Paul was a man on the move, like a gospel Navy Seal, he would infiltrate a culture, and with deadly efficiency, complete his objective, nail his target, and he was gone with a splash as he moved on to the next one. The glass slipper of a mega church would never have fit the travel worn soles of the apostle’s blistered and calloused feet. Paul would rather plant churches “where Christ has not been named” than to stay in on spot and show off the prowess of his preaching from the pulpit. Paul was a front-liner. He was down-and-dirty in the trenches. If you’re called to a church planting core team, then this is what you’ve been called to. There will be shrapnel embedded in your body, and mud under your fingernails. There will be blood.
Nobody knew that better than the apostle Paul. He’d had it literally beat into his head a number of times. Therefore, Paul constantly had to hearken back to his calling to keep himself going. I suppose when you’re getting opposition at every turn, you need to remind yourself that it’s all worth it. Paul knew that cosmic forces were trying to hinder the gospel, yet the greatest force in heaven or on earth worked in him mightily (Col 1:29). You may need that reminding a few times before this is done. Church planting was then, and still is a hard life. We once threw a New Breed Church Planting conference, and one of the sessions was titled “Why plant a church when you could hit yourself in the head repeatedly with a hammer?” The answer comes down to calling. Paul expressed it when he said “Woe unto me if I don’t preach the gospel”.
Paul constantly reminded himself that he was “an apostle called by God”. At the beginning of most letters, Paul referred to himself as an apostle, or apostolos (literally “sent one”). Now before you protest too much, be assured that Paul recognized a special breed of missionaries called “The Twelve” apostles. They witnessed the risen Lord, hand-picked by Jesus himself. We know them as Peter, James, John, and the others. They wrote scripture and all died on the mission field, except for James who died as a sending pastor in Jerusalem. Although he mentions that he himself was an apostle “born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:8), and numbered himself among “the twelve” like the thirteenth warrior who didn’t quite fit in, he also used the term for everyone else on his ever changing core team as he moved across the 1st century map of the Mediterranean. When he used the same greek word apostolos to refer to them, he wasn’t putting them into the same category as “the twelve”. The twelve were unique, special, and limited to the 1st century. They were a thing of the past. But the same call to expand the kingdom is a present and future task ongoing “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
We’re still functioning as sent ones today, spreading the gospel to the outer reaches of humanity, around the four corners of the globe. That means that although you can’t share the same status as Paul or the Twelve, you can still be a “sent one”. If you’re joining a church planter on a crazy hair-brained scheme to expand the kingdom of God into a neighborhood, you are a “sent one” too. The great commission is something that we’re all called to, and church planting is the chief way that we can all help fulfill the call.
How did God call you to this crazy little thing called church planting? Hold on to it, for there may come a time when it’s all you have to hold on to.
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.