The Bible and Church Planting Proposition: We should provide regular supervision and support for the young churches we have started.
Young churches are different from mature ones, just as young children are different from adults. The apostle Paul recognized that. He chided the young Galatian churches with a simple message about the sufficiency of God's grace for salvation. To the more mature church at Rome he spoke of
Paul also cared for the young churches that he had helped to start. He loved, to visit them (Acts 15:36; 18:23), When he could not go himself, he sent trusted' men to do the work of encouraging and directing (Acts 19:22; Titus 1:5). He routinely received reports from them (Galatians 1:6; Colossians 1:7), and his letters show that he actively coached and encouraged them as they developed.
Young churches have special problems that set them apart from mature ones:
- The body is not mature. Before Christ has been fully formed in them, they often make poor decisions and lack wisdom and unity.
- Leaders are not in place. Sometimes the only ones ready to lead are new believers and those who want to "lord it over others."
- Resources are not developed. The small size of the group and the fact that many have not yet been challenged with the blessing and importance of tithing, often mean that finances are insufficient.
In the face of these obstacles, the apostle Paul provided special supervision and support systems for young churches. They received counsel, visits, and financial assistance from other believers. And as Paul's letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians indicate, he spoke the truth to them in love. Therefore:
- We should provide supervision for our young churches. They need visits from wise and experienced elders to bring God's perspective into difficult and rapidly changing circumstances. Young churches need the accountability of reporting on their work and knowing that someone is watching and caring. And they need experienced coaching and prodding.
- We should provide support for our young churches. Prayer is the most important aspect of church planting. Whenever Paul met with believers, he shared what God was doing among the new churches, thereby building a strong prayer base for their work. Encouragement is often a scarce commodity in the life of a young church. But just as young children need to be praised and encouraged as they mature, so do young churches. They need to be given ideas and instruction in careful doses. Finances also play a key role in a young church's development. It takes wisdom to know how to support a young church in a way that will encourage its ultimate financial independence. And, like children, as churches mature into adulthood they must learn to live on their own. Our Lord Jesus promised that his church would never perish, but he did not guarantee that, every congregation would survive.
The Bible is our reference book for church planting principles and methods. So let's be sure we're supervising and supporting our young bodies of believers in a biblically wise and effective way.