Jesus didn’t just do a series of miracles for three years and rise from the dead to prove he was God. Nor did he do it all just to get you and I a spot in heaven.
It was much, much bigger than that!
Jesus actually started a Galilean-based mass movement of people into God’s kingdom that rattled the entire nation of Israel (John 11:48), and the structure of this movement was deliberately designed to be copied by all future church planters until all nations came into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 28:18-19).
Today’s global massive Christian movement was birthed in the throne room of the creator of the universe (Daniel 2:44-45, Psalms 22:27, Isaiah 9:7, Malachi 1:11). The plan was to bring the entire planet, with its myriad of cultures, ethnic groups, villages, towns and nations back into a precious relationship with the creator of the universe (Habakkuk 2:14). This all started in Galilee and its target was the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Many Christians would be surprised to learn that Jesus still commands and controls this ongoing mission through the leading of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 16:16-18, John 16:13-14) and it’s our job to follow his leading until the job is done.
Unpacking the earliest days of this amazing Galilean mass movement began is the purpose of this essay.
2. HOW IT STARTED
In executing his divine master plan Jesus methodically spent most of his ministry establishing a rapidly-expanding church planting mass movement in Galilee. He did this by first of all ministering to the physical needs of the people around the north-western shore of Lake Galilee, then gathering a small group of keen followers from those people. He then, after spending all night in prayer, he chose 12 leaders from among those followers. He then spent years training these leaders to duplicate everything he had done (Luke 9), and they in turn trained others (Luke 10) as leaders on an ever-expanding ripple going out through all of Galilee. The key to the movement was training future leaders.
Luke 3-10 methodically records Jesus as he trained, sent, empowered and released these emerging leaders into his experimental Galilean harvest field in ever-larger numbers. Jesus was continually training future leaders, and once they were trained, he asked them to train many more future leaders. This divinely ordained leadership and church planting system was meant to be the test run and template for all future global evangelism.
Even though Jesus’ church planting movement was a roaring success, and was the very template for evangelism and church growth in the early church, for lots of reasons it has received little attention from Christians and theologians after the first 500 years of church history. The priority from then on was theology, for whom Paul was the prime exponent. However, Paul primarily addressed existing churches and their management issues, not church growth. Fortunately for the 7.5 billion people now on this planet Jesus’ original methods are now being re-discovered as it is the only way we can reach this vast number of people with the truth.
In his wisdom Jesus chose Galilee for specific and strategic reasons. Galilee just happened to be the most heavily populated region of Israel due to its abundant rainfall and fertile soils. It was also somewhat isolated by both distance and culture from the stubborn Middle-Eastern religious legalism of Jerusalem. In addition, it was on the borderlands of surrounding nations and heavily inhabited by non-Jewish peoples (Matthew 4:23-25, Mark 5:1, Mark 7:31-35). It was even called Galilee of the Gentiles in Matthew 4:15. This cultural and geographical distance is highlighted in the comment in Matthew 26:73-74 about Peter’s odd northern accent.
Jesus also intentionally and strategically reached out to surrounding cultures and peoples during his ministry. He ministered to coastal Phoenicians in both Tyre and Sidon in what is now modern-day Lebanon (Mark 7:24, Mark 7:31). His fame spread to Syria (Matthew 4:24) and people from the 10 Greek cities and others living on the eastern side of Lake Galilee followed him (Matthew 4:25, Mark 7:31). In fact, the pagan cities of Tyre, Akko, Caesarea-Phillipi, Bethsaida and Scythopolis all surrounded Galilee to the east. Jesus ministered to Jews of course, but also Greeks (Mark 7:23), Romans (Luke 7:1-10) and Samaritans (John 4), all as equals with Jews.
Why did Jesus minister to so many foreigners? It’s because he knew that from this region and via these people his message could travel much further much faster to the rest of the world. Jesus knew that for his mass movement to grow internationally and exponentially after his resurrection, then it would grow to the north where the civilisations of the Middle East, Asia Minor and Europe thrived. There were only deserts to Israel’s south.
Jesus therefore went to where the people were. He went to where the culture was more accepting of new ideas. He went to where most people were simple folk and farmers. He went to where people needed help. He went to where his message would later grow internationally. This was pure strategy.
The result of Jesus’ experimental and radical church planting movement was saturation evangelism, hundreds of trained leaders and the emergence of deeply planted communities of faith in many of the 200 or so villages and towns in Galilee that the Jewish historian Josephus tells us existed at that time. If we assume a conservative average settlement population of 1,000 per village and town, then we have a conservative population of around 200,000 people for Galilee at that time. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that 10-20% of the population, or some 20,000 to 40,000 people, were baptised followers of Jesus by the time he went to the cross. If so, then this meant that many thousands of new and very enthusiastic followers of Jesus were ready to gossip the gospel to the surrounding pagan world as soon as they received word of both the resurrection and then the baptism of the Holy Spirit from the 120 leaders who went down to Jerusalem after the resurrection.
For the doubters among you who question the above numbers and assumptions, here is a snippet of evidence that what Jesus started before he went to the cross was indeed a mass movement. In Matthew 3:4-6 it says people went out to John the Baptist from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. That’s a lot of people. But then in John 4:1-2 it also says Jesus’ was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John! Large numbers of baptised disciples were not your average flaky followers. They had made a serious commitment and turned away from their previous lifestyle. This explains why tens of thousands gathered to hear him teach (Matthew 4:23-25, Luke 9:10–17) and why 3,000 people immediately became his followers on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). This movement was so large that the Sanhedrin was worried the whole nation would eventually follow Jesus and not them (John 11:47-48). It’s also the core reason why the Sanhedrin tried to get rid of him (John 11:49-50).
One more point before we dive into Luke 3-10. The word church in this essay is defined Biblically and not by modern culture. Today we usually think of a building when we say the word church. However, Paul notes that the local Corinthian church met in Aquila and Priscilla’s home (Romans 16:3-5, I Corinthians 16:19). In addition, the church at Colossae met at Nympha’s house (Colossians 4:15). The people were the church, not the building they were meeting in. This Biblical definition of the church as believers in Jesus remained the case for the next few hundred years until religious buildings and the traditions of men destroyed the true and correct definition.
Jesus himself defined the minimum size of a church as two people by saying when two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them (Matthew 18:20). Once again, the definition here involves people and not buildings. Church is therefore a group of people who believe in the resurrected and divine Christ (Matthew 16:15-18) who are gathering in the name of Christ to do the will of Christ (Matthew 28:18-19). Church is not a religious building. It never was.
Now let’s dive into Luke chapters 3-10 to see what Jesus did, how he did it, and why he did it.
3. LUKE 3-4: JESUS PERSONAL PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY
The very foundation of all discipleship is obedience. Jesus made that very claim at the end of his ministry on earth (Matthew 28:19-20). At the very beginning of his ministry Jesus modelled what he wanted his followers to copy. After being water-baptised by John and then being filled with the Holy Spirit in Luke 3:21-22, Jesus completely died to his human desires in the desert temptation in Luke 4:1-13. These are the same processes that every believer should go through if they want to be fruitful for our Lord, win the lost and disciple them. Because he was with us in human form, Jesus always modelled what he wanted us to follow. To win souls you must have identified with Christ, died to the world, died to self and be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14). In later lessons hen we begin to unpack the concept of the Four Fields, this process that Jesus went through fits neatly into Field One, the field called Ploughing. He ploughed his heart, and we should plough ours too if we want to be used by Jesus.
4. LUKE 4: JESUS’ MOVEMENT BEGINS
Having ploughed his heart and laid the foundation of obedience, water baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus then began to preach in Nazareth where he grew up (Luke 4:14-16). However, he was immediately rejected by his home town (Luke 4:28-30). He had started with those he knew but a prophet is often not recognised on their home ground (Mark 6:1-5). So Jesus then went down to Capernaum and around the western shores of Lake Galilee preaching, healing and driving out demons. This time the reaction was stunned amazement because his preaching was accompanied with signs and wonders. Demonstrations of the power of God are always superior to mere preaching. The purpose of the miracles was two-fold. First; to meet peoples felt needs. Second; to demonstrate the truth of his message. It’s this twin effect that still draws people worldwide today (Matthew 16:15-16).
At this early stage Jesus was busy sowing many spiritual seeds in both words and actions into what he would later describe as four different spiritual soil types. These action are those of the second of the Four Fields, the field called Sowing. Through ministry to the needy Jesus was actively looking for people who would not just accept his miracles but also his message of salvation. Once the people of Galilee experienced a miracle then salvation followed rapidly. This is still a hallmark of all rapidly expanding church planting movements. After seeing many miracles, the people of Capernaum actually pleaded with Jesus to stay with them (Luke 4:42). However, Jesus was an apostle not a pastor. He was on a mission to all of Galilee: I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also because that is why I was sent (Luke 4:43).
The movement had begun!
5. LUKE 5:1-10: JESUS CALLS FUTURE LEADERS TO HIS MOVMENT
After this initial wave of success Jesus was now seriously looking for potential leaders from inside his band of followers to train and eventually become multipliers of his movement. Importantly, these leaders came from that initial first flush of souls around Capernaum and the large lake it sat next to. In Luke 5:1-10 Jesus challenged some local fishermen and a tax collector with the offer of salvation, discipleship and leadership. Their names were Peter, James, John and Matthew. Peter witnesses a miraculous catch of fish and deeply convicted about his own sinfulness, and then challenged to become a fisher of men (Luke 5:8-10). This simple statement shows that Jesus was always thinking about the future expansion of his movement. This is the heart of our Lord, saving souls for his kingdom, for heaven, for eternity. That was the challenge to the fishermen, and ours too. If we too are not on this task, we are on the wrong task.
At this stage Peter and his two fishing buddies, James and John, were just followers. Likewise for the local tax collector Matthew, who held a banquet for Jesus within a day or two of meeting the charismatic Galilean prophet. At this banquet many more were exposed to the Good News because Matthew had invited a large crowd of tax collectors and others (Luke 5:29). Matthew was already leading others to Jesus.
Because the 12 disciples had not yet been chosen, we must assume that at this stage these men were no more special than all the other Galileans who were following Jesus at this time. Their story was probably common to many others in those special days by the lake because there were crowds and many other fishermen listening and responding (Luke 5:1 and 9). However, these four names are only recorded by Luke because these men were later divinely chosen as the core leaders of the new movement after Jesus spent a night in prayer (Luke 6:12-13).
The three burly fishermen and Matthew had what Jesus was looking for: A great work ethic, obedience to the call, perseverance, and initiative. Jesus didn’t need academics, he needed people of action. Peter instantly recognised Jesus’ authority and his own sinfulness. Then he left everything to follow his Lord. Action is the essence of salvation and discipleship. Matthew immediately multiplied his own salvation by asking Jesus to address all his friends and family. These were very positive first signs. Jesus didn’t call educated or rich people, he was looking for obedient people (Luke 5:11). They immediately left thriving business, family and their future to follow their new master.
6. LUKE 5:33-6:11: JESUS CONFRONTS RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS
In Luke 5:33-6:11 the new movement very quickly found itself upsetting local Galilean religious leaders. All new ideological movements take place in the context of resistance from older belief systems and religious traditions. Social conformity to existing established traditions is a human instinct because of our herd nature. Established religious traditions, with their petty rules, unchallenged and silly traditions, organised and entrenched power structures, privileged leaders and restrictive legalism, are often the most resistant to change. These fossilised traditions had no place in the movement Jesus was starting.
Throughout the Gospels Jesus preached extensively about the power of stale religious traditions to thwart the will of his Father, and he made a point of continually confronting these traditions (Matthew 23:1-36). Luke chapter five records four examples of this ongoing confrontation that would eventually lead to Jesus’ execution at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders. First; Jesus is challenged by local religious leaders about associating with sinners at Matthew’s banquet (Luke 5:27-32). Second; he is challenged about not fasting (Luke 5:33-39). Third; religious leaders complained that his disciples were “working” on the Sabbath because they picked some grain on their journey (Luke 6:1-5)! Fourth; there were even complaints over Jesus healing someone and doing good on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6-11).
In response to these accusations of gross impropriety and non-conformity to Jewish religious traditions, Jesus told his accusers that those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32). He then said that his movement was about new spiritual wineskins for the new human wine of a new spiritual era in human history (Luke 5:36-39). He then taught that he himself was Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5) and that doing good on any day of the week was more important than mere human rules about days of the week (Luke 6:9).
The message he was sending to his opponents and to his trainees was clear. The Good News of divine grace, spiritual freedom and intimate relationship with both himself and his father in heaven was universal and above all religious traditions. Jesus’ followers needed to know this, but it still took years after the resurrection before the growing community of faith finally shook off their ingrained Jewish religious traditions (Acts 11:1-3, 17, Acts 15:1-29). Down through the ages and right to this day religious tradition has been one of the greatest obstacles to the growth of the kingdom of God. Some of the early churches actually began to die spiritually due to religious traditions within two generations of the resurrection (Revelation 3:14-20).
After speaking eternal truths to these stubborn Jewish religious leaders who didn’t want to hear the truth, Jesus became a marked man and destined to eventually suffer for his cause (Luke 6:11). For most of human history and in most cultures, people who genuinely and passionately follow Jesus and desire to start movements in his name will also suffer at the hands of whatever local entrenched religious or political establishment they find themselves living in. People who are embedded at the top of any social, political, economic or religious order rarely give up their power and privilege without a fight. Jesus eventually confronted all four of these levers of power in his various confrontations with the Jewish religious leaders.
7. LUKE 6:12-16: JESUS CHOOSES HIS 12 LEADERS
By Luke chapter six we can see there were quite a few people, perhaps 50 to 100 or even more, believing in this new message and faithfully following Jesus around the Galilean countryside. It was obviously many people because after praying all night when morning had come he called his disciples to him and chose 12 of them (Luke 6:13). This means there were obviously more than 12 disciples present when he did this. After talking with his father all night, he selected only 12 men from among this larger number who would then be mentored for leadership and in turn mentor others later on. Movements need leaders. They need structure and momentum. This fateful morning was the day that construction began on the foundation stones of the global church that you and I are part of today (Ephesians 2:19-20)!
The term Jesus used to describe the new job description of the 12 disciples was apostle and it simply means a sent one. Jesus was sent from the father and now he was about to begin duplicating his ministry in 12 others. The Father showed Jesus that these 12 men were people that would produce a great harvest and worthy of launching a global movement. Three years of lifestyle training now began:
Second: Through specific leadership training (Luke 8:1-18).
Third: Through active replication and multiplication of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 9:1-9).
Fourth: By mentoring others in the same process (Luke 10:1-24).
This was no mere academic Bible school. It was doing life together and just-in-time leadership training on the road, apprenticeship style. No Christian leader can ever hope to start a mass movement for Jesus unless they duplicate themselves and their ministry in others the same way Jesus did. Training others to eventually multiply his movement was so important that Jesus worked on it for years and it consumed more of his time on earth than any other project. Deep learning is the only learning that counts if you want deep learning duplicated in others as well as the exponential growth that that can eventually produce.
The reference to the night of prayer before choosing the 12 leaders is remembered and cited by Luke for good reason. Jesus said in John 5:19 that he only did on earth what his Father told him to do. This is the core of Jesus’ whole ministry, and should also be the core of ours. His father told him who to choose that night. The key to becoming like Jesus is to first learn to hear the father’s voice just as every child learns to hear its own fathers and mother’s voice (John 10:4, John 10:27). Jesus modelled this for the disciples so that both they and we would copy it when spreading the Good News (John 5:19, John 5:30, John 5:37).
In other words, training the 12 future leaders through modelling the perfect spiritual walk for three years is WHAT Jesus did. Obedience to the voice of the Father is HOW he did it. That’s how he chose his 12 leaders. That’s how he always knew exactly what to say to people. That’s how he knew exactly who to pray for. That’s what he modelled and the disciples took note. And by the way, that’s why he sent us the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:47-49, John 16:13). He told his trainees that if they followed this approach then they too would see the same results he was producing (Luke 6:40).
8. LUKE 8:1-16: JESUS EXPLAINS HOW TO MULTIPLY HIS MOVEMENT
Sometime later Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another with the 12 proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1) At this stage the disciples were still mainly watching and listening. It was at this time that he also gave them a most important lesson on how he expected them to work in the future, and it was very much a reflection on what he was already doing (Luke 8:1-16). We know it as The Story of the Sower and it was an important training point as it, along with only one other parable, appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:1-16). In addition, in Mark 4:13 Jesus says to his audience Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? This parable unlocks all others.
The reason why the parable of the sower was so important is that it had three levels of meaning. First; it looked back into Israel’s history. In the Matthew 13 version Jesus quotes extensively from Isaiah 6:9-10. This is to demonstrate the story’s relevance to Israel’s history. Israel was the barren ground, the ground full of weeds and the shallow ground. Jesus was telling his disciples that he was initiating a new period in Israel’s history when the harvest would be abundant and global, planted in the good soil of faith in his offer of salvation.
Second; the story was contemporary. Jesus was already preaching to all these four types of Galileans with all four responses coming from hearers such as the people of Nazareth, the Pharisees, local tax collectors, publicans, sinners and sick people. Out of these people some were clinging to the message and would eventually multiply it. He was summarising his existing ministry. Those that heard and multiplied, who we will now call 4th soil people, obviously included the disciples themselves, well eleven of them anyway! In his recorded ministry Jesus spoke with a number of other 4th soil people. These included the woman at the well (John 4:4-42), Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and the Roman Centurion (Luke 7:1–10).
Third; the story also had a future element of instruction for the disciples and the future church. It told them who to look out for in their own ministry, and through whom the kingdom of God would grow. In the ministry of the apostles in the book of Acts we see yet more examples of these unique 4th soil people such as the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26–40), Cornelius the first non-Jew to become a believer (Acts 10:9–11:1), Lydia (Acts 16:13–15), the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:22–38) and of course the apostle Paul himself (Acts 9:1-30).
Each of these people produced a 30, 60 or 100 fold harvest in the community around them (Matthew 13:23). Through this parable Jesus was telling his disciples that, in terms of the kingdom growth, these people were spiritual superheros and the key to exponential growth. They were the future leaders, evangelists and apostles who would drive the growth of a global movement. However, he was also telling them that to find these people you have to preach to everyone. You have to scatter a lot of spiritual seed and see what happens next. Modern church planting movement experts tell us that typically only around 10-15% of people they train in the discipleship multiplication movement methods (DMM) that Jesus used will eventually fall into this 4th soil category. Fortunately, the figure is much higher in cultures without a Christian history.
Why that difference between existing Christians in the West and other cultures? Sadly, the structural problem with the Western world’s building-centric and passive model of church is that there is very little room for these disciple multipliers to operate within the existing style of church. This is why you will often find 4th soil people on the fringes of Western churches; in parallel missions organisations and starting other novel forms of outreach. This structural problem has contributed to the Western church’s social isolation from surrounding communities and cultures. In contrast, the church planting movements in many second and third world churches in China, India, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where buildings are often not permitted and money is scarce, often follow more closely the DMM model of the New Testament, and these church movements are booming.
9. LUKE 9:1-9: JESUS BEGINS TO MULTIPLY HIS MOVEMENT
The next step in launching his discipleship multiplication movement saw Jesus begin to move from demonstration and example, to challenging the disciples toward obediently replicating his ministry through practical training. He was moving his chosen team through the following essential apprenticeship process:
- I do and you watch
- I do and you help
- You do and I help
- You do and I watch
In Luke 9:1-9 we read that Jesus began sending his disciples out to do what they had seen their leader do (Luke 7:21-23). They were to do exactly what they had seen done; cast out all demons and to cure diseases and preach the kingdom (Luke 9:1-2). It was a delegated authority over the natural world, just as Jesus had delegated authority from the father to do the same. Interestingly there is no reference here to the disciples travelling in pairs but they probably did.
Why were the disciples specifically told to take nothing for the journey? It’s because Jesus also lived simply and by faith. He modelled exactly what he wanted copied. The message to his disciples and his future global movement was clear: Leaders in his world-wide discipleship multiplication movement were not to be materialistic. The less possessions the disciples took into the surrounding villages meant that could cover more villages, and the more flexible was their itinerary. In other words, the faster the message of the Kingdom of God could spread. As instructed, the disciples were looking for as many 4th soil people in that region of Galilee as possible and possessions would have slowed them down.
The trip went very well (Luke 9:6) and upon their return each disciple reported in on how they went (Luke 9:10). In fact the impact of this practical training session was so profound and created such excitement in Galilee that it eventually came to the notice of the political ruler of that region, Herod the Tetrarch (Luke 9:7). On hearing the reports Herod was terrified, thinking that John the Baptist was raised from the dead! This is telling evidence that the same supernatural things that Jesus did the twelve did also, and that included Judas (John 14:12-14). The stir the disciples created explains why well over 10,000 people then came out to hear the preaching of the leader of this new movement (Luke 9:10-17). This would have been the largest gathering of people in Galilee for many years. Jesus was now shaking all of Galilee from the bottom up. Knowing this background puts Peter’s confession of Christ’s divinity that follows in its proper context (Luke 9:18-27). Peter has seen the miracles. He had now performed the same miracles. He’d heard the preaching. He had seen the response. His mind was now settled. Jesus was not a prophet, but God incarnate. No wonder Herod was worried.
Many modern non-Western church planting movements are now deliberately copying this pattern of emphasising practical rather than theoretical training, of sending workers out instead of asking non-Christians to come, and of not paying most workers. Evangelists and church planters are encouraged to remain in their profession and inside their local culture and community. They become bi-vocational. This is one of the secrets behind the Bhojpuri church planting movement in India that has seen over 10 million souls saved between 1994 and 2018. This movement too has local and national political authorities very worried.
10. LUKE 9:46-62: JESUS DEALS WITH SPIRITUAL PRIDE IN HIS LEADERS
At this stage we have a charismatic leader performing miracles, healings, and deliverances and the 12 trainees now doing the same. The ministry had therefore multiplied 12 fold, the potent message of a new kingdom was attracting thousands of followers, and local politicians were rattled. It was therefore almost inevitable that some of the disciples would start dreaming of glory for themselves. Jesus had dealt with the temptation of worldly pride in the wilderness, now it was the disciples turn.
Luke 9:46-62 sees two examples of immature pride creeping into the trainees. First; they argue over who of them would be the greatest in this new kingdom. In reply Jesus deflates their pride by presenting a small child as the greatest. Second; the disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven on a village that rejected their great and esteemed miracle working leader. Jesus again rebuked them sternly for their selfishness and pride. He finishes this all-important lesson with teaching on the cost of following him. There would be no glory for these men outside the souls they would bring into eternity. Eventually all but two would die a violent death for their master.
In every modern church planting movement the issue of pride that comes with growth will eventually raise its ugly head and must be dealt with. If the heart of the movement is absolute service to others with no leaders having no interest in titles or privileges then this will be less of a problem (Matthew 23:8-12). The pyramid of human privilege and power that typifies most human institutions must be turned upside down in the Church of Jesus Christ. Those at the pointy end should be underneath the church serving and suffering on behalf of their down-line (up-line?) leaders and the flock at the top.
11. LUKE 10:1-24: JESUS EXPONENTIALLY MULTIPLIES HIS MOVEMENT
After the hugely successful initial practical training for the 12 leaders, and after the issue of pride had been dealt with, Jesus then widened the training to include another 70 of his followers, people for whom history has no other record than Luke 10:1-24 but it is likely Barnabas was one of these people. Because of this event we know that Jesus was obviously training many more than just the 12 men that we so often exclusively associate with the birth of Christianity. There were multiple levels to his system of training leaders. Unlike the original 12, these 70 other disciples possibly stayed in Galilee after Jesus went down to Jerusalem and to the cross. However after hearing of the resurrection, many obviously made the 4 day walk down to Jerusalem to be present as part of the 120 on the Day of Pentecost 40 days later (Acts 1:15). Why did these 120 need to be there on the day of Pentecost? It was because they were needed for the great harvest of souls that was about to be reaped when the Holy Spirit arrived shortly after and 3,000 were saved in a single day (Acts 2:41). It is also a known fact that Lebanon was the first country to hear the Gospel. Could it have been these 70 disciples that took it there first?
The instructions given to these 70 others were very specific and provide us with the best advice on evangelism in all of Jesus’ recorded teachings. Therefore a detailed summary of these instructions is given below.
First up, Jesus sent them out two by two ahead of him to every town and place he was about to go. Jesus would have had to go to around 200 towns and villages to cover all of Galilee with the Good News. If so, then these teams would have only had to go to 5 or 6 villages each to get the job done, spending a week or two in each village. In addition, they were probably being mentored by the 12 apostles who had recently done this very practical and knew what to do. That’s how it should be done with a church planting movement as new levels of leaders emerge with growth.
Why in twos this time? There is strength in twos that is missing when on your own, especially in most places in the world where it is dangerous to preach the Good News. With two people listening to the voice of Jesus and obeying his prompting, they would more quickly have found the person of peace they were told to look for (Luke 10:5).
Jesus then surprisingly said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Jesus started a mass movement. He was and still is our Level One leader. Then he chose the 12 as Level Two leaders. Then he chose the 70 as Level Three leaders. Here he is asking his Level Three leaders to pray for Level Four leaders to emerge from within those they evangelise. This was now becoming a four-generation discipleship multiplication movement! This ties in neatly with what Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:2 where he too talks about 4 levels of leadership: And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others: Paul trained Timothy who trained reliable men, who taught others. Mentoring, discipling, tutoring, teaching, training and releasing. This was the heart of the early church. Jesus was always and every day training men, and possibly women, to take over the growing movement in three years’ time. He was looking to the future because any multiplying movement is only as strong as its trained leaders.
We get a glimpse of this now uncontrollable and deeply layered multiplication of Jesus’ mass movement in Luke 9:49-50 where his disciples report in on a man they saw casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but was not one of Jesus’ own training team. Jesus was pleased and told the disciples to let the man continue. A mass movement out of human control was exactly what Jesus wanted. This verse was a glimpse of the future, believers everywhere doing what Jesus had been doing.
The early church considered 4 down-line generations of church planters normal but knew it didn’t happen without training leadership at every level. This four generation standard is now used as a measurement tool in determining if a modern church planting movement is self-sustaining.
In the Western church we have plenty of watchers but a lack of harvest workers (Luke 10:2). The harvest is always there, there are always souls whom the father is touching and who are ready for salvation. If we are not seeing a harvest it’s only because we don’t believe in it anymore! It is us who are the problem. Start praying, but not for the harvest as it is always there. Pray for workers; and the best workers are new Christians who God will lead you to. More on that in a minute.
Go! Jesus doesn’t ask them to come to his group, his church or his Bible study, so today don’t ask people to come to your church. Go to their hangouts, homes, villages, cities, worksites, communities, and countries. After the resurrection the word “go” became a universal directive for all serious followers of Jesus (Matthew 28:19). Jesus modelled going by going into Israel and looking for followers to disciple who would then become workers. The harvest is not inside religious buildings and we will never win the world if our prime method is inviting them to our meetings. We must be where the people are. That was why Jesus was called the friend of publicans and sinners (Matthew 11:19). Jesus also warned this team that when they went out to be spiritually alert, they were lambs among wolves.
Do not take a purse or bag or sandals. Jesus again emphasised for a second time that his kingdom would not be built on money but on miracles (Luke 10:9). His men were to travel light when evangelising. The lesson for us is not to bring lots of fancy systems or equipment, methods or technologies. Especially don’t splash money around as it corrupts the motivation of both those you send and those you go to. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is more effective than any trick or method of man (John 16:8-16). Simply listening to the Holy Spirit allows you to be flexible as he directs. The key is to listen and obey, that’s how miracles happen.
When you first enter a house say “Peace to this house”. If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him. Jesus asked the 70 men to find the Person of Peace wherever they went because this is a key point in successful discipling and church planting. Finding the person of peace is the first step in finding 4th soil people. A person of peace is someone whom the Holy Spirit has already been working on, whose life has been directed toward salvation.
Zacchaeus was a person of peace and also a 4th soil person who opened his house for Jesus to minister to many others (Luke 19:1-10). The woman at the well was both a person of peace and was an exemplary 4th soil person who opened up her whole village to the good news and saw a new community of believers birthed in her village within just two days (John 4). Interestingly, both were outcasts. The Roman Centurion of Luke 7:1–10 was also a person of peace because of his great need, but we have no record of him becoming a 4th soil person. Cornelius, also Roman soldier, showed that he was both a person of peace and a 4th soil person as he gathered together all his family, close friends and relatives to hear what Peter had to say (Acts 10:24). Finally, the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:22–38) was also a person of peace and a 4th soil person, bringing his whole household to faith. Spirit-led demonstrations of the love of God and the power of God are the quickest way to find these precious people.
If you do find a person of peace, then the seed of the Gospel will more likely be falling on good soil instead of stony ground (Matthew 13:8). There could be a future 30, 60 or 100 fold harvest if this person is discipled properly (Matthew 13:23), or there may be nothing if you neglect them! God will have already been working on their heart so go with what he is doing in them and drop you other plans. This is what it means by stay in his house. The person of peace will usually have great contacts inside their community and will open many doors for the Good News to spread further. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to do what Jesus asked us to do. Sow lots of seed, find a person of peace, and then nurture their spiritual interest. They are the key to creating new communities of faith. With them coming onside you will be on the inside of the village culture, or peer group, club, school, university, worksite, family or whatever else is the centre of that person’s social relationship web.
When you enter a house first say “Peace to this house”. Once the person of peace has been found, you can bring them the message of peace with God via the Prince of Peace and it will be falling on good ground (Isaiah 9:6). Just follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Pray for peace to come into their needs, sicknesses, finances and family. Answered prayer will open their heart further. Once the peace of God rests on them they will soon realise that God is the key to peace to all areas of their lives: For their family, their friendships, workplace, finances, their emotional state, their community, and their health. They will feel the change in their heart and their family will see the change in their lives. Most people need to see a changed life in someone they know before accepting the truth of the Gospel. Seeing Peace emanating from in this person of peace will begin that process.
Jesus said to stay in that house. In the modern context this may mean literally staying with them if the circumstances permit, but it will more likely mean taking responsibility for training them through relationship building. They are not to be left spiritual orphans after coming to the truth. They can then watch your life and copy your example. In the modern church too much emphasis has been placed on evangelism and not enough on discipling. So, become their spiritual parent! It will be best to drop your other plans, you now have a spiritual baby to take care of! This is what all new parents have to do. The person of peace must be trained and the best place is usually in their home, but definitely through relationship.
The Apostle Paul would stay for weeks, months, or sometimes a year or two with these new believers, training them in all that he knew himself. In time he would appoint leaders in each of these communities as they emerged. John Wesley did exactly the same in England. There are plaques in hundreds of English villages saying John Wesley stayed here. He transformed the nation in a single generation, slowly and one village at a time.
How you apply this principle will all depend on the culture, the circumstances you are in, and what the Holy Spirit tells you. Jesus changed his plans and stayed an extra two days with the woman at the well before moving on. Don’t leave that person until at least the initial training is done and the best way you can tell if you are successful is if you can see their spiritual children and grandchildren coming to Jesus. Keep in touch for months, even years if you need to. Mentor them as best you can. Church planters create spiritual sons and daughters, not just converts.
Eat what is set before you. In other words make sure you do everything you can to overlook cultural differences and concentrate on loving the person of peace and nurturing their relationship with God. Cultural differences can be a little scary sometimes. If you get stuck on what feels like an unpleasant cultural differences you will never see spiritual transformation, Satan will make sure of that. This was the great problem with 19th Century European missionaries. They sadly exported their culture as well as the Good News. Exceptions to this rule, such as Hudson Taylor and William Taylor, were few and far between.
Heal the sick and tell them “The kingdom of God has come near to them”. The miraculous should be a normal part of evangelism because it is a profound manifestation of the compassionate love of our father for his lost children (Mark 16:15-18). Miracles also demand a response as people see your message is not mere words, but a one with supernatural power. Sow seeds by praying for people at every opportunity as that is often how you find your person of peace. Always be available and alert, as Jesus was (Luke 9:37-45). The healing of Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8:40-56 was one such example. A simple question each of us can consistently ask people is: If Jesus could do a big miracle for you today, what would it be? Then offer to pray for this miracle. Prayer is always a step of faith. Most people welcome prayer as most people are in need.
Know when to leave. Some places will reject you. Move on quickly as the Holy Spirit could be moving in another location or family. However, if a community rejects messengers from the sovereign king of the universe there will be a price to pay.
The 70 returned with joy and said “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Expect results! Satan quivers under the authority of anyone who has been taught and trained by Jesus (Luke 10:18-19). The destructive power of Satan is real in all cultures, however he operates differently at each culture’s point of weakness. The Kingdom of God is never more powerfully demonstrated than by releasing people bound up by demons. That is why all the gospels record Jesus’ deliverances. That authority became Jesus’ disciples new-found authority, and is now our authority too.
When the 70 returned from their practical training they were in awe at the authority they possessed as even the demons obeyed them. Jesus confirmed their feedback and results by telling them that from now on they would have all authority over Satan, but also not to gloat in this new-found power.
Then Luke records a unique statement. He says Jesus was full of joy in the Holy Spirit. Jesus was rejoicing. He was exuberant. This is the only time in all four gospels we read of Jesus so happy. The movement was achieving everything he had imagined it would. The Kingdom of God was now with men, not just him. There was no stopping this movement now. Jesus’ joy was complete.
Does he have the same joy over your work for him?
First, a quick summary of what we have learnt in this essay:
- The movement Jesus started was divinely ordained in the throne of God.
- Jesus was baptised, filled with the Holy Spirit and died to himself and the world
- Jesus then started his mass movement through miracles and kingdom teaching.
- He won many followers in the earliest of days.
- From these followers he chose 12 men for intensive leadership training.
- They lived with, watched and leant from their master.
- He taught them to look for 4th soil people when preaching the Kingdom
- Then he sent them out to practice what they had seen him do.
- The whole of Galilee was shaken by this first wave of evangelism.
- Opposition then quickly raised its ugly head.
- Pride in the hearts of the disciples came soon after.
- Jesus then trained 70 others to expand his mass movement even further.
- These 70 were specifically instructed to look for the next generation of leaders.
- The result was a mass movement into the kingdom before Jesus went to the cross.
That’s what Jesus wanted the early church to copy.
So how did it work out? Using the same system that Jesus designed, the Good News quickly spread rapidly around the globe in the next few centuries: To North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Europe, Central Asia and even China. Sadly in Europe this system of discipling and planting communities of believers changed dramatically in 312AD when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and forced all Christians under his rule into the sacred buildings left vacant by the old Roman religions. From that point on the Western church asked people to come to it, instead of going to them and progress slowed dramatically.
Fortunately this problem of building centred Christianity is now shrinking rapidly as a revolution in church structure is finally taking the Good News back to its original form. For example, there are currently dozens of church planting networks in India that are using the principles taught by Jesus to grow incredibly massive church planting movements. These men were introduced to the world at the Inaugural House Church summit in New Delhi in 2009. Their church planting movements now number in the tens of millions of new believers. In fact the Indian subcontinent has become is a flashpoint of global church growth that will have huge ramifications for the future of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East in the years to come. Victor Choudrie, Randeep Matthews and Anaroop Swami are just three of the leaders of these networks. Victor John, whose story is in the book Bhojpuri Breakthrough, has used the principles taught by Jesus in North India to bring over 10 million to Christ in his network alone!
In Bangladesh an ex-Muslim by the name of Abdul, whose story is inspired the book called The CAMEL Method, used Jesus’ method of church planting to bring 100,000 Muslims to Jesus. There are now well over 200 such church planting movements now visible inside the Muslim world. Ying Kai, whose story is in the book T4T, saw two million new disciples come to Jesus in China by following the system Jesus taught outlined above. This was part of a larger movement that saw 100 million Chinese come to Christ between 1947 and 2010.
In the western world, Neil Cole, Chris Galanos and Jeff Sundell are using these methods to plant and grow discipling movements in the USA. An Aussie, Steve Addison, used to write about church planting as a theory until one day God challenged him to go out and put it into practice. Within two hours he and his wife found a person of peace at the local shopping centre in Melbourne. Within a short time there was a thriving house church and networks opening up back in their home country. There are now literally thousands of other stories of new church planting movements emerging right now right around the world.
If you take one more step back to look at an even bigger picture you can see that the global results are astounding. Growth in the global number of true followers of Jesus is up from 1% in 1900, to 7% in 2000, and will reach an expected 12-15% of the global population by 2050 according to The Future of the Global Church by Patrick Johnstone. There are now in excess of 700 of known New Testament inspired church planting movements growing globally. Sadly however, only a few of those 700 of any size have been documented in the Western world.