February 26, 2024
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Church planting

Editor’s note: David and Kathy North planted multiple churches with TEAM for 33 years in various-sized cities in the Philippines. In their first few years in the Philippines, the Norths and I (Ken Guenther) served on the same church planting team in Baliwag, Bulacan. David is currently the Church Planting Coordinator for TEAM’s international network of church planters and disciple makers. The Norths are involved in Coaching, Training, Mentoring and encouraging front line workers. These blog posts were copied with permission from TEAM’s Church Planting Blog, Go and Plant.

Longing for help

For years as a young church planter, I longed for outside guidance and input about my efforts to plant churches. From time to time, an experienced church planter would speak even just a few words into my ministry and it would give me the new thoughts and direction I needed.

I also longed for practical help that would enable me to move ahead and be more effective as I faced the different phases or aspects of planting a church:

  • Connecting
  • Winning
  • Discipling
  • Gathering and Forming
  • Equipping
  • Multiplying

I knew others had been down this road before and I wished there was a way for me to gain from their learnings without having to figure everything out again for myself.

Much of my growth and learning came from seeking out seminars and workshops, and from seeing what others were doing. And I thank the Lord, especially, for the one year an experienced missionary from another mission organization gave me an on-field internship. The things I learned there set the course for the rest of my 33 years of planting churches.

In the blog posts in this series, I would like to offer helpful hints and useful approaches and tools and processes that might hopefully come at just the right time for some of our workers. Hopefully, they will ignite new visions of possibilities as we continue the Great Commission.

Abiding in Christ

But even as we want to learn tools, methods, systems and processes, we need to begin with the thing that is most important, in fact indispensable, if we want to be fruitful in our work. What did Jesus say was that one indispensable practice for fruitfulness?

Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5

“You can do nothing?” Doesn’t that seem extreme? After all, I can plan outreaches and training. I can connect with people. I can design a disciple-making flow plan for my church. But Jesus says here that these efforts only become spiritually fruitful if they are done together with Him, together with His Spirit in us. Jesus didn’t say you will be fruitful “if you witness a lot.” He didn’t say, “if you find a good location,” or “if you develop the right strategy.” Instead, he said that abiding with Him, walking with Him closely in dependence and loving obedience, is the indispensable element to fruitfulness. 

The wind of the Spirit

Maybe you have had the experience I have had. I have used the same methods and the same approach in one town that I used in another town nearby. But the results were completely different. Some individuals respond to a Gospel presentation completely differently than the next person. These daily experiences should remind us that our methods and plans are useless unless the Lord infuses them with His life-changing power. The important thing is just to walk closely with God and follow Him, learning to listen to His Spirit and abiding in His love. I’ve heard this walk described as “constant, conscious communion with Christ.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that plans and strategies aren’t important. They are, and they can make a big difference in our effectiveness. But Jesus reminds us that they are all empty apart from our having a real walk with Him and without the wind of the Spirit blowing (Acts 1:8). That’s why right at the beginning of the mission of the church, Jesus told his disciples not to get started yet. Instead he told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit came (Acts 1:4,5). But in Acts 1:8, he told them to start in Jerusalem and go to the whole world. Without the Holy Spirit, don’t go! With the Holy Spirit, go! 

The fruitfulness we long for in ministry comes from abiding in Christ through the Holy Spirit and doing the things the Holy Spirit leads and empowers. 

Raising the sails

Chris Galanos, in his book “From Megachurch to Multiplication,” tells the story of how he transitioned his well-organized megachurch with all its big programs into a movement of disciple-makers. He talks of how he had to change the things he was doing in the megachurch in order to do the things that are necessary for a disciple-making movement to happen. He called these essential practices “The Sails”. The sails are what we need in order to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit when the wind blows. These “Sails” are:

  1. Focus on God’s Word
  2. Multiply Extraordinary Prayer
  3. Go Out Among the Lost
  4. See Groups Started
  5. Cast Vision
  6. Train Believers
  7. Ongoing Coaching

But the wind must blow

These are all the necessary elements found present in Disciple-Making Movements. They are all things we need to have in place in order to see a movement of disciple-making happen. Galanos points out that you can have a great boat and beautiful sails raised up on a strong mast. But if the wind doesn’t blow, the boat isn’t going anywhere, at least not anywhere you want it to go. The wind is the Holy Spirit who causes people to be born again (John 3:8). He is the one who gives us power for witness and ministry (Acts 1:4-8).

At the same time, Galanos reminds us that sails are important and if we fail to raise the sails, we will not catch the wind of the Spirit when He decides to blow. So, we will be looking in these blog posts at the sails or practices that can enable us to catch the wind when God is at work. But we want to start with recognizing that your personal walk with God in love, communion and obedience must be at the heart of everything you do, personally and as a ministry team.

Learning to abide

Since this is true, how is your walk with God? How are you and your team members doing in this area? Could it be described as abiding in Christ? If not, what steps could you take to focus more on Him and your walk with Him each day, individually and as a team?

abiding

Here are some things that many have found helpful in practicing an abiding relationship with Christ. 

  • Spending time in the Word and prayer daily, listening and talking with God
  • Obedience to the Word and the Spirit in everything
  • Learning to talk to God about everything throughout the day
  • Praying on the spot with people and for needs
  • Depending on God for everything and thanking God for everything that happens
  • Preceding every effort or plan whether small or great with dependent, believing prayer
  • Praying often and regularly with your ministry team
  • Always verbally giving God credit for any good result
  • Daily devotions together as a couple
  • Sharing communion frequently with other believers

Can you think of other things that have helped you abide in Christ?

What one thing do you think would make the biggest difference in increasing your close, dependent walk with God?

Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

This blog post was originally posted to the TEAM church planting blog at Abiding in Christ – Laying the Right Foundation (goandplant.com).

Series NavigationDisciple-Making Starts with Evangelism >>

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