Home > Uncategorized > The high cost of doing evangelism without church planting.

The high cost of doing evangelism without church planting.

The heart of God centers on having His people from the four corners of the earth gathered unto Himself, eventually to sit with Him at the Marriage Supper of His Son!

Jesus shared this same burden and passion with His Father. When John the Baptist prophesied about Jesus, he proclaimed that “His winnowing fork is in His hand and He will gather His wheat into the barn” (Matthew 3:12). Probably the most well-known verse in the New Testament in this regard is Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem how often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings”(Mtt. 23:37; Luke 13:34).

Much of the spirit of both the Old and New Testament is the same: the gathering of God’s people into one fl ock, with one shepherd (Ezekiel 34, John 10).

See what Jesus said about those who do not gather with Him: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and He who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Matthew 12:30)! Jesus says that if, in our labors for Him, we are not gathering people, we are scattering them! As Eugene Peterson picks up on in The Message: “This is war, and there is no neutral ground – If you’re not helping, you’re making things worse!” (Luke 11:23)

As missionaries for the last 20 years, Maria and I have had to take this word from Jesus very seriously. We have been convicted by the Holy Spirit many times throughout the years for “making things worse” by not putting enough emphasis on gathering what was reaped. We, along with many other people with good intentions, stressed sowing and reaping… but at the high cost of keeping!

Often the problem is not our hearts, but our wineskins. Many people around the world who focus on evangelism at the expense of gathering people into churches do so by default, not by design. Many people do not feel comfortable (or confident) trying to reproduce “church as they know it.”

“Unknowingly, the missionary quite often goes carrying with him preconceived ideas about what a church looks like,” Dr. Ralph Winter explains (Missions Frontiers, Sept. 2003). “It is not necessary to impose an Americanstyle church. True, the great twentiethcentury missiologist McGavran taught missionaries that evangelism is not good enough. People won to Jesus Christ need accountable fellowship as well. Thus church planting becomes the almost universal rallying cry, largely in place of mere evangelism. However, what if our American idea of a church‚ is itself extra-biblical?… The so-called churches of the New Testament were worshipping households like that of Cornelius, Lydia, or Crispus. They were what are nowadays called house churches.”

The “house church model” unlocks church planting, empowering the most simple-minded of us to reproduce churches! Just like the original fishermen and tax-collectors: “and [they] understood that they were uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13).

The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

Many times the issue is the so called “follow-up” we leave to locals once our team has “blitzed” an area. I have searched long and hard for this in the NT and can only see something similar in Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Well, if you are “snatched away” from the area by the Holy Spirit, fi ne. Otherwise, I think the biblical mandate is to stay until believers have been gathered together (see Acts)!

Roland Allen, a missionary to China from another century, makes the point so simple I don’t see how we keep missing it, but we do:

“I believe that we ought to return to the apostolic practice and found [start] churches in every place where we make converts, churches equipped with all the divine grace and authority of Christian churches.” (The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, 1927).

These are great and mighty days to be about the Father’s business! Let’s begin now to start “thinking flocks instead of sheep” and follow the biblical principle of sowing, reaping and keeping!


Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 15, 2008 at 12:46 AM

    Blessings. Mr. Dave Holmbeck gave me a link to your blog. I enjoy it, quite a bit.

    I’ve always found it interesting that the apostle’s certainly spent significant time in evangelized cities (e.g. Paul’s ministry in Ephesus), but they also relied heavily upon the continued work of the Lord in their lives..

    For instance, after Paul had spent significant time with the Ephesians and had established Elders (Pastors) that more than likely had the same qualifications of 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1, Paul commended them to the God (Acts 20:32).

    I think you have really hit the nail on the head… and the nail needs to be in the coffin of American missionary methodology. Our concept of church, evangelism, missions, community, and much more needs to be challenged, reformed, and move forward.

    Count me in…

    Semper Reformanda!

  2. January 15, 2008 at 11:32 AM

    Good post Jeff. I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately. I want to be biblical in my approach and I want to be a church planter. Unfortunately, there is no verse that says go and plant churches. We are to go and make disciples. I think the problem lies in our understanding of the Gospel itself. Did Jesus die for me or for his church. The answer is both but the emphasis in Jesus teaching is on the Church. Most all of Jesus parables were for the Kingdom not for me personally. We are to make real disciples and real disciples love other disciples and care for them, worship with them, and work with them. If we make real disciples of Jesus Churches will happen.

  3. January 15, 2008 at 11:55 PM

    strider, many people use the argument that Jesus never planted a church but clearly His disciples did. Not to mention Paul and the rest of the 28 named apostles. Christ could not plant a church as He had not yet ascended! Moreover, just think of all the craziness unleashed in the world if Christ did plant a church!!

    Yours for the least in the kingdom. JJG

  4. January 16, 2008 at 1:15 AM

    Lately I’ve been really studying and contemplating what “church” is, because in a way that is similiar to your thoughts on missions, I feel we are “missing it,” so to speak.

    I mean, do we start a church or does church just kind of happen as believers become more like Jesus? As I study the Scriptures, I don’t see really a mandate to start a “church” in the way that we in the West seem to see “church” (e.g. Bulletins, projectors, lights, performance style worship, etc.). While Acts 2:42 does not explicitly state “this is how to start a church,” it certainly gives us some solid insight into what happened when the Messianic Jews repented, believed on (in) the Lord Jesus, were baptized, and received the Spirit. It appears that “church” (the assembly) just seemed to naturally happen (apostolic doctrine, fellowship, break of bread, prayer).

    I’m currently seeking the Lord to really show me how “church” is supposed to be. It has been a difficult road to travel, as it is not popular and demands more humility than we are used too. The congregation I serve is certainly being stretched, and I am doing my best to be biblical in both theory and in practice, yet I find that we have so many hurdles that he have to get over… we tend to view the Scriptures with our “modern glasses” on, and this often prevents us from getting to the foundation of apostolic doctrine – Christ in us.

    Praise the Lord for His mercy and may His Kingdom spread through our lives!

  5. January 16, 2008 at 6:44 PM

    Luke, Just a few days ago I woke up with this thought in my brain: “Form Follows Function”.

    Answer the question: “What is the function of a gathering of believers?” and you will answer what the form should look like. I concluded from the NT that there are 2 main features of a gathering of believers. 1. Edification 2. Participation. (see 1 Cor 11-14)

    Many times we have too much edification at the expense of participation. (e.g. the typical mega church with the gifted few teachers/prophets etc. who minister week in and week out to the masses, who are only asked to sing along and pay some money!)

    And the converse is true, we in the HC mvt. can have too much participation at the expense of edification, and we never really get further than a “glorified” AA type of home meeting…

    Let’s stretch out for Maximum Edification and Maximum Participation!!

    Yours for the Least in the Kingdom, JJG

  6. January 17, 2008 at 4:50 PM

    That’s interesting. In seminary, I have been told “form leads to function.” For instance, they say that the form of Acts 2:42 would be apostolic teaching and the function would be something like Sunday School or Bible Study. They say that form is the principle that should be behind the function, which is the practical way to carry things out.

    At any rate, I really like your summary of the two features of gatherings.

    I find that I have experienced exactly what you just described – either too much “edification” or too much “participation.” We’re currently trying to figure out how to function properly here at our congregation. I too would like to be stretched in order for “Maximum Edification and Maximum Participation!!”

    Lord help us!

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