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Ed Stetzer on the Local Congregation, Our Engine for Church Planting

In a follow-up discussion on the role of the local congregation, Dr. Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Christian Resources told Assembly attendees, “The Church is intended to be the engine of church planting around the world.” Citing the four commissions of Jesus in Scripture, he said, “We are sent to all people with a message through the empowerment of the Spirit.”

Stetzer opened by saying, “What you celebrate, you become.” He went on to say that if we celebrate doctrine and division, we will become more like that. However, if we celebrate church planting, reaching people with the Gospel, and God’s global mission, we will become more like those things.

We Are Sent
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

Stetzer explained that Jesus was both the sender and the sent and the Church is to function as both the sender and one who sends. However, Stetzer cautioned, “More Christians look like they’ve arrived rather than they’ve been sent…I don’t want your church to be a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission highway.” Reiterating a point from his plenary address on June 7, Stetzer said, “Everyone is sent. The only question is where and among whom.”

To All People
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

After establishing that we are “sent,” Stetzer said we must realize that we are sent to “all kinds of people.” He continued, “Don’t trivialize the Great Commission by ignoring the nations…it’s your neighbor and it’s the nations.” God desires his name to be praised by the tongues of every man and woman in every culture, tribe and nation.

The engine of church planting is the local church, but the local church must embrace church planting as a global initiative, he said. Dr. Stetzer also cautioned attendees of the danger of hearing the Great Commission and hoping somebody else will go.

With a Message
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)

“Fundamental to the nature of the Gospel is the proclamation of the Gospel,” said Stetzer. In addressing the Anglican Church in North America, he continued, “You have stood for the Gospel; I love that about you. I am one of your biggest cheerleaders outside of the movement…but never have I seen a group of people so passionate about rescuing the Gospel, but so timid about proclaiming it.”

Stetzer said that we all have different appearances as Gospel-proclaiming churches, but repentance and forgiveness must be preached and we cannot ignore the call to share our faith.

Empowered by the Spirit
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

Stetzer concluded by stating that in order to go out to all people with the message of repentance and forgiveness, we must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is pressing us to receive His Spirit and to be His witnesses around the world as we embark on a mission that is from everywhere and to everywhere, he said. “God is calling your church and my church to join Him in His global mission to our neighbors and to the nations,” Stetzer said.

In closing, Stetzer prayed that our churches would be engines of evangelism and church planting so that the name and fame of Jesus would be more widely known. He invited all to join in praying, “Lord, embolden me and teach me to share the Gospel.”

Read the story recapping Dr. Stetzer’s June 7 address on discipleship here.

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