Church Planting: Acts 14:21-23
“21) After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22) strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23) When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Acts‬ ‭14‬:‭21‬-‭23‬
As the first mission trip for Barnabas and Saul comes to an end, they had one final mission to complete. They retraced their steps and appointed elders in every church.
It must be noted that they gave time for God to work in each city. This accomplished two things. First, it allowed time for spiritual fruit to emerge that accompanies true salvation, especially in areas of persecution. Those who persevere for Christ are usually those who were genuinely converted.
Second, it gave time for spiritual gifts to develop and for leadership to emerge. Given several months, it became clear “in” and “through” whom the Spirit of God was working.
It is important that they prayed with fasting when making this decision. (Vs 23) They were expecting the Holy Spirit to lead them as clearly as He had in Acts 13:2-4 with the calling of Barnabas and Saul. Leadership decisions determine the future life of the church.
We learn from the context that they had made “many disciples.” (Vs 21) Paul and Barnabas had planted abundant seed in each city. There was most likely a steady harvest of new believers and spontaneous evangelism taking place daily. They most likely imitated the faith and activity of Paul and Barnabas in these new churches. I suspect they were very dynamic as opposed to being static.
They needed a place and format for corporate worship, teaching and fellowship. The text sheds no insight on how the new churches were structured, when they met or what the worship services looked like. However, they were connected back to the church in Antioch as seen in Acts 14:24-28. There was most likely some exchange and guidance from Antioch with the newly formed churches.
Church planting looks romantic, but it’s hard work. It takes time for a new work to take root, start functioning, mature and find its ministry within the community. The book of Acts leaves us with hundreds of questions about structure, format, mission and accountability. Each group had to study Scripture, make new disciples and seek God for direction.
They had to look to Jesus to build His church among them. He was the true vine and they were new branches. Each church seemed to be autonomous and self governing.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global