the weblog of Alan Knox

The Birth of Churches…

Posted by on Dec 15, 2006 in books, definition | 9 comments

The Birth of Churches is a book of essays about church planting compiled by Talmadge R. Amberson. Amberson himself writes the first essay: “The Foundation for Church Planting.” Consider this statement about the growth of the church in the Book of Acts:

The inescapable conclusion is that there is a sense of spontaneity about churches coming into being in the book of Acts. Apparently the followers of Jesus did not deliberately plant churches but, rather, as they witnessed, the Holy Spirit worked to create a community of believers. The testimony of Scripture is that obedience to Jesus Christ in sharing his message of salvation inevitably and spontaneously brings into being the outward, external structure termed churches, which is an expression of that inner, spiritual reality that when an individual is saved he also is incorporated into a group of persons of all the ages who are the people ofGod; the body of Christ; “the spiritual-mysitcal church.”


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  1. 12-15-2006

    Apparently the followers of Jesus did not deliberately plant churches but, rather, as they witnessed, the Holy Spirit worked to create a community of believers.

    This really struck a chord with me. I had never thought of it in this way, but it does help me understand a bit better some of my uneasiness with the way we think about planting and building churches.

    I’ll have to mull this over quite a bit!

    steve 🙂

  2. 12-15-2006


    I have not read the book that I quoted. A coworker and friend read it to me, and it resonated with what I have noticed in Scripture. What happened in Acts is very difficult to explain, and I think it is wrong to try to emulate it.


  3. 12-16-2006

    I have never heard of this book nor this author. Sounds like an interesting read, though.

    At the risk of commenting on the quote without knowing the context behind it, I will say: Acts 14.23 and Titus 1.5 seem to indicate intentionality in the church planting process, from what I can tell.

  4. 12-16-2006


    I have not read this book. This particular quote was pointed out to my by a friend of mine who is studying differences in church planting methodologies between IMB and NAMB. I believe the book is a collection of essays by people associated with the FMB (now IMB).

    The two verses that you mention do show intentionality, but I’m not sure they demonstrate intentionality in church planting. In both instances, the church was already in existence.


  5. 12-17-2006

    It seems to me that the whole question of when a “church plant” becomes a “church” is not one that is specifically addressed in Scripture. However, I do think the phrase from Titus 1.5, “that you might straighten out what was left unfinished” is telling, in respect to this. I would gather, from that I can make out, that Paul was referring to the “church planting process” in Crete being unfinished.

  6. 12-17-2006


    It is possible that he was insructing Titus to complete the “church planting process” so that the Crete group could finally become a church. However, could it also be possible that Paul wants Titus to teach the church more, as in something that Paul did not have a chance to teach while he was there.

    While we may not know exactly what Paul meant, I don’t find any evidence in Scripture of a “church plant” that is not a church, or of a “mission” that is not a church, or of a “preaching station” that is not a church. It seems that if believers have received the Holy Spirit, then they are the church. Certainly they have more to learn, but they are still the church.


  7. 12-17-2006

    I am not saying they are not “a church.” What I am saying is that, apparently, Paul considered his “church planting” job “unfinished” until there were elders in each town. What I gather from this is, the goal for every church should be to have its own elders. I would agree (if this is what you are getting at) that, in essence, “where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in the midst” (Matt. 18.18-20) and therefore God’s authority to “bind” and “loose” (which I understand to refer primarily to church discipline) is there as well.

  8. 12-17-2006


    It sounds like we are in general agreement then. I would probably not call “appointing elders” part of the church planting job, since there was already a church there. Instead, I would see it as an act of discipleship. Paul was teaching the believers how to recognize and follow the example and leadership of those who were already following Christ.

    This, then, is the distinction that I would make. Paul did not set out to “plant churches”. He set out to make disciples. As he made disciples, the Holy Spirit would bind those believers together into the church. I realize that it may seem like a trivial distinction, but if a “church” is not truly a “church” until such-and-such happens (unless that such-and-such is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit), then we become the designator of churches. Instead, it is Christ who builds his church, and it is Christ who gathers believers into his church. It is our responsibility to make disciples, not churches.


  9. 12-18-2006

    I would say we are in general agreement, provided that an important part of the “discipleship” given was teaching and training the new disciples on/in the ABC’s of “how they ought to conduct themselves in the God’s household, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3.15). I believe Paul was “intentional” in this, and that he had certain key points he wanted his disciples everywhere to learn to put into practice regarding this. Whether you call this time of teaching/training “church planting” or “discipleship” seems largely to be a question of semantics, to me.