“You are Peter [Gr. Petros—stone], and on this rock [Gr. petra—huge rock] I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not withstand it.” (Matthew 16:18)
“You believers are living stones, being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood” (I Peter 2:5)
What is the church? Years ago the Lord called a dedicated young believer to “build my church.” Since there was a broken down chapel nearby, St. Francis rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Soon he was joined by many like-minded disciples. Francis came to realize his mistake. By church, Jesus didn’t meandead, scattered bricks, but living stones, an assembling of his people, united in love and working together. As a result of Francis’ band of brothers, many other teams of disciples developed all over Italy and Europe. Through this Franciscan movement the church was renewed and many came to Christ.
The Apostles’ Teaching: “They continued to follow the apostles’ instructions and were in community (koinonia).” (Acts 2:42) The early church grew exponentially. Luke tells us they had the favor of their neighbors and many joined their fellowship. What was the secret of this vital, growing church? I wondered if it was what the apostles taught them. Luke doesn’t tell us, but the context makes it clear. They were “in one accord, of one heart and mind,” and joyfully worshiped God “in community.” This shows us that an important teaching of the apostles was Jesus’ new command to “love one another.” Moreover, how could they forget his intense prayer, “Father may they be one.” No, these were not scattered rocks, but living stones, sharing ministry, connected to one another with Christ’s agape love the mortar holding them together.
Shepherds can’t produce sheep, sheep produce sheep. I’ve led churches where the members worked with me to build the church. I encouraged them to share the ministry with me, helped get them praying and working together, using their gifts as God intended. Great things happened! The church grew.
However, when a lone leader, no matter how gifted, takes over the church’s ministry, does little to build community and gives only fringe jobs to members, little happens. Members feel like scattered rocks. They sit on the sidelines letting the paid professionals do the real work of ministry. It’s like a sports team which sends its coach out to play the game while they cheer them on. Little kingdom-building goes on in these churches. God requires a team to accomplish the goals of His kingdom, not lone individuals. Moreover, disciples who are not connected with other saints, often end up like coals removed from the fire. They die out.
Paul’s One Failure: Paul was a team player. He knew it takes a mini-church to plant a large church. We don’t read of any churches Peter planted. Was it because he often did ministry on his own? Paul always traveled with a group of disciples and planted many churches. He encouraged his team to use their spiritual gifts. He worked to train men such as Timothy and Titus to take over for him when he left a place. However circumstances prevented him from doing this in Athens. He came there alone, preached a great sermon on Mars Hill, but there were no converts and no church was formed. From this we see not even a great leader and preacher like Paul can accomplish God’s work alone. It takes sheep to produce sheep, not a lone shepherd.