Matt Carter teaches on the importance of church planting and how we all have a role to play. He uses Matthew 16:13-18
Last summer was my twenty-year high school reunion. I didn’t go, because my ten-year reunion was one of the worst experiences ever. It was so uncomfortable trying to explain what I was doing with my life. I said I was starting a church in Austin, Texas. Three different people responded the same way, “Really? You’re starting a church? I didn’t know you could start a church.”
The idea of church planting was a foreign concept to them. Churches were just buildings on corners somewhere that had just always existed. They didn’t have the concept of someone seeing a need in a city and moving there to start a new expression of the church to meet that need.
Church planting, the starting of a new expression of the church is a critical component of the Great Commission. Because of this, all of us are called to engage in it.
What is the Great Commission?
The Great Commission is the calling, the command, which Jesus gave to every believer. It was the command to make disciples of all the nations.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
If you’re a believer, this is the calling on your life.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “As a Christian you are either a missionary or you are an impostor.” In other words, there is no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t live on mission for the Lord. We’ve messed this up in America. Somewhere along the way we decided it’s okay for us to be believers and simply attend a sermon on Sunday, then go out and live our lives for ourselves. This is actually disobedience.
Every believer is called to engage in the Great Commission.
The building of the church is a secondary component of the Great Commission. It was never meant to be the job for just a handful of specialized Christians. That was never Jesus’ dream.
Who Do They Say That I Am?
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Matthew 16:13 (ESV)
Caesarea of Philippi was a huge, natural amphitheatre. There were carvings of past men, kings and kingdoms all over the walls. Jesus took the disciples there, where all these kingdoms had come before, and asked them who people said that He was.
14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Matthew 16:14 (ESV)
Elijah had come years before and was taken up into heaven. There was a prophecy in scripture that said he would come back. People thought Jesus was him.
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15 (ESV)
Peter was the first to speak.
16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 (ESV)
Peter said two things:
• Jesus is the Christ.
The word ‘Christ’ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word, ‘Messiah’. The Jews believed there would be a Messiah who would come and rid them of their enemies, destroy evil, forgive them of their sins and establish a new kingdom. Peter was saying he thought Jesus was the Messiah.
• Jesus is the Son of the Living God.
Peter was saying he thought Jesus was God.
17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:17 (ESV)
Jesus explained to Peter that he was blessed. He didn’t figure all of that out on his own. God revealed it to him.
Upon This Rock
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18 (ESV)
What does that mean? A lot of people have interpreted this verse by saying Jesus is going to build His church on the person of Peter. That is not what it’s saying.
The word ‘Peter’ is the Greek word for ‘little pebble’, a little piece of a rock. Jesus looked at Peter and said he was a little pebble. Then He goes on, “and upon this rock, I will build my church.” The word ‘rock’ in Greek is a completely different word. It means a mass of rock, a big rock. Jesus is literally saying Peter was a little pebble, a piece, of a really big rock. It’s on that really big rock that Jesus is going to build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
The big rock is made up of those who make the confession that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the Living God. All of us that make this confession are part of the rock. Jesus is going to take this group of people and build His church upon them.
He’s not building His church just through pastors. Pastors are also little pebbles, only parts of the really big rock. He is not going to use just church planters or full-time missionaries. He is going to use all of us who make the confession.
Is that your confession? Who do you say that Jesus is?
If you say that He is the Christ, the son of the living God, then He wants to build His church through you.
How does Jesus do that?
There are many ways, but we will address two specific ones:
• Personal Evangelism
• Church Planting
We know Jesus is not building a church on individuals. But He does use individuals to build His church.
A perfect example of this is the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch:
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:26-39 (ESV)
This is a great story, not because one guy came to Jesus, but because of what happened after that. In church history, one of the greatest group of churches came after the Ethiopian eunuch. It was not in Europe, Asia or Jerusalem. It was in Northern Africa. Even to this day, some of the greatest theologians in the history of the church have come from Africa. Men like Cyril, Tertullian, Cyprian and Augustine. We don’t know this for certain, but church history strongly suggests the Ethiopian eunuch was the first Christian convert to go back to Africa and begin to spread the Gospel. It’s possible an entire continent was changed through this one eunuch’s testimony.
This all happened, because Phillip allowed himself to be used by God and listened to the spirit. God used him by having him share the gospel with just one guy who wanted to hear it. To this day, God is still using individual pieces of the rock to build the big rock of the church.
You may not be the next apostle Paul, or change an entire continent and preach to thousands. But just like Phillip, you can be faithful when the Spirit calls you and share Jesus with one person. You never know what God’s going to do through that one person. He might just change the world.
If you’re a Christian, then a church planter has directly impacted your walk with Jesus.
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Acts 11:19-26 (ESV)
This is the first recorded church planting movement in history. The church was meeting in Jerusalem after the ascension of Christ. Paul, who was still Saul at that time, had been persecuting Christians. They got a hold of Stephen and were going to stone him. Saul was watching this, looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. After that persecution the church scattered. They went to all sorts of places. When they got to Antioch they began preaching. Remember that these were just normal people on mission for God.
This was how Christianity spread to all the earth. Normal, everyday people went to some place and began telling others about Jesus. People got saved and the church began to form.
From Antioch, people left for Turkey and Africa where churches were formed. From Turkey and Africa they went to Europe. From Europe they came to the American colonies where churches were formed. In 1856, a man named W. Milborn left Ohio to plant a church in Athens, Texas. One hundred and twenty four years later, a little punk kid would hear the gospel for the first time and Jesus captured his heart. Twenty years later, that same little kid moved to Austin, Texas and planted the Austin Stone Community Church, where you’re sitting right now.
For all believers, this is the story of our lives. Every single one of us, who confess that Jesus is the Christ, can trace our spiritual lineage back to a person who raised their hand and said, “Yes, I will go where you are calling me Lord, share the gospel and start the church.”
You have been directly impacted by church planting. Church planting is not Plan B of the Great Commission.
Have you ever thought about how you could engage in building the church?
There are a couple of ways you can do it:
• Give financially.
When I started the church, we were poor. We had five thousand dollars in the bank to cover everything. We were praying like crazy God would provide for us. We had dinner one night with a business guy. We shared the vision for the Austin Stone with him. At the end of the night, he wrote a check and handed it to us. We walked out the door and got in the car. We pulled the check out and saw that he had given us $100,000. We cried like little girls. We knew that was the Lord. That check funded the building we met in for a year, our salaries, everything.
When you think about all the people who have or will hear about Jesus through the people that have been to this church, you can trace it all back to this one guy who was faithful to sacrifice and be generous. I would say that guy made a difference.
• Join a Church Planting team.
Maybe God wants to use you to be a part of a church planting team in another city. I think a lot of you ought to go do that. Yes, I’m telling people to leave my church. You will never know their names, but there are people who served for months and gave their time to make this church happen. New church plants need people like you to make things happen.
• Plant a church.
You may not be the guy that preaches. But God may give you a calling to plant a church. He could be calling you to start a home church in some other city. Just like W. Milburn.
Here is how you know He’s calling you to this...if you can’t stop thinking about it for the next six months. If He calls you, let us know and we’ll help you any way we can. But make sure your answer is ‘yes’!
“Upon this rock I will build my church.” If that is your confession, we have work to do.