“The Adventure Of Faith:
Starting A New Church”
A Course Of Study From
Blueprint For Revival Bible
©2008 Belleview, FL 34421 USA
BLUEPRINT FOR REVIVAL BIBLE INSTITUTE
BASIC BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Dr. Ed J MacWilliams
COURSE: The Adventure Of Faith: Starting A New Church
THE ADVENTURE OF FAITH:
Starting A New Church
Starting a new church can be an adventure in faith. However, when it is done in a non-Biblical way, it can become one of the most discouraging efforts you will ever put forth.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU START. IT MIGHT NOT BE A CHURCH !
Many well-intended people have launched out into towns, cities, and villages to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to start a new work for Him. Some assumed that the gathering together of God’s newly born children would form a church. To their horror, they later found that the gathering had developed into a vicious group of people who appointed themselves as judges of morality over the community.
So, what could new believers end up organizing ? Even though what they had formed is called a church, it is far from the Biblical definition and purpose of a true church. In some cases, they have come together and worked together as a social agency, feeding the poor, clothing those who have little clothing, and providing other services for those who need them.
There have been new Christians who gathered together to form a group that would appeal to their own pleasures. They sing songs that make them feel good (rather than worship which praises God), pray for blessings to benefit them (rather than asking for things which they could use to bring people to Jesus), and set out to seek miracles to take them out of troubles (rather than asking the Lord to help them grow closer to Him through the miracles). While elements of that may be found in true churches, when people get together for that primary purpose, they have left behind the true purpose of the church, and have become a selfish group of people seeking their own glory rather than a group of humble Believers seeking to glorify God.
Just because people gather together to worship does not mean that such a gathering is a church, either. In recent times, religious groups using the name of Christ have come together with people whose god is not our God. They have joined together in what they called “worship,” the singing of praises, the celebration of the existence of God, etc. Yet, they could not be considered a church. Why not ? They did not have the structure, the purpose, and the authority by which a true local church comes into existence.
The creations of God – which are NOT born-again, nor have knowledge of salvation – they can praise God. But, their proclamation of the glory of God does not make them a church, either.
Psalm 19: 1-3 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.”
Praise and worship services do not in themselves validate the existence of a church. There are other criteria – which must be Biblical – that we use to determine if we are setting out to establish a true church that fulfills the will of God.
WHAT IS A CHURCH ?
There are precautions which a pastor must take in establishing a new work that would help prevent the new mission from becoming a failure. He must first have in his own mind a clear Biblical understanding of what a true local church is. If the Biblical teaching is not clear in his mind, it will be difficult for the church to get off to an effective start, and stay growing in the right direction.
Theories are plentiful. In fact, it is relatively simple to attract a group of people interested in getting healed, getting rich, or becoming prosperous materially. And, in many towns and cities, such gatherings are incorrectly called ‘churches.’ Many pastors, however, are satisfied to call such self-centered gatherings “churches” when they are not.
As faithful men and women of God, we must be dedicated to whatever God tells us in His Word. Our understanding of what makes a local church must come from God’s Word. Perhaps the most popular today is the view of Dr. C. I. Scofield, the man to whom many attribute the definition of the church as “…where two or three are gathered together in My Name…”
Let’s examine this argument briefly. Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Scofield wants to say it must be two or three people in order for the Lord to be present with them as a recognizable church. There is nothing in the context of this Scripture to suggest that the Holy Spirit is even attempting to define the Church. In fact, if you are alone, standing in the middle of a wilderness, where no one else can be seen for many miles, if you are saved, isn’t the Lord present with you then ? If He is present with one Believer, is He not present with two…or three ? Yes, of course, He is. While one, two, or three Believers have the presence of the Lord Jesus with them in the Person of the Holy Spirit, that does not make that event a church. The verse Scofield quotes was evidently stated by the Holy Spirit to show that in the presence of two or three Believers, more can be done for the Lord than otherwise. THAT is what is shown in the context.
Others contend that a church must have an association with a formally organized church. Still others argue that the church must contain people with certain offices through whom the Spirit of God can work. And a few even believe that a body of Believers is only to be considered a church when it fulfills all the legal requirements of the state.
As with all issues of faith, the Bible must be the final authority. There are a number of Scriptures which relate to Believers meeting together. However, the Bible does not state in clear words that those meetings were those of a literal local church. Even Dr. Scofield’s views cannot be supported by any specific words of the Bible. Therefore, we have to make a judgment based upon the words which the Holy Spirit used to describe the local church, and the teachings of Jesus which relate to it.
DEFINITION OF THE GREEK WORD, ‘CHURCH’
This is the Greek Lexicon definition of the word which is translated “church.”
(Strong’s Concordance Number) 1577 ekklesia, ek-klay-see’-ah
from a compound of 1537 and a derivative of 2564; TDNT-3:501,394; n f
AV-church 115, assembly 3; 118
1) a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly
1a) an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating
1b) the assembly of the Israelites
1c) any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously
1d) in a Christian sense
1d1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
1d2) a company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake
1d3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body
1d4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth
1d5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven
THE BODY OF CHRIST (on Earth) IS THE CHURCH.
It is clear from the following Scripture, that the Body, the Church, has many members in it.
Ephesians 4: 11-16 “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
However, in that passage, the Lord is telling us about the Body of Christ, the Church, which is composed of EVERY Believer from every land from every time period. This is NOT the local church which the Holy Spirit may use you to begin, but the entire Body of saved people worldwide.
Recognizing the local church is not always as easy as some people want to believe that it is. If you were to find a human arm on the side of the road, would you say that you found the body ? No. You would have found part of the body. If you traveled farther, and you found a body consisting of a connected head, chest, torso, legs, and one arm, you might say that you found a body. Why ? The more recognizable parts you find, the more you can relate it to the entire person. In like manner, when you find a local church, the more functioning parts you find there, the more recognizable it becomes as the Bride of Christ. When only a very small part is found, it is difficult for people to see the character of the entire body. That does not mean that it is not a church, but it is not as easily recognizable. It certainly, to some degree, represents the Body of Christ, thus the Bride.
The local church is that group of Believers who have come together to fulfill the commission which Jesus gave to the Church. Numbers are unimportant so far as establishing the reality of a church. The issue is whether the presence of those people fully represents The Body, the Bride of Christ.
THE CHURCH IS LIKE A NEW BABY
A beginning for a local church is very much like the birth of a child. When it is conceived, not all the strengths, the personality, or the features of the child are known. As the tiny human grows inside the womb, doctors can detect various parts of the child growing at various stages of development through a Sonogram machine image. Each month, the child takes on new parts of development, and, as each mother knows, the child’s personality begins to develop, as well. She can tell about that personality because she knows certain things that bother him and certain times of the day that he does not want to be interrupted. The child will sometimes kick inside the womb of his mother as an expression of his likes and dislikes.
The new local church develops in a similar manner. The offices of the church develop as the church grows. The personality of the local church is seen only after many months of working together and growing through the nourishment of the Word of God. So, just as an incompletely formed baby inside the womb is still a baby, a new church in the developmental stages is still a church, even if all the parts are not in place yet.
There are some basic analogies which Jesus used which can help us. He frequently referred to new Christians as babies, and compared the new spiritual life of a Believer to the physical growth of a person. So, perhaps we can find a stronger definition of the church in Holy Spirit’s analogy of the Church to “the Body of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
From this Scripture we find that a person who is saved holds some place in the “Body,” the Church. What is the presence of the Church on earth ? EACH person who is truly saved is a part of that Body, and their presence on the earth is the local, earthly presence of the Body, the Church. However, does an arm, or an eye, or a hair shaft make a complete representation of a body ? Of course not ? In order for a body to be recognized, it takes more than that.
SPIRITUALLY PRPEARING FOR WHAT IS AHEAD
1. NOT ALL OFFICES ARE REQUIRED AT THE BEGINNING OF A NEW CHURCH
Here are some thoughts to consider. The local (Jerusalem) church existed BEFORE deacons were chosen. At that time, the church had workers and pastors (who happened to be Apostles). That appears to be the only official positions mentioned in the Bible. So, we know that God recognized it as a church with those few positions.
Acts 2:47 “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Acts 5:11 “And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”
Deacons were not chosen until several years after the Church at Jerusalem was formed. Note that Acts Chapter Six occurs as much as three years after Pentecost. Acts 6:3. “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”
Not all the offices of the Church were in operation at the time when the Holy Spirit first brought together that gathering of Believers, ‘the church,’ at Pentecost. We may conclude that for Believers today, a young organizing group of Believers may well be a church, even though they do not have all the offices which a mature church will have.
2. PUTTING TOGETHER ALL THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A BIBLICAL LOCALCHURCH
A true local church of the Lord Jesus will have these characteristics.
–It will have the purposes established by Jesus.
–It will have His Word as its authority.
–It will have the organization which Jesus intended.
–It has His glory in mind in all that it does.
These four issues are vital to recognizing and establishing a true local church.
A. IT WILL HAVE THE PURPOSES ESTABLISHED BY JESUS.
Matthew 28: 19-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
This command from our Lord instructs us in the purposes of the Church. First, they are to go out and reach the world with the Gospel, bringing people to know Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord. Secondly, it shows us that the Church is called to teach what God expects to those who have responded to the Gospel.
To simplify this, we have two commands noted here. The first is Evangelism. The second is Edification. These are the purposes of the Church.
There will be a focus on proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A Church which is not doing the Divinely appointed purposes for the Church is not a church of Jesus Christ. In some locations today, some churches have even made “surviving as a church” its’ purpose.
The church will not promote any other news. It is not an agency of the community for community announcements, not is it a mouthpiece for the government. It must never lower itself to be an instrument of sectarianism, promoting a denomination. Instead, it must accurately preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as explained in the Bible.
There will be a serious effort to help Believers to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Church has a calling to fulfill a strong edification ministry. Once the baby is born, it is shameful to let it lay in a bed without providing food for it. As pastors of a new church, you have children—the new converts. It is essential that they be fed spiritually from the Word of God. This is a responsibility you have from the very start of your mission. Each new convert must be nourished so they can grow in their knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His will for their lives.
1 Peter 2:2 “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”
2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
2 Corinthians 12:19 “ Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.”
Ephesians 4:12 “ For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
What distinguishes a true Biblical church from heretical cult meetings (that are still called “churches” by most people) ? One of the vast differences between most churches and cults is that Biblical churches have a link to the traditional Biblical standards and teachings which have always been a part of the Body of Christ. Cults are most often a mixture of traditional Christian values and “new revelations.” They accept some of the Christian fundamentals, but add their own recent doctrines which they often consider to be more important.
B. IT WILL HAVE GOD’S WORD, THE BIBLE, AS ITS AUTHORITY.
There is loud criticism among unbelievers about the local church. They point to the false prophecies, the leaders who go astray, and the members of churches who do not reveal Christ in their actions. Because of them, they say they cannot believe what the church teaches. At the very least, what the Church is called to proclaim is made rather confusing to them. The unbeliever condemns the church, and says it cannot be of God. Even some within the church have made similar accusations.
However, the Church was established by Jesus Himself. Jesus did nothing wrong, and in everything He did, the purity and holiness of His Person was revealed. It was with His own Blood that the redeemed were purchased so that they might become an assembly of forgiven people, the Church. Acts 20:28 “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.”
There is no church of Rome, nor any denomination, which created the power of Pentecost. There was no entity of man which gave the Church instructions and guidance for operating. No one but Almighty God has the right or authority to tell the Church what she must do. His instructions are recorded in the Bible.
- 1). GOD THE FATHER APPOINTED JESUS TO BE HEAD OF THE CHURCH. The local church is simply a part of that universal Body, so Jesus must be Head over all. Ephesians 1:22 “And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church,”
- 2). THE CHURCH IS TOLD TO BE IN SUBMISSION TO JESUS IN EVERYTHING. That means that no part of the church is independent from the authority of Christ. Ephesians 5:23-24 “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
- 3). GOD GAVE COMMANDMENTS TO THE CHURCH. 1 Corinthians 14:37 “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”
- 4). THE CHURCH MUST PREACH THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, AND NONE OTHER. Galatians 1:9 “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
- 5). GOD GAVE INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE CHURCH WHICH MUST BE FOLLOWED. These instructions were written for the local church. 2 Thessalonians 3:14 “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.”
- 6). FAILURE TO FOLLOW THE COMMANDS OF GOD FOR THE CHURCH RESULT IN CHAOTIC CONDITIONS. 1 Timothy 6: 3-5 “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
- 7). GOD ESTABLISHED THE STRUCTURE AND HIERARCHY FOR THE CHURCH.
1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”
It is clear from Scripture that each local church must abide by the teachings of God’s Word as the final authority in everything that the church does.
C. IT WILL HAVE THE STRUCTURE WHICH JESUS INTENDED.
Even though that early church structure may not be as mature as the ones in Corinth or Ephesus, whatever structure exists must be Biblical. That means that there are no man-made offices of the church. It also means that the church is striving to fulfill the Biblical offices as it grows.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MAN-MADE OFFICES AND BIBLICAL OFFICES
Within any church are positions which carry titles that we do not find in the Bible. For an example, we do not see a Sunday School teacher, a Nursery worker, a church greeter, etc., mentioned by name. However, many of these works are covered under the “gift of helps.” The Sunday School teacher is helping the Pastor who is called to teach the church the Word of God. The Nursery worker would fit into the same category. A Church Greeter, a person who welcomes those who enter the church, could be considered a “Helper,” as well.
The dangerous situation which some churches have placed upon themselves is when they agree to create new positions which do not fulfill a Biblical roll. Whether this role is called by a Biblical name, or not, if it does not comply with what the Bible says, it can lead to many problems in the long run.
For an example, the office of deacon is Biblical. However, in some churches, deacons are given the authority to control all aspects of the church, including how long and what things the pastor is allowed to speak upon. That type of authority for a deacon is not Biblical. Therefore, even though that church may call these people “deacons,” they are NOT Biblical deacons. They are positions which man has designed and defined.
In another situation, the church voted to create a board of “Presbyters.” These men were given the authority over the entire church, and actually set down a schedule of what the pastor would be allowed to speak and when he would do it. They assumed to take all authority within the church, and the pastor had to come to them for approval before he did anything in the name of the Lord. This is a man-made position, as well.
A Board of Elders is commonplace in many churches. In fact, it is Biblical for a church to recognize those who are spiritually mature and have a close relationship with the Lord by giving them a greater authority within the church than the less mature members. However, in some churches, this position has been given to immature people, and even to those whose salvation is questionable. As a result, the Elders became a body of dictators rather than a group of helpful spiritual leaders. Since immature, or unsaved people having any authority in the church is not according to Scriptures, this position—no matter what the church called it—is not Biblical.
In some cultures, there is the position of Church Mother. This position often is accompanied by several of the Church Mother’s friends who essentially do all the counseling and decision-making within the church. This, too, is unbiblical.
Biblical offices in the Bible are also given definitions as to their authority within the local church. It is that guidance which provides the young church a proper and effective way to become what God wants it to be. Sadly, there are some churches where man-made positions became so powerful that the Biblical offices were eliminated. Thus, that church would cease being a Biblical local church.
It is important that everyone in the new local church understands the Biblical roles to be fulfilled. It is best to use the Biblical terms and not change them, since terms different from what your flock sees in the Bible can become confusing.
D. THE NEW CHURCH WILL BE DOING THE THINGS WHICH JESUS COMMANDED.
All gatherings which call themselves churches call Jesus “Lord.” But, Jesus said, in Luke 6:46, “And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” In other words, if Jesus is truly the Lord, the gathering will be obedient to His Word.
What if you found a building with a large sign outside that said, “Restaurant.” What would you expect to find inside ? If you walked in and found that it was manufacturing sunglasses but not serving food, it certainly should not be truly considered a restaurant.
If you walked several miles to exchange some currency to a building that said it was a bank, but you found that it only dispensed milk and soft drinks, you would make the observation that regardless of what the sign said, it was not truly a bank.
What if you walked into a building which advertised itself to be a church, but inside you heard music very similar to that which you might hear at a rock concert. Then, as you take your seat, you hear various people stand up and tell how God gave them money, houses, cars, and riches. The preacher begins to preach about how it is a shame to be poor. He tells the people that they must have faith that God wants them all to have great riches. As you look around, you see the pained face of a woman whose husband has committed adultery. You see the drug addict you met downtown who is now looking for a better life. You notice some young people who are carefully paying attention to the preacher, because they need direction for their lives. But, what is being done in this building ? Is it bringing people to repent of their sins, and to put their faith in God for His salvation through Jesus Christ ? No. And, such behavior in churches, although common, shows that the advertised name “church” is not true. It fails in all aspects of what God planned for the church.
There are many places which call themselves churches, and even place signs on their property that say, “church,” which are not truly churches. What they do in those places does not meet the criteria which the Bible has established for a church. It is important for the man of God to know how to avoid starting an organization which at some point would be an embarrassment to the Lord Jesus, the Head of the Church. There are things which are mandated by God for the Church to fulfill, and they cannot be overlooked or ignored when getting started, or at any phase of church development.
A church will produce the fruits, or actions, which God says must exist.
There will be ‘agape’ love. Jesus said to unbelievers, in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” It isn’t easy to love someone with a deep Christ-like love when you know their faults. And, the more you get to know a person, the more you get to know their weaknesses, and sins, and it becomes more difficult to love them. Yet, God’s people will actually express love one to another with a Godly love, agape love.
The fact that Jesus said that all men would know this reveals that this love cannot be merely good feelings about the other person. It must be expressed so that people on the outside of the church are able to see that love expressed powerfully.
HOW DID THE EARLY CHURCH BEGIN NEW CHURCHES ?
THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM.
For several years following Pentecost, the only local church was at Jerusalem. It is clear that for the first couple years of the existence of the church, despite growing by many thousands each year, it was not following the plans of God in regard to world-wide evangelism. In fact, the Bible records no evangelism outside of Jerusalem. There was no effort to establish churches in other cities. Instead, the new Christians (and the Apostles) were quite settled on the idea that if someone wanted knowledge of the truth, they knew where to find it—in Jerusalem.
It was only following the campaign of persecution against the Christians at Jerusalem, instigated by a young man by the name of Saul (later to be a new Believer who changed his name to Paul), that the Gospel started to be proclaimed in other parts of the earth.
Acts 8:1 “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
THE NEXT PHASE OF CHURCH BUILDING.
Our Lord intended that all people of every nation should hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. This was not an implied desire, but a strong command for the Church to fulfill.
If people are not willing to obey God simply because He commands it, the Lord has a way to providing “incentives and motivations” to do His will. For an example, God had forewarned the Caananites and Hivites, to leave the land they took over after Jacob and his family moved to Israel. They refused, and dug in more deeply, establishing cities, farms, and military forts.
Exodus 23:28 “And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.”
So, the Lord “encouraged them” to make a decision to leave by sending huge amounts of hornets to afflict them. This did not violate their ability to go against the will of God. They could have stayed their and died from stings from the hornets. It was their choice to make. If the stayed, they could die a painful death. If they left, they could live. What God sent was simply “an incentive and motivation” to move on, making room for the returning Children of Israel.
A similar situation was presented to the Church at Jerusalem, which was clearly instructed to carry the Gospel into all the world.
Acts 1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Matthew 28: 19-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
The Church could have decided to remain in Jerusalem and reap the results of disobedience, which would have been severe persecution for many of them. In fact, many that did remain were executed or jailed. However, for the most part, the church decided to go into all the world, as it was initially commanded.
Acts 8: 4-5 “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.”
The Holy Spirit preserved for us the important factor of preaching the Gospel as being the first effort in a ‘new’ region. It was because of the preaching that the next step, the working of miracles, was accomplished. Philip did not come advertising that he would do magic tricks with signs and wonders. His focus and message was to tell the people about Jesus Christ.
His preaching was simple. Tell the people about Jesus. Let them come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and respond in faith to the urging of the Lord.
Later, the Gospel was presented to only the Jews at Antioch. Acts 11:19 “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.”
Once again, with an emphasis upon the Word of God, and we see people being saved. Acts 11:20-21 “And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.”
Following their salvation experience, we find Barnabas getting these new converts anchored deeply into a dependence upon the Lord. Acts 11:23 “Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” This process of nourishing the new babes in Christ in the Word of God continued under the teachings of the Apostle Paul for about a year. Acts 11:26 “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” It was during this time period that the gathering of new converts became widely known in the community, and those disciples (literally – “learners”) were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). At some point during this time – and we are not informed in Scripture which specific time it was – the gathering became a true local church, fulfilling the requirements which Jesus established for the church.
We can see this same pattern of Evangelism, Teaching New Converts, Doing the Work of the Church repeated many times throughout the Book of Acts. For another example, Acts 8:5 “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.”
This began another body of Believers, this time a new local church in Samaria.
THE EXAMPLE OF PAUL
Paul did not go into a region with the goal of building churches. Instead, his goal – as well as others obedient to the Faith – was to bring people to Jesus Christ, and that fact in itself would build churches. When people are saved, they will gather together to worship, and this will lead to more evangelism, edification, worship, and service, all ingredients of a true local church.
Most typical of the Apostle Paul is the act of trying to reach the Jewish people first whenever he entered a new area. Acts 9:20 “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.”
He would then break away from the synagogue, and begin instructing the new converts and seekers in another place. Once they were anchored sufficiently, he would leave the new local church in the care of a trained, proven man of God.
We are told that the elder pastors were often given the duty of checking on the churches and making certain that they were still abiding in the Truth, and were fulfilling their God-given objectives. Biblically, these men might be called “Bishops” since they were to ensure the spiritual vitality of many churches. Acts 14:22 “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God”. Acts 15:41 “And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”
The New Testament pattern is simple and effective. Evangelism first. Then anchor the new converts in the Lord Jesus. Then, get them busy doing the Lord’s work. It is constantly repeated throughout the New Testament.
WHAT GOES INTO A NEW CHURCH
The following discussion is about starting a church with new Christians and perhaps a few more mature ones. It is basically giving some uncomplicated ideas for you to use in making sure that the church is following the correct Biblical pattern toward spiritual maturity and usefulness to the Lord Jesus.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO START A NEW CHURCH ?
There are extreme views on the concept of starting a church. Some men will not move very far from their comfortable beds unless they have guarantees from a religious organization for significant financial support. They claim that this is realistic and that the Lord would not want them putting their families and their own health in jeopardy of any kind. It seems strange, then, that they read the following passages of Scripture, and do not understand the level of faith which Jesus expected from His followers.
Matthew 8: 19-22 “And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head. And another of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead.”
Luke 18: 29-30 “And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”
Mark 6: 7-9 “And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.”
For others, true men and women of God, there is no issue other than to obey the Lord. They know that He will supply their needs, as He promised (Philippians 4:19). While they genuinely may be apprehensive with the lack of knowing how God will do this, they move ahead by the simple faith knowing that He will.
YOU NEED A VISION, THAT IS ‘A CALLING, FROM THE LORD.
The Believer who aspires to establish a new church should understand that his desire must come from the Lord, or else it is not valid. There have been people who have tried to please their elders, and thought that starting a church would help them gain acceptance or notice. Some have attempted to start a new work because they could not see any other area of service where they would be accepted by their own local church. Still other started new churches because of some disagreement they had with their previous congregation or church leadership. However, without a vision from the Lord, none of those reasons is justifiable in themselves.
YOU NEED A BURDEN THAT COMES FROM GOD.
People can get visions, or clear directions, from the Lord, but still not be moved in their hearts to accomplish the work. Jonah had instructions from the Lord to go and preach in Nineveh. His heart was not in it, however, and he sought to escape his responsibilities. Whether you run from your duty, or put your whole being behind it, God wants us to obey. Yet, the greatest work that is done is accomplished by those who allow the vision of the Lord to saturate their hearts and become a true “burden from the Lord.”
Although we refer to these activities as “starting a new church,” the most important effort is that of bringing people to know Jesus Christ as their own Savior and Lord. The issue most vital is a commitment to soul-winning. A person who goes out with the intent to create churches, and does not have soul-winning as his primary goal will not succeed in that which is important to the Lord.
YOU NEED A COMMITMENT TO THE SAVIOR TO FULFILL YOUR ASSIGNMENT.
This is a hard thing. Starting a new work can be frustrating and difficult. It is easy to stop at some point and cast aside the burden and the vision, assuming that some other task, easier to perform awaits us. When we begin, we must be faithful to the end of our mission. Revelation 2:26 “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:”
YOU NEED HELPERS
PRAYER PARTNERS. Some people at your home church will pray for your work. They should pray specifically that souls will come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, and be led to repent of their sins and trust Jesus as Savior.
A CORE TEACHER. Once you have preached the Gospel, and people have come to the Lord Jesus by faith, you need to get them strong in the Lord. This sometimes requires the help of another person who is knowledgeable in the Scriptures, and can share the truth with them, anchoring them in the Word of God. While this is something that you could often do yourself, it is sometimes better that you spend the time following up others who are in the neighborhood while a different teacher takes the new converts under wing, and teaches them the basics of our faith.
The Core Teacher, whether yourself or someone else, should lay the foundation of Biblical faith for the new converts immediately after their salvation experience. When this person is not the pastor, the pastor should choose someone he personally knows is called of God to teach, is knowledgeable about the Scriptures, and has a sincere love for souls.
A LOCAL ADVISOR. This person would help you understand the community, the people, local customs, and perhaps even differences in the local dialect. Many times an outsider coming into a new location will make mistakes which result in alienating people rather than helping them get closer to the Lord. A Believer who is willing to share information about the community can be helpful in avoiding this. This is not a position within the local church, but it is a blessing of “helps” to you, as pastor. This individual has no authority within the church unless he or she reveals other gifts which conform to Biblical definitions.
Especially when you go into an area with which you are not familiar, it is difficult to be certain that a local advisor is completely honest, and will not exaggerate, or say things about people with a prejudice. However, through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, you need someone who can give you a better understanding of the place and people to who you will be ministering in the days ahead.
DEACONS. By definition, ‘a deacon’ is a person who helps, or assists. According to the Scripture, the deacons were called to help in the material needs of the church. When feasible, people who have the burden to help others materially should be authorized by you to assist the members of the church with their needs first. Then, reach into the community to make an impact for Jesus by showing our love for the Lost.
OBSERVE who it is that reaches out to help others. Do not be fooled by those who talk about helping. There are many, who have sincere and good intentions who never get around to doing what the Lord wants them to do. Only consider people with good testimonies who have been active in helping others, and do so out of a genuine compassion.
TEACHERS. Some people have the ability to teach facts, but others have the ability to communicate. The Communicators are the greatest teachers.
Let’s look at an example. A mother tells her 10 year old son that he must help his little brother and sister to get ready for church. She communicates very simply with both love and authority, and the son responds by getting his siblings prepared.
Another mother, who is strictly a teacher, (and not an effective communicator) sits her son down at a table, and begins to explain why a younger child needs help. She tells her son the difference in learning capabilities which children of various ages have, and how he must carefully treat each of them as individual human beings. She spends time analyzing the differences between the two children, and how he must be careful not to hurt the feelings of the younger child by being too bossy. Her son is totally bored, and anxious to leave the table. Her conversation shut down his mind shortly after she started. While she was attempting to teach him things that were true, she failed to communicate. Some very few 10 year old boys might respond to an approach like hers, but most will be completely turned off by the detailed information she was giving. Her teaching information would have been appropriate for an 18 year old child, not a 10 year old boy.
As leaders of the Flock of God, we must distinguish between the two, so we know to select the teacher who best communicates. Most teachers can get Bible information together, develop a teaching plan, encourage the children to learn Scripture, and teach them great truths. But, all of those things might be above or below the student’s ability to understand and put what is being taught into daily living. You should look at how people communicate with others, particularly how they communicate with those of the age level for which you are seeking a teacher.
The communicator/teacher is one who understands what the student needs in order to be effective for the Lord.
OBSERVE HOW THEY INTERACT WITH PEOPLE OF THE SAME AGE YOU ARE CONSIDERING THEM TO TEACH.
- NOTICE IF THEY SPEAK TO THE STUDENT WITH CARE, CONCERN, OR LOVE, AND IN A GODLY MANNER.
- NOTICE IF THEY ACTUALLY COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY, OR IF THEY JUST WANT THE ATTENTION OF THE POTENTIAL STUDENTS ?
- NOTICE IF THEY ACCOMPLISH WHATEVER THEY SET OUT TO DO THROUGH THEIR COMMUNICATION.
By observing these traits, you will discover whether you are looking at merely a teacher, or you have a teacher who is a good communicator.
While the beginning of many churches will not see an elder, with the exception of the Pastor, some people within the church will grow exceptionally fast in their knowledge and commitment to the Lord, and will show evidence over a longer period of time that they are faithful and useful to the Savior. These people will later become your elders.
Elders, like deacons, are not “made” by a vote of the church. Any voting by the church on the matter of “Who are our Elders ?” or, “Who are our deacons ?” merely recognizes the work that these people are already doing. The church should not have to vote on someone before those people begin helping others (as in the case of deacons). Nor should those who are spiritually mature have to be voted in as “Elders” before they start counseling, guiding, and serving the Lord within the church. If they see their calling to be from God, they will be obedient to Him whether there is recognition by the local church, or not.
While a vote by the church recognizes these people to be qualified, they prove their qualifications by serving the Lord even before the first vote is cast. In some cases, specific types of ministry may be implemented only after a vote of the church recognizes who these people are; but, for the majority of cases, these people will already be doing the work. Being a deacon or an elder is a calling of God, not a certificate from the church.
HANDLING THE MONEY.
Money is one of the most sensitive issues within the local church. The misuse of money by a pastor will result in both shame upon the pastor and the church’s reputation within the community.
However, in starting a new church, it is difficult to place the responsibility of caring for the Lord’s money into the hands of people that you hardly know. You have an important matter of prayer here. Should you allow the people to elect a Treasurer, or should you handle the money yourself ?
Even if out of necessity, at the beginning of the church, you must handle the money, try to find honest and capable people to do it for you as quickly as possible. The high road is for the pastor not to know who gives what amounts. This frees him from being partial when he preaches. Certainly a man of God will make every conscious effort to convey whatever God gives to him in a message to his flock. However, the temptation to avoid mention or water down conviction which might apply to a major giver could be a sub-conscious decision.
Sometimes a preacher will not preach the whole truth because he fears that to offend a major contributor might result in a stoppage of his contributions, and thus jeopardize his work in that area. This temptation is removed if someone else keeps the money and the pastor is unaware of who gives what amount. The pastor must always put loyalty to the Lord ahead of anything else.
By allowing another person who is completely trustworthy to handle the money, the pastor not only avoids temptation to change his preaching, but he also avoids the potential for false accusations that he is handling the money in a dishonest manner.
While democracy is a very popular concept in the political world, it is not endorsed by the Bible, and it certainly does not often work for the glory of God in the local church.. If you leave all the business of the church to be voted upon by the entire church, it will ruin your work. God called various people to do certain things within the local church, and He gave them authority. They did not have to have their activities approved by the congregation first. God called them, and God gave the mission.
The Pastor is called to lead the flock. The flock was never designed to lead the shepherd.
Consider what business is necessary with the local church. Few things require the attention of the entire membership. There are times when a pastor must set a goal before the church, and the church should vote upon whether or not to seek that goal. But, the usual and normal expenses of the church should be paid without the entire church becoming burdened with an unnecessary meeting.
Many business meetings devolve into opportunities for certain people to be critical of someone in leadership. At other times, these meetings result in an open split between brethren over issues that should not have even been brought up.
In one notable case, a church business meeting was called to discuss the church’s Fellowship Sunday. As a part of the food being brought, one person suggested that instead of having beans, which had been brought in previous years, that the church should have peas, instead. This split the church down the middle, and members took sides on an issue which could have been easily decided by the pastor without a business meeting. He simply could have asked the congregation to bring both peas and beans to the fellowship. Instead, this church, which wanted everything to be discussed and voted upon lost members and reputation in the community. Similar things happen all the time.
Beware of efforts to involve the congregation in matters where they will be diverted from their Divinely appointed purpose to bring fruit – more souls – to the Lord. Therefore, it is suggested that business meetings be limited to times when major issues that require the consent of the entire church would be discussed.
HOW TO GO ABOUT REACHING POTENTIAL MEMBERS FOR YOUR NEW CHURCH.
Evangelism is the key. This is effort that goes into a community, presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Bible, Paul often went into a synagogue to teach and point people to the Scriptures that presented Jesus Christ as the Messiah. In most communities this is impossible because there is no synagogue, and the preacher would not have been welcomed into it in the first place, so preachers must preach the Gospel in any way they can.
The most effective method for most communities is utilizing the open-air Gospel Meeting. It is alternatively called, a crusade, evangelistic meeting, Gospel meeting, etc. For the sake of common understanding, we will refer to this effort as “the crusade.”
It is highly advisable that this initial effort should not be attempted by one individual alone. It is usually better to request the help of others to assist in this effort.
Make sure that your sending church, or other cooperating churches know what mission the Lord has laid on your heart. Ask them to pray about specific issues that would lead to the success of your mission. Get a commitment from people that they will pray during a specific time for the Lord to bless.
Obtain a good location for the crusade to be held.
Make sure that if there are other Bible-believing pastors in the area, that they understand you have no intention of taking away from their churches or efforts. In some cases, you may ask other churches to join with you in trying to reach people for the Lord. This is not always possible, nor advisable, however. Pray about whether it is something that the Lord wants done.
Prepare each meeting with prayerful, serious counselors.
As a part of each evangelistic meeting, an invitation should be given to all who would give their lives to Jesus Christ by faith. Counselors should be ready with pens and notepaper to record the name and address of every person who responds. They must instruct each person, answering their questions about salvation. If they have no questions, the counselor should still go through the Scriptures which tell why they needed to make the decision to receive Jesus as Savior, and then they should pray with the person, confirming that God is faithful to do what He said. You should personally train any counselors, if there are to be any other than yourself. You should know that they are truly born-again people who desire to see others come to the Savior.
Teach them to stay on target. Some people will ask a lot of questions about the Bible that they will understand later. The purpose of the invitation is to pull in the net and not discuss theology with those in it. Your list of names and addresses should not be given to any churches in the area, or you will find that those with false doctrines or those who have failed in their commitment to the goals of the church will begin to steal away the seed of the Word.
Make certain that you have the capability to follow through with each new convert immediately that week.
The crusade location.
It should be near or in the midst of a highly populated area. Don’t expect people to go out of their way by very much to hear you preach. If you are planning on speaking to large numbers of people, you probably will need an amplification system. If you don’t already have one, it will have to be rented. It is best to check it out prior to the time of the crusades. Many preachers have been frustrated and defeated on the first night of their crusade because the promises of some business to deliver a working sound system did not materialize.
If you are holding the crusade at night, you may need to have a lighting system. If it is not automatically supplied with the rental of the location, you will have to rent one in addition to everything else. Make sure that the lights are not focused in such a way that it hurts the eyes of the people attending. There should be sufficient lighting to see the platform, and areas to enter the location.
In many cases, a platform will have to be built. Be sure that it is stable, and at the right height. Sometimes preachers have built platforms that are so high, they tend to make the people who attend feel like they are not a part of the event. Also, the platform should not be located at the place where many people will be entering the crusade.
Order or make advertisements sufficiently in advance of the time you plan to have the meetings. Your advertisements should typically be seen about two weeks before the crusade.
When possible, banners which are spread from one side of a busy street to another should be used. Posters may be printed and placed in public areas where permitted by law. They should be simple, and yet give all necessary information. They should include the name of the event, the date(s), and the place where the crusade will be held. If the advertisement is large enough, it may include the name of the preacher, but this is not necessary in most cases. DO NOT advertise anything which is not completely truthful. For an example, a poster that reads, “All will be healed,” can be deceptive.
The Spirit-filled American evangelist (preached during the mid 1800’s), Charles G. Finney, refused to allow advertising that stated “Revival.” He insisted that true revival depended upon whether people would be in obedience to the Lord by faith, or not. And he argued that since he did not know how each person would respond to the calling of the Lord, he would not be a party to false advertising. God blessed this truthfulness, and even though most of his crusades were NOT advertised as “revivals,” the Lord blessed him, and most ended up being great revivals which are remembered to this day.
Present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Present the Gospel personally to various people throughout the village, town, or city, prior to that meeting time. This will allow you to get a better ‘feel’ for the community, and actually bring some people to the Lord. If you are accompanied by other workers, have them go throughout the community, sharing the Gospel on a one-to-one basis, as well.
Where it is possible to obtain Gospel tracts and it is an advantage to use them, bring them along with you and distribute them as you walk through the area.
Provide Bible studies for the new converts.
When the crusade is held, and people come to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, it is important to immediately begin a process of getting them rooted into the Word of God. Counselors should not just take their names and addresses, but should pray with them, and show them from the Bible why their decision was life-changing.
They should immediately be enrolled in a free Bible study program which you organize. Depending upon the local situation, it may be held in their homes or in another building where many can come at the same time. Ask them if there are others in their family or even neighbors who would want to learn about the Bible. (Often, family members want to receive the Lord after they find out that someone else in the family made that decision).
Set down a specific time for someone to come and hold the study (usually within the first week after a decision for Christ is made). The Bible study should be extremely simple, covering the basics of salvation, and giving more information about the Lord Jesus and His plan for their lives. It should go on for a period of at least 7 sessions, and preferably more than that. Even though you may have finished the course with a new convert, DO NOT leave off some form of Bible study with him. Make sure that EVERY WEEK, some form of Bible study is being provided. This is truly important. We would not consider quitting the feeding of our infants just because we had already fed them for a week previously. These new converts are spiritual babies, and they need a steady and faithful supply of nourishment from the Bible.
When many converts have been instructed in the basic fundamentals of the Word, efforts should be made to bring them together at one location to worship the Lord as one. So, a location must be chosen which would be convenient for all concerned. At this point, you may chose musicians, song leaders, etc., to make the worship go more smoothly.
There are situations where a pastor can become discouraged when he sees that only a handful of people are interested in coming to the Bible studies. An analysis of your work should follow.
1. Are the “new converts” truly saved ? Most people who respond to an invitation to receive Jesus as Savior are not truly giving their heart’s faith at that time. So, the next day, or the day after, they may not be interested in the things of God. However, the true new-born babe will cry to food, just as a newborn human child will do. So, ask yourself if these “new converts” have truly been converted.
Do not be discouraged when each of those who respond at an invitation fail to show signs of being saved. In your follow-up, you will find that some of those who responded to the invitation had questions the next day, and it is then that they truly give their lives to the Lord. However, some will continue on, thinking that they are saved, even though they have only given a portion of their faith to Jesus, while holding onto some traditional or self-exalting hope. So long as they come under the sound of God’s Word, there is a very good opportunity for them to fall under conviction, repent, and get saved.
2. Is there opposition within their homes or neighborhoods which make it very difficult for them to come to a Bible study ? If that may be a problem, you should be seeking the Lord’s wisdom on the matter. Most certainly, you should enlist the prayerful support of other Christians outside the area. There may be demonic influences at work, which would require binding or casting out, as well.
In some cases where a new convert is living in a home with people hostile to the Gospel, the pastor brought the Bible study to them, in their homes, and through the love and caring that was shown, the pastor was able to lead the rest of the family to Christ.
3. Is it time to renew evangelistic work ? Effective evangelism takes longer in some places that in others. While it should be an on-going effort by the new church, the pastor, while trying to establish the new church, may find it difficult to spend many weeks in evangelism-only efforts.
However, in more difficult communities, this may be necessary, and the Lord will provide the strength and support you need to continue on in this first-step toward the new church.
Direct the new converts to begin effective service and worship.
Instruct the new converts into the why’s, how’s, and purpose of worship. Many people automatically assume that worship is designed to make them feel good. They must be instructed from the Bible, that worship must be given to please the Lord primarily.
Organize the church.
At some point where the new converts have been brought together, know one another, and are growing spiritually, you will want to discuss with them about organizing into an official church. In some countries an organized churched should have some outside affiliation to establish the fact that it is not just a solitary group making up its’ own doctrines and procedures. Where this is a good thing to do, it is advisable to make sure, however, that you do not come under the control of some organization whose doctrines differ from yours, or an organization which desires to eventually drain God’s money from your local church and use it for their own unscriptural purposes.
The God-given purposes of the church should be clearly noted, and set before the congregation. Their first act of business should be to decide upon a statement of Faith, clearly stating what they believe, and the Scriptures which confirm those things to be true.
The next thing is to agree upon how the new church will go about operating.
This is usually contained in a Church Charter, Church Covenant, or Church Constitution. It is important for the congregation to consciously determine that the way they will operate is Biblical, and not according to traditions, or man’s laws.