Paul Church Planter or Ardent Disciple Maker?

Although we tend to view Paul as a church planting missionary, I believe Paul continued the disciple making model of ministry as Jesus demonstrated.

The writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give four camera angles of Jesus and his relationship with the twelve disciples. At the end of their time together Jesus instructs his men to make followers of him, just as he had done with them. William Shenk observes:

. . . Every clue Jesus gave his disciples as to their own missionary vocation suggests that this is the authoritative model for them as well. Jesus left no general guidelines, formulas, or methods for his disciples to follow-only a demanding model. [1]

Evidence that Paul that was a disciple maker:

  1. Paul asked others to follow him as he followed Jesus.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 11:1)

You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia-your faith in God has become know everywhere.  (1 Thessalonians 1:5&6)

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who if faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.  (1 Cor 4:16-17)

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  (Phil 3:17-18)

  1. Paul had disciples.

But his (Paul) followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.  (Acts 9:25)

A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.  (Acts 17:34-18:1)

  1. Paul sacrifices his life in order that others could find spiritual life. Paul follows the example and teachings of Jesus in being willing to suffer, believing that one’s death will result in making disciples of Jesus.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  (2 Cor 1:5-6)

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.  (2 Cor 4:11-12)

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.  (1 Thess 2:8-9)

[1] Wilbert R. Shenk, The Culture of Modernity as a Missionary Challenge, The Church Between Gospel and Culture (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 77.

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