disciples are called to be witnesses of gospel events. Having gained personal knowledge of the crucified and resurrected Christ, they must testify about his grace to all people groups. Believers must be willing to make personal sacrifices to take the stand and proclaim the good news about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
The apostle John records Jesus’ statement like this: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Christ reminds his disciples that their mission is to be modeled after his own. Jesus left the glory of heaven, lived within the confines of humanity, and sacrificed himself to save the lost. This pattern provides an example for those who follow Christ as they proclaim the good news.
And, as Luke begins his account of the apostles’ acts, he reminds his readers about Christ’s challenge: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Disciples who testify about the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ will be divinely empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. In his strength they must proclaim the message to those at home, others nearby, and distant people groups, too.
A Commission to Plant Churches – The Response
Christ commanded his followers to make disciples and the apostles responded by planting churches.
The disciples awaited Jesus’ promise in a room in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit came to indwell those who had been called out of the world to follow Christ. The church was born—a living organism whose growth brings joy to all who join and the Savior who is its Head.
The apostles obeyed God’s call to make disciples by going as witnesses sent to proclaim the gospel, baptizing and teaching those who believed. As instructed, they began in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14). Peter preached the gospel message, the Spirit worked in the hearts of many, and three thousand responded in faith (Acts 2:41). The small band of followers swelled to more than three thousand in one day.
Though such rapid growth could present some challenges for new leaders, the apostles were ready to handle the throng. They began to gather daily. The leaders taught new believers how to follow Jesus. They worshipped and prayed together, remembering the body and blood of Christ that united them. They shared life together, spending time with each other and sharing meals. And every day, the Lord added new believers to their group (Acts 2:42-47).
This group continued to grow. The word was preached with boldness. Miracles of healing were performed. Hostile religious and political leaders could not hinder. And the believers enjoyed great unity, everyone sharing with those in need. Some even sold property to provide for others.
This caused a problem for one couple. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the church and, thus, to God. Their discipline meant death, sending shock waves through the congregation. And for the first time, this group of believers called out from the world to follow Jesus Christ is called the church (Acts 5:11).
The apostles understood that fulfillment of the Great Commission meant the establishment of the church. Their response to Christ’s command to make disciples resulted in the establishment of the first church in Jerusalem. Men called by God led the church planting effort. The church was initiated with the conversion of those who heard and believed the gospel message. Those leaders gathered followers to learn God’s word, worship, pray, commune, fellowship, and serve.
Obedience to God’s call resulted in the establishment of the church in Jerusalem.
Church leaders today must learn from the apostolic response to the Great Commission. As they invite people to follow Christ, baptize them and teach obedience, they should gather disciples into new churches that effectively reach the communities in which they are based.