Yesterday we explored three church plant drivers. Today we complete our list, developed from Scripture and church history.
1. Discipleship Orientation is a Church Plant Driver
For a new church to be healthy and grow, it must develop an intentional and natural process for making disciples. Disciples are made through building a biblical, Christ-centered community. When reading the book of Acts, we can see that the life of the early church revolved around community. Community is an intimate union in which Christians can share. This is not just friendship, but a deep bond that only Christians can know as the family of God. The Christian life consists of living together in community with one another and Christ. Practically speaking, small groups are one of the most effective ways that churches have used to make disciples. The Christian life finds its fulfillment when we share it together with one another and in Christ. Small groups provide a place for spiritual growth, intimacy, accountability, and protection. The church is not a building but the family of God and the body of Christ. The people that we connect with in small groups become our spiritual family that support and encourage us. Through true fellowship in small groups, we experience and share the love of God with our brothers and sisters in Christ. These groups become atmospheres where spiritual formation is actualized through fellowship.
2. The Means of Grace are Church Plant Drivers
The church in Acts was committed to regular spiritual practices: “to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). John Wesley called these spiritual practices the means of grace. He said, “The chief of these means are prayer, whether in secret or with the great congregation; searching the Scriptures; (which implies reading, hearing, and meditating thereon); and receiving the Lord’s supper, eating bread and drinking wine in remembrance of him: And these we believe to be ordained of God, as the ordinary channels of conveying his grace to the souls of men.” The means of grace are spiritual practices and ways that God provides spiritual growth for believers. Many of these God-given means have been lost to the church of today and desperately need to be recovered.
We all have rhythms, routines, and rituals that make up our daily lives. We are creatures of habit. Many of us wake up in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, brush our teeth, and read our newspaper. Or maybe we start the day off with a simple prayer and Bible reading. Routines and rituals are not a bad thing. They keep us on track and remind us of what matters most. Spiritual practices are rhythms of grace that help us grow in our daily walk with Christ. Encouraging your church members to embrace and practice the means of grace will help them integrate their faith into their daily lives.
The means of grace are essential to the life and health of all believers and should be taught from the very beginning at a new church. These means include personal and corporate spiritual practices that promote spiritual growth in keeping with Paul’s command to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). The word discipline literally means “exercise,” and spiritual disciplines are essentially spiritual exercises. Just as physical exercise promotes strength in the body, the spiritual practices promote godliness and growth in grace. They are vital to the individual and to the community as it seeks to become more like Christ.
3. Missional Impulse is a Church Plant Driver
Lastly, central to the life of the new church in the book of Acts is a missional impulse. To be missional means that we look outwardly by being both evangelistic and socially minded. It means that we care about people’s souls and their bodies. It means that because we care about the gospel, we should care about social and environmental issues. Being missional brings all of life together under the banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being missional is God’s way of showing the love of His Son Jesus through His church. Christians must strive to always be like Jesus, our perfect example. Jesus said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This Scripture beautifully embodies the task of Christian ministry. To be a minister is to be a servant. We are to serve and give our lives for others. Serving is the example that Jesus gave. We should follow it.
Being missional also involves biblical hospitality. Many contemporary Christians and churches have lost touch with biblical hospitality. It is imperative that we relearn the gift of hospitality, especially in light of its important place in the Scriptures. Hospitality means “love of strangers” and is found several times in the New Testament (Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9). Saint Benedict reminds us in his rule, “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received me.’” We are all called to offer the love of Christ to our guests and welcome them in such a way that they would be transformed from strangers into friends. A new church is a wonderful place to recover the lost art of hospitality and sharing God’s gifts with the world.
Your church plant can emerge with fresh vitality and life. It can develop a kind of holy drive. As you come to know your own church plant and see the work of God in other contexts, let me close with a few more questions.
- What are some of the common essentials of a new church?
- Do you agree with the author’s premise that while context may change, there are common biblical patterns that new churches share?
- Are there some common patterns that are missing from this chapter? If so, take a few minutes to discuss them.
- How and why should Christ be the center of every part of a new church’s life?
- How is discipleship an essential of church planting, no matter what the context?