Where No Disciple Has Gone Before

by New Church Starts

by Philip J. Brooks Assistant in New Churchs Starts

Since I was a kid I loved the series Star Trek which showed explorers who were constantly journeying deeper into space just for the sake of exploration. No matter how much of the universe they'd seen they were always dying to see more. I hear that same sort of restlessness in the following scripture verses:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to follow everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Whenever people ask me why we're planting new churches when so many old ones have empty pews and financial troubles, I remember the scripture above and that we’re not really living out the mission of disciples unless we are making “disciples of all peoples” as Jesus instructed the Twelve. Sometimes I think we take for granted that these were Jesus’ final words on earth. Clearly he expected this to be a mission that would keep us busy, probably until his return. The day we decide we have enough disciples is the day we’re no longer honoring Christ’s final instructions.

We have no trouble coming up with reasons not to plant churches. When times are bad we tend to retreat inward and wait until our church is pristine, which of course never happens. When things seem to be going well we become complacent and congratulatory. In neither circumstance is our gut instinct leading us in the right direction. The churches which do well in making disciples are not without their problems, but they know how to live out the Great Commission in spite of them.

In fact, perhaps as Christ intended, disciple-making has a way helping those churches live out the Gospel better. There’s no breaking even when it comes to ministry. Churches that cease to grow or bring in new people have a tendency to lose their zeal. New churches (and by churches I certainly mean people, not bricks or mortar) have a way of bringing in new energy, new leadership, and new ideas.

Few understood this better than the early Methodists in America. Starting small, they were not content to sit in their cozy cities on the East Coast for long. Instead many of them got on their horses and rode far into the American Frontier coming right behind new settlers and pioneers into unchartered territory. When their circuit didn’t have a sanctuary building, they met in people’s homes. When the homes weren’t big enough they worshipped outside in the camp meetings. When they couldn’t find enough clergy to lead the churches, they entrusted it to lay leaders. No problem seemed to hold them back. In the course of time these new churches brought in new ministries, reforms, and experiences that still impact our denomination today. Methodism would have been very different without the fruits of circuit riding.

Planting new churches is like planting flowers in that every new one carries the pollen that the wind can disperse and resettle, allowing even more flowers to flourish in new places. I’m not talking only of geographic locations, but of different communities within areas, different cultures, different age groups, different languages, and all different types of people.

Don't just look beyond some horizon to the next community, but look deep within the community you find yourself in for the place where the loving hand of Christ seems absent and go there. With every new person reached comes unfathomable potential. We have to find the places and the peoples not being reached and make them our new frontier. In the spirit of the circuit riders and Star Trek "we have to boldly go where no disciple has gone before!"

Where do you think the unchartered or underdeveloped territory for today’s church is located? Share your thoughts with us here.