Immediately after the birth of the New Testament Church on the Day of Pentecost, we read where the believers gathered together to form a community of fellowship, prayer and doctrinal instruction. (Acts 2:42) I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and pondering a few areas as it relates to church planting. My focus rests upon a simple question:
In the NT how much doctrinal instruction was expected before other church planters (apostles/missionaries) were sent out?
There would seem to be two extremes. First, there is the position that only those officially trained in Seminary are qualified to hold such a position. Second, there is the position that anyone with a burden should be sent out as soon as possible. The former turns the church planting into a slow and almost non-existent process and seems to violate the New Testament norm and would even disqualify the twelve apostles. (Acts 4:13) The later may multiply quickly, but it opens the door for all types of heresy and catastrophes caused by novice leaders. (1Tim. 3:6)
Couple this with the fact that the early Apostles did not have a written doctrinal statement to use for class room instruction, or even a completed New Testament text. Therefore, what did they demand for future leaders to understand before sending them out? It certainly was not an official religious degree. But yet, we read where they should instruct and deposit the truths they had received into the next generation of leaders. (2Tim. 2:2) Leaders were also instructed to pay careful attention to their doctrine (1Tim. 4:16), and to study in order to properly divide and handle the Word of truth. (2Tim. 2:15) Therefore, there was definitely some dimension of teaching necessary for these types of instructions to be given to mentors. Also, we see an early confessional creed in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. (1Cor. 15:3-4)
What are you thoughts concerning three questions.
1) How much instruction should church planters have before being released?
2) Is the amount of instruction dependent upon other factors? (target group or the amount of exposure to the gospel the target group has received) This question creates many considerations.
3) What is an expected time frame?
I’m not trying to put a Genie back into a time bottle by denying the development of orthodox doctrine to combat the rise of heresy or the profit of higher christian education. Instead, my heart’s desire is simply to be responsible in and committed to exponential church planting.