NFC V: Ed Stetzer on “Lengthening the Cords and Strengthening the Stakes, Part 1”

About Ed Stetzer:

Ed Stetzer has planted churches in New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia and transitioned declining churches in Indiana and Georgia. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed served for three years as seminary professor at the Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and has taught at fifteen other seminaries. He is currently the Director of Lifeway Research and Lifeway’s Missiologist in Residence.

Text: 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10; and Luke 24:46-49

I am delighted to be here and challenged to be here at the same time.  I am anxious because of the journey that I have been in.  I also realize that this is not my typical setting, and I am not the typical speaker at the Founders Conference.  I want to be up front with you that I have a bias, namely, that many of my Reformed friends are not well-represented in church planting.  One of the reasons why we are having this meeting is so that we can be more active in church planting.

4 of the 5 top multiplying churches are Reformed (Redeemer, Mars Hill, Perimeter, Spanish River).  I am here to say that I believe that you want to be more engaged in church planting, and I want to provoke you in this area.  I want to encourage you in some ways we can do the work of church planting.

Quote: William Carey in Inquiry (using every lawful means to bring about the conversion of the heathen)

If a biblical theology is to birth a biblical church, how is that to work out to biblical church planting?  We don’t do a very good job of listening to and learning from others.  We desperately need each other with doctrinal preaching and missional engagement.  Let’s look at Luke 24:46-49 to see how it is done.

A recruitment to a cause is not a propagation of the gospel.  I want to look at four things in this passage.  Let’s begin where the Scriptures begin.

1.  The Gospel and the Mission (46)

It begins with the gospel.  Consider what Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 15:1-4.  Paul wants to make sure we understand what the gospel is–the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  The Messiah would suffer and raise again on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness would be proclaimed in His name to all nations.  Jesus puts together the idea of the death and resurrection and repentance and forgiveness to be proclaimed in His name to all nations.  Fundamental to the nature of the gospel is the propagation of the gospel. The gospel is going somewhere; it is on mission.  The challenge is that we often forget is that God is on a mission; our God is a missionary God.  By His nature He sends.  We are identified by people whom God has sent into the world.  Part of the challenge is to bask in His glory when His glory is expressed in His mission.  Sometimes we are afraid to engage the lost world with the mission of Jesus Christ.  Holiness is not separation from sinners but separation from sin.

Can I encourage you?  Do not make heroes of any heroes or any church that is filled with good doctrine and God-centered worship but cannot reach lost people for Jesus Christ.  What you celebrate, you become.  Fill your meetings and your publications and your presentations by celebrating others who are communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ and its power is transforming lives of sinners.  Some people have been to the theological gym and have huge theological arms, but they never have worked out the legs.  They have huge theological arms on every agenda but have stick-like legs because they have never used them.  Could it be that God could use Founders Movement that we can be both biblically formed and shaped such that we have muscular legs and arms?  The gospel has to be central in what we do.

You cannot do evangelism separate from the church.

2.  The Gospel for the Nations (47)

The Great Commission gives us a fuller picture that the gospel is to be proclaimed to all nations.  The gospel is a message for the nations.  Jesus was referring that there were people of different ethnicities, different cultures, different contexts, different languages, different kinds of peoples.  Our hearts must break for the peoples of the world.  We must take the gospel to them.  It must be a burning passion in us.

A.  We need a passion for God’s global mission.

The IMB needs you involved to “let the nations be glad.”  The “how” is often times determined by the “who” and the “where” of culture.  A biblically faithful church must look different in New York than in Tulsa than ____________.  Older expressions are not necessarily more holy expressions, and vice-versa.  Nostalgia will not reach a world for Jesus Christ; a gospel on mission will.

I have seen a lot of churches who have marks but have not mission, and I don’t believe God is honored by that.

B.  Church plants need to be seeker-comprehensible.

I used “seeker” just to rile you up.  If you are going to plant churches, you have to recognize and learn that you don’t plant churches where people already understand church principles and practices.  The way that I preached and the songs that I sung had to be done in a such a way that those who have never been to church can have understood.

C.  What we often call respectful, sober, and worshipful is often based more on culture than Scripture.

There are biblically commanded elements of worship.  It matters biblically what takes place in church, but in churches we have baptized culture and made it a command.

3.  A Clear Obligation to Witness (48)

Because of our theological persuasion, the thing we need to be known for is witnessing and sharing Jesus Christ.  You know that the Founders Movement is controversial in the Convention.  I think you want to be known for biblical church planting and evangelism.  A lot of books are coming out in Reformed circles on evangelism, but books being written on topics are not going to make you evangelistic.  It’s like me writing a book on weight loss.  Be known for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

I am sick and tired of the word “hyper-Calvinist.”  There is no one I know who is a hyper-Calvinist.  But we need to be careful not to be “functional hyper-Calvinists.”  If the end result is the same, God is not honored nor given the glory that is due.

I see church planting as the outflow of our love to Jesus Christ.  I have seen church planters getting so preoccupied with church planting that they are doing it without the gospel.  If your movement would begin with a church planting initiative, it would be with a robust understanding of the gospel.

I am convinced that if we are going to understand God’s mission, we need to understand the people we are going to reach.  If the 50’s came back, most Southern Baptists are ready to go.  But the gospel must be proclaimed here and now.  Don’t try to make God and Bible relevant; God and the Bible are already relevant.  The problem is that you are not relevant.

Reach out and evangelize through community and bridge events.  Start groups and begin worship.  Disciple the people.

We must be biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter-culturally communities for the gospel and the kingdom.

4.  A Spirit-Empowered Mission (49)

Stay until you are empowered from on high.  I have forgotten the power of the Spirit in my ministry many times.  You can’t do this without the Holy Spirit.  My encouragement to you is, five years from now be known for being a church planting movement that shocks everyone–and you cannot do this apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.

I think we have come more adept at expressing our desires for the conversion of sinners, but we have yet to use every lawful means to spread the knowledge of His name.  I want to know all that I can to tell people about Jesus Christ.  I get that pragmatism is something that people want to beat on, and it often discourages me.  Pragmatism is like a low-hanging pinata on Cinco de Mayo.  I am less pragmatic than I used to be, but there are some things we can learn.

God wants church plants with His agenda and for His glory.  Can a group obsessed with biblical ecclesiology marry those things to God’s mission to transform communities for the glory of God.  I believe it can, and I look forward to being here with you in the process.

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5 Comments on “NFC V: Ed Stetzer on “Lengthening the Cords and Strengthening the Stakes, Part 1””


  1. He raised a few eyebrows at times, but I think he accomplished his goal in provoking us to think and to act.


  2. Gunny,

    I agree. BTW, are you here in Tulsa? If so, it would be great to meet up with you.


  3. […] can read the outlines from Timmy Brister here:  Part 1 and Part […]


  4. It was great meeting you, brother. We just got back to Dallas, physically tired, but spiritual strengthened.

    Thanks for these great write-ups. They are most appreciated.


  5. […] “Building a Solid Doctrinal Foundation” 6. Dr. Nettles Bio Sketch of Daniel Marshall (PDF) 7. NFC V: Ed Stetzer on “Lengthening the Cords and Strengthening the Stakes, Part 1″ 8. NFV VI: Don Whitney on “Reforming Through Discipline” 9. NFC VII: Ed Stetzer on […]


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