It was not long into Paul’s ministry with Barnabas that God gave him a unique way of planting churches that were strong, self-sustaining, self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating. Even after suffering stoning at Lystra, he is surrounded by the disciples and continues his journey to Derbe to preach the gospel. Then Paul returns to Lystra, the place of persecution, and to Iconium and Antioch, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22).
This key principle is followed by Paul throughout his ministry. Without quoting them all, I will refer to one more and then list the others. “And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15:41; See also 16:5, 40; 18:23; 20:1-2). Paul never stayed in one place very long so that the new believers and churches would not depend on him, but would become mature and stand strong in the faith without outside support.
One of the most damaging influences we have today is the “western habit” of constantly sending support (money) to church plants or ministries overseas so they do not learn to grow into the maturity of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). Paul never offered to send money to the churches in Acts. It was vital they be self-sustaining, self-supporting and indigenous – without foreign interference. We have grown to think that money answers problems and promotes growth, when in reality it weakens and stagnates natural growth by the Holy Spirit. Faith in Christ and making HIM the center is what stimulates spontaneous growth and addresses every problem.
Take a serious look at these issues. From our own ministry experience, we are seeing rapid growth where these key principles are being applied by indigenous leaders in their own culture without our presence or direction. Tomorrow we will look at how churches became self-governing.
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