When a servant of God reaches a new place his first business must be to found a local church, unless there is already one in existence, in which case his one concern must be to help the church. The one aim of the work in any place is the building up of the church in that place. All the fruit of a workerâ€™s labours must go to the increase of the church. The work in any place exists for the church alone, not for itself. The apostleâ€™s goal is to build up the church, not to build up his work or any group of people that may have sent him out. [Watchman Nee]
Take the time to read through David’s article, if you haven’t already.
In response to David’s article, and the great comments from several “missionaries”, that is Christian brothers and sisters living in another culture, I posted this comment:
As you can probably guess, I like the idea of believers working with other believers in an area – whether those believers are “nationals” or “missionaries” – they are, first of all, brothers and sisters. I appreciate the fact that many of the missionaries that commented here agreed with Nee on this. Could it be that those living in other cultures where the church is new and growing recognize the need to work together more than those in “mature churches” who are spending more time arguing over non-essentials? I don’t know if this is true or not, but it does make me wonder.
I don’t like the idea of dividing the church into organizations. Are there organizations? Sure. But we should not confuse these with the church. The question is, how does God view the church in a given area? Does he view it as splintered into various groups? If he does not, then we should attempt to live as he sees us.
David responded with this follow-up:
I would be very interested to hear, given the understanding of “church” and “organization” that you are proposing here (and about which we have dialogued quite extensively on your blog), how do you conceive, or how would you describe the ministry of “church planting”? More specifically, do you think it is correct to think in terms of “planting new churches” in a locality in which the “church” in the sense of the company of the redeemed in that locality already exists? In such a case, what are we planting? New “organizations”? Or something else?
In response, I commented:
While I know that Paul used the metaphor of “planting” and “watering” in 1 Corinthians, I’m not sure he used it in the same way that we use the term “church planting” now. It seems that Paul was saying something like: We each do the work that God has given us, but it is still God who builds the church.
So, I don’t think we can plant churches, per se. If the church is not present in a particular area, when believers (missionaries) move into an area, the church is then present. If the church is already present in an area, then believers who move into the area become part of the church in that area. Whether the church was or was not present before the believers moved into the area, the believers have the same responsibility: make disciples. I think this would include both evangelism and edification of existing believers.
Unfortunately, this was the end of that comment thread. So, I’m asking you, my readers: How should believers respond to other believers when they move into an area (whether that area is a new culture or not)? What about church planting? Do we plant churches? How does our understanding of “planting churches” correspond to Jesus’ statement that he would build the church? Does God view different church organizations as separate churches?