How Many Churches
Did Paul Start?

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How many known and likely churches did the Apostle Paul start? Where were they located? When did he begin them?

Paul's First Church?

Apostle Paul traveled quite a bit between his conversion in 33 A.D. and his first missionary journey started in 44 A.D.

The Apostle Paul, after fleeing Damascus and spending three years in Arabia (Acts 9:20 - 25, 2Corinthians 11:32 - 33, Galatians 1:17), finds his way to Jerusalem. After spending only 15 days in the city (Galatians 1:18) his confrontational and hyperactive evangelism so enrages Hellenistic Jews that they attempt to murder him!

And he (Paul) was with them (the disciples), coming in and going out in Jerusalem, and speaking boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then he spoke and disputed with the Greeks, but they attempted to kill him. (Acts 9:28 - 29, HBFV throughout).

Apostle Paul in Prison
Apostle Paul in Prison
Rembrandt, 1627

Jerusalem Christians, compelled by Paul's vision warning him to leave (Acts 22:17 - 21), send him back home to Tarsus (Acts 9:30). The apostle then lives in his hometown for four years until his help is needed in Antioch (see Acts 11:25 - 26).

Although only hinted at in the Bible, Paul almost certainly preached the gospel in Tarsus and the surrounding province of Cilicia during his long stay. The Jerusalem Conference, several years later, confirmed there were many believers in Cilicia (Acts 15:23). The apostle's second missionary journey, undertaken after the conference, journeyed through Cilicia in support of its churches (verse 41).

First Journey Churches

The first missionary journey of Apostle Paul, which started in 44 A.D., focused primarily on the province of Galatia. The gospel proclaimed within the province by him and Barnabas bore the fruit of at least four churches to which the book of Galatians is written.

Paul's powerful preaching in Antioch (Acts 13:14 - 41), located in the Pisidian region of Galatia, caused the city to want to hear him (verse 44). His evangelism lead to the formation of a church (verse 48).

The evangelists then travel to Iconium (Acts 14:1 - 6). Their preaching causes many of the Jews and Greeks to become believers who form the basis for a church.

In Lystra, Paul's healing of a cripple man induces an over-the-top positive response by the people. It is soon followed, however, by the apostle being stoned and having new church members stand around his body (Acts 14:6 - 20). In Derbe the preaching of the word makes many disciples (verse 21). The two apostles oversee the appointing of elders in every Galatian church they start (verses 21 - 23).

Second Journey Churches

The second evangelistic campaign of Paul initially began with fellow evangelist Silas in 49 A.D. The pair are soon joined by Timothy and Luke. The second campaign will be one of the most fruitful in regard to new fellowships.

The group, after revisiting several churches, is led to preach in Europe for the first time (Acts 16:6 - 10). Paul's preaching in Philippi and baptism of Lydia, with her entire household, form the core of a new fellowship (verses 12 - 15). Soon it is added to when Paul baptizes the city's head jailer and his family (verses 26 - 34). The preaching of the gospel also produces many new Christians in both Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:1 - 4, 11 - 12).

Apostle Paul, in Athens, preaches a powerful message about "the unknown God" which most Athenians reject. There are, however, a few in the city who become Christians (Acts 17:15 - 34) during the apostle's short stay.

The apostle then travels to Corinth. His preaching splits a local synagogue causing several of their attendees to become Christians (Acts 18:7 - 8). The Corinthian church continues to grow when God reveals he has many people in the city (verses 9 - 10).

Biblical evidence suggests that Cenchrea, located near Corinth, may have also been evangelized by Paul during his 2+ year visit to the area. When he writes the book of Romans a few years later, during a short visit to Corinth, he has a deaconess from Cenchrea deliver it to Rome. His knowledge of the person and mention of a church in Cenchrea suggests he was involved in its start.

Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea . . . to assist her in whatever she may need from you because she also has been of great assistance to many, including myself. (Romans 16:1 - 2).

Third Journey Churches

Paul, toward the end of his second missionary journey, spent only one week in Ephesus (Acts 18:19 - 21). During his third evangelistic campaign, however, he resides in the city for slightly more than three years. It is during this time that he establishes the Ephesian church.

The Apostle Paul, after leaving Ephesus, likely travels to Troas on his way to visiting churches in Macedonia and in Corinth (Acts 20:1 - 4). On his return trip from Macedonia he again arrives in Troas where he stays for a week preaching to a group of believers (verses 6 - 12). It is possible, when he arrived at Troas from Ephesus, that his brief evangelism started a church in the city that he would then revisit on his return trip.

Now when I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, and a door was opened to me by the Lord . . . (2Corinthians 2:12).

Guided But Not Started

Christians existed on Crete years before Paul's visit during his fifth missionary journey. There were those from Crete who heard Peter's message on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11) who, without a doubt, took the message of the gospel back home. After Paul visited the island briefly in 63 A.D. He gave instructions to Titus to organize the believers.

For this cause I left you in Crete, so that you might set in order the things that needed to be done, and might ordain elders in every city, as I commanded you (Titus 1:5).

Although there was technically a church on Crete before Paul arrived, they lacked the organization needed to aid their spiritual growth. The apostle, sensing the need on the island, took on the responsibility of organizing and leading it.

How Many Did He Start?

The Apostle Paul started nine known churches (Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth and Ephesus). He also highly likely founded fellowships in Tarsus, Athens, Cenchrea and Troas. See our article on "The Unknown Churches of Paul" for still other possible groups that may have come into existence through his evangelistic efforts!

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