Christ comes first. He then commands us into His mission. The byproduct of our mission is His kingdom spread on earth via the building of His church. As much as I value church planting, I have come to realize that we should stop planting churches. We should plant Jesus, and let Jesus build His church.
It dawned on me one day that the Bible never commands us to plant a church. When the disciples were sent out they were to bring the Kingdom (or reign) of God to the places where people lived life. When Paul and Barnabas went out, they didn’t think of their task as starting churches but making new disciples of the King. Our command is to connect people to Jesus as their King. We are to extend the reign of Christ on earth. The byproduct of this work is church. We often think backward about these things. We think that if we start a church the kingdom will come and Jesus will be glorified. The truth is opposite of this. If we glorify Christ by bringing His reign to a new place the church will emerge in that place. But it will not stay there.
It will be a church on mission to bring Christ to the next town and the next territory.
Church is not meant to be the agent of change, Jesus is. The Bible doesn’t say, “For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Church.” Church is the result of the Gospel, not the cause. In a sense, we are confusing the fruit with the seed. We must plant the seed of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the fruit that will grow will be changed lives living out their faith together…church. As my friend Alan Hirsch likes to comment, “We often hear that the church has a mission, but it is more correct to say that the mission has a church.