News Articles

Tinsley notes tensions with some church-growth teachings

KANSAS CITY, Mo.–Jesus’ charge to “disciple all the nations” doesn’t fit well with some aspects of church-growth teachings, according to William C. Tinsley, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.
Speaking to students at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., April 7, Tinsley said as a Baptist he cut his teeth on the Great Commission of Matthew 28. “The commission is the goal. Why haven’t we been successful at doing that? Did Jesus intend all people or just a reasonable percentage?” Tinsley asked.
He told of attending a number of church-growth conferences where they spoke of a reasonable percentage or a market share of the population. “That seemed strange to me. It doesn’t fit with the words of Jesus to disciple all the nations. God is not willing that any should perish.”
Tinsley told the students that in Matthew 16:16-18, Jesus presented his strategy for reaching all the nations. When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Tinsley explained through grammatical analysis of the Greek text that the rock was clearly Peter’s confession, not Peter, then explained how Jesus’ response to Peter is a strategy for reaching the nations.
“The dynamic of Jesus’ strategy is the supernatural. Jesus said, ‘I will build my church,'” Tinsley quoted. “There must be a supernatural flow of the Spirit of God into and through his body for it to live. In Acts, we say they were living in a sense of awe. I am disturbed when a church lacks awe. Even a small church can celebrate the supernatural presence of God.”
The design of Jesus’ strategy is for churches to multiply, Tinsley said, tracing the rapid spread of the early church as recorded in Acts. “His design begins to flourish at Pentecost in Jerusalem. Then Jesus scatters the church through persecution. Everywhere they go, they are preaching,” he reminded.
“The Book of Acts is the story of starting churches,” Tinsley said. Through this strategy, the churches began to multiply through Europe, Asia and Africa. “Josephus says the churches were growing in such number they couldn’t count them. They revolutionized and transformed the first-century world by multiplying churches,” Tinsley said.
Echoing the theme that has been adopted by Midwestern Seminary, Tinsley said, “This is the prairie fire. It won’t happen by propping up old existing churches or building family life centers. It will only happen as churches are scattered and multiplied and the embers burn and the flames ignite. It is happening now in China and Cuba. I hope God doesn’t have to send us persecution for us to do it.”
When the multiplication method is practiced, Tinsley insisted it always succeeds. “Without the printing press, the radio, the television, even the computer, they did it. The design has never changed and nothing will replace it.”
Tinsley also pointed to the dimension of life and death in Jesus’ strategy. “Our message deals with eternal issues. Hades will not prevail against the church. Hades is the realm of the dead. We are dealing with the life-and-death issues of people’s lives.” He shared illustrations of individuals who seemed successful on the outside, but inside, they struggled over the issues of life and death. Tinsley speculated how the lives of these people would have been different if someone had taken the time to share with them the only message that removes the fear of death.
“That’s why the strategy is so important — churches where the Bible is believed and Christ is honored and people come to Christ, scattered, multiplied, preaching everywhere the message of life and death.”

    About the Author

  • John Gaskin