“Do you love Me?…Feed my sheep.” – Jesus
“…the church exists for the edifying or the building up of the saints; to bring the saints into full maturity so that they might engage in the work of the ministry.” – Chuck Smith
“Preach and teach the Word—the very life of the church depends on it! It has the power to save lives, change lives, and give life.” – Brian Brodersen
When men who are called by God and empowered by the Spirit of God preach the gospel, people become new creations. They come to spiritual life for the first time. This is what happened on the day of Pentecost. The Apostle Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. We are told that upon hearing the gospel from the lips of this imperfect but Spirit-filled man who was chosen by Jesus, over three-thousand people believed in Jesus and became born again. We may not see three-thousand people come to Jesus when we preach, or maybe we will. What we can be sure of is that if we are called to plant churches someone is going to come to Jesus from time to time when we preach the gospel.
The Vision of Jesus for His Church
The truth is that Jesus doesn’t just want people to be saved; He wants people to be discipled. I like to think of a disciple as a spiritual apprentice. Before Jesus ascended back into heaven He told the twelve: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
According to Jesus you need to do two things to become a disciple: First, you need to get baptized publically demonstrating that you have repented of your sin and trusted in His work on the cross for forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Second, you need to begin learning to live by His commands as explained by the apostles and prophets to whom His commands were originally given. The cool thing is that we have access to the commands of Jesus that were received by the apostles today in the pages of the Bible. This means that people today can be born again through faith in the gospel message, and then become disciples by being baptized and beginning to learn to live by the teaching of Jesus that we find in the Bible.
Missionary Training Centers
Church planters need to see the local church communities that are gathered through their preaching as missionary training centers. In fact, Jesus’ original intent for giving leaders to His church is that those leaders would teach His people, disciple His people, and train them in the Word that they might be able to serve Him effectively in their individual callings. The Apostle Paul wrote of this in Ephesians four: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Each type of Spirit-gifted man listed above has in common the fact that they are all communicators of God’s Word in one way or another. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers all have their own version of a Bible communicating ministry. According to Paul, Jesus gave men with these gifts to the church specifically that through their teaching the rest of the church would be equipped to serve God in their respective callings. This is discipleship! Gifted Bible teachers teaching Christians to obey Jesus’ commands for their lives is the picture in Ephesians four, and it is Jesus’ plan for how His command to make disciples is to be accomplished.
This means that churches that are merely evangelistic are only doing half of their job at best. Jesus style churches don’t just get people saved by giving them the gospel; they equip and disciple them through teaching them the Bible. The other side is true as well. If a church is only focused on deep teaching and doesn’t charge the people to take what they learn in the Bible and put it into practice on mission in their personal lives, they are merely encouraging spiritualized consumerism.
Getting Our Priorities Straight
If you want to be a church planter, you must have this straight. If you don’t set up systems for discipling new converts and training Christians in the Word you will never have a missionary church that is going into the world to do the work of the ministry. You will have a bunch of unhappy baby Christians who are so hungry because of a lack of being fed the Word that they will eat each other, and you. If you feed them the Word you will see the love of God in your church. You will see Christians mature in their relationship with Jesus and start living like Jesus. You will see them begin to share the gospel in their lives. You will see them take care of one another. And yes, you will see those who merely want to consume and never contribute hit the road. But the result will be that you will have a vibrant local church that really is a missionary training center that is being used by Jesus to advance His kingdom.
I want to leave you with a biblical picture of the first local church that was birthed by the gospel, nurtured in a community of discipleship, and used to bring many other souls into the kingdom as a result. This can be your church if you do it God’s way.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” 
Summary and Exhortation
That dynamic, Spirit-filled, loving, sharing, and kingdom spreading local church began as a group of newly saved Christians who, “continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine.” Think about it. Pray about it. Do it.