the weblog of Alan Knox

Making Disciples with Paul

Posted by on Dec 15, 2009 in blog links, discipleship, missional | 5 comments

Art at “Church Task Force” has put together a great series of articles concerning making disciples and planting churches. (Are these different activities?) For example, consider his article “Rediscovering Paul’s Church Planting Strategies.”

Art finds seven “observations” from examining Paul’s example in Scripture, “which would be considered ridiculous strategies by the church planting movements in the West today.”

  1. On average, churches were planted and self-sufficient in 12 months
  2. The work was unfunded, accomplished by bivocational servants
  3. Paul planted multiple churches regionally, often from a base camp church in a major city (churches that planted churches)
  4. There was follow-up by Paul and/or itinerants as well as letters to continue to support and encourage, especially through troubles
  5. Whole households were being converted, not just individuals
  6. After an initial time in weeks or months of reaching new disciples, they are left on their own as a church without formal leadership for months
  7. Paul enlists additional workers from among the new churches as local elders (on average with 6 to 12 months experience as believers) and as itinerants (with about 2 years experience as believers). They all share the same focus (see Eph 4:11-16).

Do you see also see these “observations” in Paul’s example? Should we take these into consideration when making disciples (planting churches) today?


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  1. 12-15-2009

    I think the principles are correct. Not as sure about the specifics.

  2. 12-15-2009

    I agree with Arthur. How does this play out in our context though? I look at how mobile we are and even isolated at times so our time on station may be longer. Also I wonder, since families move about now rather than having multiple generations in the same area or even home, how this affects this.

    I would consider the making of disciples leads to the planting of a church, not vice-versa. This is especially the case as we see that a church is a group of people loving Christ not a building.

    Any thought?

  3. 12-15-2009


    We’re back to question about universal principles and cultural allowances… 🙂


    I agree that “the making of disciples leads to the planting of a church, not vice-versa.” Of course, today, often the organization is in place long before any disciples are being made.


  4. 12-16-2009

    On Phillip’s point about making disciples versus planting churches, I see that similarly. The most common model we have today is to plant an institution. That becomes the DNA pattern that is followed throughout the life of that church. What do I mean by “plant an institution?”

    In our day, the most common first two major steps in church planting are 1. building a leadership team and 2. obtaining funding for two to three years to include staff salary, location and equipment rental/purchase, and major marketing campaigns. In essence, we import a fully functional institution with all the trimmings from day one. The new church just needs people and more people to grow, and most of them can be observers and everything will run smoothly. There is no urgency to developing maturity. There is to be no substantial responsibilities given to those who come, the core leadership has already been established.

    Many of the churches today–and, sadly, the new churches being planted by the church planting craze (being a church planter is the new cool thing to be)–are institutions in search of building a crowd. That becomes its unfortunate DNA and it has no thought of building from within disciples who will emerge as pastors in that church. It has only the infrequent wish to build radical disciples who are profoundly converted from living for the things of this world and who are now serving the living and true God and awaiting the return of Jesus with eagerness (a big point of the Lord’s fellowship meal–“ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come”).

    Paul’s method depended completely on building new believers to maturity quickly. There was no thought of building a crowd, but of building disciples. The goal was for new believers to be able to teach others (II Tim 2:2; Heb 5:12), and very shortly some would emerge as pastors who were following the sacrificial examples Paul and is team laid down (I Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17; I Thess 1:6) as they taught from “house to house and publicly” while working to support themselves.

    Paul and his team knew they would soon move on, and this informed the way they expected the new believers to function and to take on responsibility. Discipling others became the DNA of the churches Paul and crew founded. As Paul’s team moved on, the final example is also placed into the DNA, and that is the cycle of planting indigenous churches that go on and plant indigenous churches.

    One thing that does surprise me is the dearth of material on church planting that comes from the foundation of the scriptures and not from business models or pragmatic religion.

  5. 12-16-2009


    Your paragraph that starts “In our day…” is exactly how I’ve seen “church planting” taught and practiced. That’s why I think your studies and articles are a breath of fresh air… or a breath of 2000 year old air.