Most if not all church planters have heard the word scaffolding used by preachers to describe many of the people who were attracted to their church plants during their early days.
During the early 1980’s God allowed our family to be part of the young and growing North Valley Baptist Church of Santa Clara California. Dr. Jack Trieber lead the church into building the first enlarged auditorium soon after we joined the church.
When we built the auditorium, we did not begin by setting up scaffolding. We began by laying a proper foundation. We embedded rebar in the concrete and bolted the foundation to the walls.
After we built a solid foundation and set the walls in place we used scaffolding to finish the exterior of the building. It was an important tool, but it was not the focus when we started building. The focus was the foundation and the frame that would be strong enough to support the trusses and roof of that building.
I’m rarely at a church planting conference where one or more of the speakers does not share their personal experiences concerning the eventual desertion of many of the early members of their churches.
The best way to describe these individuals is that they are early members of the new church that transferred their membership from other churches but eventually found a reason to leave the new church just like the many churches they left before.The term scaffolding is often used to describe these members.
The blessing of scaffolding:
• People are present during the services as you seek to reach the lost.
• Finances are given to help support the new work.
• Potential workers are available to minister in the new church.
The burden of scaffolding:
• They have come from other churches and are usually disgruntled because they have had problems with previous preachers.
• They often are easily critical and are not bashful about verbalizing their criticism.
• They often use their money as a tool to persuade and influence the leadership.
• When they eventually leave, they often seek to take others with them.
• They become a source of contention and disunity when things don’t go their way.
As we examine the scripture we clearly see that the emphasis was not finding the churched (scaffolding) but rather the difficult foundational work of reaching the lost. In Acts 16, neither Lydia nor the jailer and his family were scaffolding. They were the first fruits of Phillipi.
In Romans 16:5 we are told of Epaenetus, the first fruits of Achaia, who Paul described as “well beloved.”
In 1 Corinthians 16:15 the members of the house of Stephanas were not scaffolding but rather the first-fruits of the region of Achaia, who are commended for having "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.”
It's amazing to me that the only time this phrase "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints" is used, it is to describe some of the early converts of the church of Corinth. Often, the hardest working, most loyal members of a church will be those reached in the early days of the birth of that church.
The blessing of first-fruit:
• First-fruit believers are those who are reached early in your ministry, and these folks will always have a special place in your heart and life.
• First-fruit believers become your most loyal members as they are discipled and grow.
• First-fruit believers have no other Fundamental Baptist Church to compare you to because this is probably their first and only Baptist Church family.
• First-fruit believers will be excited and less critical because God used you to see them and their family saved.
The burden of first-fruit:
• Because of their youthfulness as believers they become the targets of persuasion for scaffolding Christians wanting to leave but needing others to come along to justify their decision to leave.
• The anguish and pain of heart is much greater for the pastor and his family when you lose the first fruits.
May the Lord give us hearts to build our churches from the ground up with first fruit or “lively stones” that will add stability and cohesiveness to the building of God’s Church.
Let’s examine our methodology when it comes to growing our churches and place the emphasis on reaching the lost rather than corralling the wandering sheep and trust God to build His church, one soul at a time.