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)
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