I believe that Jesus was the first church planter. I realize that most evangelicals refer to the Day of Pentecost as the “birthday of the church,” but the church was really born as Jesus began gathering His earliest disciples, and the plan and strategy for the church had been in existence for eternity already.
Jesus gathered a few guys with him at the beginning of His ministry and poured Himself into them. He would often address large throngs, but would then retreat into quiet places to instruct the earliest leaders of the church. Then, before He ascended back to the Father’s side, Jesus commissioned His ragtag collection of disciples to carry the gospel everywhere and change the entire world.
We would have come up with a different plan, and our plan probably would have involved committees. We would hire experts and screen the applicants thoroughly so as to weed out any mediocre talent. But Jesus collected together a bunch of guys who didn’t make a lot of sense together and then told them, “I will build my church.”
I have what I believe to be a well-defined ecclesiology (theology of the church) that is rooted in the New Testament and connects with various movements throughout the last 20 centuries. Rather than identifying with Catholicism or the Magisterial Reformers, I tend to identify more with the Anabaptists, Waldenses and other similar (often underground) groups. Essentially, I believe …
- Jesus started the church Himself. Peter and the apostles merely led it forward.
- The emphasis in the New Testament is on the local, visible church and not the universal, invisible church.
- The church is theocratic (not democratic), with Jesus as its Head and pastors/elders/bishops as its overseers and undershepherds.
- Even in the darkest of ages, there have always been churches that were true to their biblical roots.
- There will be churches that are true to their roots until Jesus comes again.
- The church is an assembly of baptized believers in Jesus Christ.
- The church must be faithful in its theology and fruitful in its ministry.
And, like Bill Hybels, I believe …
The local church is the hope of the world.
There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right.
Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited.
It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned.
It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness.