I’m headed to Denver, CO this morning for Vision Trip #2 and will spend the week talking to planters and pastors about church planting in the area. The main purpose of this trip is to determine the specific town or suburb to which God is calling us to plant a church. I’ll try to keep everyone up to date throughout the week.
The first few verses of Acts 13 are on my mind this morning: “While [the church in Antioch was] worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went…”
I can’t say that I completely understand the experience that the believers in Antioch had here. What does it mean that “the Holy Spirit said”? I’ve certainly had confident thoughts and strong feelings after seeking the Lord before, and maybe these were the Holy Spirit speaking, but, honestly, I’m not sure. However there is plenty in this passage that is quite clear.
1. Barnabas and Saul were sent by a local church.
These men did not decide on their own that a missionary journey was a good idea. They were operating in the God-ordained context of the local church, and this church was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as well as joyful in sending them out.
In the case of seeking God’s will, the local church provides the best context for the process of discernment. When believers are under the authority of Christ, His Word, and the leadership, and when they are in discipleship relationships with each other, a host of possible errors are avoided: our feelings are not given free reign, our personal interpretations of Scripture (and experience!) are checked, and wisdom is found in a company of godly counselors.
I am thankful beyond words to also be part of a church that is both open to God’s direction and joyful in sending our church plant team to Denver. The wisdom I receive daily from conversations with brothers and sisters in Christ is an integral part of the planting process. And while I realize that only a few of these dear friends will ultimately end joining our team, the whole church has been overwhelmingly encouraging and supportive. In this way, everyone at Christ Baptist is a part of the Denver church plant.
I presented our church plant prospectus to Christ Baptist during the Sunday School hour yesterday morning, and the response was both exciting and humbling. Who am I to be blessed with the opportunity to plant a new church? Like the Saul of Acts 13, I feel like the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). It is only by God’s grace that I am a part of Christ Baptist or this plant, and no one is more of aware of that fact than me.
2. Barnabas and Saul were set apart while worshiping.
The church of Antioch was doing what it was designed to do – giving God the glory He is due. And it was during this worship that the Holy Spirit chose to set apart two for His mission – which is to bring more worshipers unto Himself. There is an implicit cycle here: God’s people worship, they are then compelled to invite others to join in this worship, so they go and make disciples, more worshipers are added to the church, and the cycle starts all over again.
This is cycle is the heart of church planting.
God desires people from every tribe, nation, and tongue to worship Him. As more and more are gathered into the church, He receives great glory, and His people experience great joy! I know from personal experience the unparalleled joy of seeing a person who was once lost now worshiping God; and I anticipate with great joy seeing a room full of such worshipers as a part of our church plant one day.
3. Seeking God’s will involves sacrifice.
Most of us realize that following Jesus requires sacrifice, but this passage seems to indicate that even seeking God’s will for how we should follow Jesus requires sacrifice. Twice in Acts 13:1-3 the point is made that the church was corporately fasting. A dear friend and professor of mine says that fasting is: “Reminding our flesh who’s boss. It is not in charge. Christ is.” So you can probably see why fasting is often (but not always!) tied to seeking God’s will. Fasting is about restraining our fleshly will and exercising self-control in effort to give God control.
I have asked everyone at Christ Baptist who is able and willing to join me in fasting from the Friday, February 10, at 6 PM through the following day at 6 PM. If this time slot doesn’t work for you, pick another one. The encouragement for me is in knowing that we, like the church in Antioch, are in this thing together. The purpose is, if God has a particular town or suburb in mind in which He wants us to plant this church, He would make that abundantly clear. Or, if He is simply saying, “The need is great everywhere, take your pick,” we would be confident to do this as well.
Thank you so much for joining me on this church planting journey. I’ll try to post an update each day of the vision trip.