Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


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The New Testament Church Model

  • Jim Townsley
  • Dec 30, 2006

The model for church planting was established in Jerusalem and Antioch in the first century churches. These churches were following the commission given in Acts 1:8, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." This same commission applies to all churches from then until the present. Every preacher should carefully study and follow the procedures as well as the doctrines of the early church.

The pattern of evangelism commanded by our Savior was to preach the gospel to Jerusalem first, followed by Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth. However, the Jerusalem church initially failed to follow this precise formula. The church in Jerusalem grew to thousands of members while the rest of the world remained unevangelized. God forced the Jerusalem church to obey the great commission by allowing severe persecution to scatter the believing supporters.

As a result of the scattering of the Jerusalem church, bodies of believers began to emerge in neighboring towns. One of these newly formed churches was in Antioch of Syria. This young church at Antioch established a pattern of church planting that is an example for us today. Notice some of the methods of this church.

1. They purposely sent out their best leaders to start churches in the Mediterranean region.

2. They prayed and fasted for God's leading.

3. They approved of and laid hands on Paul and Barnabas.

4. They sent out these men with their blessing and support.

5. These church planters returned to their supporting church and reported of their progress.

The result from following this pattern was the establishment of hundreds of churches. Though the early churches faced significant persecution and hardship, churches were planted and souls were saved. The results of church planting were so significant that these men were attributed to have turned the world upside down. "And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also" - Acts 17:6

Unfortunately today, many churches have no specific philosophy of church planting. Supporting a few missionaries on a monthly basis falls far short of the Antioch pattern. Our Lord made it clear; we should be praying for laborers to enter the harvest. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." - Matthew 9:38 We should be training and sending out our best leaders to start churches. It is a shame that many churches never produce a single church planter or missionary! In addition, we should be supporting them financially as well as with prayer. It is difficult for men who live in the church belt to recognize that the majority of Americans are unevangelized. Where is our vision to start churches?

Several Christian leaders can confirm that there are about thirteen to fourteen thousand independent Baptist churches in America. Though the population has increased over the last forty years, the number of churches has remained about the same. There has been virtually no growth. Not only has there been no increase in the number of churches, the strength and vitality of the churches has diminished. Consider that there are less than one percent of IBF churches in America that will have over two hundred in attendance on a Wednesday night. Also, there are less than one tenth of one percent of our churches that average over one thousand in attendance. Both of these statistics reveal a declining trend of church growth.

Christians must wake up to the reality of our failure. The problem stems from a lack of understanding and applying Scripture. The Bible indicates that churches are living organisms. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 it says, "For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" Organisms reproduce after their kind. Failure to reproduce results in death. If our fundamental churches continue to decline, it will be because of our failure to follow the example of the early churches.

Every church family must develop a plan to start churches in needy areas. If five thousand of our thirteen thousand churches determined to start a church every five years, within a few years we could have eighty thousand fundamental churches. This kind of growth is possible even today. This was the pattern of the early New Testament churches and it has been repeated throughout history. Within three generations five thousand churches were started from one single church in Sandy Creek, North Carolina.

Can this be repeated today? Absolutely, but we must get back to the Antioch example if we are to be successful in this great endeavor.