It was not good for Adam to be alone without Eve. Likewise, it is not good for individual believers to attempt life alone apart from the church. And it is not good for an individual generation of the church to consider itself separate from the universal church that spans from Pentecost to the return of Christ.
To paraphrase John Donne, “No church is an island.” God created us for community, and the church, as God’s gathered people, survives and thrives through the epochs of human history through church planting. Every church, in a broad sense, is a plant of the first church God instituted at Pentecost.
By God’s grace, the 21st century church is not starting from scratch. Though we face trials, persecutions, and heresies, we do not face them for the first time. We have Athanasius and Augustine, Wycliffe and Tyndale, Luther and Calvin, and countless others to thank for the groundlaying work God did through them, of which we are beneficiaries. We can say with utmost certainty that we have been given much.
With this strong spiritual heritage, Christ’s words should ring loudly in our ears: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). We do not receive merely to benefit ourselves. The gift of standing on the shoulders of those who came before and seeing millennia of God’s covenant faithfulness to and through his church is not a painting to admire but a tool with which to build. As we have a profound blessing, so we have a profound responsibility. Just as our churches have been planted by those who came before, we must plant and strengthen churches for those who will come after.
Though Christ will sovereignly build his church, the church must play an active role. As the Psalmist says, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). We are to be a beacon of commendation and declaration to each new generation. A single unfaithful generation of the church dishonors God, robs a heritage of faithfulness from future generations, and hinders the growth of the church and the advance of the gospel.
A crucial aspect of this is faithfully preaching, teaching, and discipling in established churches. But our task includes much more than this. Before his ascension, Christ declared, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Christ empowered us through the Spirit to take gospel to the end of the earth.
The work of missions is, at its core, the work of church planting. Jesus promised to build his church and that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). The church is to display the gospel the way a master jeweler crafts the setting of a ring to draw attention to a diamond. If the ends of the earth are to hear the gospel, it will be through the divinely appointed means of church planting and bold preaching.
Church planting for the next generation includes the pastors, church planters, and missionaries leading congregations and carrying the gospel to unreached regions, but it is by no means restricted to them. It equally includes parents faithfully raising children, church members practicing hospitality, administrators printing bulletins, friends and neighbors remembering one another in prayer, church members regularly giving their tithes and offerings, and innumerable other forms of service. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
It is the duty and privilege of every child of God to nourish the body of Christ even as he nourishes his own body. If we love Christ, we must also love his body, the church, doing so urgently, daily, and intentionally.
J. C. Ryle skillfully encapsulates this urgency: “Tomorrow is the devil’s day, but today is God’s. Satan does not care how spiritual your intentions are, or how holy your resolutions, if only they are determined to be done tomorrow.”
May God grant us to always be loving, nourishing, and cultivating the body of Christ. Today is the day of salvation, and it is also the day to pour out our lives so that Christ’s church will be built, the gospel will go forth, and the ends of the earth will be brought into the innumerable host who will worship before the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9).
There are billions of people around the world who don’t know Jesus. What can you do to help? You can pray! Join us in prayer on May 28, 2023 to ask Christ to bring more people to faith and continue to build his church throughout the world. Will you join us?