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Why Would We Plant a Church?

Why Would We Plant a Church?
1st February 2015

Why Would We Plant a Church?

Speaker:
Series:
Passage: 1 Thessalonians 1:1 - 2:16

1 Thessalonians 1:1 - 2:16
Why on Earth Would We Plant a New Church

A change in the news
The week before we launched this church, back in 2010, I conducted the funeral for Kathy’s grandfather, my grandfather in law, if you like. For the rest of my life I’ll remember exactly that moment, when the phone rang with the news that he had passed away. It was 11:07 PM, I was in bed, Kathy was listening, as the staff at the hospice passed on news that we had been expecting.
Then last year, the week we announced our plans, under God, to plant a church on the South Coast, Kathy’s grandmother passed away. I’ve decided to stop planting churches, because it’s bad for my family’s health!  But again, I will remember forever, where I was, when I received the news.
There is some news that we’ll never forget, isn’t there?
News that changes our lives,
Changes the way we look at the world,
News, that means, from this moment on, everything is different.
Depending on your generation, you might remember exactly where you were, how you felt, when you heard news of The September 11 terrorist attacks,
The 2004 tsunami,
The death of Princess Diana, John F Kennedy, or Elvis!
But of course some of the news that changes us, is good news, really good news. I’ve had the great joy of standing right here and announcing news of engagements, and weddings, and births.
We know that news can change us, don’t we?
And I’m sure you noticed as we read those words from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica, he makes it clear that the gospel of Jesus, is exactly that kind of good news.
In fact that’s exactly what the word “gospel” means, Good news. And here we see that the gospel of Jesus is good news that brings a change.
And we find in Paul’s descriptions of the message of the gospel, and the effects of the gospel, some answers to the question we have posed ourselves today, “Why on earth would we plant a new church?”
That might be the question at the forefront of your mind, “We’re comfortable here,
My friends are here, why on earth would we change all that?”
Or maybe you’re trying to find out about us as a church, and you’ve come along today to find out what are we on about?
Why are we planting Trinity South Coast?
Why are we re-launching at Cornerstone so that we can plant more churches in the future?
… Because God’s Word changes people 4 - 9
As I say, Paul’s reflections on the gospel and on gospel ministry give us some answers to that question.
And the first answer, Why on earth would we plant a new church?
Is because God’s Word changes people!
Really, the whole of chapter 1, after the greeting, is about how the lives of the Thessalonians have changed, since they heard the good news of Jesus, that Paul and his companions preached when they planted the church at Thessalonica.
I won’t read the whole section again, but let me point out just a couple of examples, from really just the opening verses.
When Paul thanks God for the Christians in Thessalonica, when he prays for them, verse 2, the first thing that comes to mind, is the way in which the gospel has transformed their thinking.
See there in verse 3, Paul remembers continually, their work produced by faith, their labor prompted by love, and their endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
All of the scholars and commentators who write about this, say that Paul is just jumping up and down with excitement, because of the change the gospel has brought in people, because having trusted in Jesus, that is, having faith, they’re responding in good works.
See the natural human understanding, is that if I want to be in a right relationship with God,
If I want God to be pleased with me,
Our default position tends to be, “well, therefore I must do good things, I must work
That is the basis of relationship with God, that we see in other religions.
My friend, Asad, who’s a Muslim, described to me once the scales, that Allah would use, to weigh his good works, against his bad works, and whichever of those was greater, that would determine my friend’s final destiny.
And as I have conversations with other friends, this is the general expectation they have.
God will be pleased with me, because I do good works.
I go to church,
I give money to charity,
My name’s on a roster,
I heard just this week of someone who said, “I give blood!” God has to be pleased with me!
One of the questions we think about together in God, Church & Me, our 4 week course for new members, starting on Wednesday, please reserve your place and join us!, we think about the question “If humanity were to devise a solution for getting into a right relationship with God, what would it look like?”
And every answer, every time, is, works.
Things people do, in order to make God pleased with us.
The message that Paul and his colleagues, had preached in Thessalonica,
The good news that gave birth to the church in that city,
The message of Christianity that we want to ring out from here, from Cornerstone, across the South Coast,
The gospel of Jesus, says that good works are not a pre-requisite for relationship,
They’re not the means to relationship,
But they are the natural outworking of faith, of the trust and relationship with God that he offers us.
Why on earth would we plant a new church?
Because we want people to have opportunities to hear and respond to this message, that cuts across our assumptions, and our cultural presuppositions that tell us that you need to work hard,
You need to do good things,
You need to be good enough, for God.
No, we want people to hear this message.
Good works come after relationship with God, not before.
They come out of our relationship with God, they don’t get us into relationship with God.
What a burden that lifts from people who are trying to find out how they can be in a right relationship with God,
The message of the gospel of Jesus is that you can’t work your way to relationship, you simply need to have faith, to believe that God has done enough for you to come to him, through the death of his Son, Jesus in your place.
Well you don’t really need me to tell you that this is a 180 degree turn around from our natural assumption.
It’s what the management consultants call a complete paradigm shift.
It’s an entirely new way of looking at the world.
And no wonder it’s the first thing that comes to mind, when Paul thinks of his friends in Thessalonica, they’ve been transformed by the message they’ve heard and believed.
But we are called to work
Of course, let me just remind us, though, that Paul doesn’t think that good works don’t exist, or have no value.
They don’t contribute to us getting into right relationship with God, but they do have value.
Notice he speaks of work there in verse 3, and then a moment later speaks of labour.
We can’t, then, miss the point, that Paul thinks that people who are in relationship with God,
People who have believed that they are acceptable to God, are really hard workers!
This word for labour, was the word used to describe someone being beaten up! And it was the way you would describe how you felt after some enormous physical exertion.
So a few from here, took part in the Tour Down Under BUPA Challenge ride last week, which finished up here in Mount Barker.
When you got off your bike, after 151.7 kilometres, how you felt in that moment,
When your legs were jelly,
And your muscles ached,
And you couldn’t straighten up,
I’m just imagining all this, I’ve never experienced it!,
That’s how Paul describes the work, the labour of those people who trust in Jesus.
If you’re a Christian, that’s how Paul thinks your faith in Christ works itself out.
That kind of work is a lot more than helping little old ladies across the road, isn’t it?
It’s a lot more than thinking, “Oh, I can help out on a roster at church every month or so, ”
This is a transformation that affects the whole of life, it’s not just adding a few bits around the edges.
And we see down in verse 8 and 9, that the gospel’s transformative effect on the lives of the Thessalonians was so great, that
pretty much the entire world has heard about it, They tell, how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God
Imagine if, our dear friends from here who will be that initial group of believers at Trinity South Coast, as they talk more and more about Jesus to their friends, and neighbours, and colleagues, imagine if the transformation that the gospel brings in those lives, was so stark, so counter-cultural, that we heard about it here?
That our friends around here heard about it?
Wouldn’t that be something to give thanks to God for?
Wouldn’t that be something to pray for?
Wouldn’t that be something for us to work and labour for?
Why on earth, would we plant a new church?
Because we long for people to be transformed and changed by the Word of God.
The gospel of Jesus changes people’s very identity
I said a moment ago, that pretty much the whole of chapter 1, after the greeting was about the transformation that the gospel of Jesus brought,
But actually that’s not the full story, because you probably noticed, that even Paul’s greeting to the Thessalonian Christians, reflects the change that God has worked in them through his Word.
See verse 1, Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Because the gospel message has come to them,
Because they’ve believed it, and that’s evidenced by their transformed lives and their costly labours,
Because someone told them the good news of Jesus, the Thessalonians can be described as the church in God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Their very identity has been changed.
Some of you have observed that we’re changing over our church web domain name, to tmb.church.
And someone asked me the other day, is the “.church” domain name, just for Christians, or can any religious group get one? Littlehampton-buddhist.church or something?
And the answer is, yes, any group can get one, the “.church” name is for any group who considers that they’re on about spiritual things.
And that applied in Thessalonica in the first century AD. There were plenty of different religious groups, that called themselves “church”, the Greek word ekklesia. And archaeologists have even uncovered evidence of secular groups calling themselves churches, it wasn’t particularly a religious term.
But Paul doesn’t just say the Thessalonians are a church, like all the others, does he?
He identifies them as being a church, in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
And it’s Paul’s way of saying, “you have a new identity.
You are joined to God,
United with Jesus,
Your life hasn’t just changed, you have a whole new kind of life, because you share in Jesus’ life.
Jesus who was raised from the dead, that’s the kind of life you now enjoy.
You can’t really get a more dramatic transformation, than a change in your very identity can you?
And why is it that the good news of Jesus, can have this kind of transformative effect on people’s lives?
Well see down in verse 13 of chapter 2, where Paul comes back to the theme of what he prays for the Thessalonians, And we also thank God continually, he says, because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
Why on earth would we plant a new church?
Because we long for people to be transformed and changed by the Word of God.
Don’t hear me saying, that the only way that people can hear the Word of God is by us planting a church, not at all!
And of course, simply starting a new church doesn’t automatically mean that people will hear the Word of God does it?
Sadly, there are lots of churches, where the Word of God in our Scriptures, this message of grace, can not be heard.
But our experience in the Trinity Network of Churches, with now 6 church plants, and also the research from around the world, demonstrates that probably the very best way for people to hear God’s Word in Australia, is through the planting of new churches.
In fact Ed Stetzer, probably the world’s leading researcher on the church and Western culture, says that planting churches who can then plant churches, is the “single most effective strategy”, for helping people hear God speak, calling on them to respond, and growing them to maturity.
The single most effective strategy.
Why on earth would we plant a new church?
Because God’s Word changes people!
Because God will judge sin (1:10)
But there’s a, perhaps more confronting reason for wanting to plant churches, that we find here in 1 Thessalonians, and that is the absolute certainty that God will judge sin and rebellion.
Read with me, from the second half of verse 9 if you will. Paul says, people everywhere, tell, how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, —Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath
The Thessalonians’ experience, was the natural human experience.
Before they heard the good news and believed, they weren’t just neutral to God, they were opposed to God.
They had put other things in the place of God.
They served idols.
That just means they gave the attention,
The priority,
The value,
The worth that God deserves, to other things.
In their case, some of those things would have been quite literally idols. You know, little metal gods. Blocks of stone, that kind of thing.
These days we like to think of ourselves as a bit more sophisticated!
We don’t often have, in our culture, the stone or metal idols that we see in some other cultures,
But actually we do have stone idols. They’re called “houses”, and “holiday homes.”
We have metal idols called “cars”, “money” and “jewellery”,
But even more so, we have a raft of much less tangible idols. The prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament talked about how we set up idols in our hearts:
Popularity,
Influence,
Pleasure,
Career,
Family,
Children,
My children’s popularity,
My children’s influence,
My children’s career,
Even ministry can become an idol.
An idol is something that takes the place of God. And Tim Keller, the American pastor and author, says in his book “Counterfeit Gods”, “Anything can be an idol, and everything has been an idol”.
Having an idol means something is in God’s place.
And it means we’re rebelling against God, and therefore we deserve God’s judgment.
Now, if we’ve been around here for a while, we know that; to take God’s good gifts but ignore God, is to sin, and to deserve God’s judgment.
Our friends at Trinity South Coast know that;,
But most of the people in our region, most of the people we mix with every day, they don’t know that.
They haven’t understood that to politely ignore God, or to give something else the honour that is due to God is to be deserving of God’s wrath.
Why on earth would we plant a new church?
Because God will judge sin.
And we long for people to turn to God, while they are able.
The idea of God being wrathful, is a difficult concept for lots of people, including lots of Christian people. It’s easy to think that the Christian message would be a whole lot better, if all we had was God’s goodness, and we didn’t have to worry about God’s wrath.
But let me say 2 things.
Firstly, God’s wrath, or God’s anger, his judgement, whichever word your Bible translation uses, is not the capricious, Fly off the handle,
Explosive,
Unpredictable, kind of anger that, well, actually that some of us have experienced, at the hands of others, and even been terribly hurt by.
That’s often how people imagine God’s anger to be.
But God’s wrath, to use the term in our NIV Bibles, perhaps is best described as his:
Settled,
Controlled,
Personal,
Opposition to sin.
It’s settled, in that it’s deliberate, not an afterthought.
Controlled, it’s not unpredictable, in fact here it’s prophesied centuries in advance, as something that is definitely coming.
It’s personal. And by that I mean that this is more than God simply saying, “Well, if the consequences of your decisions are bad for you, so be it, I’ve got nothing to do with it”,
But even in this very chapter, down in verses 15 and 16, we see that we can’t separate God from the judgement of sin. It is in God’s nature to oppose sin.
Which means that it’s really important that we understand that God’s goodness isn’t set in opposition to his wrath,
Rather, God’s goodness is proved by his wrath, his settled, controlled, personal, opposition to sin.
Who wants a God who is indifferent to sin?
Who wants a God who doesn’t care what sin and evil people dream up in their hearts?
Who wants a God, who just can’t be bothered, calling the ISIS militants to account,
In the news this week, a “remorseless” rapist threatened two young mothers with a cattle prod during violent home invasions.
Do you want a God who just can’t be bothered getting of his backside to call that man to account, and just lets those crimes slide?
I don’t want a God like that and I don’t imagine you want a God like that either.
Fortunately that’s not what God is like.
God’s judgement of sin demonstrates, proves his goodness.
He will call sin and rebellion to account.
God not only warns us of his judgment, he provides a rescue
But even more than that, we see here that God not only warns people of the reality of his judgment, he even provides a way out.
We’re planting a new church on the South Coast, because we want people to hear of the rescue that God offers, from the coming wrath.
We’re re-launching at Cornerstone in 3 weeks, consolidating into a single Sunday morning gathering, to enable us to plant more churches, because we want more and more people to hear of the rescue that God offers, from the coming wrath.
See there, Paul describes one whom God raised from the dead – Jesus.
I take it that this is a summary of the gospel message Paul preached as he began this new church in Thessalonica;, Jesus Christ, crucified, died, buried, raised,
And in defeating death, he offers us victory over spiritual death;, the judgement and separation from God that we deserve.
That’s how Jesus rescues us from God’s wrath. By taking it on himself!
Once we-relaunch in Cornerstone, you may notice in the building there, one of those automatic defibrillators.
You know, if someone has a heart attack, you take the paddles, put them on the person’s chest, and it gives them an electric shock to try and get their heart back into proper rhythm.
If you have a heart attack, it’s a great thing to have there, a great rescue tool.
But if you weren’t aware that you needed it, you wouldn’t take advantage of it, would you?
And you would be, shall we say, shocked and surprised, if someone came up to you during church one morning, stuck the paddles onto you, yelled “clear!”, and gave you a massive electric shock!
You might think, “Well, it did look like I had nodded off, but I didn’t think I looked dead!”
You wouldn’t let someone do that to you,
You wouldn’t take advantage of the rescue they were offering,
Unless you knew that you were in danger.
Why on earth would we plant a new church?
Well, do you want people to know that they are in danger?
That their sin, and rebellion, and idolatry, mean they are rightfully facing, God’s settled, controlled, personal, opposition to sin
We want to plant a new church, and not just one, but lots of them, because God will judge sin, but he’s already provided the rescue from that wrath.
 … Because a gospel lifestyle amplifies the gospel message.
Thirdly, in chapter 2, we find yet another answer to our question, why on earth would we plant a new church?
Well because a gospel lifestyle amplifies the gospel message.
Look at the repeated idea we see in there, as Paul talks about how the Thessalonians can be assured of the authenticity of the gospel message, and Paul’s church planting ministry, because of what they’ve seen in Paul’s life as he rubbed shoulders with them.
And in fact it even starts back up in verse 5 of chapter 1,
You know how we lived among you for your sake that is, our lives were evidence of our gospel convictions.
Paul can point to his own life, as an example of the gospel at work, and he says to the Thessalonians, “If you’ve got doubts about our ministry,
If you’re wondering whether this gospel of Jesus is the real deal,
Do we practice what we preach?
Is the gospel actually powerful?
Does the reality live up to the promise?”
Well, he says, you just need to look at our lives,
Not just what we’re like on Sunday,
But our day to day lives,
How we conducted ourselves in your community.
What we were like as friends and neighbours.
The number of times Paul calls on the Thessalonians to remember what they saw of him and his team up close in the community, is astounding!
You know, chapter 2 verse 1,
as you know, verse 2,
Verse 5 You know, we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed
Verse 9, Surely you remember, brothers and sisters,
You are witnesses verse 10,
You know, verse 11,
If you’ve got questions about whether the gospel is all it’s cracked up to be, Paul says, all you need to do is look at the lives that we lived among you.
See a lifestyle that is influenced and shaped by the gospel, amplifies the gospel.
Does the gospel actually change lives? Look at our lives says Paul!
How does the work of the Spirit, taking the Word of God to people change their priorities?
Look at our priorities,
Can that message of the free gift of relationship, give birth to a genuine desire for toil and struggle, without any sense of trying to earn anything before God?
Look at how that message changed us Paul says,
Verse 3, we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition
We were like a nursing mother caring for her children verse 7,
we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone, verse 9
we could have asserted our authority., verse 7, Instead, we were like young children among you
And to sum it all up, verse 8, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well
Why on earth would we plant a new church?
So that people who are far from God, and rightly deserving of his wrath, can see in their midst, a community of people, shaped by the grace of God.
In those lives they’ll see the gospel of Jesus commended and amplified.
Paul looks at his life and ministry, and says “you got to see the out-working of the gospel of Jesus up close.”
When we plant a church, we’re saying to a community, look here, at this body of believers, to see the gospel at work,
To see that this good news, really is good news for people.
Now, of course I’m not saying that only new church plants and not established churches can do this! Not at all! Although of course every church was a church plant at some point!
And we start new churches so that these characteristics of the gospel at work can be seen in people’s lives, not just in one place, but so that people far and wide can see, right up close, and in a kind of indigenous, local way, what a Christian looks like,
What the Christian life looks like,
What Christian community looks like,
Why the gospel of Jesus really is good news.
It’s important we realise that Paul’s not saying, all that matters is that we live a good life, “don’t need to speak the gospel, just kind of live it.”
So there are some missionary organisations today, who have as their catch-cry, “live the good news rather than preach the good news.”
That’s a problem.
Or you often hear people quote Francis of Assisi, a church leader in the 13th Century, “preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words”, as if it were somehow possible to share with people that Jesus saves them from the coming wrath, without words!
You can’t do it!
No amount of gesturing, and charades, and living a good life, can communicate that.
Not only is that a misrepresentation of poor old St Francis, who, didn’t actually think that, but I think it stems from an embarrassment at the gospel, or a lack of confidence that the Word of God is powerful to change people.
Our ministry has to be more than living well among people. But we can’t expect people to hear and believe the word of the gospel if there is no evidence of it having any impact in our lives!
“Clayton how can I believe that Jesus can make a difference to my life when there’s no evidence that he’s made any difference at all in your life?”
Our goal as a church, as a church within the Trinity Network of Churches, is not just to plant a new church on the South Coast this Easter, but for Adelaide to be filled with churches, Trinity churches and other churches, communities of people who will, what were those words in verse 8?, share, not only the gospel of God but, lives as well
Really, in church planting, all we do, is move the lives of men and women who believe the gospel, a little closer into the community of people who need to see the effects of the gospel,
Who we long to see, that it really is good news.
So in God’s kindness, as of Easter this year, there will be one more group of people, gathering together,
Proclaiming the gospel,
Celebrating the gospel,
Living out the gospel,
And it is our great and ongoing prayer, that those many thousands of people on the South Coast who don’t know Jesus, who are facing the coming wrath not realising that they are in danger, nor that a rescue is provided, we pray that they will look into that community at Trinity South Coast, and see:
Verse 3, Great daring and courage in evangelism, in the face of strong opposition
They’ll see people loving like parents, verses 7 and 11,
Christians working hard night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone, verse 9
Leaders, in contrast to worldly leadership, not asserting their authority verse 7, but being like young children
Men and women, boys and girls, longing to be used by God, verse 8 to share, not only the gospel of God but their lives as well
Will you join me, as we pray for them?