The Apostle Paul planted the church in Corinth.
From the telling of the story in Acts 18, you can learn several church planting evangelism practices that will help you get your church started.
I have been involved in four new church developments since 1995, working among immigrants, and in two different languages.
I’ve seen these church planting principles in action. They work today, just as they did for Paul.
1. Connect with the local people
When he came to the town, “he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla” (Acts 18:2).
Paul went to see them, and “because he was a tent maker as they were, he stayed and worked with them” (Acts 18:3)
Paul built a relationship with people in Corinth.
They had something in common – tent-making.
That activity formed the basis of their relationship. Priscilla and Aquila were local, even though they were immigrants from another city.
At this point in the story as recorded in Acts 18, Luke doesn’t tell us if Aquila and/or Priscilla are followers of Christ.
At a later point in the story, Luke tells us they are believers because of their role in discipling Apollos when they all meet him for the first time in Ephesus.
Jesus sent out the people ahead of him, to find the “person of peace” and to stay with that person.
We see this pattern in Paul’s work here in Athens.
Aquila and Priscilla were those persons of peace.”
2. Work among the people.
While staying at the house of Aquila and Priscilla, Paul used that as a base for his outreach every Sabbath.
Acts 18:4 reads “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.”
During the rest of the week, Paul was likely making his tents and setting up his business.
Paul ran a business – making tents. He used business to support his mission.
Costs were likely low as his lodging was covered, and he wasn’t supporting a family.
You may not have that entrepreneurial skill set, but you can find employment that puts you in contact with people.
3. Transition to full time
Acts 18: 5 reads: “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching.”
This suggests some possible growth in Paul’s business:
- Paul had made enough funds from selling tents that he lived off savings, or
- Silas and Timothy took over business operations, or
- The business had grown to the point where a manager was in charge, or
- Aquila and Priscilla were running the business to support Paul (all three go to Ephesus).
Once they arrived, Paul was able to devote himself full time to the ministry of teaching.
As was his pattern, first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. Verse 6 shows his opposition from the Jews, so he set up his teaching base next door.
Paul’s church planting fear?
Paul was busy doing good work. Building relationships, conversing with people, and doing the basics of evangelistic work.
Yet even he was afraid of those who mocked, ridiculed, and opposed him.
The Lord gave Paul a vision one night: “Do not be afraid.”
At first, I thought this was the common greeting of angelic visitors, but as I peered into 1 Corinthians, I read
“I came to you in weakness and with much trembling.”(1 Corinthians 2:3)
Then there is guidance (Acts 18:9-11):
“For I am with you, . . . .because I have many people in this city.”
Elijah had a similar fear – when he thought he was the only one – the Lord reminded him that there were others.
When one faces that kind of fear in personal evangelism, it can be emotionally draining.
When one thinks of all the other fears that hinder personal evangelism, remember that Paul faced similar fears.
How did the Lord comfort him?
“keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you”
In other words, God reminded Paul of his presence and the presence of others in that city who could help him.
If you are a church planter, perhaps one prayer could be “Lord, where are the other people in this city who are called to help us?”
The question that stirs in my mind – what are my fears?
Slow and Steady Church Planting
This missionary work wasn’t set up and funded overnight.
In this case, Paul lives among his initial contacts in Corinth and then sets up and runs his business.
He grows it to the point where he can hand it off, likely using the proceeds to fund his own church planting or missionary activity.
In receiving comfort from God about his fear in the face of rejection, he likely begins to pray, “Lord, where are the other people?”
We see that new relationships develop in the next 18 months while Paul remains:
- Titius Justus, a worshipper of God.
- Crispus, the synagogue ruler and his household.
- Sostehenes, the next synagogue ruler (v.17), who helped write 1 Corinthians (1:1)
- Cloe’s household (1 Cor 1:11)
We can see how the Lord answered Paul’s prayer.