Church Where You're Planted
Turn to the 28th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. We will begin with the very famous great commission. These final words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel are something, that as a church, we should have in front of us very often because this indeed is our great commission. This is what Jesus has left for us to do, even as pastor Kevin shared when we read from Colossians 1 this morning. Colossians 1 is the other side of how Matthew 28 has played out in Paul’s lifetime. This past Monday we pulled back into the church parking lot at about 9 am we had been on the road for about 17 hours straight, which is pretty good considering it took us 20 hours to get down there, as we returned from New Orleans, LA. As many of you know, we spent a week helping Immanuel Community Church reach their neighborhood for Jesus Christ. Myself, Mike Champoux, Brett Eckel, Dave, Rene, Josh, and Jameson Ross, Richard, Liz, Pearce, and Ricky Kauffman, Kaitlyn and Joey Gralka, Kylie and Seth Ray, Lili DiTrapani, and Kierra and Khloe Stokes loaded up 2 cars, church van and Dave and Renee’s van, and we made the trip to invest in this church plant. Now church planting may not be something that you think about often in your day-to-day life. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, church planting is when existing churches start new churches. Basically that is it. It is that simple. An existing established church is going to start a new church in a new neighborhood for the glory and name of Jesus Christ. It can be easy for us to neglect church planting. Let’s be fair, because we’re all busy with work, kids, and grandkids. We are all busy in our own communities, in our own neighborhoods. Not to mention we have our church here that we love and that want to grow. We want people to get saved and to join here. So it seems that thinking about helping other churches start and grow would be lower priority. Like we got to do us before we worry about other people. But is that the mindset of the Bible? Is that Jesus’ mindset.
We planned this trip, a year ago now, because as an Elder board and as a church we believe in church planting. We believe that the NT model for mission, for disciple multiplication, is through the planting of churches. When we say as a church that we believe in Gospel, Community, Mission, this is the mission element of that vision statement. That’s not to say that other mission programs and efforts can’t be good and helpful, but church planting is the most organically related to the Kingdom of Jesus.
The assumption of the NT is that the glory of Christ will cover the globe through the planting of churches. Now to some of you, that may not really seem that incredible of a statement. To others of you who were raised or spent years hearing about para-church mission opportunities that may seem a little more radical of a statement. So let me say it again, the assumption of the NT is that the glory of Christ will cover the globe through the planting of churches. Because that’s true, CCC must be a church that plants churches. We must be a church that is involved in the planting of churches.
We believe, as we just read from Matthew 28, that Jesus directed that churches be planted. Jesus declared it. He decreed it. These are our marching orders. Listen to his pronouncement, once again in the Great Commission:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28.18-20).”
Jesus’ final words in the gospel of Matthew were a command to plant churches. You’ll notice that Jesus’ commission here is sandwiched by his power in verse 18 and his presence in verse 20. We can follow the orders of our king Jesus with confidence because he has all authority in Heaven and Earth and because he is with us. We have his power and we have his presence. Jesus is not the god of Deism – almighty yet aloof. Jesus is not the god of Protestant Liberalism – friendly yet feeble. Jesus is powerful and Jesus present with his church.
Because of his power and presence, he directs his church to make disciples. You have to remember that’s the imperative in this statement. The command isn’t “to go” the command is to “make disciples” (μαθητεύσατε). The go is a participle. As you are going, make disciples. The commission, grammatically speaking, is not to go, but to make disciples. Jesus literally tells his disciples, as you are going multiply. And this clearly happens through the planting of churches. He commands us to make disciples through two things: baptism and teaching. These are the work of the church.
Christian baptism has always been tied to the local church. You’re probably thinking that someone could get baptized outside of the church. Someone can get baptized as a non-church thing, at camp or a para-church organization or something like that. But again, we have to as ourselves is that that the assumption of the NT. It that the New Testament vision for baptism to be outside of the local church – especially in the generations following the apostles. Since the church has been established, baptism is the work of the local church. Baptism is baptism into the body of Christ. Teaching and preaching are primarily the ministry of the local church, and specifically the Elders of the local church. This is what the Apostle Paul spent his whole life doing. Isn’t that what we just read in Colossians 1? After Jesus calls Paul, what does he give the rest of his life to? The planting of churches, baptism, and teaching to create a body. The book of Acts, all 28 chapters, the epistles, and even the book of Revelation – the rest of the New Testament are about how church plants fulfill the Great Commission. There is a great church planting fellowship that calls themselves Act 29. They call themselves that because they believe, as we would, that the work of the church is to continue the work of the book of Acts. The planting of churches is living out the 29th chapter of the book of Acts as Jesus’ church. In order to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, we must be a church that is reproducing – churches planting churches.
Not only does Jesus direct the planting of churches, but he also promises to defend the church. You don’t have to turn there, but listen to this, listen to what has often been called the Great Constitution. Matthew 28 is called the Great Commission; this has historically been called the Great Constitution from Matthew 16:
“But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt 16.15-19)”
Peter here makes the good confession. We sing this, don’t we? I believe he is Christ, son of the living God. Peter makes that confession and then Jesus divulges to Peter that only knows it because the Father has revealed it to him. What a summary of your salvation. You know who Jesus is because God the father revealed it to you. Thank you Lord! Then Jesus makes this often-confusing statement about the building of the church. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church”. The Roman Catholic Church historically has misunderstood what Christ meant because they think that he established the papacy. You ask them, “why is there a Pope” well Peter is the first pope. This is how they interpret that. Clearly not what we believe. But sometimes as Protestants we then overreact to a Roman Catholic interpretation and say, “No, no, no, Jesus wasn’t saying he was building his church on Peter, he was saying he was building his church on Peter’s confession.” The good confession. But we need to be honest with ourselves and we need to be honest the bible and we need to interpret it fairly. Jesus certainly declared that he will build the church on Peter. We need to understand that, that is what he meant. He was talking to Peter. “You are Peter, on this rock I will build my church.” Peter’s name means “rock.” Petra. Literally, Jesus is saying, if you read this in Greek, “I tell you Petra, on this petra I will build my church.” Don’t overreact. Don’t overreact to the Roman Catholics and then misinterpret it yourselves. Don’t be unjust to the text. Of course Jesus said he was going to build his church on Peter. Why? Because Peter is the leader of the apostles and the apostolic witness is what the church has been built upon. We are the church, the descendants of the apostles. They are the ones who planted all the churches, who planted all the churches, who planted all the church, who planted this church. Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with the story about the wise man building his house upon the rock, and here Jesus declares that he is going to do that.
He promises then that the gates of hell will not prevail against this church. Notice the wording of the phrase. The gates of hell cannot conquer the church (NLT). They shall not prevail against the church. This is the picture I get in my mind reading Jesus saying that. It’s almost like Satan and his minions are the Egyptian army. They are walking through the Red Sea, and the church is the Red Sea that is just pummeling down on them. No chance. The gates of Hell shall not conquer the church. Satan is playing defense and the tidal wave of the church cannot be stopped. Jesus’ vision for the church is not static, but to use the literal sense of the word, Jesus’ vision for the church is effective. The church is multiplying, and there’s nothing Satan can do about it. It’s moving, the church is moving, because she has the keys to the Kingdom. You guys see that, Jesus said that. We have the keys to the Kingdom. We have the gospel! That is how you get in, there is no other way. That is the key that opens the gate to the kingdom of Jesus. The gospel. We have it. We’ve got it. We’ve got it free to give. We have the means of grace. The church, she is the guardian of the word, of the water, of the bread, and of the wine. Like an heir who posses the keys to the home, we are Jesus’ bride, and we enter freely. Jesus’ vision for the church is multiplication. We can plant churches with confidence that King Jesus declared he will defend his church.
The Great Commission and the Great Constitution only have power because of our great gospel. We must plant churches because Jesus died for the church. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 5:25-27. This will be familiar to you as he is instructing husbands and wives in the household:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5.25-27).
Church planting is an important element of our mission as a church because Jesus died for the church. Jesus didn’t just die hoping that just some people might believe in him; he died for the church. He gave himself up in order that he might present her to himself in the end. 1 Tim 4.10 says that Jesus is the savior of those who believe. Titus 2.14 says that Jesus died to redeem for himself a people for his own possession. The planting of churches is imperative because it is what Jesus lived and died for.
Jesus didn’t come for para-church ministry. Jesus’ mission wasn’t for your personal quiet time. Jesus didn’t die for online church, TV preachers, campus ministries, Samaritan’s Purse, seminaries, denominations, or anything else. Jesus died for the church. Jesus gave himself up so that people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation might become his bride. If that’s true then that means we must use our time, treasures, and talents to cover the earth with as many churches as possible.
So what does this mean for us? What does it mean for Christ Community Church? How do we move from understanding the Word of God to standing under the Word of God? The answer is that we must be a church that is active in church planting. That is why we worked with Restore Church in Detroit a few years ago. This is why we’ve given to the IMB of the SBC. This is why we had Matt Delaughter come and preach last Thanksgiving. This is why we took up an offering for Immanuel Community Church, and this is why a group from Christ Community Church drove down to New Orleans last week.
As a Christian, you’re called to be involved in church planting. It’s not just for missionaries. It’s not just for seminary students. It’s not just for pastors. It’s not just a special occasion thing. We should all be investing in church planting, and that is possible through a number of ways. We should be giving to church planting efforts. We do this, as a church, every Thanksgiving. We should be praying regularly for these church plants, Restore Church and Immanuel Community Church. Are we praying for them regularly? Man I am asking myself, am I praying for them? Short-term mission trips like the one we took last week are also opportunities to be involved in the planting of churches. That is the easy part.
At a more involved level, maybe some of you are being called to plant a church someday. Maybe a group of you will be called to plant a church from this body. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine if someday Christ Community Church planted a church, if we sent a group of you out to make the name of Jesus famous in a different neighborhood? How beautiful would that be? There’s no competition here. We aren’t in competition. We don’t have enough seats in our building for the 4 million people who live in metro Detroit. We need more churches! But now Satan starts to whisper in your ear, you guys aren’t big enough to plant a church. You guys don’t have enough money to plant a church. You are too small. You can’t afford it. To be honest, how many of you have heard that right after I said it. I heard it when I was writing this sermon. I’ve heard of smaller churches than us, planting churches. I don’t know what Jesus has for Christ Community Church in the future. I don’t, I am not a prophet, I am not apostle Alex, but I know he wants us to be involved in church planting. I know that, I would die for that truth. He died for it and he wants to see her grow. Jesus wants to cover the globe with churches like the waters cover the seas.
Church planting is non-negotiable for Christ Community Church. The NT assumes that churches will plant churches. That is the assumption of the New Testament. In fact, if we are a church that is completely uninvolved in church planting, we are unfaithful to King Jesus. Last week was about church planting, we had fun in New Orleans and you can ask them all about the seafood they ate and the French Quarter and all that fun stuff, but last week was about church planting. Last week was about Immanuel Community Church bringing the gospel to the Treme neighborhood. And not just for the group that went, I had to many of you who came to me and said we were praying for you, so many of you gave so the students could afford to go. That was us! Don’t mishear the sermon this morning church, I am not rebuking us for not doing something, I am telling you this is what we just did. Let’s keep doing it! We can’t settle back now that this big trip is over and assume we’re good for a while. Immanuel Community Church still needs your prayers. Restore Church still needs your prayers. They need our partnership for the gospel. Church, we want the name of Jesus to be made famous in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, and in the post-Christian urban centers of Europe, and we want the name of Jesus to be made famous in the jungles of the Amazon, and the desserts of the Middle East, in China and India, and on the plains of Africa. But this is the call this morning, all of that starts at the NE corner of 14 and Van Dyke.