Missions, Church Planting, & The Invisible Hand of God
Missions, Church Planting & the Invisible Hand of God
Church planting is full of surprises. Some of them come wrapped in unpleasantness. Indeed, launching a new church plant is not for the fainthearted! But most of the surprises are deeply encouraging. They remind us that while obstacles may be numerous, God is faithful and Christ will build His Church (Mt. 16:18). Indeed, nothing can thwart heaven’s purpose. God will save those for whom Christ died, and He will gather (i.e. save) and perfect (i.e. sanctify) them through the faithful ministry of His Word in the context of the local church (Acts 2:42; Eph. 4:1-16).
Some of the best surprises in church planting arrive in the packaging of new relationships. Just think of all the new friendships that have been established at Christ Church over the past two years. God’s invisible hand of providence has woven our lives together into a tapestry of grace-based community in Christ. Members of Christ Church, God has united us under the banner of Christ to love one another, encourage one another, serve one another, support one another, and hold one another accountable. Our lives have also been brought together to partner in mission–– to make disciples of all nations through the proclamation of the gospel, and the establishing and strengthening of biblical churches. We are called to humbly partner in the Great Commission in the Charleston community and to the ends of the earth (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
One family that the Lord has providentially grafted-in to the life of Christ Church Presbyterian is the Royal family–– of Charleston. The Royals have been involved with forming of an organization to help support the Great Commission and have expressed an interest in exploring, discussing and learning more about biblical missions and church planting around the world.
Over the past eighteen months, I have had the privilege of providing a little pastoral counsel to the Royals concerning the question: What is the mission of the Church? In other words, what should the Church chiefly be doing in response to Christ’s missionary mandate? A broad view of mission would advocate for things like cultural transformation, social justice, and government reform. A more narrow–– and, I would argue, more biblical–– view of the Great Commission places the focus and strategy upon making disciples through the establishing and strengthening of biblical churches. Read the Great Commission, the book of Acts, and the pastoral epistles, and you cannot help but recognize a clear emphasis upon the making of disciples through the faithful proclamation of the gospel in Word and sacrament. Of course, this does not mean that individual believers will not be actively involved in various callings and activities that will, for example, positively influence culture, improve government, and foster social justice. Christians will be artists, politicians, and athletes. Even so, the work of the church, as church, is to make disciples and establish / strengthen churches through the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s holy Word.
As the church stays on mission, individual believers will abide in Christ and thus glorify God and be salt and light in their individual callings. Alternatively, if the church gets off mission, then individual believers will be spiritually malnourished, perpetually immature, and totally unprepared to meet the formidable challenges of our three great enemies–– the world, flesh, and devil.
With a strong desire to see examples of biblical mission and faithful church planting on foreign soil, the Royals asked if I would be willing to accompany them overseas and introduce them to some the faithful missionary-church planters in western Europe that we support as a congregation. They have a deep interest in familiarizing themselves with the work of our missionaries and their vision for church planting across Europe.
In addition to providing the Royals with greater knowledge of these mission works and an opportunity to discern potential partnerships with their organization, the trip also provides an opportunity to encourage the missionary-church planting pastors that we support as a congregation (see the back of our bulletin). Among several others, we will visit the Bidwells, Schweitzers, Riegers, Hecks, and Ferraris. Moreover, I will preach God’s Word in both Sheffield (September 9th) and Newcastle / Gateshead (September 13th). The trip will be fast and busy.
Members of Christ Church, please pray that through the ministry of the Word and brotherly encouragement we would serve to strengthen the churches as well as the hands of the pastors who serve them (Acts 15:41). Europe is a spiritual wasteland. Ministry is extremely difficult in that part of the world. Discouragement among ministers is rife. Pray for the health and growth of God’s kingdom in western Europe, that the church would be “strengthened in the faith, and ... increase in numbers daily” (Acts 15:5).