Crazy “Church Planting” According to Paul?

Man Scratching HeadPaul’s interactions with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 has always intrigued me regarding gospel “methodology.” Think about this:

1. Spend a few years with stump-worshiping pagans. Introduce them to Jesus and His kingdom reality.
2. After ONLY 2-3 years, appoint elders from the same former stump-worshiping pagans who did not go to seminary. (In some of our systems you have to prove loyalty for decades and give a quart of blood and the rights to your first-born, before you would ever be considered “elder” material!)
3. Leave town, telling them they will never see you again.
4. Warn the elders you just recently appointed, that some of them are frauds, and after you leave, they will screw things up! (Paul actually said it more severely and more dire than that!) (Where was Paul’s “discernment”?!)
5. Leave anyway, not replacing yourself and your “governmental authority” in their midst, with your hand picked successor.

Compare this to the overly “pastoral,” insecurity-based, control-based, “prove-your-loyalty-to the leaders,” pay-check driven, “protect doctrine and protect the people,” self-aggrandizing, “build my ministry” “governmental order,” type “church planting” typically done in the west. I think the gap is profound.

Apparently Paul could not afford the registration fee to the “How to Do Apostolic Church Planting” seminar, because he sure didn’t “do it right” in Ephesus! (Please refer to the post on this blog Church Planting or Discipleship? for a more thorough presentation of the whole issue.)

Obviously, I am having a little hyperbolic fun and self-reflective irony with this passage regarding some of the silly and nonsensical beliefs and practices that we so readily cling to.  Goodness, if we can’t see ourselves and laugh at ourselves for our own nonsense, we are a miserable people (I’ve noticed we Christians can be a rather humorless bunch at times).

Of course I am not presenting this as a methodology to be normatively practiced! But it IS in the scriptural “bandwidth.”

Paul seemed to have a lot more confidence in the Holy Spirit to take care of His own than we do. If there is any error, any excess, in the Body of Christ today, it surely is not trusting the Holy Spirit too much to watch over His own. The meddlesome death-touch of the hand of man that ruins by programmatic administration that which is beautiful by divine design to function in love and relationship one with another, is a far more prevalent reality . . . and concern. On this, we should take note. The death touch is vastly a bigger problem than “not providing proper oversight,” etc.

Many are unwilling to face the naked truth of this implications of this passage because it would cost them everything to do so. Their little empires would crumble, including emotional codependencies and gift-addiction and personality cult empires, not just control and money empires, and they are unwilling for that to happen.

There is a lot of wholesale rubbish, garbage and nonsense routinely taught in this area that is swallowed without being challenged.  All our tidy little methodologies supported by cut and paste proof texts, about “how things should be done” are ruined, intentionally, by God, through passages like this one. I am thankful for that.

Too little Holy Spirit life, love, and power, too little relationship, too little family . . . too much control, too much administration, too much “government,” too much “systems.”


Copyright 2013,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

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12 comments on “Crazy “Church Planting” According to Paul?

  1. Great article, Stephen. This reveals true apostolic grace functioning with the proper motivation (not starting churches; but forming Christ in lives) and trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than man-made methods and resources. Good stuff!

  2. Brilliant, just plainly brilliant. Happens to be true too. Of course churches are so enmeshed in their traditions, historic or idealistic, that they wouldn’t and couldn’t agree.
    Barry Sillitoe.

  3. christianity is teeming with mans doctrines , doctrines which have put the word to no effect , these doctrines are excuses to cover for ‘elders’ who are not walking in power , cos they are not seeking gods approval , but mans , this is the most wicked thing ive seen on the face of this planet , counterfeit christianity , spit out the ‘lukewarms’

  4. How good was this little rant! – “Compare this to the overly “pastoral,” insecurity-based, control-based, “prove-your-loyalty-to the leaders,” pay-check driven, “protect doctrine and protect the people,” self-aggrandizing, “build my ministry” “governmental order,” type “church planting” typically done in the west. I think the gap is profound.” You nailed it brother. Keep pushin

  5. Thank you, Stephen. What about the other extreme, namely the insinuation that a church planter MUST leave the fellowship that he has planted in order for all of the above to be a consistent principle of church life?

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