The money-sucking machine known as “church planting” has been unveiled and it has left a bad taste in the mouth of many among the free grace community. I’ve spent many hours in the Word trying to strip the modern church planting movement back to its bare bones, to its roots in the first century and this is what I’ve found.
Wherever the apostles went, they shared the Good News of God’s grace to all who might believe it. Then there is a common occurence of gathering together those who believe. We see examples of this throughout the book of Acts.
Nowhere in this early church plant did anyone say, “Before we share God’s grace and gather people together, we need to raise $100,000.” The Spirit of God led them to share the Good News and gather believers together. Any money that was given was done so voluntarily in the midst of a great persecution of this young church. (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37)
So it seems simple really — starting churches with no money.
At its roots, church planting as seen in Scripture is the most fruitful way to spread and reproduce grace. We will look at his concept in a moment. But first let’s strip the modern form of church planting down to its first century roots.
The First-Century Church
In Acts chapter 13, verses 1-4 the church recognizes, equips, affirms, and sends out some of the first church planters. Paul and Barnabas were at the Antioch church being discipled equipped, and teaching what they learned, when the leaders of the Antioch church recognized the call by God for them to be sent out. The leaders laid hands on them as a way of identifying with and affirming the mission God called them to.
After Paul and Barnabas were sent out, they made connections. The Holy Spirit directed them where and to whom they would preach and teach (13:16-16; 14:1). They shared the Good News (13:17ff;16:31) and some believed (13:48; 16:14-15). Then they would gather the believers together (13:43-44;20:7-8). The believers that were gathered were discipled and equipped (14:21-22;15:41). Some were recognized as leaders and affirmed (14:23). Paul provided ongoing coaching of these newly appointed leaders so they would grow both in the Lord and as elders (15:36;18:23). In Acts 19:20, we see that this was a church planting movement in a particular region.
Duplicating The First-Century Church Today
We can continue this model today. Churches can recognize, equip and send families out to start home grace groups to reproduce others to go out and start other grace groups.
A modern-day church planting movement in a particular region can be started by a free grace church who simply sends out families to share God’s grace and then gather those who believe in their homes or in a public location (2:46). A believer could very easily hold a small group meeting in their home and use the many free grace materials available by the authors of the gracelings blog and the many ministries they represent. (Each of the authors on this blog site can be found in the about page. There you will find links to the many study and teaching materials available to use in a small group or home church study.)
Starting grace groups in homes is inexpensive and does not require large amounts of funding to make it work. However, groups don’t have to only meet in homes. There are innumerable low-cost options for meeting spaces. Existing churches have fellowship halls and other rooms they may let groups use, sometimes for free or a small love offering. One group I know uses a church fellowship hall on Sunday mornings. Another uses a Seventh Day Adventist building on Sunday morning (since Seventh Day Adventists meet on Saturdays and their building is vacant on Sunday). Another meets in the park in the good weather months and in a community center in the colder months. Others meet in a firehouse, a coffee shop, even a bar, before it opens for business.
The point is it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and the power of the Holy Spirit using word of mouth is usually all the advertisement you need. Not to mention…social media networking is free! First century church planting could be done with little to no money. Today, it can be the same way.
The Importance of Church-Planting Today
So let me pose a question: Why is church planting so important to the free grace movement? When a group of believers gets together because the Spirit is leading them to share the free grace message with others and gather them together, more people experience the freedom of God’s grace and they can be discipled to reproduce grace. In this way, though not the only way, the free grace message is spread.
So, I’m not saying that a church or individual shouldn’t invest money into church planting. Not at all. In fact, we see that sometimes Paul worked as a tentmaker to be a church planter (18:3) and other times he was supported (Phil. 4:10-20). Paul taught his new churches that they should support church planters, pastors, and teachers (Gal.6:6; 1 Tim.5:18). Paul even asked the church in Rome to support both himself and other laborers of the Good News (Rom.15:20-24; 16:12).
My point is, the modern church planting movement would have you believe that putting up large amounts of money is the only way a church can be planted. However, if we follow the model of the first century church, we clearly see that that isn’t true at all. Even churches with limited budgets can make great strides in reproducing grace.
There are free grace church planting movements happening all over the world as I write this, and a free grace church planting movement can start right in your region with little or no money. Pray about your free grace church starting a church planting movement in your region. Or maybe pray about starting a free grace group of your own.