Church Planting: Lessons from Antioch and Beyond


Church Planting: Lessons from Antioch and BeyondIntroduction

In 1992 a great church planting vision was cast in England.[1] 20,000 new churches by 2000.  But by the end of three years, one denomination involved in the project had a net gain of only 20 churches out of 200 attempted church plants including the closure of 30 historical churches.  Obviously church planting is not an easy task and therefore should not be taken lightly.  If we are looking to church plant we ought to follow the Lord of the Church (Eph. 1:22; 5:23-24; Col. 1:18).[2] For in the end, whether or not our efforts fail numerically, we do not want them to be a failure before our Lord.

The amount of material in this day and age available on church-planting is quite overwhelming.  And as one embarks on sifting through the many different books and articles, many different opinions begin to surface.  Everyone has an opinion, and at times their opinions are in direct contradiction with each other.  There are those who believe that churches should be planted without any regard to the current existence of churches in the area,[3] and still others who believe extensive surveying must be done before any location is chosen.[4] Some believe new churches should be consistently planted on the basis that it is “easier to have a baby than raise the dead,”[5] while others think that struggling churches should be “renewed” rather than abandoned and the focus of church planting should only be on those without a church.[6] Trumpeted by some is the idea that church planting is “the single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven,”[7] while others view it as the result of evangelism rather than the cause.[8]

The need to evaluate church planting methodology on the basis of God’s Word is essential if we are going to gain approval and blessing from the Lord of the Church.  It is not as if He left us here without instructions as to what we are to be doing!  The Lord Himself said, “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18), therefore let us sit at His feet and learn what He wants for His Church, specifically in regard to church planting and how we fit into that plan.  For our purposes this study will be narrowed to focus on finding principles from the beginnings of Paul and Barnabas’ missions and their involvement with the church at Antioch.

Definition of Church Planting

It is important, before we look any farther into these matters to first define what we mean by “church planting.”  The term obviously is not a biblical one, but a modern invention based on biblical example.  The concept of church planting simply refers to the starting of a new church.  Many new churches were started after Pentecost, and so from Scripture we can gain incredible insight into the process so that we might better understand what a biblical church plant looked like and then draw principles to our current day.

Scriptural Insights from Antioch and Beyond

Looking at Scripture as the revealed word of God we can come to it with the expectation that it will teach us what we need to know in order to please the Lord.  The Church is the Lord’s (Eph. 1:22) and so we should look to Him for instruction in regards to the Church and how it is to be run.  A significant part of this section is designed to be survey.  The reason for this is because there is so much confusion on the subject of church planting, that it is important for each element of the examples given to us in God’s Word to be fresh in our minds so that we can extrapolate principles for use in our current situation.  It must also be remembered that most of the passages that will be looked at are descriptive in nature.  Clearly the Bible does not give a direct prescription such as, “Thou shalt plant a church at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Western Ave. on January 5th 2010.”  But even though these passages are descriptive, there is wisdom in studying and seeking to emulate the example given to us.[9] To ignore the example of Scripture is foolish, especially when it comes to any aspect of the Church.

Mission to Antioch (Acts 11:19-26)

The church at Antioch is of great interest in any study on church planting in that Paul and Barnabas were sent from this church by the Holy Spirit to go and preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  The church itself was founded somewhere around seven years after Pentecost,[10] started by those who had been scattered during the persecution that occurred in connection with the martyrdom of Steven (11:19).  At least some of those that started the church in Antioch were foreigners, some were from Cyprus and others from Cyrene (11:20).   The city of Antioch was known to have a large population of Jews,[11] so it makes sense that Jews would flee there.  These men who came to Antioch fleeing persecution are set in contrast to the others who fled persecution because they preached the Gospel also to the Gentiles, not limiting themselves to Jews alone (11:20).  The fact that some of them were Greek-speaking Jews, a transition to preach the Gospel to Greeks makes sense,[12] though most likely such activity still took place within the synagogue and was not as radical as the shift the Apostle Paul made in Acts 13 in Pisidian Antioch.[13] But their preaching the word to Gentiles was significant enough of a change that the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas, also from Cyprus (4:36), to go and investigate (11:22).[14] What Barnabas found brought joy to his heart and he encouraged them in the Lord to continue to remain true to Him (11:23),  as it is clear their “difference” from the others in sharing the Gospel to Gentiles was only a simple following of their Lord’s commission to them (Matt. 28:18-20).  Through this church plant “considerable numbers were brought to the Lord” (11:24).  Barnabas then went to recruit Paul for the ministry in Antioch, who he had previously known and worked with (9:27), and they taught there together for one year (11:25-26).  And in an interesting switch, Barnabas, who was sent by the church of Jerusalem to check up on Antioch, was then sent by Antioch, along with Paul, to send money to help the church of Jerusalem during a famine (11:28-30).

From this account we can glean some very important insights.  First of all, the Antioch church was started by foreigners.  This first insight speaks loudly, for it is something many authors overlook in their discussion of church planting.  Even Rolland Allen, who is well known for his biblical critique of modern missions,[15] in his book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church overlooks this fact in calling the Antioch church “self-supporting, self-governing, and self-extending”[16] part of which includes the lack of outside leadership.[17] Allen makes a huge accusation against churches that are largely supported and directed by foreigners, asking if such churches can even be accurately called churches at all![18] And while it is true the apostles did not start this church in Antioch, it cannot be said that the church at Antioch had no foreign influence.  In fact, quite the contrary-Scripture explicitly points out the fact that those who started the church were not originally from Antioch.[19] Therefore to make the goal of every church plant to have no foreigners in its leadership cannot be held as a biblical mandate, either explicitly or implicitly.

Those who went to Antioch to flee persecution it would seem went together.  It was not one individual who went off to Antioch, but they went in a sort of “team.”  We do not know the dynamics of this team, but it is quite possible that they knew each other previously being that a persecution in relation to Stephen would most likely have had its roots in Jerusalem.[20] So while they were Greek-speaking Jews not originally from Israel, they had most likely been living in Jerusalem for a time before fleeing persecution and settling in Antioch. It was not one individual going to a location trying to establish a church, but rather, by the very existence of a community of believers from the start, a church existed in Antioch.  The expansion of that church came from the preaching of the Gospel by a group of believers.  This is sometimes referred to as a “team planting,”[21] or the “colonization model,”[22] but it was not as organized as many endeavors today with their graphs and charts,[23] but it most likely happened more naturally-out of necessity really, which leads to the next insight.

The church at Antioch was started spontaneously, yes, but started as a direct result of persecution.  Those who went to live in Antioch did so out of necessity, not because of a meticulously laid out plan for church planting.  And while Allen again makes the point that the spreading of the early church was spontaneous,[24] we would venture to say it was spontaneous out of necessity, not by choice.  We cannot create persecution.  Therefore to model our own planting of churches on events that took place because of persecution would not be wise.  A better model would be that of Paul and Barnabas being sent out from the church of Antioch, not because of persecution, but by the direction of the Holy Spirit.  It is right to observe here, that from the pressure of persecution on the church, more churches were planted in a short period of time than would have been planted if the church encountered no opposition.  From this passage we cannot know if it is better, if possible, to establish a more mature church or not, but such understanding will come to light in other passage as we continue.

Taking notice of the work of Barnabas and Paul we see the principle of interchurch support in regard to training.  Barnabas was sent to “check up” on the church at Antioch, but obviously his mission became more than just that.  He became their main teacher.  The church at Antioch saw Barnabas as anything but a rival, and the honor they showed in submitting to and desiring his teaching is shown by his going to get Saul-for “the scale of Barnabas’s responsibility was such that he could not hope to discharge it single-handedly.”[25] So while some would say based on their recommendations for the present, that Antioch did not need any help from the outside and that any such help would be a detriment to their growth,[26] we see that not only did the Apostles send help, but the church at Antioch received it willingly.  Barnabas and Paul were so connected to this church that they were sent as the church’s representatives back to give a gift to those suffering from the famine in Jerusalem.  But Paul and Barnabas did not stay in Jerusalem, but returned to Antioch to continue ministering there and even brought John Mark to help (12:25).

Mission to Cyprus (Acts 13:4-13)

After over one year of ministry at Antioch (11:26),[27] Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Holy Spirit, “for the work to which I have called them” (13:2).  After being sent by the church at Antioch (13:3), they proceeded to a work that had already been started by believers who had been scattered because of persecution (11:19-20).[28] The team assembled by the Holy Spirit included a national, for Barnabas himself was a Cyprian (4:36).[29] Barnabas’s cousin, John Mark also accompanied them on the journey as a helper (13:5; Col. 4:10).  Their mission was focused on two major cities that were connected by a major highway.[30] Salamis was a port and also a mercantile center, while Paphos was the city of residence for the Roman governor.  Paul received an invitation, most likely of an official nature,[31] from the Roman governor, Sergius Paulus (13:7) and while Sergius was outside the target group, being that he was not a Cyprian, but rather from Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas went to proclaim Christ to him.  There is no indication that a church was planted in Cyprus, but the churches that Paul and Barnabas might have encountered most likely would have been only in connection with the synagogues as the believers who fled to Cyprus only shared the Gospel with the Jews (11:19).[32] There is also a later mention of a disciple from Cyprus who may date from this missionary journey (21:16). It was at this time that John Mark abandoned the mission for Jerusalem (13:13), which later caused sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas as to who should be allowed to accompany them on a future mission (15:37-39).[33] This disagreement led to the split up of Paul and Barnabas, when Barnabas took his cousin back to Cyprus to follow-up (15:36-39) and Paul left for Syria and Cilicia with Silas (15:40-41).  No farther biblical record exists about Cypriote Christianity outside that which is found in 15:37-39 and 21:16.

Again it is important to note how integrated both Barnabas and Paul were in this church at Antioch.  They no longer received their marching orders from Jerusalem, but by the prompting of the Spirit, were sent out by the church in Antioch.  Barnabas and Paul were the church’s best,[34] but it is significant that the church in reality had not equipped them for the ministry, for they had in fact come to help Antioch (even Silas was not originally from Antioch [Acts 15:22]).[35] The most that could be said is that Antioch provided on the job experience for both Barnabas and Paul, but it cannot be rightly said that Antioch was self-producing in the sense that they were multiplying themselves by planting other church as many say a “healthy” church like Antioch would.[36] To say that Barnabas and Paul were “commissioned”[37] for the task of apostolic ministry is probably too strong of a notion, for in fact it was the Holy Spirit who called them out (13:2, 4).[38] The Antioch church could be said more rightly to have only let them go with their blessing.[39]

The condition of the churches in Cyprus is not related in Luke’s account, but we are only told that Barnabas and Paul went from synagogue to synagogue proclaiming the Gospel (13:5).  Luke is silent in regard to the question of whether or not a church was planted.  But it can be assumed that there were already churches on the island, especially since Barnabas himself originally from Cyprus.  The primary focus of Luke’s account is on the amazing success of the Gospel given to Gentiles.  Barnabas and Saul were not set on planting a church wherever they went, but were faithful to preach the Word and leave the results to God.  And while it seems there was little fruit in their target group, fruit was born through submission to the governing authorities.

Paul and Barnabas’ submission to the local authority is an important observation, as their practice of submission had great impact on where they ministered or did not minister.  In this current passage, their submission actually led to a great harvest for the Gospel (13:12).[40] The Apostle Paul lived out what he wrote in Romans 13.  Such instruction cannot be overlooked in the ministry of a someone desiring to start a new church.

Mission to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-52)

The first act of this mission was to enter the synagogue on the Sabbath (13:14), where the leaders of the synagogue asked Paul and his companions if they had any word of exhortation for the people (13:15).  Paul then preached the gospel to them fully and openly (13:16-41).  The reaction was mostly very positive and the people begged that Paul and Barnabas would speak to them again the next Sabbath (Acts. 13:42).  After the meeting was over many of the people followed Paul and Barnabas to learn more and Paul and Barnabas urged them to continue in the grace of God (13:43).  But the next Sabbath, while nearly the whole city came out to hear Paul, jealousy was in the hearts of the Jews there and they began making trouble for Paul and Barnabas (13:44-45).  And here in this city an open proclamation to Gentiles was given based on the rejection of the Jews in the city (13:46-47), and many Gentiles believed (13:48).  The Gospel was said to have spread through the whole region (13:49), and yet because of the continued resistance of the Jews, Paul and Barnabas were driven out of the district where they shook of the dust of their feet in protest against them and left for Iconium (13:50-51).

The primacy of preaching is seen very clearly in this portion of Scripture.[41] The “community service” models trumpeted by some[42] were not a part of the picture.  To even think that the proclamation of the Gospel should be put on the back burner for 18 months while a “church planting” team prayed and served their community through charity work, construction projects, volunteering in public schools[43] in an effort to be “incarnational”[44] is wholly foreign to the biblical example.  Paul lost no time fiddling around-he went straight to the power of God-the Gospel (Rom. 1:16).  Notice that Paul’s trade was also not the primary means by which he evangelized.  While it is true that Paul was a tent-maker by trade (18:3) and that he most likely glorified God in that trade, it was not the primary means by which he ministered.  Paul explicitly states that the reason he continued to support himself was so that he would not be a hindrance to the Gospel being preached (20:34; 1 Cor. 4:12; 9:14f; 2 Cor. 11:7; 12:13; 1 Thess. 2:9; 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:8)![45] It was not, as some have said, so that he could “connect” with the culture or influence people[46] into heaven without speaking a word.  It was so that no one would take offense at his preaching to them or accuse him of serving them just to get rich off of them.  But Paul at times was blessed through the giving of other churches which enabled him to no longer have to work, but to pursue the ministry full-time (2 Cor. 11:8-9).[47]

Another principle we see from this text is that when great opposition arose Paul and Barnabas left-even in the midst of great reception.  Part of this relates to their submission to local government as they were in violation of the Pax Romana, or the Roman peace because they were accused of preaching an illicit religion and of disturbing the peace.[48] It does not mean that Paul and Barnabas sought to be free of all opposition (Paul was stoned and many times caused riots), but as best they could they sought to be at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18).  The rejection by the Jews did not cause Paul to give up, but he would again and again experience their rejection in each place they went, after which he would turn to the Gentiles.[49]

Leaving new converts so quickly without establishing them cannot be said to have been the desire of Paul or Barnabas, for external pressure made it impossible for them to stay.  Some try to make a big issue out of Paul never staying in one place and make such action a model for all.[50] Such a model asks missionaries to question what they are doing wrong if they stay in one place longer than a year![51] But such a view does not take into account the lack of the New Testament Scriptures and the unique role of the Apostles in the early church.  Nor does it take into account the persecution that so often made it impossible for them to stay and build up a young body of believers to maturity in person.  It is clear by the many epistles that Paul wrote that he was not satisfied with their current state of maturity.  In fact, it could be said, the only reason those epistles were written was because Paul was unable to go to them himself.  Thus we see that the Lord worked out His purposes through the tribulation for the good of the churches.  But again, to plan to abandon new believers is not condoned by Scripture, but rather it is better to see it as Paul saw it when he said to the church at Thessalonica (a church started through his preaching [Acts 17:1-3] being kicked out after only three Sabbaths)[52] that he was prevented to go to them by Satan (1 Thess. 2:18).  Paul could not have been any clearer that he thought it would have been best if he could have gone to see them in person.  But God worked sovereignly, that Paul would be “forced” to write, that God’s Word might be put to written form for all the Church. [53] The desire of Paul and his team to be with the newly planted churches is also seen in their return a few months later (14:21) at which stage they appointed elders in every church, strengthening them and commending them to the Lord (14:23).[54]

Mission to Iconium, and the Return to Antioch (Acts 14:1-28)

Again Paul and Barnabas focus on cities along major Roman highways,[55] and again Paul and Barnabas start with the Jews and those Gentiles who were aligned with the Jewish faith at the synagogue (14:1).  A large number of people believed, both Jew and Gentile, but opposition arose from the Jews who did not believe who set to work trying to insight the rest of the city against Paul and Barnabas (14:2).  But this opposition, contrary to the opposition at Pisidian Antioch, was more of the mob variety than official,[56] therefore Paul and Barnabas stayed, speaking boldly and doing signs and wonders (14:3).  The Jews it seems were not successful in getting the whole city, including all of the officials, to rise against Paul and Barnabas (14:4),[57] but their jealousy could not allow Paul and Barnabas to continue, and so they plotted their death (14:5).  But Paul and Barnabas became aware of the plot and fled (14:6) to Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, cities outside the political region of Iconium though Lystra was only about 20 miles away, where they continued to preach the Gospel (14:6-7).[58] At Lystra, with the apparent lack of a synagogue,[59] Paul and Barnabas go directly to the Gentiles and Paul, and presumably in the marketplace, healed a lame man who was listening to Paul speak (14:8-10).  Seeing such a miraculous display, the people assume Paul and Barnabas are visiting “incarnations” of two gods, Zeus and Hermes (14:11-12), possibly because of an ancient story in which the cities residence had failed to welcome the gods on a previous occasion and had incurred the gods’ wrath.[60] Paul and Barnabas did not realize at first what was going on because the people spoke in their own dialect (14:11), but when they put two and two together they ripped their clothes in distress[61] and proceeded to tell the people to stop through the proclamation of the Gospel-their first recorded proclamation to a purely Gentile audience (14:14-18).[62] But Jews from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium turned the crowd against Paul (14:19), how or when exactly is not told, but the result was that the crowd stoned Paul and then dragged him out of the city thinking him to be dead (14:19).  But Paul was not dead, and by God’s protective providence, he went back into the city (14:20).[63] The next day Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe where a great harvest was reaped (14:20-21), and then began to go back through the cities where they had been, strengthening the disciples, encouraging them, appointing elders in every church, praying and fasting, and continued on their way preaching as they went (14:21-25).  On their return to Antioch they gave a full report to the church there of “all the things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (14:26-27).  They had been gone for two years, and they stayed in Antioch for presumably one year (14:28).[64]

While not ignoring smaller cities (Derbe was smaller, it is a stop on the road from Iconium to Laranda),[65] Paul does seem to target larger, important cities on this mission.[66] Paul’s goal was to plant a church in two or three centres in a province.  A goal which he accomplished as evidenced by his telling the church at Rome that “from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19).  Paul went to the places where he could maximize his witness.  His concern was not for his health or his leisure, but rather the proclamation of the Gospel.  We would do well to go where our impact would be greatest for the Kingdom.  Going to plant a church in our hometown without any consideration of other places where our impact might be greater is not in line with Scripture.  We must seek how God can use us best and pursue such aims.

Paul’s revisits to the churches that had been established through his witness show his pastoral care and desire to see each one firmly established.  These visits assume a still hostile situation, and yet Paul knows it is vital for the sake of the churches that he comes again to encourage and build them up.[67] The model of plural elder rule is seen here in that elders (plural) were established in each church (singular).  The task was not one that they took lightly, for it was with prayer and fasting.  One should not assume that Paul overlooked his own advice in who should be appointed to be an elder (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-9), but it must have been that some were at that spiritual level when they were appointed.[68] It would not be wise for someone to view this situation as normative, for the selection process can be more difficult as evidenced in other passages (Titus 1:5).  But that elders should be appointed in every new church is essential, and something that should be done sooner than later as seen in Paul’s letter to Titus.

Paul and Barnabas’ continued connection with the sending church is also seen vividly in this account.  After being gone likely for two years, the return to Antioch is seen as a joyous event (14:27), and a sweet homecoming for both Paul and Barnabas, who had endured much for the Gospel.  The Church sent out members of its body, and fellowshipped in their ministry abroad.  As members of our own body are sent, having such a relationship is key, for if members are sent out from us and cut off, the body is incomplete having lost an arm or a leg.  Rather, the example we see in Scripture is the unity of the body, and in that unity there is joy and encouragement for the body to pursue Christ all the more.  To go and plant a church by oneself is never seen as a valid option in Scripture.

Conclusion

The example given to us in the activity surrounding the church of Antioch suggests that it is wise for church plants to be done as a team, and that these teams can consist of foreigners who pastor the church.  The teams that go out from another congregation should have an ongoing relationship with their sending church whereby, support, encouragement and leadership can be provided.  It is not essential for a team to plant a church everywhere they go, but  in choosing a location for a church plant, teams should evaluate how they can have maximum impact for the kingdom, and at times when there is great opposition, retreat is necessary.  Governments should be honored and obeyed, unless they require the team to do something contrary to God’s Word.  Church planters should also not view leaving an immature church to go on to plant another church as ideal, but should have as their highest priority the growth and maturity of the new church.  New churches should have elders appointed as soon as possible, but not at the sacrifice of biblical requirements for the character of elders.  And finally, the example of the primacy of preaching the Gospel over and above all else was seen to be the power of God for salvation.

While we have only scratched the surface as to what God’s Word has to say in regard to church planting, it is clear that God does speak, and we know His ways are better than ours.  We would do well to not lean on our own understanding in anything (Prov. 3:5-6), especially in church planting, and continue to pursue what God has told us He would have for His Church.

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Wagner, C. Peter. Church Planting for a Greater Harvest: A Comprehensive Guide. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1990.

Watson, Richard. A Biblical and Theological Dictionary: Explanatory of the History, Manners, and Customs of the Jews, and Neighbouring Nations. New York: Carlton & Porter, 1855.

White, Cynthia. The Emergence of Christianity. Greenwood guides to historic events of the ancient world. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007.


[1] Martin Robinson, Planting Mission-Shaped Churches Today (Oxford: Monarch, 2006), 20.

[2] Wayne A Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2007), 858-59.

[3] Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 14.

[4] Ezra Earl Jones, Strategies for New Churches, 1st ed. (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978), 59.

[5] C. Peter Wagner, Church Planting for a Greater Harvest: A Comprehensive Guide (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1990), 25.

[6] Jones, Strategies for New Churches, 147.

[7] Wagner, Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, 11.

[8] Opal Laurene Reddin, Planting Churches That Grow: A Guide to Church Planting and Church Growth (Springfield, MO: Central Bible College Press, 1990), 10.

[9] Aubrey Malphurs, Doing Church : A Biblical Guide for Leading Ministries Through Change (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999), 86.

[10] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Acts 1-12 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994), 311.

[11] Richard N. Longenecker, “The Acts of the Apostles,” in John-Acts, ed. Frank Ely Gaebelein, vol. 9, 12 vols., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version of the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976), 400.

[12] MacArthur, Acts 1-12, 312.

[13] Longenecker, “The Acts of the Apostles,” 400-401.

[14] John B Polhill, Acts, ed. David S. Dockery, vol. 26, 31 vols., New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 270-71.

[15] Charles Henry Long and Anne Rowthorn, “The Legacy of Roland Allen,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 13, no. 2 (April 1989): 65.

[16] Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes Which Hinder It, 1st ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1962), 28.

[17] Ibid., 29.

[18] Ibid.

[19] David W Shenk and Ervin R Stutzman, Creating Communities of the Kingdom: New Testament Models of Church Planting (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1988), 44.

[20] F. F Bruce, The Book of the Acts, ed. Gordon D. Fee, Rev. ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 225.

[21] Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches, 70.

[22] Stuart Murray, Church Planting: Laying Foundations (Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1998), 269.

[23] Samuel D Faircloth, Church Planting for Reproduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), see chart attached at end of book.

[24] Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, 6, 15.

[25] Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 227.

[26] Steve Rundle and Tom A. Steffen, Great Commission Companies: The Emerging Role of Business in Missions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 65.  Brian D. McLaren, The Church on the Other Side : Exploring the Radical Future of the Local Congregation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 134.

[27] Richard Watson, A Biblical and Theological Dictionary: Explanatory of the History, Manners, and Customs of the Jews, and Neighbouring Nations (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1855), 135.

[28] Darrell L Bock, Acts, ed. Robert W. Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein, vol. 5, 13 vols., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 442.

[29] Polhill, Acts, 291.

[30] William D Barrick, “Pictures of Paul: A Study in Missionary Methods of the First Century” (Unpublished), 1.  Harold W. Mare, “Cyprus,” in The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, ed. E. M Blaiklock and R. K Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library from Zondervan Pub. House, 1983), 144.

[31] Longenecker, “The Acts of the Apostles,” 419.

[32] Marcus Niebuhr Tod and Ralph A. Gwinn, “Cyprus,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey William Bromiley, vol. 1, 4 vols., Fully rev. (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1979), 844.

[33] Barrick, “Pictures of Paul,” 2.

[34] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Acts 13-28 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1996), 6.

[35] Polhill, Acts, 292.

[36] Charles Brock, The Principles and Practice of Indigenous Church Planting (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1981), 34.  David J. Hesselgrave, Planting Churches Cross-Culturally, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 93.  Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches, 248.  MacArthur, Acts 13-28, 11.

[37] Shenk and Stutzman, Creating Communities, 34.

[38] Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, ed. William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 5, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990), 459.

[39] MacArthur, Acts 13-28, 6-7.

[40] Barrick, “Pictures of Paul,” 2.

[41] MacArthur, Acts 13-28, 14-17.

[42] Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches, 163-64.

[43] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Southern Baptists Bring New York Their Gospel,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/15/us/southern-baptists-bring-new-york-their-gospel.html.

[44] See the example of 411 NYC and Logos in Atlanta in Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches, 163-64.

[45] Polhill, Acts, 383-84.

[46] Ruth E. Siemens, “Why Did Paul Make Tents?,” Global Opportunities, 1996, http://globalopps.org/papers/whydid.htm.

[47] James Montgomery Boice, Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 307-308.

[48] William D Barrick, “Practical Pauline Missions: To Pisidian Antioch” (Unpublished), 1.  Cynthia. White, The Emergence of Christianity, Greenwood guides to historic events of the ancient world (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007), 13.

[49] Polhill, Acts, 308.

[50] Hesselgrave, Planting Churches Cross-Culturally, 84.

[51] Ibid., 85.

[52] Merrill C. Tenney, “First Epistle to the Thessalonians,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey William Bromiley, vol. 4, 4 vols., Fully rev. (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1979), 832.

[53] G. K Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians, ed. Grant R. Osborne, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 15.

[54] Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 268.

[55] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, 503.

[56] Polhill, Acts, 312.

[57] Longenecker, “The Acts of the Apostles,” 432-33.

[58] Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 272.

[59] Bock, Acts, 475.

[60] MacArthur, Acts 13-28, 50.

[61] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, 515.

[62] Polhill, Acts, 315.

[63] Ibid., 317-18.

[64] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, 528.

[65] Bock, Acts, 479.

[66] Roland Allen, Missionary Methods; St. Paul’s or Ours? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962), 13.

[67] Longenecker, “The Acts of the Apostles,” 438.

[68] MacArthur, Acts 13-28, 55.

2 Responses to Church Planting: Lessons from Antioch and Beyond

  1. Nate, impressively researched article, and thorough analysis of a bunch of challenging scriptural texts. Thank you.

    I appreciated your addressing some of Roland Allen’s over-the-top critique, but in such a way that still leaves room for him prophetically to speak to our modern missionary infatuation with “methods.”

    However, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of St. Paul’s tent-making rationale.

    While it is true that all social work and no evangelism guts the Gospel entirely–I just listened to an excellent message on the topic, here: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/resources/a/Gospel-Faithful-Mission-in-the-New-Christendom# — you don’t cite anyone doing this.

    The article you do cite (Ruth Seimens at http://globalopps.org/papers/whydid.htm) is actually quite good and mentions teaching, preaching, and other kinds of Gospel instruction throughout. Perhaps I’m missing the point of that citation?

    Some of the biblical texts you quoted do mention a connection between tent-making and preaching the Gospel, but I don’t think this, by itself, proves your point.

    Rather, a) preaching the Gospel in a few of those contexts appears to be short-hand for “the whole Christian ministry” and does not refer to the specific action of “preaching a sermon.”

    And, b) addressing, in your essay, the strategic retreat required by missionaries at times is part of what church planters are doing who emphasize “good works” on the front end of their new churches. They are acknowledging that a full, frontal assault may not be strategically possible at this time.

    No doubt, however, compromise does in fact exist in many church planting movements today (check out the link I pasted for Fernando’s excellent message above).

    To your credit, appealing to the Scriptures as you do is ultimately the only way clear to honoring the Lord with our work.

    Though your essay is long, it is a helpful overview of several church planting examples in the Bible, and I especially liked your point about “no one should plant a church alone.”

    Your essay is useful even if only as a bibliography of other resources to go to. Thanks again for writing.

    Your brother,

    Phil Henry

  2. nathanwells says:

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks so much for your interaction with this paper – it is a long one for sure! But a very fruitful study for me.

    I’ll do my best to clarify some things and interact with your questions.

    You said, “While it is true that all social work and no evangelism guts the Gospel entirely….you don’t cite anyone doing this.”
    Yes, that is true, I only cited someone who put preaching the Gospel on hold for 18 months. I don’t know of any evangelicals who would fully put the Gospel on the side, so I did not cite any. But it seems that some have come close (Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches, 163-64).

    In regard to Ruth Seimens’ article, I was not clear in the footnote about what I disagreed with. When she speaks of reasons for why Paul worked, the point I disagreed with was “Identification.” Also she makes the statement that, “Tentmakers’ main work is evangelism on the job.” But again, we are not told that from Paul’s example. Paul’s main work was not evangelism on the job, but rather preaching the word outside of his tent making.

    You also said, “the strategic retreat required by missionaries at times is part of what church planters are doing who emphasize “good works” on the front end of their new churches”
    I am not sure if I would call doing “good works” the same as retreating from a city because of persecution. They are still in the city. I might be taking it a little to far here, but I am not sure if “good works” can be connoted with retreat in order to avoid persecution, because you don’t see the Apostles doing “good works” for the sake of getting a hearing, rather they did miracles to authenticate their message (not for the sole purpose of doing good).

    Not sure if that makes sense – but I am glad to interact and learn how we can better follow the example given to us in God’s Word, that we might be pleasing to our Lord.

    I will take a look at that message for sure! Thanks!

    Because He lives,
    Nathan

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