For many years pastors and mission boards have seen the wisdom of sending first term missionaries to the ministry of an established missionary who already has been working in that country. It’s just common sense to have this younger missionary learn the proverbial ropes from an already established missionary and his ministry. Why would we think that a church-planting pastor here in the states would not benefit equally as his ministry cousin on the foreign field?
It has been reported that 50% of all new church plants die before their second year. One cause of this premature death may be our stubborn determination to do this work as the “Lone Ranger.” Must the Lone Ranger ride alone, or can we send a Tonto along to help him in the greatest cause on earth—church planting?
The Bible gives many patterns of teams planting churches and doing evangelistic work. Here are seven of them.
The Pattern of Jesus
“And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits.” Mark 6:7
“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” Luke 10:1
The Pattern of the Church in Jerusalem
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John.” Acts 8:14
“And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” Acts 8:25
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” Acts 11:19
“And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.” Acts 11:20
The Pattern of Barnabas
“Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.” Acts 11:22
You may look at this text and say that there is the exception to the rule of a team concept for church planting. It looks like the church sent Barnabas by himself to plant a church. But if you look carefully at the text, you will see that there was a team from Jerusalem (the scattered ones of Acts 8:1) already in Antioch when Barnabas arrived. So we could say that Barnabas is enlarging an already established church planting team and that the church in Jerusalem did not have to send anyone else with him.
You will not find one example in the New Testament of an individual planting a church by himself. The New Testament pattern is a “team concept” pattern.
“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul.” Acts 11:25
“And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.” Acts 12:25
The Pattern of the Holy Spirit
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Acts 13:2
The Pattern of the Antioch Church
“And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” Acts 14:17
The Pattern of the Jerusalem Church
“Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.” Acts 15:22
The Pattern of Both Paul and Barnabas
“And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus.” Acts 15:39
“And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.” Acts 15:40
“So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.” Acts 19:22
“And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.” Acts 20:4
What a powerful thought: “And there accompanied him into Asia.” In Acts 19:10 the Bible says they were ministering for two full years in Asia, and the men listed in Acts 20:4 were men on the “church planting team.”
I planted the Ambassador Baptist Church in Fresno as a Lone Ranger, but looking back I do not believe it was the best way to plant a church. Since that time I have helped plant many churches using the team effort method, and I can assure you that it is the best method.
Too often we use our mentors as our model rather than the manuscript of the Word of God.
The book of Acts teaches us that God raises up men and women in local churches to help that local church reproduce itself. Since the New Testament is dominated with a team concept in church planting, why would anybody want to risk failure doing it any other way?