Church Planting in the New Testament

By Matthew Z. Capps

Where did the practice of church planting begin? What scriptural basis do we have for the work of planters and pastors? Here's what we've gleaned with the New Testament as our guide.

Planting and Partnership

Once your people understand the importance of the local church, they will naturally develop an inclination to prioritize planting and partnering with new churches in unchurched areas. In fact, preaching through the book of Acts is a wise endeavor as you introduce your people to the importance of the local church and potential church planting partnerships. One does not need to spend much time in Acts before catching a glimpse of planting and partnering with new churches.

Philip began proclaiming the gospel in Samaria after Stephen’s death (Acts 8:4-8). When the believers in Jerusalem heard about God’s Word spreading in Samaria, they sent Peter and John to them (Acts 8:14). As Peter traveled, he also encouraged the believers at Lydda and Joppa (Acts 9:32-43). When Saul the persecutor became Paul the preacher and planter, Barnabas was his ally among the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-30). In Acts 11:19-26, the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to start a church in Antioch. Then the church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to start new churches in the surrounding regions (Acts 13).

The Missionary Strategy

The remainder of Acts and many New Testament letters reveal how central starting new churches was to Paul’s missionary strategy. Once he had evangelized a city, he worked to establish a local community of believers by raising up leaders to guide and shepherd the new church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). Over a decade or so, Paul traveled more than 7,000 miles on three missionary journeys and started at least 14 new churches! As Ed Stetzer notes:

The expansion of the post-apostolic Church was unparalleled. As a proportion to the population, there has never been a more rapidly growing movement. Within ten years after the death of Christ, there were churches in Alexandria and Antioch. By the end of the second century, churches were active throughout the Roman Empire and as far away as Mesopotamia.

In many ways, Romans 15:20-21 gives us a glimpse of Paul’s heart in these endeavors:

My aim is to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation, but, as it is written, Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.

For Kingdom Advancement

If you examine the pattern of new churches in the New Testament, you will notice that Paul did not do this work alone. Paul and others were sent by their local church to start new churches, and these partnerships were transformational in kingdom advancement (Philippians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 11:8-9).

As you preach through the book of Acts and New Testament letters, don’t miss the opportunity to capture people’s hearts with the value of the local church and supporting church planting.

Excerpted from Kingdom Partnerships: How Established Churches Support Church Planting. Download your free eBook today.

Published November 1, 2023

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Matthew Z. Capps

Matthew Z. Capps(MDiv, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; D.Min. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor at Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, North Carolina. Matt has written various articles for websites and blogs, such as the Gospel Coalition, the Gospel Project, and For the Church. Matt and his wife, Laura, have three children.