In this second blog I want to demolish another major misconception about church planters that the church has allowed to creep into its way of thinking. From one perspective this misconception can actually sound very reasonable and as such go unchallenged until a bottleneck forms and constricts the flow of the rapid and spontaneous expansion of the church. This major misconception implies that:
"The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13
Peter and John were men with no special training in the scriptures. At least they had no special training from a worldly perspective in scripture. What did the council mean that they had no special training in scripture? It meant that Peter and John along with the rest of the other apostles had never attended or graduated from one of their certified rabbinical schools. The members of the council had spent many years in theological study and training to earn their position of honor in both the synagogue and temple. They had dedicated their lives working up the religious ladder and gaining the respect from the religious leaders and they felt that these uneducated men should learn from them and not try to instruct them in the purposes of God. Now some of you might be screaming at this point saying,
And you are absolutely right and I want to thank you for making my point. A person who has spent time learning from Jesus and being instructed by the Holy Spirit to understand spiritual truth is qualified to teach others the things of God. There is no need for a person to first graduate from a Bible school or seminary before they are qualified to plant a new church. However, it is essential that they know the Word of God and have a vibrant, growing and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. An ordinary Christian is more than capable of learning the Bible and learning to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit instructing them in the scripture without the help of a college or seminary. Please don't misunderstand me! I am not saying that theological education is not important! That's not my point at all. I personally have a theological education on both a bachelor's and master's level. What I am saying is that it should never be a prerequisite for church planting.
There are lots of examples of people whom God used powerfully that did not have a theological education before starting the ministry. Of course the same description given to Peter and John by the council could also be said of all 12 of the apostles. None of them had the special training in scripture that the council thought was so important. Philip was another First Century Christian who went to Samaria and through the power of the Holy Spirit initiated a spiritual awakening that resulted in a church forming. Both the churches in Damascus and Rome were started by some unknown ordinary and unprofessionally trained person or persons. Of course there were the professional church planters like the apostles but there were also the ordinary and uneducated church believers who started churches as they moved into new areas as the church was scattered.
Even in our contemporary era we see God using men to start churches who never attended a seminary or Bible college. One such man was my wife's grandfather, Ernest Barnes. Ernest came to know Christ later in life. It was on the night he witnessed the baptism of his eldest son and daughter. Almost three years later and after spending many hours of discipleship with his pastor Ernest started his first church, The First Baptist Church in Marina, California. This year of 2010 that church celebrated its 60th anniversary. A 60 year old church with a fruitful ministry, started by a man who never attended Bible college or seminary is what I call A GOD THING! Ernest went on to start several other churches throughout California's Central Coast. Even though Ernest never attended a seminary Ernest did know the Bible. He studied it, he devoured it and he soaked it into every fiber of his life. He was qualified to start churches.
The same thing is happening in this rising new breed of church planters all over North America. These men are getting saved and through the teaching of their churches, pastors and their own personal Bible study time God is calling them out and setting them apart to start some of the most dynamic churches that we have ever seen. Some of these church planters begin to take Bible classes after their churches have been started as a way to continue to sharpen their sword while others never take a single class from a college or seminary. But one thing is for certain all of these new church planters are devouring the Word of God daily. They love the Bible. They read it, meditate on it, memorize it, apply it and listen to it daily. Understand this: THESE CHURCH PLANTERS ARE NOT BIBLE ILLITERATE. They know the Word of God and their lives show it.
If the North American Church is going to be serious about seeing a church planting movement get started, we have to leave this notion that a person must first be a seminary or Bible school graduate and begin to view our existing churches as the new Bible institutes which are preparing God's people to do the work of ministry, including church planting.