Have you ever lost your voice? Perhaps because of a cold or you had the wind knocked out of you? God has given each of us a voice for a reason.
Jesus sent out the apostles to preach the Gospel and make disciples. Since then the Gospel is being preached in every inhabited continent and soon, perhaps within our lifetime, all people groups of the world.
For years people would hear the Gospel through personal relationships and respond. They would continue to grow as they were taught from scripture and by the Holy Spirit. They would share what they had received and heard with others whom they had a relationship. These disciples would gather together into communities to encourage one another. In the early days, these communities would meet in homes or in out of the way places. They would do life together with one another and with Jesus. Many times miracles would happen and it would serve as encouragement to the believers and proof of authenticity to the searching.
These communities of believers became known as churches. Occasionally preachers would come through and declare messages from scripture, they would answer questions, give direction and correction, explaining things more clearly. The believers would be stirred and encouraged to continue to share the life that they had found in Christ by this input.
These churches multiplied because these believers were potent. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and gave undeniable witness to about Jesus. Everywhere they went they took the message and their experience with Jesus with them. Sometimes they moved for economic reasons, sometimes fleeing persecution, but everywhere they went the Christian experience spread. The result was an explosion of churches planted.
In its original form, Church planting was really a byproduct. Churches were being planted because believers were going into new areas. Today it tends to happen a bit differently in that many times churches are planted in order to reach new areas. The individual witness of the believer has been traded in for the witness of the preacher. Don’t get me wrong, I love preaching and preachers. But, in this way many believers have lost their voice and their testimony.
In the early days of following Jesus, every believer had a voice, a testimony of what Jesus did for them and who He was in them. The voice of the preachers was simply the voice of leadership not necessarily the voice of the entire Christian experience. Little by Little, through time, many believers traded in their own voice and testimony for the voice and testimony of a preacher. Sadly today, many Christians jump from congregation to congregation seeking a preacher to be their voice of Christian expression. Instead of sharing the Gospel and their own testimony with their friends they bring their friends to their church hoping the preacher will share the Gospel and their friend will get saved.
I believe God wants to give His people their voice back. To give them their testimony back. To fill them freshly with His Holy Spirit and make them potent and dynamic. They will still need the voices of leaders, not to define them but to guide, lead and encourage them. As believer’s get their voice and testimony back we will again see an explosion of church planting as a natural byproduct of the life and community that so easily surrounds the Gospel of Christ.
- Merle Shenk
Merle Shenk serves on the DOVE International apostolic council and serves on the pastoral team of Newport Church.