Luke’s recording of the work of the Holy Spirit through the acts of the apostles gives the church today a picture of how the Gospel spread in the beginning and forms a pattern that we can emulate today. Acts provides the narrative of the story; the epistles reveal the training content for establishing a church. By reading both Acts as well as Paul’s letters, we see a model for distributed churches to follow. It is what we refer to as the Early Church Pattern of Church Planting.
There are three key Scriptures that provide an overview of this pattern for the church:
In each of these three key areas, several functions take place:
Evangelism: The Gospel is spread in neighborhoods, at work, in schools, and among family and friends as the Holy Spirit works through authentic relationships and the faithful wise activity and proclamation of believers. The church is also a witness in the community as it seeks the welfare of the city by serving in a variety of capacities.
Establishing: The church is established in the faith by growing in relationships, teaching, and ministry. New believers are taught and model the first principles of the faith through a community of believers. Every person understands they have gifts and abilities to contribute to the Kingdom.
Entrusting: The church develops leaders to give oversight and spiritual direction to the gathered community. These leaders are identified, trained, and commissioned for shepherding the church. Leaders are also recognized for their desire and abilities to expand the Kingdom of God, and are trained to more effectively lead in planting new churches and leading networks of churches.
This pattern and process provides the framework for the mission of a distributed church and must be embedded into its DNA. If followed, the result is the Gospel expanded by the unorganized activity of believers, led by the Holy Spirit, resulting in new churches spontaneously emerging and being linked together into networks. This spontaneous expansion of the Gospel is a key goal and indicator of health of a distributed church.
Note: The spontaneous expansion of the Gospel, through the early church pattern of church planting, is in contrast to the typical expansion seen today that is highly controlled and organized by a religious institution.