Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

“Planting a Church” often involves trained pastors initiating relationships in an area lacking a healthy, established church. They begin by meeting with a core group of believers in a home for Bible study and prayer. Eventually, they secure a space for Sunday services with preaching and music, inviting others to join. This model, used by North Wake nearly 35 years ago, has brought people to know and worship God.

But I want to pray and dream and hope for God to work in the traditional way I know and every other way! Jesus told us: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38). Let’s look at some of the many examples of church gatherings documented in the Bible to see ways we can specifically pray for the gospel to go forth into new church plants.

Pray for groups to gather in homes, public places, and rented rooms. In the Bible, the home is the normal place Christians and guests get together to learn about and worship God; Priscilla and Aquila hosted church in their home in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19). In two different homes, the lady Nympha and the man Archippus both had gatherings in their homes in the same region (Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). And outside of homes, Christians got together daily in public places such as around the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46-47).

Holy Spirit, you birthed the church by coming and filling your people in an upper room. Fulfill your promise to be present with every group of believers who gathers in your name.

Pray for groups that gather to meet even without a group of established teachers or even a permanent leader.

Remember the man possessed by demons in Gerasenes running naked through the graves? Jesus healed him and immediately sent him to go spread the gospel to his home and his friends (Mark 5:19). This man was clearly “not trained,” even though he was sent by Jesus himself. Later, in Crete and Ephesus, churches were meeting without a group of recognized leaders, and Paul instructed Titus and Timothy to recognize men God was equipping to be the elders (also called overseers) in those cities (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7). Paul did not even want Titus to stay at the church in Crete, but instead, Paul wanted Titus to be replaced with other leaders to help the congregation temporarily (Titus 3:12).

Heavenly Father, as Christians gather everywhere on the earth you have made in houses you have given them but in the absence of recognized leaders, let them offer prayers to you, knowing that you will also provide for them every type of help they need.

Pray for women teaching, supporting, and serving gathered believers.

Women do massive acts of service within the gathered church and beyond. Women are divinely enabled to teach, serve, support, and care for those who gather in His name. We read of women carrying the message of the resurrection, hosting meetings, and praying in gatherings. (John 20:18; Romans 16:1,7). We need women who actively prepare to teach, explain, and exhort women and all young people with Biblical faithfulness, and in doing so, honor God’s design for women.

Holy Spirit, equip your women to know your words thoroughly and to serve well, working, praying and teaching in every way you intend, in the many gatherings you inhabit.

Pray for God to raise up men who serve and do the work of shepherds & teachers in every gathering of believers.

Every man in a church is called to be a servant of all; we see them distributing food to hungry widows (Acts 6) and traveling as encouragers. And while the churches in homes met without permanent, established leaders, they still needed them. Every group needs men serving eagerly as examples, living among the flock of Christ, not acting like overlords, but committing their lives to work for the joy of those in their little bands of Christians (1 Peter 5:1-11, 2 Corinthians 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:2).

Lord Jesus, equip men to know your words thoroughly and to shepherd your flock joyfully through their clear explanation, teaching, rebukes, and examples.

Pray for gatherings to contain good teaching with application and that many who go to these gatherings have something to share, to sing, or to teach in ways that are accessible to outsiders.

Compared to a conventional church service, Paul desires that many in the church gatherings at Corinth would have something to share in the service with a priority given to teaching with application (1 Corinthians 14).

Holy Spirit, as your people gather in homes, grant each of them good things to share, and let outsiders learn and be drawn closer to you by what is shared.

Pray for welcoming gatherings with food and remembrance.

Before they even fully understood the Lord’s Supper or Communion, some churches were gathering regularly for meals. However, sometimes they didn’t quite think enough about the needs of others. They didn’t always bring enough food to share, so some were hungry while others had too much or even drank alcohol excessively. Paul said that in that community, it was better not to have that kind of meal, but rather to simply remember Jesus’s body and blood shed for them all the while caring deeply for everyone present.

Father, let every gathering of believers around food be deeply hospitable and thoughtful of all who come to ensure they have plenty.

Pray for the gospel to speed ahead quickly.

Sometimes, speedily is exactly the pace God will move. Paul asks us to pray against slowness: “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). When God allowed the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem, they scattered, just as Jesus had told them to do! (Matthew 23:34) In their scattering, they went well beyond the boundaries of Israel, spreading the gospel.

Lord Jesus, in your mission on earth, you sometimes lingered in a town, and you sometimes moved quickly to preach the good news of the kingdom in new places. Give us wisdom to know which speed to move and make us willing to go to new places and try new things.

Mike Shipman, a member at North Wake Church, challenges us to pay attention to the application of the great commission in Acts 1:8. Believers proclaimed the gospel and planted churches in Jerusalem and Judea among people like themselves but soon planted churches throughout Samaria also. Mike says we can tend to plant churches like the ones we know and love among people who are much like ourselves. However, to obey the great commission, we must also plant churches cross-culturally. Of course, we must send missionaries to plant churches among unreached peoples in faraway places. However, in today’s world the nations also live among us, which challenges us to plant churches among them in ways that are applied on the mission field. He explains that those are often micro-churches (or house churches) much like those we read about in Acts.

The examples above show that the Bible’s account of early church gatherings and organizations can be very different from healthy modern churches. God allows for lots of variety in culture and practice! Ask God to help you love, pray for, support, and encourage churches that seem different from yours.