Judy and I have been in Greece for the last 4 weeks. We have visited the places where Paul first planted churches in Europe – Philippi, Thessaloniki and Corinth. (Acts 16:6-17:15; 18:1-18) When in Athens I have taken my early morning walks around the Acropolis, most mornings pausing to reflect and pray on Mars Hill – where the apostle Paul met the ‘people’s assembly’ (the Areopagus) and spoke of the risen Christ. (Acts 17:6-34)
There are many things that stand out in the stories of Paul’s church planting in these places –
# He planted quickly. Maybe a month in the pagan Philippi, and he had planted two churches. Three weekends in Thessaloniki, and a church was planted.
# He worked within relational streams. In Philippi he planted a church in the household (oikos) of Lydia and then in the jailer’s home; in Corinth, in the homes of Aquila and Priscilla, Titius Justus, and Crispus the synagogue ruler.
# He planted multiple churches in close proximity. Two in Philippi – and perhaps 5 or 6 in Corinth and its port city, Cenchrea.
# He planted on ‘the paths of life’ – in homes. All churches mentioned in the New Testament met in homes. The architecture of the time suggests churches of 20-25 people, maybe up to 45 in some wealthy Corinthian homes.
# He connected with people in market-places (he was a tent-maker) and synagogues (if there was one). He shared the good news of Jesus with tradespeople, religious leaders, philosophers and civic leaders.
# He knew the value of relating to ‘migrant people’ – who could take the gospel into their relational streams. Lydia was an Asian (from Thyatira) in Europe; Aquila and Priscilla had moved from Rome to Corinth in Greece.
# He knew what his message was! Jesus was ‘the anointed One’ – the Christ. He had come to suffer and die – and he had risen, breaking the power of sin and the grave. Paul’s message was simple and direct.
Reflect on what Paul was doing – and how he did it. We often make things very complicated. He worked with a simple model – patterned on the life and instructions of Jesus. It was easily reproducible.
Perhaps you could start a mission-shaped faith group (church) for your friends or family members, even in your home. Maybe some who have never known Jesus – or perhaps some who no longer connect to complex forms of performance church, could come to know Jesus Christ! Since the last NEWS, a denominational-ministry leader has written: ‘I’ve started a group that meets in our house on a Tuesday night. It’s some (church) kids, plus unchurched friends. We’re praying for their friends and amazingly they’re coming in the door.’
Why not give it a go? Below are some steps to start a new faith group. Let me know what you are trying – and how these ideas work for you.
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS – 13 June 2011
First Steps to start a New Faith Group …
For ideas and process, download the conversation guide: Planting Churches that Multiply (April 2011) from www.newchurchlife.com – and with a few friends start working through the ideas. With this, read through the book of Acts in the New Testament and learn to pray conversationally. This way of praying is so natural and refreshing. You can download a short article on the key ideas from www.newchurchlife.com. See where the Holy Spirit leads. Then …
1. Connect with people – through eating with and listening to them. Don’t wait another week. Find an opportunity to eat with an unchurched family member, neighbor, friend – and listen to them. You are on your way!
2. Gather a small group of family or friends: Perhaps your teenage or adult kids who no longer connect with church, but they would join you for a meal at home or cafe; maybe 2 or 3 friends!
3. Print a bookmark with the five questions (1) anything new? (2) anything we don’t like (3) anything we don’t understand? (4) anything we will apply to our lives? (5) anything we will share with another this week & with whom?
4. Read the Gospel of Mark together – one story or chapter at a time, using the bookmark questions for discussion.
5. Pray conversationally.
LIVE St Austell – reaching young adults! Working from a community house (also their home), planters Steve and Jena Hulbert have been joined by Luke and Jake – to establish a new faith community in St Austell (England). Building on the witness of other teams before them, they have established a widening network of friends in the community. Jake, an American college student, is amazed at the way in which they have been able to connect with so many young people simply by playing basketball in the park. Teams have formed – which play in tournaments of Christian clubs across the south of England, connecting unchurched kids with Christians. The Surfing Club appeals to others. Community concerts – with guest artists, attract significant numbers; involvement in the St Austell Torch Light Festival increases their profile in the town. Monday evenings – young adults drop in to pray conversationally; Wednesday Movie Nights have proven very popular as an environment to ‘hang out to talk’; Friday nights – small groups explore life issues; and Saturdays – a community lunch appeals! The meal evolves into worship – singing, Bible reading and discussion.
Home Church – home for homeless and a-risk youth: David and Wendy work with homeless and at risk youth in the Gippsland (east of Melbourne) building relationships – and a safe place for them to drop in to talk. David grew up in this area and so is well known in the local community. They have a home church that includes many of these youth. David has a vision to expand and grow the missional church in his area.
Do what you have a passion for! Danny loves music. At the Basingstock (England) re-plant Danny has launched a music school for children. Each week there are guitar classes – and singings groups have formed. ‘Young people feel they can be a part of it,’ says Danny’s pastor, Sinisa. ‘People come to be involved in something they enjoy – something that is relevant to them!’
Simple Church on Mount Snowdonia! Simple Church Walthamstow invited their friends and acquaintances to join them for a weekend trip to Mount Snowdonia, Wales. 23 people went on the trip – and the majority were unchurched friends of the ‘core four’ of the Simple Church. ‘We had a fantastic weather, great sharing and deeper friendships were formed,’ reports Laura, one of the core members. ‘Since the trip all those all have been actively keeping in touch – and another trip is planned for the autumn!’
Equipping & Resources …
Connecting with Communities: Numerous church planting teams have shared their ideas on connecting with their communities – to build relationships with a circle of people beyond their immediate friends: fitness for fun groups, walking clubs, sponsoring a Health Expo – offering expert health assessments and advice to citizens for free, street bands, busking, community banquets – with a dynamic featured speaker relating faith to life, ‘Community’s Got Talent’ nights, Bible reading seminars (work for a few), drug and alcohol rehabilitation support programs (needing professional personnel – which some members of planting teams are skilled in!), sports clubs, and Matthew Parties! (Share what you are doing to connect with your community!)
Videos of Missional Communities: Have you checked out these 3 short videos that demonstrate missional community life http://www.vergenetwork.org/films/ (shared by Anthony WagenerSmith)?
For more resources go to www.newchurchlife.com
Thank you for your prayers for veteran planter, Olga Murga. Olga passed away with confidence in eternity and resurrection. Those of us who knew her were inspired by her courage and faithfulness in planting church after church in some most difficult countries. We continue to pray for her husband Michael – who has also given many years to cultivating church plants.
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS