we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you,
we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:8–9, NIV
Like me, you may have assumed that Paul started churches according to an institutional church model. An institutional model for church planting would require finding a building in which to meet, securing furnishings, hiring staff, and promoting the first worship service to attract the community to the grand opening. But a study of Scripture shows that Paul’s approach was not institutional. Instead, Paul used his giftedness as an artisan to serve his community and build relationships that led to sharing the gospel. His missional heart led him to present the gospel of Christ in every cultural context, in the marketplace to Gentiles and in the synagogue to Jews. Paul embodied the concept of being on mission rather than the attractional model we so easily promote today. (Watch the “Missional Church… Simple” video listed under resources in the right column of this blog.)
Paul reminded the Christians at Thessalonica that he went beyond simply being a figurehead and shared daily life with them. Paul truly modeled the five-finger-approach-to-handing-someone-the-gospel: he met them at their point of need in his community on a regular basis to build relationships that led to witnessing opportunities.
While Paul was not a worship leader or musician, he was in fact an artisan. An artisan is defined by http://www.dictionary.com as “a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson who makes a high-quality, distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand and using traditional methods.”4 An artisan enriches daily life by producing useful and artistically pleasing artifacts. What was Paul’s artistic gift that he used as a vocation to serve his community? He was a leatherworking artisan, making and repairing tents and other items to support himself (Acts 18:3).
But Paul’s tent-making was more than a job. His craft was his doorway into the community and into relationship with his target group, like Jackson in the example above. From this vocation arose daily opportunities to share with customers and other merchants. Those relationships led to invitations to speak to gatherings in homes, in the market, or at the town square. Through Paul’s witness, some came to believe and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Groups of believers began to gather in homes to worship, grow in discipleship, and move out on mission. These home groups became mission outposts which grew into churches. And there you have it: the most basic element of effective church planting—worshiping disciples on mission starting home groups to grow into house churches. And you know what??? YOU CAN DO THAT!