How God Plants Churches
Text: Acts 16
Proposition: God plants churches with people you wouldn’t expect in places you’ve never been in ways that you’ve never seen to save people just like you.
Introduction: One of the statements put forward by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) was that an area is “generally viewed to be reached when there exists one evangelical congregation for every 1,000 persons” The 2011 census put Lacombe’s population at about 12,500 with approximately 10 churches meaning there is one church for every 1250 people. By contrast Red Deer’s population was around 92,000 with about 40 churches meaning that there is one church for every 2300 people. Blackfalds has three churches for a population of about 7200 people, meaning we have one church for every 2400 people.
This morning I want to talk with you about how God plants churches. We’re familiar with the term ‘planting’ and we know it either takes place by transplanting something like a branch from a healthy plant to a new location or it happens by a seed being placed into a new soil. Every church in every country once began in one of those two ways. This morning I want to show you what God is doing taking seeds or seedlings and planting them in the unlikeliest of places. Then let’s see what that looked like in the first century and compare notes between the two. Have a look at this video… Having watched that let’s read Acts 16.
I. God Plants Churches With People You Wouldn’t Expect…
So here’s my premise to you this morning, “God plants churches with people you wouldn’t expect, in places you’ve never been, in ways that you’ve never seen, to save people just like you.”
In the last verses of chapter 15 Paul and Barnabas have a strong disagreement about whether they should take young John Mark on the next trip with them. It says that the disagreement became so heated that Barnabas went one way with John Mark and Paul went another taking a young man named Silas along. Silas had just come to Paul’s church to deliver the directives from Jerusalem but for some reason he stayed and Acts 16 begins with Silas walking beside Paul on a mission trip. I don’t think Silas expected that but when the opportunity came, when Paul asked him it was an easy choice. During the next series of verses in this chapter we’ll see at least four people besides Silas being used by God to plant churches. They are an unlikely bunch. Timothy is one of the brightest leaders in the church at Lystra, a young man with a soft heart, he has a Greek father and a Jewish mother. Paul asks Timothy to come with him and the church in Lystra looses one of it’s best leaders so churches could be planted. In Troas a new person is called onto the team, a physician named Luke. In verse 10 the writer of Acts, begins to include himself in the action as he switches from third person, ‘they’ to the second person ‘we’ in how he describes the team. A church is planted in Troas and they leave it and head to Philippi. A business woman named Lydia, a seller of purple cloth, hears the gospel and receives Christ. She and her whole family come to faith in Jesus and are baptised. Soon there is another, a demon possessed woman being pimped by some men for her ability to predict the future. Paul stops her from proclaiming their presence not wanting the association of the demonic attached to the gospel. He casts out the demon and that is the last we hear of the girl. Perhaps she too became part of that new Philippian church. The pimps have Paul and Silas arrested and another is soon reached with the gospel, the Philippian jailer who might have been the very one that beat them with whipping. Seeing the jail cell doors open at midnight and fearing the worst in terms of a jail break he is driven to take his own life. Paul calls out that all is well and the suicidal is saved and not just him but his whole household as well. My point is that God plants churches with people you wouldn’t expect, doctors and spiritual prostitutes, business women and suicidal guards, families and young men and women and He uses them all to create opportunities for churches to come into being that would lead people just like you to salvation in Jesus Christ.
II. God Plants Churches In Places You’ve Never Been…
Timothy had never been to Troas, Luke had never been to Philippi, Silas had never been beaten and thrown in jail, the jailer had never been baptised at midnight. Lydia had never been saved on the banks of a river and Paul had never been singing hymns with his legs bound in stocks in the dark hole of maximum security. Before 2005 I had never been in the Cheemo Hall in Blackfalds, for some of you here before last year you had never been to a church service in this Community Hall. There are a lot of places you’ve never been that God would use to plant a church in, to create a new seedling of life for the gospel that people just like you would come to faith Jesus Christ. For some of the people of our community they have never been this wealthy nor this lonely before. For some they have never been to Alberta before, for some they have never been divorced before, some have never been in a place of need before. For some they have never been suicidal before and for some they never been without friends before. It is as we meet people in these places, perhaps places we’ve never been before, that God saves people just like us.
III. God Plants Churches in Ways You’ve Never Seen Before.
With Timothy God used circumcision to culturally make Timothy more acceptable to the Jewish people he’d meet. It had nothing to do with his acceptance by God, that was sorted out by his faith in Jesus Christ. In Jesus he was forgiven of all his sin, in Jesus Timothy was regarded as righteous before God the Father. The circumcision was an act of sacrifice by him that by all means he might reach some for Christ. God plants churches sometimes by closing doors, deflecting our action and will so that it has to align with what He seeks to do. God plants churches where there are no godly men present to lead it and he calls women to step forward in faith, to use what they have, to reach others with the gospel. He used Lydia to begin a church in her house. God had blessed her with wealth and a large home. Now he was going to turn that home into a place for a church. God plants churches when you are at your lowest point, when all else seems lost and there is no point in continuing to live. He brought the guard to the point of breaking and then presented him with life so much so that all the guard could say was, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved.” God plants churches by using crisis and even chaos as Paul and Silas were beaten with rods all because they spoke out against human trafficking bringing freedom to a young girl. Thrown into jail they trusted that no matter where they went if they were willing to trust God in that place, God would use it to build His church. God plants churches in ways we’ve never seen before, in cooking classes, quilting courses, in things that we do right beside people everyday and yet never gain any entry point into their lives. Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in the presence of all the other prisoners and guards. They prayed for direction, doors and decisions and God saved people that were just like them.
So what do we do with all this?
1. Recognize that Jesus builds and plants His church with people like us. Business people, people in crisis, people who will become all things to all men that by all means they might win some. The people you wouldn’t expect Him to use, people like us, are the very ones He chooses to use.
2. Recognize that location is more than we thought it was. It can be the common link of how old you are, what you are passionate about, what you value. Location can be the place of loneliness, worthlessness, hopelessness. Location is really all about loving your neighbour as much as you love yourself.
3. Recognize that God has given you much, perhaps a career, perhaps a talent or capability, perhaps possessions and perhaps a family. Whatever it is that you would agree God has given you let Him use it to create doors of welcome and hope to others. So let me bring this a step closer.
November 11, Remembrance Day. It’s not considered a spiritual holiday and yet people will gather as a community in a very spiritual way. Our church is hosting this event this year along with the other churches of Blackfalds. Be a part of that, come to be with the people in a time of great opportunity. Serve them, welcome them, encourage them, get to know them.
If you are willing, use your home like Lydia did, let it be a place of worship and prayer and seeking God’s will through His word. If you are willing to begin a Bible study in your home we will help you to lead it. It might be the first place that someone will hear about Jesus Christ. Believe that God can use you, in a place like this, in a way that you’ve never seen Him do in you before.