It is amazing what a few verses in Luke’s record of the Early Church do to reshape our understanding of church planting. Many have called church planting as Paul did it, “the organic church”. I would prefer to call the method Paul used, “God’s Plan for Church Planting”. It is all about how God moved through the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel, transform lives, and establish a living representation of Christ that would perpetuate itself. Paul and Barnabas are merely working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit from their sending point, Antioch.
In Acts 14:21-22, we see some unique features of Paul’s method, or God’s method. After they had “preached the gospel…and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch (Pisidia), strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith.” The word “strengthening” (episterizo) means “to support so as to confirm”. Though the return visit to these newly planted churches was even shorter than the first visits, it was long enough for Paul and Barnabas to ‘come along side’ these new believers and ‘confirm’ the faith they had placed in the Lord Jesus. As they warned them that “through tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God”, so this “strengthening” was critical to their standing firm in the faith.
The word “encouraging” (parakalountes) has more to do with the way Paul and Barnabas gave their support so these new believers would be confirmed in their faith. They did it by “inviting them together in a beseeching manner” so they would continue as they had started in the faith.
What a powerful formula driven by the Holy Spirit. There is another element we will cover tomorrow, but this was most important in returning to these churches. There was no long, drawn out educational process that would take years to finish. Paul’s method is truly revolutionary when you think of the success rate he had compared to our day. What method would you rather follow?
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