How Many Churches Did the Apostle Paul Start?

 

Some have said that Paul only started 14 churches in his lifetime. If so that is a remarkable thing, but I tend to think there are more than 14.

I would assume that there are some churches started that were not necessarily mentioned as churches in the NT. For instance, there is no mention of a church started in Athens, but there are households that began to follow Christ there, so we can assume that a church was born there. In Philippi, there were two households that surrendered to the gospel (Lydia’s and the Jailer’s), so there could be two organic churches there. Some say that there is just one church in Philippi because Paul wrote a letter to them, but it is actually to the saints in Christ who are in Philippi. He wrote a letter to the churches of Galatia, how many of them is not mentioned. So numbering the churches Paul started is a challenge.

While he only started the Ephesian church in Asia, this one, in turn, started so many others that every person who lived in Asia heard the message of the Gospel. Does that count as only one church? How many churches were started in Cyprus on the first missionary journey? We know it is more than one. How many were left in Crete?

There are places we have no mention of a church but we know he was there preaching such as Illyricum (Rom. 15:9). Did Paul start churches while in Damascus? Well someone already did because he was on his way there to arrest them, so probably not. But when he went to Arabia he may have started churches. Some assume he was just on retreat listening to the Lord, but he was chased out by the officials, so we can assume he did some preaching (meditating on a rock is not usually that threatening to people).

Did he start churches while he was in Tarsus? Acts does mention churches in Syria (Acts 15:40-41) could it be that some of these started before he was sent from Antioch? Did Paul go to Spain? If so then perhaps he started churches there as well, but we do not know. He did go to Crete and started some churches and left Titus there to further establish the work.

He probably started close to 20 churches himself, with many more born out of those by his apprentice leaders. In Asia alone the NT mentions Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Colossae, and Hieropolis. Ephesus was really a city full of churches meeting in homes and from that work all the others were started. So while starting upwards of 20 churches in one’s life is impressive, what is far more impressive is how many daughters, grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters were birthed from those. When Paul left earth in the end of his life he not only left some church plants, he left the DNA of a movement that would eventually spread to the extent that even the Roman Empire itself would surrender to Christianity (for better or worse). History was changed in dramatic fashion through this one man’s obedience.

I am discovering that simple obedience is a powerful thing in one’s life. More powerful than spiritual gifts or personalities. Certainly more powerful than any program or strategy. In a day where we Christians are already educated beyond obedience, I find that what we need is not more education but simple obedience to what we already know. Follow Jesus today. Take one step at a time and leave the results and the destination up to the one you are following.

Everyone reading this blog can also obey the same God as Paul and leave behind a lasting and vital work for the Lord of the harvest. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

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  • Terrell Wilkens

    THANK YOU SO MUCH SIR, I agree Simple Obedience is the key ingredient to our spiritual growth, not sensationalism or charasmatics, too many of us are emotionalize by looking for the “Deeper” things and chasing after prophecies so to speak, and not realizing that some things can lead to mysticism.

    • scotty

      I Agree with YOU!!!

  • Joshua Chhetri

    I am from Bhutan where there are very less Christians and now I am planning to start church and devote my life for church planting as Paul did but I am not able to find supporter, who do I approach and how do I approach? Your suggestion and advice would go a long way in church planting. My email id is [email protected]

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  • Darren Dewald

    I live in big country in Asia and do CPM work. Really thankful for the encouraging article.

  • Templewind

    Joshua, Are you still pastoring?

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  • Catherine Wong

    I believe also obedience is the most important choice on our part to fulfill God’s plan . I also believe there must be a call and chosen in our lives of God to plant churches. God’s command is all believers should share Christ the good news of salvation to everyone that is to do evangelism work, but to plant churches you should be called by God like St. Paul he was chosen and called cause God said He has chosen him to preach and suffer for God’s purpose in his life. For the Bible said many are call but few are chosen. God’s special grace will sustain us for that calling and will not easily given up the ministry when many tribulations come our ways. I hope I be able to understand more on this matter. Thanks

  • Another Great Question:

    How many church properties did Paul seize or plunder? Answer Zero, unlike many church denominations today are doing and even suing to seize!

  • makiling_sa_cubao

    Reading your blog is like reading theories of evolution.
    Full of assumptions, suppositions, and words like “could have” and similar.
    You have no definite answer to the question of “how many churches did Paul start on his journeys” because the fact is that he DID NOT START ANY as in “started from scratch”.
    I’ve been going back to the Acts for sometime now, and I still have to find one that Paul actually started from a first soul “saved”, and another church “planted”.
    I’ve tried to “mine” that info from the internet, and still come up zero.
    Paul was a teacher, a man who was prophesied about in the Old Testament, whom God used to scatter the thousands of members of the churches in Jerusalem because that first church, where the apostles were to whom the so-called “Great Commission” was given, sat down on its behind, instead of going out to the field, so to speak, and got caught up in daily administration issues.
    Those scattered thousands formed pockets of believers in places where they ran to, and if at all, they met in houses, and Paul himself wasn’t too concerned about baptism and numbers of members, or tithes and offerings, or attendance, like today’s churches are.

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