Jesus Builds His Church Through His Disciples

When John Piper was pastor, Bethlehem hosted a church-planting conference with Global Church Advancement. I was on deck to speak next as Piper talked about church planting on video.

He said church planters shouldn’t listen to experts on how to plant the church. He said (and I am quoting from the second day I blogged), “You don’t know how to grow the Kingdom of God. Beware of books, beware of conferences, and beware of seminars that tell you how to plant the church.”

At that time, that was an awkward moment for me because, well, I write books and do seminars! I write books on church planting, and I’m speaking at this conference as an “expert.”

But the context of Piper’s quote was key. (Be sure to read the full quote and context here.) Piper was focusing on five words of Jesus in Matthew 16, “I will build my church.” (And, the context was that he had invited us to do this seminar at his church!)

But, his point was that the risen Christ plants churches. He builds them by changing hearts. And He has been working in your city long before you got there, so it’s His church. We can try to do it all in our own strength, but only God can build a church through His Son, Jesus.

In Matthew 16, Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ. That confession and statement of faith are the foundational “rock” upon which Jesus builds His church. The gates and forces of Hades will not overpower it (Matthew 16:18). This is the work of Jesus. He builds his church.

So why keep reading? Why pick up one of my books on church planting? Why attend a church planting conference with John Piper, Ed Stetzer, or anyone else?

More Perspective

Jesus doesn’t build His church despite His disciples, but through His disciples as they are led by His commands and empowered by His Spirit. Matthew doesn’t end with chapter 16. Matthew ends with these words, The Great Commission, in Matthew 28.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, HCSB).

Here’s what we learn from Jesus’ commission to His disciples. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He essentially reverses the claim that Satan made in Matthew 4 that the kingdoms of the world are his to give Jesus if the Son of God would worship Satan.

Only a crucified and risen Savior is the King of the kingdoms. With this authority, He calls His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations among all people groups, by baptizing them and teaching them what He has commanded.

Jesus goes with His disciples as they go. He builds His church by His authority and through His presence with His disciples who make disciples.

Now watch what happens when we put these two passages together. Jesus in Matthew 16, “I will build my church.” Jesus in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples.” Both are true.

When Jesus builds His church, He does the building by using disciples just like you. He has the authority to send you, and He goes with you. Through very imperfect people God works to create His perfect and beautiful Bride, the Church.

Pray that God’s will be done, and that He would build His church. Then stand on your feet, roll up your sleeves and by the power of the Holy Spirit, go and make disciples.

> Read more from Ed.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

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