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I Will Build My Church

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures


Well, this morning we will step away from our study of Romans 9, and we do so for a couple of very special reasons. The truth is, this is an incredibly important day in the history of Countryside Bible Church. And that is true for two totally different reasons. It's significant, first of all, because it was on January 29, 1979 that our church held its first service in a small, rented church building in Keller. That means that today, and this year, we celebrate our 40th anniversary as a church. During those 40 years God has allowed this church to have a significant impact across the Metroplex, including relationships with several other wonderful churches. But today on our 40th anniversary we will initiate our first, official church plant. And, of course, this is the second reason this is such an important day in the history of Countryside Bible Church. It is the first of what we hope, if the Lord wills, will be many to come.

This has been in the planning stages for a long time. In fact, back on October 17, 2008, 11 years ago, the elders got away for our annual, strategic planning retreat. And one of the items on the agenda that time away was entitled "Metroplex Church Planting." The minutes of that retreat record that it was our intention then, 11 years ago, to plant a church at some point after 2016. So this has been on the hearts of the elders and our church for a long time. The elders have been refining the plan now for a couple of years. Today, by God's grace, we initiate those plans.

Now to prepare us as a church to do that, the elders have asked me to do two things this morning. One, to lay out a biblical foundation for the priority of church planting. And secondly, to explain the specific plans for our own church plant. Which is my joy to do. And that's what we will do together this morning.

So let's begin then with the Scripture itself and with the biblical model and mandate for church planting. Why is this important? Why have the elders been working toward this for 11 years? And frankly, why should it matter to you as an individual believer and as one who is connected to this church? You see, a church plant is not just generally a good idea. It's not just about making room in our second service for some of you who are hitting elbows. It's not about trying to make a name for ourselves somehow. Rather, this is a mandate that our Lord has given us, and it was the model and pattern of the early church. I want you to see that together this morning.

So let's begin then as we look at this (the biblical model and mandate) by looking specifically at the mandate of our Lord Himself. I want to begin in Matthew's gospel. Turn back to Matthew chapter 16, and let's begin in verse 13. "Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi." Now let me, first of all, say, this is about 10 months before the cross. The events we're going to study here are probably happening in the early summer of the year before the cross, in the April time frame of that year. So in that context He's in Caesarea Philippi. This is a Greco-Roman town about 25 miles north of Galilee. And it's here that He asked His disciples this question. Verse 13:

"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah… but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."

There was a lot of discussion about who Jesus was. Some of it was built on a proper understanding of some Old Testament text. Others, as you see reflected here, was built on a misguided interpretation of some Old Testament passages.

And So Jesus then asked in verse 15, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter, as he so often did, speaks for the disciples and answered, "You are the Christ." The Christos. The Messiah. Ha-Mashiach. The Promised One from the Old Testament Scriptures. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Now that answer is not really one answer. It is two separate answers. First of all, he says You are the Messiah, the One that God promised in the Hebrew Scriptures who would come (according to Isaiah 53) to deal with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. They didn't fully understand all of those issues at this point, but that was the reality. What they did know is He was the Promised One. He was the Messiah. Of that they were sure. This is a statement about Jesus' mission. He had been promised and sent by God. He was the Anointed One who had come.

And then he says, "The Son of the living God." Now in the context in which this was said, it's really quite fascinating and a stark contrast, because they were in Caesarea Philippi, a Greco-Roman town. That town had been known in the Old Testament days—prior to the Romans it had been known as a center of Baal worship. And in the first century it was known for the worship of the Greek god Pan. (In fact, if you go with us to Israel you will visit that site and see the cave, the grotto that remains there as a celebration of the Greek god Pan.) In addition, it was a center of the worship of Caesar, the emperor cult. All of those were either nonexistent, or (in the case of the emperor) they existed but would soon die. In contrast to them, this One, Jesus, is the Son of the living God, the real, the true God. That is an amazing confession. By the way, that "Son of the living God" is not a statement about His mission. That is a statement about His nature, His being.

So you have both of them here in this statement by the Apostle Peter. It's really remarkable. In 10 Greek words, Peter used the definite Greek article four times. He wanted to say, this is who You are.

Now Matthew tells us how Jesus responded to that confession. Notice what He says in verse 17. "Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.'" You didn't come to this on your own. The Father through the Spirit has brought you to understand this. "I also say to you [verse 18] that you are Peter [you're a little rock], and upon this [massive bedrock—He changes Greek words] I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." This is an amazing statement by our Lord. I want you to see two things that are here in verse 18.

First of all, what does He mean "upon this rock I will build My church"? Well, He's not talking about Peter. He intentionally changes words. Instead, He's talking about Peter's confession. Or we could even expand it beyond that to say the teaching of the apostles. That's exactly what we read in Ephesians 2:20 this morning. And that is that the church is built on the foundation of the teaching of the apostles and the prophets. That's what Jesus is saying here. This is part of the teaching that you have been led by Father to proclaim. And it's on that teaching that "I will build My church; and the gates of Hades"—the gates of the grave. What's the gate of the grave? It's death. Death itself will not overpower My church. And hasn't church history proven that to be true? You can put as many Christians to death as you want, but Christ will build His church.

Now what I want you to see here is, first of all, this confession reminds us (and what our Lord says about it) that the church will be built on a clear, agreed-upon understanding of exactly who Jesus is contained in the teaching of the apostles. As I said, as we read in Ephesians 2:20 this morning.

But I want you to see something else in verse 18. Do you notice those words "I will build My church"? In this monumental text, our Lord tells us (He told His disciples and He tells us) His great priority from that day moving forward would be building His church. But how exactly would Jesus accomplish that task? Well, fast forward 11 months. It's now two weeks after Jesus' death and resurrection. He's commanded all of His disciples to gather on a mountain in Galilee. Likely that's the occasion that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15 when 500 brothers saw the Lord alive, risen. And there He gives them a mandate. A very familiar passage.

Turn with me to Matthew 28, beginning in verse 18. Known as the Great Commission. But it's one of those passages that I'm afraid is so familiar we miss a couple of very obvious points. Look at verse 18. "Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'" That's an astounding statement in and of itself.

"All authority has been given to Me [by the Father] in heaven and on earth. [And in light of that authority, He says, here's what I want you to do.] Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

He says I want you to go. I want you to make sure you take this message. And I want you to make disciples; that is, make true followers of Mine. That is just a synonym for coming to genuine faith in Christ. If you're a Christian, you are a disciple. And make disciples, He says, and then I want you to baptize them. And then notice He adds, I want you (verse 20) to teach them "all that I commanded you." So you need to impart knowledge to them, but notice that isn't exactly what He says. He says I want you to "[teach] them to observe [to obey] all that I commanded you." In other words, I not only want you to give them information, I want you to lead them in the process of sanctification.

Now don't miss the huge point that Jesus is making here. When we think of the Great Commission, what do we always immediately think of? Solely making disciples. Evangelizing. That is not the Great Commission. That is part, an important part of the Great Commission. But notice He includes baptism and teaching. That should absolutely transform, revolutionize our understanding of the Great Commission. Because where does the New Testament command that baptism and teaching and the process of sanctification, where are those to be regularly carried out? Under the authority of elders in a local church. Now think about what this means for our understanding of the church's mission to the world. The church's mission is only accomplished when we have made true disciples, when those disciples have been added to the church (or a new church if none exists), when in that church they are baptized and are being taught the Scripture to obey it. Now do you see the significance of this monumental passage? Back in Matthew 16 Jesus said, "I will build My church," and here He tells us how.

So what's the mission then of Countryside Bible Church to the world? Now again, the church has a mission to the Lord. The church has a mission to itself. But when it comes to the church's mission to the world, what is it? It's to send out those that will make disciples and plant churches where those disciples are baptized, are being taught, are being sanctified, and are learning to reproduce themselves in the Great Commission.

Now fast forward another three, three-and-a-half weeks. It's now at the end of the 40 days of our Lord's post-resurrection ministry to His disciples. Turn to Acts 1:6.

When they had come together, [the disciples] were asking Him... "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" [They're confused about the timeline of coming events.] He said to them, "It's not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but [let Me tell you what you are to worry about] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. [You remember the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, and this is what He's predicting. And here's what I want you to do.] You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Now, Jesus says this on the day of His ascension. In fact, He says this just minutes before He ascends into heaven. Look at verse 9. "And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." At this incredibly strategic moment (the last words Jesus would say to His disciples while He was still here on earth) He sets the priority for His disciples' ministry. And what you have here in Acts 1 is really just a specific application of the Great Commission to the apostles and their ministry, but obviously with implications to every Christian. But clearly they were witnesses in a way you and I are not.

How were they to carry out the mission? Well, He's already told them. They were to bear witness about Christ in order to make disciples, starting in their specific city Jerusalem, and then radiating out from there across the world. What I want you to see is Acts 1 doesn't change the mission. It only restates it and refines it. Their priority was to make disciples, then establish churches where believers would be taught. That was clearly a mandate our Lord gave His disciples.

Now as we continue to look at the biblical model, we also see this plan reflected in the original model of the first church in Jerusalem. Turn to Acts 2:41. Peter preaches on the Day of Pentecost. And in response, verse 41 says, "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls." Here is the founding of the very first church of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said I will build it; here He begins. It began on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 people were added to the 120 believers who'd gathered there in the city of Jerusalem in prayer. And that 3,000 were baptized. As a result of that the church in Jerusalem was established. In fact, you go on through the book of Acts and it's clearly referred to as a church. In Acts 5:11 you have "the whole church" in Jerusalem. In chapter 8, verse 1, "the church in Jerusalem." And it began functioning as a church. Look at chapter 2, verse 42. "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, [and] to the breaking of bread [that's the Lord's Table] and to prayer." In addition to that, as you go on through the book of Acts you see that the apostles appointed local, qualified elders to oversee the church in Jerusalem. You meet those elders in chapter 11, verse 30; in chapter 15, verse 2.

But you know what happens if you're familiar with the Book of Acts. This wonderful, thriving church is scattered. They're forced to scatter in the surrounding area through the persecution of Saul. And as they scattered they preached the gospel, and, again, disciples were made. Look at Acts 8:1.

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting [Stephen] to death. [That was the great tragedy that initiated their being scattered.] And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout [watch this now] the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

So exactly what Jesus had predicted, prophesied, demanded, happens. It happens in a difficult way, but it happens. Verse 3:

But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.

Samaria was the capital city of the northern ten tribes. And he goes there, and he begins to preach. What happens? Verse 12: "But when they believed Phillip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike." So here you have disciples again being made. Once the church in Jerusalem discovered that there were new disciples nearby, they sent leaders from Jerusalem to that place who taught them and who established the church. Look at verse 14. "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John." The results of the ministry of those who were sent (Peter and John) from the church in Jerusalem? Look down in chapter 9, verse 31. "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase." So now you have not just the church in Jerusalem (that's where it started), but now you have the church in that broadest sense. You could even say "the churches scattered all over." From small-little house churches and gatherings, to a church the size of the church in Jerusalem as it had been. And so the church multiplies. This continues, and you see it in the original model of the first church in Jerusalem.

We discover another model of this approach in the continuing pattern of the church in Antioch. Turn to Acts 11:19. "So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia [that's modern Lebanon] and Cyprus [a little island off the coast there of Lebanon] and Antioch." Now Antioch was a hugely important city in the first century. In fact, it was third in size behind only Rome and Alexandria, Egypt. It was a really important city. It's in modern Turkey. And it's in that place that the Word of God comes. And yet these people who came (notice the end of verse 19) were "speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone." They were evangelizing only Jewish people.

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

Once again, you see disciples were made.

And what happens? In response to that, the church in Jerusalem sent qualified leadership to help. Look at verse 22. "The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch." Barnabas had been a part of the church in Jerusalem probably for close to 15 years. In fact, it's likely Barnabas was an elder in the church in Jerusalem. And he goes off, sent by the church to Antioch.

Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; [he begins teaching them] for he was a good man... full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

Again you see disciples made.

Now the ministry begins to grow, and it outgrows Barnabas. And so he knew Saul, and so he left for Tarsus to look for Saul. This is probably about the year 45. The apostle Paul has been in Christ for somewhere between 13 and 15 years. And he goes and gets him and brings him back. Verse 26: "When he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." So, what did they do? They planted a church, and they taught the disciples.

Now this new church begins to function very much like a church. Because if you go down to chapter 11, verse 30, this new church plant in Antioch hears of specific needs in its planting church in Jerusalem because of a famine. And so it sends Paul and Barnabas with financial help for the church in Jerusalem. Now go over to chapter 12, verse 25. And Paul and Barnabas return from Jerusalem. When they'd fulfilled that mission of care for the church there and having given them financial help, they return to Antioch.

Now that brings us to chapter 13, verse 1. Here in Acts 13—this is really important—the new church in Antioch shows that what we have seen so far in Acts should be the ongoing pattern and practice of every church, because Antioch takes on exactly the same mission of making disciples, planting churches, and teaching the disciples in those churches. Look at chapter 13, verse 1.

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord [In other words, while they were serving the people, teaching, carrying on their ministry.] and fasting, [Obviously, there was this issue heavy on their hearts, so they forego food in order to pray and to seek the Lord.] the Holy Spirit said, [We're not told how He said. Usually He didn't speak audibly. Perhaps He led through the leadership of the church there. But somehow the Holy Spirit indicated] "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, we they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Cyprus was Barnabas' home country. His home town was there. And so they start there on their first missionary journey. So on the mission from the church in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas established churches and installed qualified leadership. Let me show you this is the pattern. Look at Acts 14:21.

After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch [This is a different Antioch. This is Antioch of Pisidia in Asia Minor.], [and] 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." [Now watch verse 23. Here was the pattern.] 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.

In other words, they established churches, and they set qualified leadership in place. Look at verse 35 of chapter 15.

But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord.

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are."

To what end? Verse 40:

Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Now I hope you can see that not only is this pattern present, it's clear and repeating. You see, during His earthly ministry, our Lord laid down the mandate for the priority of making disciples and establishing churches. After His ascension, His disciples carried out that mission. They started in their own hometown Jerusalem, and then they reached out to nearby areas and eventually spread to the remotest part of the earth.

Beloved, understand this: that is still the church's mission. And let me make it more personal. As a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a part of this church. The church isn't the building. The church is you. This is your mission. That's the biblical model and mandate that lies behind our desire to plant churches.

Now with that biblical background in place, I want to take the next few minutes to explain our church's plans and plant. It began with a strategic plan. Several years ago, our elders decided what would be our strategic plan for ministry here in the Metroplex. This would be our long-term, strategic plan for ministry in our Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. First of all, we wanted to build a maintain a strong foundation here at Countryside. That's crucial. Then following the model I have just shown you, we wanted to plant churches across the Metroplex that share our doctrine, our distinctives, and our ministry philosophy. As you know, there are a lot of churches scattered across the Metroplex, and many of you drive past many of them to be here. Why? Because—there are some good churches. I'm not saying we have the Elijah syndrome. We don't. But there are far too many churches that aren't doing what the Scriptures require. And some of you drive a long distance to be here, because you have difficulty finding one that does. In fact, what you find here is while there are churches on every corner, you find everything from soup to nuts. And often more nuts. So this was our plan.

Now what about the specific plans? Well let me give you the big picture, first of all. We're looking at planting Northlake Bible Church. And our own Dusty Burris with his wife Rebecca have agreed that they will take on this endeavor and shepherd this new flock. As far as the people, the elders are looking for 35 family units, either individuals or families or about 150 people who would go to be a part of this plant.

Now why that number? Well this came after a lot of thought and prayer and planning. But the elders are convinced that this number is best both for Countryside and for Northlake Bible Church. Here's why. If fewer than 35 families go, it's going to be very hard for the plant to provide a number of key ministries that are important to the people who will be there. And if more than 35 families go, it might also be easy to be discouraged in reaching out into the community. You grow comfortable with the people that we have. That's not what we want. Also, if more than 35 families go, Countryside could be negatively affected both financially and in terms of ministry leadership. So we are convinced that is the sort of the sweet spot as we've looked at our church and the plant.

So where are we now in that process? Fifteen families are now committed to go with the church plant. Do the math. That means we need 20 more families. Now about 14 family units or groups are now considering this seriously, have talked to us, talked to Dusty. Some of those additional 14 may end up going, but at this point, as we know, the total that we need is 20 in addition to those who've already agreed to go.

Where's it going to be? The place is Northlake. Just to orient you, that's the 407 west of I-35, between Argyle and Justin. It's in the Harvest development near the new development Pecan Square—for those of you who are familiar with that area. Now for those of you who are not, you may be asking, why Northlake? Well, Trent Petty graciously (a member of our church and former city manager of a couple local cities) helped us research and select an area for long term growth and stability. Northlake is one of the fastest growing areas in the Metroplex. The Harvest development is completed with about 3,200 homes. The Pecan Square development has just broken ground and plans to build an additional 3,200 homes. Two new schools are currently under construction. There's a growing population of young families. And there are few established churches and, at this point, no like minded churches in the area.

So let me just show you where it is. First of all, for those of you who are directionally challenged, this is a view of the Metroplex. You see Dallas and Fort Worth at the bottom. That gives you some context for what we're talking about. Then there is a little bit closer up slide here that shows you with a red star that indicates on 407 west of I-35. And then maybe this will be a little bit more helpful. A satellite view. And this is drawn up by the developers. Now, you'll notice the arrow indicating north. That's unexpected. You know, I'm one of those people that wants north to point north. And it doesn't on this slide, so you've got to kind of change your mindset as you look at it. But you'll notice that there are three developments on this slide. The first is the Harvest development to the far left. That is the existing one. It has been completed, 3,200 homes. That's where the church plant will initially meet. Then you see in the center the Pecan Square. That's the one that's just broken ground, an additional 3,200 homes. And then you see the one farther right which is planned.

Now where in Northlake will the church meet? Well their initial home will be Lance Thompson Elementary, which is in the Harvest development that already exists. The school, however, is currently under construction. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019, and we've already been in discussions with them. Space will available for us to rent starting in January of 2020. Here is an artist rendering of the room where the church plant will meet, the gathering room there in this elementary school.

Now we also have a proposed plan for a long term home for the church plant, because Hillwood, the major developer in the area, has offered us a great plot of land in the new Pecan Square development at below market cost. It's 11½ acres for $600,000. It fronts 407, which will likely become the 1709 of Northlake. We, the elders, asked an engineer to create a plan of how the land could be developed, that we're talking about. And we were able to determine that it could provide space for many years of growth to come. In light of all of this, the elders have unanimously agreed to ask congregational affirmation to purchase this land. As you know, we are an elder-led-and-run church following the biblical model, but our bylaws and constitution call for a few items to be voted on by the congregation. The purchase of land is one of those. Here is a satellite view again (that same satellite view). And you'll see now in the middle of it there's a little yellow box marked "site." That is the location in that new Pecan Square development that we're talking about purchasing.

Now here is the motion that was agreed by the elders. I'll just read it to you, so you understand our heart.

It was agreed to purchase the land with cash for $600,000 should this be affirmed in a congregational vote [By the way, our constitution calls for active members 18 and above to vote. And that will be on February 24th. So if you're a member and you're 18 years and older, then you can participate in that on Sunday night, February 24th. We're going to ask for it to be affirmed] with the hope and intent of giving the land to the plant. Should CBC not be in a financial position to give the land outright several years from now, CBC may choose to sell the land to the church plant for up to half its value, $300,00, should they desire to purchase it, or if circumstances should require, to sell it. These arrangements will be spelled out in a memorandum of understanding with the church plant. We also recognize [and this is important] that we may not always with every plant be in a position to provide land. It's just where God has us right now, but we will support them as best we can.

So, that's the location.

What about the timeline? Well, last Sunday night at the annual meeting we rolled this plan out for the first time; today with all of you who are part of our church. This coming week we encourage you, all of you, to pray about this. And you're going to receive an email that will also have attached a survey. If you have any interest in being a part of the plant, then we encourage you to fill out that survey. Over the coming weeks the elders will work thorough that information and sort through the response and the survey results. By the end of May we hope to have finalized the 35 family units or 150 people who will go with the plant. Then this summer Dusty will be engaged in preparing and training, along with some of the rest of us as well. And then September 8th the church plant will begin meeting in the gym as their main worship service, still using our children's and youth ministries. In January of 2020, about a year from now, we'll have an official sending out service here at Countryside. And then the plant will immediately begin meeting in the school in the Harvest development. Then in March of 2020 they will have a formal launch of the church there in their community.

A couple of questions that often come up about the plant: leadership and ministries that will be available. So let me just answer both of those. In terms of leadership, initially that will be a partnership between the elders of Countryside and Dusty, who, of course, is currently an elder here at the church. We will together be the leadership of the church plant. But eventually the plant will become autonomous when it is financially independent and when there are three elders including Dusty. As far as what ministries there'll be there at the launch? The plan is to have a worship band led by Dusty (who you know is very talented in that way); a children's ministry; a youth ministry; adult home fellowships; periodic men's and women's events; and, of course, regular community outreach.

Now as you think about this, let me just say that there are some unhelpful reasons to consider being a part of the church plant. And I mean this with all kindness. I don't mean this to be offensive in any way. I just need to be frank with you. Don't go on the church plant if you want to go just because you like change, because we need those who are going to be committed long term. And if you like change, that's not going to be you. Also, let me encourage you not to go if your primary reason for going is that you just want a smaller church. I understand that. At the same time, we don't know what the Lord's going to do. If the Lord wants the plant to be small and to remain small, so be it. We're not going to map the Lord's plan in that community. But it's our hope and prayer that the church will grow, that it won't remain small, and that it'll have a significant impact on that community. And so it's not helpful to have someone who really wants the church to stay small. Don't go because you don't fully agree with Countryside's doctrine or philosophy, because it's going to be exactly the same.

So what are the qualifications if you're interested in going on the church plant? Well Dusty and I talked about it. Here they are. Here's what you need. First of all, you need to be committed to and excited about the work and sacrifice a church plant requires. And let's talk nitty-gritty. It means you need to be willing to involve yourself in setup and tear down of chairs and sound equipment and probably nursery equipment every week. You need to be comfortable meeting in a school gym. You need to have a willingness to serve in areas outside your comfort zone. You also need to be willing to become a member of Northlake Bible Church. You need to belong. If you're not willing to really connect and officially connect with the church, then don't go. You have to be committed to serve faithfully. Please don't go on the plant if all you want to do is just attend and sit in the seat and hear good preaching and go home. This requires those who will use their gifts and serve. Be committed to give faithfully as the Lord prospers you. And be committed to evangelizing the Northlake area.

Now what is the role for the rest of us? You know, most of us sitting in this room are going to remain right here at Countryside Bible Church. And so you may be thinking, ultimately what does this have to do with me? So very much. It's important to understand that if you're a part of this church, you have a strategic role to play as this unfolds. Let me just point out a few ways that that's true.

First of all, you need to personally embrace the plant as our collective effort to carry out the Great Commission. That's what this is about. And all of us, together, we are the church. This isn't the elder's mission. This is Christ's mission for His church. And you are part of His church. So this is your mission. So embrace that personally. This is our collective effort to do what our Lord commanded us and what the early church modeled so faithfully. Embracing it, owning it, is important, because—let's be honest—church planting requires sacrifices. It requires sacrifices for those of us who stay; it requires sacrifices for those who will go. It will cost us some relationships that we cherish as some stay and some go. And while we can continue to have those relationships, at the same time not as easily or as often. It will also cost us some financial resources to make this happen. But folks, whatever sacrifices we make, whether it's the sacrifices of those who stay or the sacrifices of those who go, it will be worth it, because we will be obeying our Lord and we will see faithful churches planted across the Metroplex.

A second thing you can do if you're going to be here at Countryside is pray. Frankly, you can do this whether you're staying or going. But for those of us who are here, pray. What ways? Let me give you a few ways to pray. Pray for the right people and the right number of people to go, so that both churches are healthy as a result. Pray for the elders as we continue to work out the details of this. Pray for the continued strength of Countryside as we move forward with the plant. Pray for God to bless the plant in that new community as it absolutely explodes with growth. And here's one for all of us. Pray that God will use this plant that we will do together as a way to give each one of us individually a renewed passion for the church. You know, I expect, if you're like most people, you're a part of a number of organizations and causes in this world. And I'm not disparaging any of those. But let me just say it very directly. Jesus Christ is only doing one thing in the world. He is building His church. How closely is your life and your time and your efforts—how closely are they tied to what Jesus sees as the priority in life? My prayer is that as we launch this, everyone of us will be reengaged with the priority of the church. "I will build My church," Jesus says.

A third way those of us who stay can help is—let me encourage you to strengthen your commitment to Countryside. For most of you, the very best way that you can help the plant is being even more involved here. In other words, some of you are newer to our church, and you're still getting acclimated. Let me just say that God has gifted you. He's given you a spiritual gift, and He expects you to use that gift in this church if this is your church home. He doesn't expect you simply to come in on Sunday and enjoy and leave. He expects you to serve Him here. And I hope you'll commit to do that. That will make all of this so much better.

Sometimes we get questions about giving designated to the church plant. Do I need to designate a gift to make this church plant possible? The answer to that is no. By God's goodness and His gracious provision we have been able to set aside the resources necessary for this plant. What you can do instead is continue to be faithful in your giving to Countryside so that we can remain strong and have the resources that we need moving forward.

A fourth and final way that those of us who remain can help: support and encourage those who choose to go. There's going to be a temptation when you hear about those who are interested in going, that they're leaving us, as if there's something wrong with us. Folks, they are not abandoning us. They are representing us in that community. That's how we have to see it, because the mission, Matthew 28:

Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given... Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; [There's the mission. That's what we're trying to do. And I love this. He ends by saying,] and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Now don't miss what He says. He says, you're going to go all around the world, and this mission is going to continue to the end of the age. Here we are, literally, on the other side of the world from where He gave this command and 2,000 years removed, and we are attempting to carry out this very mandate that our Lord gave us. And here's His promise. This is not a promise for His, sort of, general presence with Christians. Although that's true. This is a promise for His specific presence with those who seek to carry out His mandate in this passage. He says, as you seek to do it, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." So as we here at Countryside and as those who go to Northlake Bible Church seek to do just this, He is with us. That's the encouragement that moves us forward. Let's pray together.

Our Father, we thank You for these great truths. We thank You for the mandate that You have given us. Lord, we thank You that You made it so clear when You were here what You were about, and that is building Your church; and then at the end of Your ministry you told us how. We were to make disciples, and we were to establish churches where those disciples would be baptized and taught and sanctified. Father, that is our desire. Lord Jesus, that is our great intention. Spirit, we rely on You to accomplish these things. And so, our God, we come to You asking that You would bless our sincere and genuine efforts to do what has been commanded of us as individuals who are a part of this church. Father, we pray that there would be 20 more families who would be interested in making this journey, in embracing the mission of being a part of a church in a new community; Lord, that they would be the right families. Lord, I pray that You would allow this to move forward. Give the elders wisdom as we continue to work out all of the details. Father, our prayer would be that that church would become a shining light in that community; that it would stand for the very things that all of us hold dear, that new believers would be added; that disciples would be made and that they would be taught; and that then that church, like the church in Antioch, would take up the same great mission. Father, for Countryside, we pray that You would keep us strong, that You would allow us to walk down this road in wisdom, Lord, that You would continue to bless our efforts here. May we grow. And Lord, may we embrace this mission as individuals and collectively as a church, not for our own sake, but for the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord and for the glory of His name. And it's in that name that we pray, amen.