Foundations: Great Faith
I (Tanner) have recently been reading through the Book of Acts and have been encouraged by Luke’s account of how the gospel advanced through the witness of God’s people after the ascension of Christ. While there are many principles and examples that a new church can and should take away from the early church, one that continually challenges me is the quality of their faith.
Just before Jesus ascended to the Father, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). They then exercised faith in Christ’s command and promise until the Spirit descended at Pentecost. Numerous times we find the early church exercising faith by committing their mission to God in prayer, especially in the face of opposition (2:42, 4:23ff, 12:12). Peter and Paul performed miraculous works by faith (3:16). They also declared the gospel with boldness because they believed God was worthy of their obedience (4:19-20). It is not surprising then that Luke provides details that men like Stephen and Barnabas were full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith (6:5, 11:24).
In light of what the Book of Acts says and the fact that other biblical authors make statements like, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6), every Christian should pray: “God, make me full of faith. Give me great faith.” But why is this so important for those starting a new church? There are several reasons.
First, great faith trusts God for the unknown. Almost everything about starting a church is unknown. Who will come? How will we pay the bills? Where will we meet? Will people in our city be welcoming? And the list goes on and on. Faith trusts God for his provision. Second, great faith apprehends more of God’s blessing through prayer. One of the great dangers for church planting teams is self-reliance. Prayer demonstrates the belief that everything we have in life comes from God and undercuts the temptation to work in our own strength. Third, churches with great faith expect great things from God and allow that expectation to drive them toward greater obedience. Great faith leads God’s people to dream big, make big plans, and watch intently for God to show up in mighty ways. Finally, great faith recognizes that the authority of Christ is big enough for the mission of Christ. Those with great faith understand that because Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth,” he has the right to rule his church and ensure its advancement.
It takes great faith to live the Christian life, and it takes great faith to start a new church. As this new church is formed, we commit to having worthy thoughts of God by placing great faith in his power to work.