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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi John,
    This series you did on reproducing churches was really outstanding. I was hooked and intrigued by the correlations between modern day civilization and the roman empire culture.

    I am enjoying reading your posts. Please keep it up as it encourages and spurs me to action.