We must start this journey with the words of Jesus. “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth, go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18)
Is the idea of planting churches a modern strategy or does it originate in God’s plan to gather all people groups, to unite them in Him (Eph 1:10) as one new man? (Eph 2:15)
To truly engage with this topic, we need to be clear that the whole of the Bible is one great narrative from a Holy Garden to a Holy City made up of every tribe and tongue and people group. So, when looking at an individual topic of biblical, it is important not to develop a separate narrative. Otherwise, that narrative becomes a dominant part of our churchmanship, relegating equally important themes to a lower priority.
Worse still we might be tempted to create a ministry around such a theme and dare I say, call it a “Church planting movement”. Such descriptions are for those in the future to use of a past moment in history, if of course that moment deserves such a title.
Giving one element of truth a greater priority would be a bit like studying the human anatomy and becoming engrossed by the hand to exclusion of other parts of the body. The fascinating study of this multi fingered human extremity, which has the richest source of tactile feedback in the human body, with each hand being dominantly controlled by opposing brain hemispheres, so that the preferred hand choice for single-handed activities such as writing with a pen reflects individual brain function. Fascinating as this is, the hand needs a context; a complete torso is needed to define its role and place. The same must be said of church planting and reaching the nations, we need a clear context.
We enter this narrative right at the beginning of all things, where God’s intentions are made very clear. As Adam breathed his first breath, God gazed upon His greatest act of creation and spoke purpose into him. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens….” (Gen 1:28). God’s plan was to expand this garden paradise, which was full of purity and the rule of God until the whole earth was consumed by its influence.
The Apostle Paul demonstrates his knowledge of God’s plans in Romans 1:5 when he described how the gift of grace and apostleship, was to bring about the obedience of faith in Jesus’ name among all the nations. Paul understood the narrative, an expansive plan that included both Jew and Gentile, to cover the earth with the knowledge of God.
However, the tranquillity of those early days was shattered. The plan seemed to be de-railed before it could gain any positive momentum as Satan who once stood tall in God’s sight as the light bearer, now an outcast, sowed the seed of doubt into the heart of an adolescent humanity, “Did God really say?”. We clearly see the ramification of this act from that time to this, in that God’s word, His intentions and even His existence has been called into question. He is no longer the single voice, but one of many voices as humanity is left groping in the dark trying to understand what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false.
Next – The Fall