“What is success in the work?
To be found faithful.”
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Are you among them?
Finally, Paul’s expanding strategy came as a result of the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-4). It is interesting to observe how the gospel went from Jerusalem to the world when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. These new converts naturally, or maybe we should say, “supernaturally,” became evangelists. Why? Because when a person received the Spirit, he/she would begin to seek to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus as seen in Acts. Historically, every great revival, whether the Haystack, Great Awakenings, Welsh or the South Korean, resulted in evangelism and obedience to the Great Commission. This is not surprising since the Spirit that we receive is the missionary Spirit—the Spirit of Jesus who came into the world to redeem lost souls to the Father. We will learn from Acts how the churches were strengthened in faith and increased in number in Galatia, and how the Word of God spread to Macedonia and Achaia from Thessalonica, and how the gospel spread throughout neighboring countries from Ephesus (1 Thessalonians 1:5-9).
Paul led these new believers to understand the importance of the Spirit of Christ, whom they willingly submitted to. He set for them an example that was in accord with the mind of Christ. Paul was persuaded that the indwelling Spirit of Christ in His power and passion would enable the church to expand. When the foundation of the church is not properly laid, I believe that the evangelistic Spirit is quenched, resulting in a stagnant church. This is yet another compelling reason to use Paul’s proven model and method of training; we are told to follow or imitate Paul as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
(Tim Bunn, God’s Plan for His Church, page 18-19)
The third element of Paul’s strategy was equipping. Normally Paul preached in a place for several months and then left behind an indigenous church capable of growth and expansion. In some churches he left qualified elders for equipping the saints for ministry. This process included grave risks, but Paul had such faith in Christ and the Holy Spirit that he did not shrink from the risks. Much of the time, Paul left fledgling churches and elders with a simple system of gospel teaching, oversight or shepherding criteria and two ordinances (Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) with no fixed standard or form for meetings or gatherings.
Paul taught the common people, many of whom were unable to read, by using the Old Testament and what the early Apostles had seen with their eyes and heard with their ears. The simplicity and brevity of his gospel teaching constituted its power. By his leaving, the Church was forced to think, speak, and serve on its own, although they were not totally free from the need for guidance and growth. He left elders with basic character qualifications, and instructions for equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Frequently, churches today are overly dependent on the one person who started that church or the “one pastor” who serves there. Often converts remain reliant upon that one pastor or apostle and his successor for generations. When Paul left a church in a timely manner, it gave the church leaders the opportunity to step into their proper roles and responsibilities, forcing them to realize that they could not depend upon the Apostle Paul.
Today, we are not training believers to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given them. We over-emphasize intellectual qualifications of leaders by relying heavily on artificial standards of formal education. Much of the time these worldly standards can even become a necessary requirement for ministry and leadership.
The new church should depend upon its own resources and more importantly, upon God. If any missionary today established a church like Paul, he might be told that his methods were hopeless and reckless. Yet the facts remain clear; Paul was the most successful founder of churches that this world has ever known.
(Tim Bunn, God’s Plan for His Church, page 18)
The second element of Paul’s strategy was establishing. Paul established indigenous churches that were self-sustaining and could stand on their own. Instead of looking for outside support, these churches learned to depend on God and to not only share generously among themselves but with other churches (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Paul’s example of supporting himself by his own hands was one of the reasons these churches quickly learned to become self-sustaining. Paul was very careful to avoid any appearance of financial profiting or having financial motives from his ministry.
Today, many of our churches and mission organizations have become financial institutions rather than the living Body of Christ. We commonly hear that organizations are unable to plant churches, to extend their missions, or to support their training institutions without financial assistance because they have learned to depend on money rather than the Lord. Money subsidies create religious establishments that subsequently produce dependent converts who learn only to rely upon money instead of the Lord and the Holy Spirit.
Traditionally, the idea has been that the stability of the Church depends upon owning land, the erection of a building, or being financially supported. When we have secured a building, or have adequate financial support, we tend to think a church or mission is firmly established and approved by God. In reality, buildings and money have absolutely no power to produce spiritual fruit and can actually hinder spiritual results.
(Tim Bunn, God’s Plan for His Church, page 17-18)
In the next four blogs, I want to introduce you to the four key elements in Paul’s strategy of church planting that is still effective today.
Paul’s evangelizing consisted of preaching a pure gospel: “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2), “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Paul’s supreme subject was the Cross along with repentance and faith alone, not philosophy or psychology or some program attempting to be relevant or tolerant to the culture. There was always an air of expectation pervading his preaching (Acts 26:27). His message stood alone. If people rejected him, like Christ (Luke 9:5), he shook the dust off his feet and moved on to find more receptive hearts where God was at work (Acts 13:51). If we continue to preach the gospel where God is not at work, we degrade the glorious gospel to the level of merely educating people’s intellect.
Another aspect of Paul’s evangelizing was not to preach the gospel to every person in a particular area by himself. Today we send out individuals and teams that try to personally reach as many individuals in an area as possible by sharing the gospel. By neglecting to use Paul’s strategy of starting churches that are capable of spreading the gospel, we are severely limited in what a single person or team can do. Paul’s goal was to establish reproducing churches that displayed the life of Christ in strategic areas (Acts 11:26). Such churches exist today, but are we utilizing them in our evangelistic strategies? It was from these churches located in key centers of intellectual and commercial activity that the gospel spread in every direction (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8).
(Tim Bunn, God’s Plan for His Church, page 17)
“Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:4–5).
There are several people I have spoken with in the last few days that are finding it hard to wait on God and let Him resolve difficult issues. There were many times in David’s life where it was hard to wait for God’s timing to deal with enemies and those who opposed him. You and I have these moments. We also know that when we try to resolve problems our way, we make bad choices.
Notice that David wanted God to teach him in the waiting period; His ways, His path, His truth! As David says in Psalm 62:1; “For God alone my soul waits in silence…” There are times when we need to shut out the noise of this world and other people so we can learn and hear God speak to us, to show us His way, His path, His truth. Learning requires listening.
In order for us to do this, we must trust God to teach us how to resolve issues in a way that will give Him glory. Our comfort is not the first priority. What is most important in waiting is having the assurance that we learn the will of God and then receive grace and strength to do it.
If you are in this place of waiting, do not fret; do not become anxious, do not be in a hurry. Our God is never late for those who truly trust and depend on Him.
John 15:1-16 is perhaps one of the most studied, taught and preached portions of the New Testament. As winter comes to this part of the world, I start thinking about when will be the right time to prune our grape vines so the harvest next year will be a good one.
There is a big difference between seasons of natural plants and our spiritual lives. Jesus never mentioned a season in John 15 nor in Matthew 21:19 when he saw a fig tree that had no fruit. As He came to Israel, His own people, He was expecting they would bear fruit because they were God’s people and had been taught through the prophets what type of people they should be, and in that sense, yield fruit to God by the way they represented Him.
In the same way, Jesus walks among the “lampstands” (Revelation 1:20) which represent the churches to see what kind of fruit they are producing. His illustration in John 15 shows that we are the branches which He intends to abide (remain) in Him, the vine; drawing every resource needed to bear abundant fruit.
There is an interesting side to these verses. God is the vinedresser (husbandman) that keeps watch over the vines to see if the branches are bearing fruit and how much they bear. If they fail to bear fruit, severe action is taken – the removal of branches so that next season new growth will produce healthy branches that bear fruit.
We do not like to think that pruning is necessary in our case, but if we are honest, we realize that every branch should be pruned so new growth results in greater fruitfulness. Are you willing for God to inspect your branch?
Yesterday, we looked at the words of Jesus, the all-knowing, omniscient Head of the Church. This is especially comforting to those who go through times of suffering, persecution and mistreatment by any that oppose God’s work. Such knowledge is not only comforting, but we know that in the final chapter of time, He will judge with divine accuracy.
There is another knowledge Jesus has that is very discomforting. Please read these words from His own lips:
““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21–23).
There is a huge gap between two major concepts. One is that persons who profess to know Jesus and even call Him by name base their knowledge on how they evaluate their “works.” This is extremely dangerous. The reports that Jesus gave the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 were based on His perfect evaluation of what they had done, not their own grading.
The real grading scale is based on obedience to (doing) the Father’s will. The degree of our obedience to Scripture is the degree we accept its authority over us. James says; “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (1:22). What will Jesus declare about your score?
As we read the seven letters of Jesus to the churches in Asia Minor, there is a statement that Jesus makes which stands out. In five of the letters, Jesus says, “I know your works” (Revelation 2:2, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). To the church at Pergamum, He says, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is” (2:13). They were standing firm in the faith in spite of severe opposition.
There is another “I know” that Jesus writes to the church in Smyrna. “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich). But do not fear what you are about to suffer” (2:9-10). For a church that was suffering for being faithful to the Lord and His word, this was a great comfort. Not only did Jesus know their suffering and the difficult circumstances that related to their suffering, but He give them a fresh perspective of what they had. They may have been very poor materially, mainly due to being faithful, but as far as the Lord was concerned, they were rich.
One of the most up-lifting things any believer can do is review the riches they have in Christ. These have nothing to do with the riches of the world that will fade away to nothing at the final day. The riches in Christ are eternal and can never be taken away or diminished by suffering.
In addition to this, there is a great comfort in knowing that Jesus is familiar with our circumstances and says, “do not fear.” In fact, He knows more about what we are passing through than we do. We can trust Him to prepare us for what is yet ahead and supply His “sufficient grace” so we can endure for His glory! “Do not fear!”
“We just had another 45 graduates from GPHC in Kogon River, Nigeria! It is one of the poorest places, yet the people are rich in the Lord. They hunger for Him and His Word. It was a great day! Now I am in Abuja where I have my final training before flying out Tuesday evening. It has been a very full trip!” (Randy)
Please continue to pray for Brother “M” from Rakhine state in Myanmar. No one has heard anything from him since he left our training. The conflict that is impacting many in Myanmar relates to the IDP, which stands for "Internally Displaced People". IDP’s have not crossed a border to find safety. Unlike refugees, they are on the run at home. IDPs and villagers lack access to food because they cannot forage in nearby forests. This gives us a little understanding of the circumstances and helps us pray for these people and Brother “M” and his family.
For those of us in the West, it is very difficult for us to grasp these conditions or the pain that families go through when loved ones are impacted by conflict and persecution. At the same time, Hebrews 13:3 is a good reminder to think of ourselves “as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” We do not have our hands tied with ropes, or know the pain of mistreatment, but we can ask the Spirit to give us divine feelings of care for them.
When Peter was put in prison (Acts 12), “many gathered together and were praying” (12:12). There was nothing unusual about this prayer time except that they ignored Peter when he came to the door and knocked. Is this the way we pray for those who are suffering?
Link To Our Old Blog: