I am getting ready to teach our kids this coming Sunday about the Apostle Paul’s Second missionary journey. Part of that journey included a church plant in the city of Philippi. As we saw when Paul was on his first missionary trip, he did not set out to plant churches. He was called by God to go and make disciples. The churches were formed as a result of people being discipled. This is the model for church planting. The modern approach is exactly backwards. We seek to plant churches and then disciple people once they become part of the church. Our modern form of church has much to learn from the Biblical approach. There are many areas where we are far from the Bible in our approach to modern ministry.
I. The importance of teamwork
Many times, when we think of the ministry of the Apostle Paul, we think of him as a lone ranger, doing it all, by himself. That could not be further from the truth. Paul is recognized because of his preaching and teaching abilities but, he never did things on his own. He always started off with a team and built the team as he went along. Paul leaves on the second missionary trip with Silas. Along the way, they add a new team member.
1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,
2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.
3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; (Acts 16)
Paul and Silas knew the believers in Lystra because in Acts 14, they were there teaching and encouraging them. When they return in Acts 16, Paul meets with them and learns of Timothy. This young man has an interesting family. His mother and grandmother are Jewish believers yet, his father is a Greek. It seems that the ladies were the spiritual leaders in Timothy’s life. Yet, they were not alone. The men of the church helped mentor Timothy. They knew him well and spoke highly of him to Paul. This is a prime example of Paul’s desire to work as a team. He took Timothy under his wing and began to teach him how to minister. This is a picture of discipleship. In this case, Paul did not have to lead Timothy to the Lord. Someone had already done that. He needed for someone to mentor him. Paul steps in and does an amazing job. Paul is always on the lookout to make disciples, among the nonbelievers and among the believers. As an international missionary, I have had many opportunities to disciple nonbelievers, proclaiming the Gospel to them, seeing them repent and believe in Jesus Christ. The really neat part is training them to observe the Word of God. Observe means to hear/read, understand, and apply. I have also had the privilege of discipling people who have been believers for many years, yet, during those years, they did not have a mentor. It is amazing to see the Word of God come alive before their very eyes. Then, they begin to minister to others, similar to what happened to Timothy after he met Paul.
II. Paul proclaims Christ
The Holy Spirit leads Paul, Silas, and now Timothy to Macedonia, where they enter the city of Philippi.
12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days.
13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.
14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.
15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16)
Paul had a custom, when he entered a Gentile city, the first thing that he would do would be to find a synagogue and go and introduce himself. As a Rabbi, he would be allowed to read the Scriptures and teach. When he arrived in Philippi, there was no synagogue yet Paul did find out that the Jews who lived in Philippi were meeting down by the river to pray on the Sabbath. Paul and the team joined them. While there, Paul was teaching and Lydia accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. Then she invited Paul and the team to come to her house and proclaim the Gospel there. While teaching, all the members of her household accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
III. Paul makes disciples
Paul set up shop in Lydia’s house and used her home as a base for the ministry in Philippi. As he is teaching Lydia and her household the Word of God, he demonstrates practical ministry by going out into the market place and preaching the message of the Gospel. Paul ends up casting out a demon and some of the people are outraged because that demon possessed slave girl was making a lot of money for them. They stirred up the crowds and Paul, Silas, and Timothy were beaten and thrown in prison without a trial. While in prison, Paul has a captive audience and he begins to do what he always does, proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;
26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.
27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.
28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”
29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,
30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. (Acts 16)
The jailer wants to know what he must do to be saved. Paul tells him to believe in Jesus Christ. The man believes. Paul is not done with the process. They are invited to the jailer’s house and Paul also teaches the man’s family and they come to Christ. Leading the man to faith in Christ was just a step in the process of discipleship. Now, because of these two families of disciples in Philippi, the Philippian church is born. Paul did not go in to plant a church. He went in to preach the Gospel in order to make disciples. The church formation was a result of making disciples.
40 They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed. (Acts 16)
After leaving the jailer’s home, Paul and the team visit Lydia once again and he does a little more teaching. Then he and the team leave for Thessalonica and the process starts all over again. This is similar to what Paul did on his first mission trip. The goal of the trip is explained to us from Acts 14
21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,
22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith
By following this plan of making disciples, Paul and the team were able to plant many different churches among the Gentiles. One of those churches was the church in Ephesus. The Ephesian church was a disciple making machine. It seems that they started 6 other churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). They followed the pattern left for them by the Apostle Paul and his team. The Gospel was preached and disciples were made. The church formed out of those disciples.
Are you part of a disciple making team? Are you being led by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel? Do you have disciples? Are you ready to be persecuted for preaching the Gospel? Do you realize that persecution only opens up new doors for more opportunities to make even more disciples? Do you have disciples who are also making disciples? May the Lord help us learn to imitate Paul, a team player who was passionate about making disciples!