By Pastor Dave Bruskas
The pattern of biblical church planting is that existing churches plant new churches. Jesus provides his church with a clear authority structure so that individual calls to church plant may be evaluated and affirmed by previously confirmed leaders (apostles and elders).
This principle is illustrated in the storyline of the Book of Acts. Jesus authorizes his Apostles to plant the first church in Jerusalem to be a base of global mission after they are filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:8: 2:1-47). In Acts 8, Philip preaches the gospel effectively during the persecution and scattering of the Jerusalem church in Samaria. Philip had been previously affirmed both by the church as a whole and its senior leaders (Acts 6:1-7). In Acts 9, Saul (Paul), the greatest missionary the world has ever known, is converted from a persecutor of the church to a planter of churches. The leaders of the Jerusalem church confirm Paul’s calling (Acts 9:26-31). In Acts 11, the church at Antioch takes shape, born out of the Jerusalem persecution. A man named Barnabas was sent by the Jerusalem church to authenticate and lead this new church (Acts 11:19-26). He brought Paul, and together they formed a dynamic duo that would plant churches all over the place. In Acts 13:1-4, Paul and Barnabas were called directly by the Holy Spirit on mission to launch new churches. The church prayed and fasted and affirmed their calling through the laying on of hands by other leaders at Antioch.
Paul’s missionary ministry of planting churches forms the rest of the story of Acts. He preaches the gospel in every city, plants new faith communities called churches, and remains until approved elders are in place to shepherd the new work going forward (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). Paul also remained under the authority of the church in Jerusalem that had first sent him out (Acts 15:6-35). This process of church planting is undeniable. Jesus calls out missionaries to start churches, missionaries are confirmed and sent by existing church leadership, and new works are completed once previously confirmed leaders install new leaders. No one ever launches a church based on his individual and subjective sense of calling in the Scripture apart from the confirmation of existing leaders. This is Jesus’ gracious way of protecting both leaders and followers.