As I have previously mentioned, a few years ago I wrote a lengthy paper on church planting. Over the next few weeks I am going to publish extracts from that paper here. I hope you find them helpful.
In an age of helpful tips on doing anything from paper folding to flying an airplane, the last thing that I wanted to achieve is just to give a helpful tip on church planting. I have come to the conclusion that to plant churches it is not a ‘take it or leave it’ project for a church looking for a new avenue of ministry. I believe it is a vision to reach the nations.
When the early church burst forth from the upper room full of the Holy Spirit preaching good news and healing the sick, they set for us an example to follow. They did not make choices as to whether this was a vision for them to follow; they just did what came naturally to them. They preached the Gospel and gathered the converts into communities to work out together their salvation with fear and trembling because God was at work in them and persecution only aided this natural expansion of God’s people.
China is a good example of church planting momentum even in the midst of persecution. China is spread over 9.6 million square kilometres of diverse terrain. It holds a quarter of the world’s population and is one of the oldest civilisations on the earth. China has for thousands of years been subjected to wars and tyrannical leadership. It has for many decades been a target for missionary endeavours, many have given their lives and shed their blood for the Gospel. Robert Morrison, for example, gave 27 years of his life to the Chinese people while Hudson Taylor travelled to China alone, determined to take the Gospel to inland China. As a result of his diligence and his strong belief that God would reach this vast nation, Hudson Taylor paved the way for churches to be established not just in the safer treaty ports but also in the forbidden inland areas. These great pioneers did not set out to establish a church planting movement, this was a natural outcome to the Gospel being preached.
Now, all over China in the midst of great trial, un-named men and women of all ages are going from province to province preaching the Gospel and creating new gatherings of zealous believers. With this great passion and zeal, they believe that they will not only reach their own vast nation but also other bordering nations as well. Here is an extract from the book “Lilies Amongst Thorns” headed “A Beautiful Plan (page 351).
‘In the Spring of 1991, a faithful servant who had been greatly used by God, entered Henan to conduct a one-week training seminar for co-workers. At the close of the seminar he laid hands on every co-worker and blessed them. Several scores of co-workers were thus thrust into the harvest field to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the different provinces and continue to sow seed. They began in Henan and branched out to the different provinces pioneering churches. This included Sichuan, distract Xinjiang, Tibet and Beijing. The path before them is rough and stony, with many difficulties, the way to the cross. But they know the Lord is with them. As they sow in tears they will reap with joy, bringing their sheaves with them (Ps 126: 5-6). Once, a co-worker was spreading out a map of China when he saw a clear vision: The ministry of Henan will not only extend into Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, Hebei, Beijing, Manchuria, Jiang and arrears bordering Afghanistan. There will be missionaries from China crossing the western frontiers in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and eventually Israel. The other part of the vision showed another mission force moving from Zhejiang into Shandong, Jiangsu, Fujian and other coastal provinces and taking the Gospel across the seas to achieve the same goal. The vision lies before the Chinese believers. What a beautiful blueprint! God’s love is so wide and deep. He will not forget the 1.2 billion Chinese people. His purposes for China will be fulfilled through His unlimited wisdom and power. He will complete His work that He began!’
These brave passionate Chinese believers see the possibility to plant churches beyond their own vast nation. They have a vision to reach the nations. They do not merely want to put on big extravagant crusades, but to go to the streets and villages, provinces and cities preaching the Gospel, caring for the poor and leaving a church to work out their call as the people of God.
What a great example. Wherever there is a community with a clearly-defined boundary, there is a need for a local church to be at the heart of that community representing the grace of God through word and deed.