The Early Church Expansion Plan by Rocky Fleming
Lately I’ve been getting some insight that I feel the Lord is directing me to see. I’d like to share it with you. I have entitled what I share as “The Early Church Expansion Plan,” for I feel the Lord is telling us to look carefully at it, and to follow it. I’d like to begin by establishing what I see that are some key scriptures that relate and interact with each other, for they formed the foundation of the early church expansion plan. They are ones that we are familiar with. But we might have overlooked how they connect. I’d like to make a point with how they connect and guide us, for I feel that is how I feel the Lord leading me. The scriptures are:
- 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 nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18 ESV
- But 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 ESV
- And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Acts 16:6
- And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:9
Now may I connect them?
First: We see Jesus tell the disciples to make disciples of all nations. This is an expansive call that looks at the world as His target. A big task and that is why He said to wait for His Spirit to come upon them to receive His power … but also His wisdom, as He would be their guide. As a ministry our vision should be as broad as the vision of Jesus, and with being led by His Spirit.
Second: We see the Great Commission being stated a little differently in Acts 1:8. It included an expansion strategy that directed the disciples to begin in Jerusalem, and then radiate out to Judea, and then to Samaria, and then to the world. What is our Jerusalem, our Judea and our Samaria? Was it just about geography at the time for them? Well, yes ... but not entirely. It was first about home and homeland and its people. It was also about a slow growth that would build a manpower base of disciples who would one day take a pure message of the Gospel to the world. It was about taking discipleship out to people that they did not readily identify with, such as the Samaritans and the Gentiles. Our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria could be metaphorically the same with our homeland and its people, and then to people outside our comfort zone or culture or race or denominations and beyond. But ultimately our work must lead in some way by the Spirit directs, to every nation.
Locally is where we started as a ministry, and I believe a foundation of doing the kind of expansion stated in the passage above has been established for several years now, and you are examples of it. I believe He has given us His anointing and empowerment to do things as He did with the early disciples, and now we are being invited to a global expansion beyond what we can see. We only know that the invitation has been given. But we do not know how to get there, and that is a good thing, for we are in a position to be told what to do if we listen and then act.
Third: We see in Acts 16 that Paul and his discipleship team were boldly carrying out the Great Commission to go into the world. They were way beyond Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria at this point. They were entering cultures and languages and social norms that they were not experienced in or wanted to be part of. But they were told to go none the less. Now this is where we see a very important point. Paul was rushing to do his work in making disciples, but the Spirit kept him out of Asia and Bithynia. Why is this? We don’t know. But we do know that Paul was instead invited to Macedonia. What do we learn from this as a ministry?
I believe God would want us to be pro-active in our efforts as a ministry to make disciples, and to find as many as He will reach through us to gather for His Kingdom. I love open doors that He gives us to do this. We can truly say that we go where we are invited, rather than try to break down doors and crash through them with all urgency, and I believe we have seen His favor because of this. But I also love closed doors that He gives us, for they remind us that He is in charge, we are within His divine initiative, and He has something different for us to join Him in.
Paul was given some closed doors. What did He do? He waited for the open one, and it came. What can we learn from this as the Spirit gives us a clear call to join Him in a broader campaign to make disciples? Well let’s connect the dots (scriptures).
Connect the Scriptures and Dots:
- We are not passive when we pray, before we act.
- We are not passive when we wait for the Lord to open doors, before we act.
- We are not defeated or deserters when we accept a closed door, rather than try to break down that door and overcome the resistance.
- We are no less visionaries when we wait for God’s vision to unfold.
- We are no less proactive in making disciples by following Jesus, waiting for Jesus, relying on Jesus and being led by the genius of His Spirit to dispatch us, empower us and work through us.
- Our mission does not require permission to make disciples or a need to impress other ministries or defend the vision and methods God has given to us. We see that Paul had Christian legalist following his ministry around trying to minimize the grace he was teaching and put a burden of legalism on the churches. If Paul had partnered with them and their perspective of ministry, the vision of grace that God had given him would have been corrupted. What can we learn from this?
Although we are glad to equip and serve the Lord in our discipleship efforts by helping other ministries in their efforts with using the Journey and the discipleship process, He has given to us, I feel great caution to partner with ministries that would see it as an add-on to what their main ministry focus is. They might not see it as a concern, but my experience has shown me that when The Journey takes a back seat rather than being a core effort, it is often misrepresented, diluted and becomes ineffective.
The caution I feel from the Lord is that He will bring us ministries that will join our efforts and DNA and we are to train these ministries for His work. But not all of them are from Him, and we need to always go back to prayer before we act on any such affiliation.
I’ll close this letter by a focus on Paul’s perspective. He said, “God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” My dear brothers and sisters. We have been called to them to make disciples. Let us go where the Spirit invites us to them, for everything we will need for that initiative will be provided. Ask for His vision. Ask for His provision. Act with His power, and He will be with us to the end of the earth to carry out His vision.