Church Planting & the Great Commission

by Frank Jones


“Church planting is the necessary context for the two central components of disciple-making—baptizing and teaching. These components communicate a responsibility that clearly goes beyond bringing a person to faith in Christ: publicly identifying with Christ and learning the teachings of Christ. As we noted in examining the task of missions, a person who has not been baptized and who does not hold fast to the apostolic teaching may not be a genuine believer.

So how do I come to the conclusion that these activities must happen in the context of the local church? Consider Acts 2: 41-42:

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The threefold pattern of Matthew 28 is here in this text: evangelism (“ received his word”), incorporation into the body of believers (“ were baptized… there were added”), and instruction (“ apostles’ teaching”). The commission clearly entails more than evangelism, if evangelism is strictly defined as leading someone to a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and the opening pages of church history confirm this. Those who professed faith in Christ identified with Him in baptism and brought themselves under His teaching through the Apostles.

In fact, the apostle Paul, writing to the believers at Ephesus, makes clear that the Lord’s plan for the time until He returns involves the “official” function of pastor-teachers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4: 12). The Lord Jesus has provided gifted men to lead the church in fulfilling the Great Commission responsibility of “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”

The local church is the God-ordained means for the baptizing and instructing of those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ. Without the formation of local assemblies, the commission cannot be fulfilled. When we accept Christ, we are brought into union with Him and placed into His body, the church. Though the “church” is the mystical, universal Body of Christ, the responsibilities of baptizing and teaching belong to the local church as visible expression of that Body. Thus church planting must be the target of missions.” (Doran, David M. For the Sake of His Name. Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2018, 62-63)