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Churches Planting Churches Biblically

Church Planting Churches Biblically

By Pastor Dave Bruskas

The pattern of biblical church planting is that existing churches plant new churches. Jesus provides his church with a clear authority structure so that individual calls to church plant may be evaluated and affirmed by previously confirmed leaders (apostles and elders).  

This principle is illustrated in the storyline of the Book of Acts. Jesus authorizes his Apostles to plant the first church in Jerusalem to be a base of global mission after they are filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:8: 2:1-47). In Acts 8, Philip preaches the gospel effectively during the persecution and scattering of the Jerusalem church in Samaria. Philip had been previously affirmed both by the church as a whole and its senior leaders (Acts 6:1-7). In Acts 9, Saul (Paul), the greatest missionary the world has ever known is converted from a persecutor of the church to a planter of churches.  The leaders of the Jerusalem church confirm Saul’s calling (Acts 9:26-31).  In Acts 11, the church at Antioch takes shape born out of the Jerusalem persecution. A man named Barnabas was sent by the Jerusalem church to authenticate and lead this new church (Acts 11:19-26). He brought Paul and together they formed a dynamic duo that would plant churches all over the place. In Acts 13:1-4, Paul and Barnabas were called directly by the Holy Spirit on mission to launch new churches. The church prayed and fasted and affirmed their calling through the laying on of hands by other leaders at Antioch.

Paul’s missionary ministry of planting churches forms the rest of the story of Acts. He preaches the gospel in every city, plants new faith communities called churches and remains until approved elders are in place to shepherd the new work going forward (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). Paul also remained under the authority of the church in Jerusalem that had first sent him out (Acts 15:6-35). This process of church planting is undeniable. Jesus calls out missionaries to start churches, missionaries are confirmed and sent by existing church leadership and new works are completed once previously confirmed leaders install new leaders. No one ever launches a church based on his individual and subjective sense of calling in the Scripture apart from the confirmation of existing leaders. This is Jesus’ gracious way of protecting both leaders and followers. 


Ryan Lenerz

on Oct 27, 2010 :: 11:01 am

Great post. I get it, and I want to follow this Biblical structure. The problem I have is that many churches are not healthy enough to plant. So its kind of a catch 22 with this logic because I don't attend (or don't know of) any churches that are able and willing to plant a new church and as a result I can't plant what would hopefully be a healthy church with a desire to plant new churches in the area.

Instead, my thoughts have been to find a network of pastors who are willing to mentor and guide me, but who are not able to have their churches actually support the sending in any way.

Any thoughts on this problem or my reasoning for a solution?

Thanks, Ryan.

Ivory Dorsey

on Oct 26, 2013 :: 5:07 am

I don't think the attitudes and the health of the existing church should preclude you from planting other churches. A new location will yield new people with new possibilities. No where does it say the new church has to have the same name. You are the one that is attached to the existing church. Like children growing up and establishing families, sow it forward!
Remember, "new works are completed once previously confirmed leaders install new leaders."

Mark Weaver

on Feb 1, 2014 :: 3:56 pm

Ryan, I share your sentiments. I have been wrestling with this same concept. It certainly sounds better to be sent by an existing church for credibility and benefit from their resources. If there isn't accountability there is little to prevent lone wolves from being filled with pride and going apostate. But what if it's not possible, are you disqualified from your call to church planting? The author, Dave Bruskas is a mighty man of God I have met personally. He suggested that if I don't have a sending church, I should seek to serve a church that is aggressive about church planting being honest upfront that I wish to seek their support in planting churches. Or I could consider being a church re-planter. This is a great conviction, but I want to truly understand it biblically for a few reasons. First, Paul preached the Gospel boldly before meeting the apostles. He was called on a mission from God and he did not hesitate to rebuke the church leaders when they were reverting back to works. If you look at church history, we would have no protestant churches if everyone followed this model because the reformers were not sent by the Catholic Church. Dave Bruskas is the Executive Pastor of Mars Hill Church founded by Mark Driscoll. In Driscoll's book, "Confessions of a Reformation Rev" he states that when he got saved he began visiting churches around Seattle and found them all to be dead, liberal, or fundamental. He said that he did not like any of the churches in his town so he decided to start his own: Mars Hill. Honestly, I found this kind of inspiring. Mark Driscoll also wrote in his book, "A Call to Resurgence" that fear of God in obedience to calling must surpass fear of men that could thwart pursuing the calling God has placed on you. Please know that I am certainly not in any way trying to be disrespectful of challenge the biblical model of being sent. I am hoping that someone can correct me with clarification and perhaps provide further biblical support for the prerequisite of being sent. Personally, I am a youth pastor at an egalitarian church and they offered me the position of Lead Pastor. I turned it down because I feel a calling to plant an Acts 29 church in the city. I did not think that I could ask my current church to be my sending church because my church would have opposing bylaws and doctrinal statements. Pastor Bruskas corrected my thinking that you have to have the same doctrine as your sending church, so I asked my current Pastor if he would send me and he agreed. I feel very blessed by this. However, if I was simply unable to find a church that would send me as a church planter, I believe in my heart I would still be responsible to God to follow my calling. I believe very much in submission to God's Word over individual experience and calling, so if anyone can prove me wrong biblically, I would truly change my convictions. But my understanding of Paul if you study Galatians Chapter 2, is that he had been preaching the gospel and planting churches for 14 years before deciding to make sure he was preaching the same Gospel as the apostles. And even then, I'm not convinced he was seek their approval because he showed so much confidence in his calling and authority that he rebuked Peter, the leader of the apostles. I think it's safe to assume that Paul would have gone on planting churches even if the apostles opposed him, but was wise enough to know that they can accomplish more together than divided against each other.

Mark Weaver

on Feb 3, 2014 :: 2:00 am

It's a good model so that we don't have a bunch of lone wolves with no accountability doing their own thing risking becoming prideful and going apostate. But looking at church history, if this model was followed we would have no Protestant churches because the reformers clearly were not sent by the Catholic Church. Nor would we have the founding of any new denominations. Having a sending church adds credibility and resources but is not a biblical command. The Word is clear on the qualifications of church leadership in regards to integrity and character, but not on prerequisites of church planters. Beware of extra-biblical yokes. Operate under the philosophy of ministry: sola scriptura and you'll be ok.

Bruce Patterson

on Feb 6, 2014 :: 5:04 pm

For those of us with an engagement with the arguments of the Reformation, it is either amusing or sad to see logic shredded by our Protestant forebears now being trotted out to provide a 'biblical' justification for authority structures that were wrong then, and are wrong now. A CAREFUL reading of Paul's story provides a very different outcome; the description of his first trip to Jerusalem in Galatians 1 offers no indication that 'leaders of the Jerusalem church confirm Saul’s calling'; rather it is after FOURTEEN YEARS that he come back to Jerusalem with Barnabus (Gal 2). Even then he receieves 'the right hand of fellowship', not some sort of ordination from them.

Acts reports that Paul starts making disciples almost immediately after his conversion, so that it is HIS disciples that let him down over the walls when the Jews are looking for him in Damascus. (Acts 9:25) He then disappears from sight for 14 years (much ink is split over how to reconcile Acts and Galatians!) before arriving at ANTIOCH where he is duly authorised by the church to go on mission with Barnabas.

As far as the history of the Reformation is concerned, the Anabaptist and General Baptist traditions emerge out of nowhere in terms of church authority, whilst of course the main protestant churches derive themselves from state authority if anything!

In the 20th century, the history of denominations has been similarly fissiparous. On the African continent's multitude of churches were established in reaction to the association of the authorised churches being associated with colonialism.

Overall: any attempt to impose a 'Catholic' model of requiring church planters to have 'authorisation' to be genuine is flawed, though it is, undoubtedly desirable. Therefore to teach it as 'biblical' and the ONLY option is forget our history, as well as being biblically unjustifed. Let's do better, PLEASE. I want to take church planters serious; theological illogic and ignorance of church history makes it a lot harder!