by Jessica Scott #NPLOKC Church Planting Resident
In Acts 2 lies a powerful depiction of God moving to establish His Church. As Jesus’ disciples awaited His promise, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, filling them with His power to go forth with the Gospel. When spectators experienced the wonderous events, the disciples responded by heralding the Good News of Jesus. In response, many repented and began gathering to grow as followers of Jesus in line with the example that Jesus had established for them through the Apostles. The results were phenomenal: “every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). As the people responded in obedience, the Lord blessed and multiplied the work; this is the model developed throughout all of Scripture.
Multiplication should be a confident expectation of the church as the work persists. However, this expectation is only valid when biblical principles are being followed in the work of church planting. Although there are several examples to be followed from the biblical model, two necessary elements for multiplication based on the Apostle Paul in Acts are abundant prayer and the authority of Scripture.
First, abundant prayer is vital for any multiplication to take place because, as previously seen, God is the One Who accomplishes the work through His faithful servants. Acts overflows with prayer, starting from the beginning where the disciples wait together on the Lord in persistent prayer (1:14). The pattern continues with Paul when he begins his missionary endeavors: “As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.’ Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off” (13:2-3). In the state of devoted prayer, the Holy Spirit empowers and propels His chosen servants forward in His mission.
Paul’s missionary journeys continued to be Spirit-led with the understanding that he and his co-laborers were in direct communication with God. A stark demonstration of this phenomenon is seen in chapter 16 when the Holy Spirit repeatedly blocked their way before finally calling them clearly into Macedonia (16:6-10). Not only did prayer serve as an essential role for guidance, but it was also given in abundance in the face of persecution and suffering – as they offered prayers and songs to the Lord while in prison (16:25) or as fellow believers showered the missionaries with prayers and tears at their departure (20:36-38). No aspect of the work was done apart from faithful prayer.
Multiplication awaits around the corner of God-honoring prayer.
Prayer, then, is a non-negotiable in Kingdom work if multiplication is desired, which is the evident intention of God. Biblical prayer, however, is not some heartless mantra robotically offered; it is passionate, specific, and corporate. As noted, many prayers exemplified in Acts were given with tears and while fasting, exemplifying the passion by which the servants cried out to God. At times it was in desperation, such as the goodbye of the Ephesians (20:36-38); in other instances, it was in joyful praise, as seen in the response of new disciples (13:48,52). In all cases, prayer was prompted by response to or pursuit of God, and they were given with authenticity toward specific requests or praises.
The Church today must break free from rote recitation in exchange for heartfelt cries unto the Lord; these are the prayers He delights in and to which He responds. The Body must be uniting in prayer, addressing specific points of thanksgiving, need, or questions. Multiplication awaits around the corner of God-honoring prayer.
Authority of Scripture
The second necessary element is allowing Scripture to be the authority over the Church rather than the missionary or pastor. When Paul was invited to speak in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, he took the opportunity to outline the whole biblical story, finishing with the resurrection of Jesus (13:13-49). The message of Jesus remained to be the only message they proclaimed. Furthermore, when an issue arose in Antioch over regulations, Paul and his partners pointed to what is clearly taught in Scripture to resolve the issue, allowing room for the church to decide for themselves how they should specifically respond in light of the truth (13:1-35). As seen in Paul’s later letters, he did not tend to give all the answers to every problem; he allowed the Word of God to direct His people.
How easy it is when planting churches, or even discipling someone, to attempt to dictate the total outcome. Paul’s story in Acts testifies that it is the Holy Spirit who will grow and develop His Church as He desires. Hence, a multiplying church must be saturated in prayer and the Word of God.
Principle in Action
What, then, do these principles look like in action today? First, prayer must be the breath of the church. Prayer can no longer be viewed as optional, a time-slot filler, or a nice gesture while the real work is left up to those praying rather than to God. Prayer is vital because this is God’s mission; the Bride of Christ has been redeemed into this mission, maintaining complete dependence upon the Author.
Before any Kingdom work can begin, laborers need to empty themselves out in humble prayer, bathing every inch of the work in words lifted to God. Prayerwalking is one practical way to effectively practice this. Whatever area the Body is working in, they can initiate work by walking the perimeter and streets praying for God to make His Name known, raise up disciple-makers, tear down barriers, and open doors for multiplication to take place. As prayerwalking continues, opportunities easily emerge to engage people by offering prayer. These encounters naturally lead to Gospel-conversations and even thriving relationships that can grow fruit. When God’s people are prayerfully placing themselves in a position for Him to move, He does.
Another aspect of walking prayerfully takes place when brothers and sisters actively lift each other up in prayer. The Body is meant to build each other up in Christ and praying for one another – verbally and in person – is a powerful way to do so. Rather than hearing a burden or need and saying, “I will be praying for you,” the Church would benefit if brothers and sisters stopped in their tracks and prayed with the one in need right then and there. In this action, Christianly love is more evidently experienced, immediate encouragement is given, unity in the Body is established, and requests to the Lord are not forgotten. A multiplying church must first be a praying church – together.
Second, the church must be under the governing power of God’s Word – not a person and not tradition. Every activity should be filtered through Scripture considering God’s mission to ensure that the church is rightly pursuing God’s will. This practice begins with solid leadership directing the flock based solely on the Word of God rather than personal preference. Culture can become highly influential, whether facing the temptation of the status quo of one’s own culture unchecked or confronting a very different culture and contrasting it to one’s own. There are good and bad aspects within culture, but laborers must realize that the global Church is expressed in a mosaic of ways around the world.
When seeking to multiply churches, one must be careful not to prioritize multiplying one’s own version of the church while suppressing another beautiful shade from the greater work.
Proclaim the Gospel and the biblical truths and allow the local body to decide how to best respond in obedience within their context.
In addition to the leadership, the Church must be filled with disciples who abide in the Word through obedience and hold each other accountable to do the same. If it is all on the leaders to uphold biblical standards for living, the task of multiplication will be much more daunting. At the molecular level, disciples who know and live by God’s Word ought to be multiplied to go forth and multiply; then, full organisms will be formed which are faithfully following God’s commands together.
God the Father
The Father is the One Who wills His work into action. He created everything with a perfect design to fill this earth with His glory through His children who bear His image and go out to multiply. Apart from Him, the work cannot be done; there is, in fact, no work to be done.
God the Son
The Son is the One Who accomplishes the work. Through His incarnation, perfect life, death, burial, resurrection, and continued intercession, He has redeemed a people for Himself whom He continues to direct to conform to His image.
God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the One Who empowers the work. The Spirit of God rests upon every child of God, filling them with His resurrection power to proclaim Jesus and multiply. Without complete dependence upon the Triune God, multiplication will never take place.
Devout prayer, which aligns God’s people with God’s heart, and submission to the authority of Scripture, which instructs in His ways, will set the Church on the path toward rapid multiplication as seen in the book of Acts.