Church Planting Part 2: Was Paul a Pastor?
Church planting is en vogue in America. Everybody’s doing it. There are new networks popping up for church planting, planters, and plants every day. There’s Acts 29, the Sojourn Network, NAMB, One8, Treasuring Christ Together, and so on. The common thread with these networks is the assumption that the church planter is the pastor, but is that the biblical model?
Was Paul a Pastor?
It does not appear that the Apostle Paul was ever a pastor. He never refers to himself as such, and makes sure to appoint elders (another word for pastors) in all his churches. I don’t think this was on accident. It allowed Paul the freedom to keep moving, but I think it had a greater purpose for the churches he helped establish.
Why is this Observation Important?
What does Paul accomplish by not establishing himself as the pastor of a newly formed church? What Paul (I believe consciously) does is create a leadership vacuum. The churches know that Paul and his team will be moving on, so it puts pressure on the men of the church to fill the leadership roles. If Paul were to establish himself as the pastor, he would stifle the growth of the men he was preparing to lead the church. Instead, he leaves the leadership open, so that men will “aspire to the office of overseer” (1 Tim 3:1). With their feet to the fire, these men were motivated to grow and dependent upon the Spirit to prepare them for ministry.
What About Today?
What if we adopted the biblical model in our new churches? We use the biblical model overseas, where it has often led to great movements of the Spirit. In Africa and Asia, many people have come to know the Lord in a short period of time due to the efforts of itinerant evangelists who did not see their role as that of a pastor, but as one called to make disciples and raise up leaders. JD Payne (my church planting professor, who you will hear me mention a lot) calls our current model “a one-winged plane,” arguing that we shouldn’t abandon it totally, but seek to promote the biblical model. How can we move in this direction?