Missions Is Not Church Planting
You’ve probably read about the great basketball coach who wanted his players to learn the fundamentals, so he started the first practice with “this is a basketball.”Â Â He wantedÂ his team to learnÂ how to play and so he didn’t take for granted anything that anyone needed to know.Â Â WeÂ will miss the fundamentals of missionsÂ if we skip over the appropriate instruction from Scripture, just because we think we know thatÂ already.Â Â The Bible is our sole authority, so it’s also where we find out about missions, not from Baptist or fundamentalist traditions.Â The teaching of Jesus in the Gospels changed my thinking about what my life was about.Â Are you willing to let it do the same to you?
Men shouldn’t start out thinking that missions is church planting because it isn’t what we see inÂ Scripture.Â Â God made the Bible sufficient for every good work, so we should allow God’s Word to regulate what and how we do what we do.Â AÂ lot of perversion in “missions” comes because of having church planting the initial thought of what a missionary does.Â Jesus started theÂ church, but that wasn’t the first thing that He did.Â Before He went back to heaven, He sent men to do what He did.Â So we ought to be clear about what Jesus did.Â When we don’t follow His example, we can’t succeed at the mission that He gave us.
WHAT DID JESUS DO?
At the very end of Luke 9 is recorded the Lordâ€™s journey to Jerusalem for His final Feast of the Tabernacles.Â He was in Galilee and He turned His face toward Jerusalem toÂ encounter the opposition of the religious leaders that would culminate in His death and resurrection.Â He headed right toward the conflict with the authorities in Jerusalem, taking a direct route from Galilee to Jerusalem that would take Him through Samaria. This attendanceÂ of the Lord at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem is primarily recorded in John 7:11-10:21.Â This particular feastÂ represented an irreversible decision by the leaders of Israel concerning the Person of Christ.Â They had rejected Him.
Jesus leaves Judea and moves briefly into the area of Perea.Â His attention now would focus especially onÂ His preparation of those that would carry on His service.Â At the beginning of this time in Luke 10,Â the Lord sends out seventy professing believers to do His work.Â The Lord Jesus Christ begins a new era in His earthly life and ministry by sending out seventy men as His representatives to declare the same message that He had been preaching.Â
The leadership of Israel–the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees–had made an irreversible decision about Christ.Â As a result, the Lord would send witnesses directly to the people, circumventing their leaders, giving the people themselves an opportunity to respond individually.Â Â In Jesus’ instructions to the seventy we get an understanding of what Jesus saw as His mission that they would continue after He left via the ascension.
No doubt, God intended for churches to start.Â Surely this is why God allowed persecution in Jerusalem to split up the mounting number of believers there into the rest of the world.Â Where a number of converts accumulated, a church was started, such as what we see in Antioch (Acts 11:19ff).Â Â Later, Paul and Barnabas were sent out by those among the church at Antioch “for the work” that the Holy Spirit had “called them” (Acts 13:2).
The work that the Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas was the same work that the Father hadÂ sent Jesus to do and then Jesus had directed us also.Â This was the workÂ for whichÂ He was readying the disciples in Luke 10.
In the first verse, we see that they were appointed by the Lord.Â In Acts 13, we see it is the Holy Spirit.Â It is still God that appoints men to go.Â In Romans 10, we read:Â “And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”Â Today we’re sent by the church to whom Christ has given authority (Mt. 16:19; Rev. 1:18-20), the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 3:16), and the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).Â It’s obvious from Acts 13 that Godly men must agree that you are ready to go.
JESUS SENT MEN TO PREACHÂ THEÂ GOSPEL
I think there are a whole lot of other lessons that we should glean from Luke 10, but we’re going to look at only the most fundamental.Â For instance, we could have something to say about the support that they received when they went or about the fact that there were seventy men that went and zero women, but we’re going to keep our eye on the major feature, that is, what they were out there to do.Â Here’s the jist of it.Â They went into a town that had no proclamation of the Word of God and they preached the message that God had sent them to preach, essentially a warning message that related to the consummation of all things.Â Â In verse nine, the words of that message are:Â “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.”
The kingdom of God has to do with conversion, when a person enters the sovereign rule of God by trusting Christ asÂ his Messiah, and, therefore,Â his Savior.Â The kingdom of God has to do with obeying God as King, turning to Him as Lord.Â The kingdom of God has to do with receiving the benefits of the kingdom, the ultimate millennial kingdom on earth (Rev. 20).Â They would have to receive the Word of God, because there was no visible kingdom to them.
If the offer for the kingdom was offered and refused, then it was to be withdrawn.Â When they came back into Israel from a Gentile country, many Jews would literally shake as much dust off their feet as possible in order not to bring pagan soil into their homeland.Â For the 70 to shake dust off their feet while leaving a Jewish house or town would be to treat the inhabitants like Gentilesâ€”whom most Jews considered to be out of Godâ€™s reach. In Acts 13:51, after the leaders of the synagogue in Pisidia of Antioch drove Paul and Barnabas out of their district, it says, “But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.”Â These would be people and towns that had heard the clear testimony of the Gospel and continued to resist or oppose it.Â When a personâ€™s mind is firmly set against God, we should turn our efforts to others.
In other words, according to the instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ, towns that rejected the gospel were to have no church in them.Â Jesus didn’t send them out to start churches, but to evangelize the population.Â We don’t get any command of methodology here.Â They were to go straight to people, preach this message, and then wait on them to respond.Â That is the work that Jesus sent them to do, to proclaim boldly the gospel message.Â He did not send them to start a church.
If anyone in ScriptureÂ went some place to start a church (and I’m not saying that anyone did), it was Barnabas and the prophets that were sent up to Antioch by the Jerusalem church when they heard about the gathering of believers that was already there.Â Besides that, men in ScriptureÂ go to evangelize and if a number of people believe, then those men can leave a churchÂ at that locationÂ to continue assembling, continuing the worship and work of the Lord there.Â In every version of the Great Commission, Jesus commands to preach and make disciples.Â Nothing is said about “starting churches.”
WHAT DIFFERENCE WILL THIS MAKE?
What difference will this obedience to God’s Word make?Â I believe that it not only will make a huge amount of difference, but that this is a key to erasing many of the problems that already exist in “missions” and “church planting” all over the world.Â Instead of focusing on a church being started, men should focus on the gospel of Christ.Â Our goal is to find out who wants the message.Â We won’t find that out if we:
1)Â Don’t preach the message.
This seems to be a a no-brainer, but it isn’t.Â Men go to a town and they start advertising and inviting to services.Â They get out a slick brochure to attract people and they get the phone banks busy.Â Â Men are to be in that town letting that place know what the actual gospel is.Â A consideration shouldn’t be whether it is family friendly or sensitive to seekers.Â It is what it is.
2)Â Don’t preach the right message.
We are required to preach the gospel that Jesus preached.Â His included count the cost, repentance, and Lordship.Â Jesus laid down the gauntlet on people.Â We’re told today in evangelicalism and fundamentalism that this method will “turn people off.”Â Part of why you’re in the town is to find out if the gospel will turn someone off.Â If the gospel turns them off, then you’re supposed to leave, not to reinvent a new message to “contextualize,” or to give them some crafty communication that will cause it to slide down a little easier.Â Our high view of God means that we think that what He said is terrific.Â We’re not ashamed of it.Â We don’t want people getting another message than the one that He gave.
3)Â Don’t leave when people don’t want it.
One of our problems is that instead of leaving like we see Jesus teach and Paul exemplify, we stay and develop a new “strategy” or one thatÂ we were taught at a seminar (pastor’s conference).Â We soften the message.Â We tone down the rhetoric.Â We intersperse more humor, promise to shorten the message, put into a power point presentation, and make it more psychologically palatable.Â Â With the rest of the New Testament, I would agree that we have strongholds in people’s minds that we should be casting down, while those people are still listening.Â When they don’t want it anymore; however, we are to move on.
Because of abuses to these three instructions of the Lord Jesus, in many cases towns get an organization different than the church that Jesus started.Â They get a watered down gospel.Â They get a bunch of compromising professing Christians.
When churches send men (and women) outÂ today,Â and they send them to start churches, these men will often feel the pressure of getting a church started.Â They know that the church is expecting a congregation in a relatively short period of time.Â Â When that doesn’t happen as quickly as they expected, the men sent often begin thinking about how they can get this done.Â Â In the back of their minds, they might think that they’re a failure if a church doesn’t get started.Â Â Is this what Jesus said?Â No.Â He wanted people to leave when no one wanted the message.
When menÂ know that they’re there to preach, they can preach with confidence and boldness, knowing that is what they’ve been sent to do.Â Then the sending church will know that the gospel is being preached, which is exactly what the church wants.Â It’s what God wants.Â Â And not church planting.