The feelings a church planter has for his people are profound. They sound something like this, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.” (Philippians 1:3)
Paul wrote his letter around twelve years after he had planted the church at Philippi. Even after so many years, he still has deep affections for this church. This is an amazing church plant.
What were the key principles necessary for Paul to plant such an amazing church? What were the prudent missiological practices Paul employed for church planting?
The goal of this blog post is to give 5 Missiological Practices for Church Planting that Paul used to plant the church in Philippi. They can be found in Acts 16:1-10.
(1) Have a clear call from God. (Acts 9, 13:1-5, 16:9b)
In Acts 9 we read Paul’s conversion and call from Jesus to ministry. We also see the Holy Spirit designating and calling Paul and others to ministry in Acts 13:1-5. Lastly we see the specific call from Jesus to plant the church in Philippi when the Macedonian man calls out to Paul says, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (v. Acts 16:9).
Men that plant churches must have a clear call from God. Planting a church, at all stages, is filled with difficulty. There will be times in the midst of trials when planting that the call will be the only thing sustaining him.
(2) Get the right team. (15:40 – 16:3a)
Paul’s team was Silas, Timothy and Luke.
In the previous section Paul had just parted ways with Barnabas. He needed a ministry partner that was close to the same caliber, not that Barnabas can be replaced. He was one of a kind. But Paul needs someone that is mature and will endure in ministry. Silas is that man. In Acts 15:32 we see evidence of Silas’ maturity as he is encouraging the brothers in Antioch. Also in Acts 16:25 we see another piece of evidence of Silas’ maturity that in the midst of persecution he is singing hymns in the Philippian prison. Paul’s first team member was someone the same maturity level as him.
Paul also chose Timothy to help him plant the church. Paul had also just lost John Mark. Paul understood the value of having someone that he could mentor in the faith. He knew that Timothy would benefit by spending time with Paul on an ongoing basis to learn and grow.
Lastly, it’s clear from the text that Luke joined the team as well as they entered Philippi. The pronouns switch from Acts 16:9 to Acts 16:10. The switch is from 3rd person plural to 1st person plural. Therefore, Luke joins the team and Paul has Doctor Luke on his team. This is a helpful addition. Luke is clearly organized and good at details. This is quite helpful in church planting.
Paul’s team is one of the reasons, humanly speaking, that the church plant in Philippi was a success.
(3) Know the culture of your city and remove any hindrances that keep the gospel from advancing. (3b)
Paul knew the culture of the city of Philippi. Because he was an astute missionary he knew that Timothy being uncircumcised would be a stumbling block for mission. Paul understood it is missiologically smarter to remove any and all hindrances in order for the gospel to advance. While circumcision was a gospel issue for the region of Galatia, it was not an issue for Timothy personally. Timothy’s circumcision was not for the purpose of salvation (the reason why Galatians was written) but for the purpose of mission.
Church planters must be like Paul. They must know the culture they are planting in and work hard to remove the hindrances that keep the gospel from advancing. Further, church planters must know the culture they are planting and how the gospel addresses that culture. They should know the idols of the unbelievers in their city. They must learn the functional saviors of the culture and show how Christ is the only answer. They must explain how functional saviors make empty promises that will never deliver, but Jesus’ promises are sure and He has already delivered redemption at the cross.
(4) Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading over your best laid plans. (v. 6-10)
We need to completely yield to His guiding hand! G. Campbell Morgan comments on this text writing, “It is better to go to Troas with God, than anywhere else without Him.” It is always better to trust and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives rather than our own.
Church planters, who are generally driven people, must realize that the Holy Spirit is more capable than them. They should stop and pray more and ask what God wants to do, and yield their plans to God for the city.
Is there a difference between your plans to further God’s mission and the Holy Spirit’s? Are you submitting to the Holy Spirit in making disciples? Do you often pray for the Holy Spirit’s leading? Lastly, and most importantly, do you believe His will is better than yours?
(5) Preach the gospel. (v. 10b)
This should not have to be explicitly prescribed. Unfortunately, in today’s world where philanthropy is practiced that isn’t tethered to Jesus, but just to “good will,” gospel proclamation is crucial. Church planters, preach the gospel! Don’t just do good acts “for the good of the city.” Tell them why you do those good works. Preach the glorious news of Jesus and what He has done to rescue them. We demonstrate just how essential the gospel is in our own lives when we clearly call others to believe in it.
So, church planters, let’s rest in our calling, choose a team that advances the gospel, know our city’s culture, remove all hindrances that keep the gospel from advancing, follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and preach the gospel – and watch God do more than we could ever ask or imagine!