HOW TO PLANT A CHURCH

In this day and age, the process of church planting in America roughly follows the steps below (give or take a step or two):

1. Personally feel or hear the call
2. Get training
3. Prayerfully select a location
4. Begin a Bible study in a home
5. Invite friends, family, acquaintances, network and make connections in the community, attracting those in the market for a good church
6. Build a core group
7. Incorporate (501c3)
8. When large enough rent a small facility
9. Get a worship team and children’s ministry together
10. Advertise, promote through social media, direct mail, word of mouth, start a radio program, etc
11. Raise enough funding to rent or buy a larger facility
12. Conduct a major event to draw a crowd on the first Sunday of said new facility
13. Train additional lay leaders for ministry in the church
14. Grow budget to the point of being able to hire office staff and pastoral associates
15. Initiate a building drive to buy a bigger facility
16. Move into the bigger facility with a well-promoted celebration event
17. Groom associate pastor to take over the church once you retire
18. Retire with an adequate financial package

Paul’s process:

Serve, freely sharing giftings, doing life with a local community of believers, growing in intimacy with the Holy Spirit, deepening dependence on the life and power of Christ within, becoming familiar by experience with Jesus as Lord of the gathering (manifesting and ministering through the various parts of His body without hierarchy)

Be singled out by the Holy Spirit in a worship and prophetic gathering and subsequently sent out

Enter regions where there were no believers, but only blood-drinking, temple prostitute using, idol worshiping, spell-casting, adulterous, swindling, conniving, back-stabbing sorry excuses for humanity who would just as soon slit your throat if you crossed them. Of course, there were some Jews present in these areas, but they too would not hesitate to have you killed for religious reasons. Additionally, there were a few God-fearers who were basically Jewish wannabes. This was the crowd that Team Paul and Barnabas got to “network” with.

Sovereignly, people were born again and would do life together, eating together and hanging out in each others homes. Gatherings were also home-based. Jesus was raising up a community of believers from scratch.

There were no paid positions, all held the same rank as kings and priests. When they gathered, all shared with teachings, worship, prophetic words, tongues, interpretations, etc. Jesus, as Lord and Conductor of the gatherings, was the only Cornerstone that these wise master builders laid. They allowed Him to be the Head and direct the flow and proceedings of the gathering.

All were taught and learned by experience to abide in Christ’s presence and live by His all-sufficient indwelling life.

Paul and Barnabas received no income. They could have. Itinerant church planters, by virtue of their being transients without the ability to hold down a job, were the only ones in those days to receive nominal support for food and shelter. Paul chose not to accept support because he felt that it would hinder the work. He, through self employment, supported the needs of himself and his team.

The Christian communities that Paul started had no building costs, for they met in homes. They had no administrative costs for staff salaries and benefits. All served in the fellowship, using their gifts as Christ commanded “freely you have received, freely give”. As a result, plenty of money was available to help the poor among them and in the neighborhood.

After serving the new fellowship for, on average three months, the duo would move on to the next location. Often, their reward for starting the new fellowship was to be beaten and run out of town by the city folk. No pastor in charge was left behind. The fledgling community would survive Paul’s absence, even the blistering heat of persecution, because they had all learned to tap in to the indwelling power of Christ’s life. It might be years before Paul would return to recognize those who had matured to the point where they could be depended on to serve and protect their peers. Those recognized in this manner had no position to hold onto, no salary to protect, no podium or platform to rule from. They were servant-peers.

Paul would continue this process, being led by the Spirit, until he was retired by imprisonment and finally a grisly death. He amassed no retirement fund or assets other than some books and a cloak.

Just saying…
Dan and Debbie Murrill
April 15, 2016

THE TRUTH ABOUT AZUSA STREET

There is a lot of interest in the anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival this year. This is largely due to massive commemorations of the revival taking place in the LA Coliseum as well as in DC.

For all who participate and for all involved, it is vital to read first hand, eyewitness accounts of the Azusa Street Revival lest we miss the whole point of what the Spirit is trying to say to the body in this hour.

In the reading of these accounts, there are many features of the Revival that are striking and run contrary to how Christian gatherings of any size and nature are conducted today.

THERE WAS NO PROGRAM

As the Holy Spirit fell in the early days of the Revival, it was absolutely anathema to allow any human organization. There was no worship leader. The Spirit of Jesus led the singing spontaneously through the people and not from a platform.

Actually, there was no platform. There was no pulpit. There was no auditorium style seating that would focus attention on a few leaders, turning the congregation into spectators.

Messages could be brought by anyone in attendance. There was no roster of well-known speakers lined up. All, young and old, ignorant or educated, presented the word fresh from the Spirit as He gave them utterance. There was no filtering by professional leaders of what could be said. There was no asking of permission to address the group. Hearts burning with a freshly-downloaded message from the throne spoke as those possessed by the Spirit of God.

In the words of Frank Bartleman, an eyewitness and participant in the early days of the revival:

“All was spontaneous”

“We had no human program. The Lord Himself was leading”

“We had no hierarchy”

“We did not even have a platform or pulpit in the beginning. All were on a level”

“These things have come in later, with the apostatizing of the movement”

“They had cleared space enough in the surrounding dirt and debris to lay some planks on top of empty nail kegs, with seats enough for possibly thirty people, arranged in a square, facing one another.”

“Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer”

“No special speakers”

“No one knew what might be coming. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit”

“All were equal”

“We were delivered right there from ecclesiastical hierarchy and abuse”

“The meetings started themselves spontaneously”

“We had no prearranged program to be jammed through on time”

“We did not have to get our cue from some leader”

“The Lord was liable to burst through any one. It might be a child, a woman, or a man. It might be from the back seat, or from the front. It made no difference”

“The meetings were controlled by the Spirit, from the throne”

“I never saw an altar call given in those early days. God himself would call them”

“The presence of the Lord was so real.”

“Presumptuous men would sometimes come among us. Especially preachers who would try to spread themselves, in self-opinionation. But their effort was short lived. The breath would be taken from them. Their minds would wander, their brains reel. Things would turn black before their eyes. They could not go on”

“The Holy Spirit Himself is taking the lead, setting aside all human leadership largely. And woe to the man who gets in His way, selfishly seeking to dictate or control. The human instruments are largely lost sight of.”

Excerpts from: Bartleman, Frank. “Azusa Street.”

Some might argue “that was then, this is now” and “Azusa was just an exception not meant to be the norm”. On the contrary, in almost every move of revival, the Holy Spirit has tried to reestablish the Lordship of Jesus over the gatherings of His own body. Whether it was the Welsh Revival, Azusa, Asbury, or even the afterglows of the Jesus Movement, the Spirit of God sought to wrest control from the hands of professional human hierarchy. He sought to express Himself through the members of His body and not through a select, educated, and privileged few. His heart was to “level the field” and put everyone on an equal plane instead of having a professional pulpit class of Christian who belonged on a platform and a spectator class who belonged in the pew (or stadium seat).

Every Sunday morning, across the world, the Spirit struggles with the human hierarchy that has time and again killed revival in its deepest and purest form. In virtually every case the human element wins with its insistence on program, leadership from the stage, and professional monopolization. There may be a few token bones of prayer ministry, testimony, or prophetic utterance tossed in the direction of the congregants but, by and large, hierarchy prevails.

As tens of thousands witness the proceedings of this week live and on tv, as the parade of church leadership makes its way across the platforms, as the body sits as silent spectators, as the Spirit of God continues to grieve, as Jesus is continued to be robbed of His very Lordship over the gatherings of His own people…what is the outcome?

If leaders truly want to bring Azusa to the flock, let them lead the charge, crowbar in hand, and dismantle the platform, tow the podium off to the dump, donate away the sound system, tear down the projector screens, and have true Holy Ghost led gatherings with Jesus finally in charge and not the program.

…but they won’t.