Friday, October 17, 2008


I want to continue sharing with you in part 3 of the series “Reproducing Churches” from Tim Keller’s article “Advancing The Gospel Into The 21st Century.”

Keller points out two features in the book of Acts that are particularly applicable to the day in which we live. Keller notes that the strategy prominent in Acts is “Church-multiplying” (Acts 14) and “Gospel-centered” (Acts 15).

First, it is to be noted that the Church multiplied naturally. Church planting in Acts was not an aberration. It did not happen occasionally. In fact, Church planting seemed to be a consistent strategy for the advancement of the gospel. In healthy mission focused church life the reproduction of churches is to be desired, practiced and happen with regularity. The reproduction of churches in Acts was woven into the natural fabric of their commitment to the Great Commission.

Keller notes that scholars have looked to Acts to discover the elements of ministry. They list Bible teaching, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and worship. What seems to be strangely absent is church planting. They really miss a key element of the Acts church.

When examining Acts 14:21-28, Keller recognizes two phases to the Pauline strategy.

First: Christian formation. Paul in a very focused way produced believers. He did this by preaching the gospel. However, the word “preach” in not actually used, but the word they ‘evangelizdomenol; or ‘gospeled’ the city. This indicates much more than preaching. Paul preached in synagogues, communicated in small groups, debated and persuaded out in market-places, and led in participatory discussions in rented halls. And, of course, he engaged in one-on-one conversations. He was skilled at producing new converts.

Paul also went back to these converts and brought in depth instruction (vs 21b-22). He built up and strengthened new believers by teaching and re-teaching them. He laid a foundation that rooted them in beliefs and doctrine and practice. It is evident that part of the city being ‘gospeled’ was the way these believers lived out their life in Christ. The way we live before the city is itself a most significant witness of the gospel. In fact, the way we live our life in Christ becomes an apologetic for authentic faith. It is important not to miss the implications of preaching the gospel, which is certainly more comprehensive than just verbal proclamation.

Second: Church formation. David Hesselgrave, “Planting Churches Cross-culturally” notes that Paul congregated the believers. In chapters 14-16 they are led to gather regularly and are established into a community of believers. The next event was to congregate leaders, that is elders were appointed in each new community of believers. Paul always chose elders (plural) out of the converts who then became responsible to care for and to continue instruction to the community. Paul’s apostolic ministry handed authority over to these elders rather than have them develop a dependence on him. His relationship would be with the church but through the elders. His continuing connection with them was relational and gift-based, not autocratic. When Paul began meeting with them, they were disciples, (v22) and when he left them they were “churches” (v23). It is clearly evident that in the book of Acts church multiplication is as natural as convert multiplication.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I have been stimulated by an article written by Tim Keller entitled “Advancing the Gospel into the 21st Century” and have drawn some summary items from his article for this posting.

History has come full circle in that we are reflecting the 1st century worldview and practice. This, of course, makes the book of Acts, with the advance of the gospel of the kingdom of God, particularly helpful as we structure our strategy for gospel advancement.

Keller points to three characteristics taking place in the 1st century:

Firstly, it is a globalized world again. The Romans created a mobility of people, capital and ideas. Cities were multi-ethnic and international, which is also true today. With international trade, business, and the internet, cities are linking more to the rest of the world than they are the nations in which they are located. People in major cities are more like “residents in the major cities of the world” than they are like residents of their own country.

Secondly, it is now an urbanized world much like the world of the Roman Empire. During the period of the Greco-Roman world, large cities were powerful while the nation-states surrounding these cities were weak. Cities were the major influence of culture and power. Technology and the ease of travel and communication have weakened the control governments' exercise over their own citizens. Nations cannot control the flow of information or money in and out of countries. Multi-national corporations operate out of major cities and no longer are serving the interest of any country. Executives may live in several cities at once. The recent global financial meltdown is further evidence as to the power these corporations exercise in our world.

Thirdly, like the Greco-Roman world, our world is fragmented and pluralistic. The day of a national consensus' about truth, morality, and the nature of God are no longer in place. Cities are filled with multiple religions and people groups living within those cities. This is the result of the globalization of our world. Globalization has contributed to the rejection of western culture and the belief that humanism along with science will solve our world’s problems. As a result we are witnessing an increasing spiritual hunger among the peoples of the world. Further evidence of this trend is that more room is given for Christians to occupy philosophy departments at universities in the USA. Keller notes that departments of philosophy have gone from 0% to nearly 25% in our country during the last 30 years. More Christians are finding a place to be involved in the arts and scholarship. Christians have an opportunity today to more effectively influence culture, philosophy, and academics than at any other time since the 1st century.

Because our world so closely mirrors the 1st century, Keller notes the urgency of carefully examining the book of Acts which is so applicable to our present time in order to more effectively expand the gospel today.

In Part Three of this series “Reproducing Churches”, I want to continue to draw from Keller’s examination of the features of ministry strategy in the book of Acts.