Starting a Conversation About Church Planting

Read Titus 1:5.

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—…”

 

First things first: Paul calls on Titus, a church-planter in Crete, to do what Paul has done wherever he visited. Titus must put whatever “remained” into order – most likely referring to the believers still following Jesus since the island was first evangelized (perhaps by the Cretan Jews returning from Pentecost! Titus 2:11). How will Titus do that? He’ll raise up faithful elders in every town to shepherd the churches (see 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:17-38). This is no small task.

 

Now you might ask: Why focus on order in the new churches, Paul? First, make sure you’re thinking sanely about what the church is. To Paul and the earliest Christians, the church is not a building. I say it again: The church is not a building! She is the community of Jesus-followers who are baptized into Jesus’ death, nourished by His body and blood, and commissioned to make disciples of Jesus in their homes and neighborhoods. Paul called upon Titus to raise up elder-shepherds, because the church is Jesus’ Plan A for making disciples.

 

When Jesus called his disciples to make disciples in Matthew 28:19, He didn’t call them to merely make isolated individual Christians! He called them to make a plurality of disciples who would be baptized into the community of the redeemed. This certainly seems to be how the apostles took the command. After the day of Pentecost, those Jews who were cut to the heart by Peter’s Gospel preaching resulted not in 3,000 isolated souls returning to their individualistic lives, but in the formation of Gospel communities devoted to learning the apostles’ teaching together, to fellowship with one another, to taking the Lord’s Supper and sharing a common meal, to prayer, to mutual care and sacrificial love for the good of their brothers and sisters (see Acts 2:38-47). This church community was like nothing the world had ever seen, and it’s no surprise that the Lord was adding to their number day by day (Acts 2:47). Folks were learning a new way to be human together, to love with Christ’s love— the very love they had received as they believed the good news of Christ’s saving death and resurrection! The church community was a disciple-making community drawing her neighbors to Jesus. But such a community has to have order.

 

The redeemed community is still composed of sinners, not only fallen, but also finite and feeble, and she is intentionally open to her neighbors who bring ever more fallenness and need to the local community. So the church needs multiple leaders (the leaders are fallen and finite, too, after all!) who are faithful, wise, gentle, and strong to shepherd her amidst false teachings, mission opportunities, persecution, temptations, sin, and all the struggles of ordinary life. This leadership was to rest among the elders or overseers (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7; also, Ephesians 20:17 & 28 where Paul interchangeably refers to the Ephesian church leaders as elders and overseers respectively. The terms refer to the same office).

 

Now, back to Titus 1:5. Paul called on Titus to order the believers who remained from previous evangelistic efforts into churches led by multiple elders, so that the Great Commission could be fulfilled in Crete and beyond! What does this have to do with us?

 

We have the same mission as the Cretan church: To make disciples of all nations! We will do that by preaching the gospel, welcoming, baptizing, and obeying what Jesus commanded: Love God and love your neighbors. And as we go about this, we raise up elders to pray and guide us, to teach us the Scriptures, to hold the teaching elder(s) (That’s me! See 1 Timothy 5:17; Ephesians 4:11) accountable… to shepherd the flock of God! As we vote to approve elders this month, please pray for these men.

 

But what happens when we see a group of Jesus followers from Severance come to Jesus through our ministry and they share Jesus where they are? Suddenly, we may need to raise up elders for a church plant! Or what happens if while we’re praying and worshipping God, he puts a burden in some of our hearts for Santa Fe, New Mexico, or Saint Petersburg, Russia (see Acts 13:1-3)? We continue to pray, we obey, and we go. We send a church-planter like Titus to evangelize and raise up elders wherever the Holy Spirit sends us, and ideally, we send him with a team.

 

Here's where I want to begin this conversation: What is your part in this vision of Great Commission church multiplication? If Faith Church Loveland is your home and your heart-cry is to see our city come to know the Lord Jesus, then it sounds like you’re in the right spot. Keep serving and using your gifts to build up our body and share Jesus right here where you are. Or perhaps you have a different community on your mind, whether a community in Loveland that our English-speaking church isn’t reaching, a community in our region, or perhaps one on the other side of the globe with little access to the Gospel. Pray about this community some more, and consider sharing the prayer with me or one of our elders, or our World Outreach Committee so we can join in that prayer with you and consider how the Lord might be sending us as a disciple-making family.

 

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please come talk to me. I’m excited to have this conversation with you in the coming year, and I look forward to this talk turning into walk, and then who knows what the Lord will do