If you do not have any background in how a New Testament Church operates, you need to take a repose from starting a Church for a while and find a good N.T.Church. Join that Church and do whatever you can under the leadership of its pastor. Let the pastor know your heart and volunteer for every task you can. Remember, God uses meek people... that means teachable! If you are not teachable then stop reading right now... cut off the computer. Forget church building.
you might fall on your face and ask God to give you a teachable heart. God is the only one who can break a proud heart.
Spend whatever time it takes in a good Church, asking questions and taking notes. One thing I should have mentioned earlier, try to find the base Church within traveling distance to the city that God is leading you to. Every time you get some time off, travel to the target city. Find a park or a secluded spot in the heart of the city. Spend time in communion with the Lord for yourself and for the people of the city. Ask God to lead you to some individual that you can win to Jesus Christ. If you could win a soul every time you visit the city, you could have a congregation waiting for you when you finally get moved to the city.
Do not take for granted, people who are contacted in the city. Also do not try to categorize the people whom God brings your way. It is surprising who make the best Church members when you need good church members. I have two families in mind that came along in my Church planting experience. In both cases, the odds were against them, but they rose to the occasion and still have my heart years later. Praise the Lord for the Jalberts and the Barkers. There were others also, but these were outstanding. While you are in a good Church, walk toward the possibility of being ordained into the ministry through the good Church.
Let's do a reality check.
What is your motivation for starting a Church? Obviously you are not trying to get rich. Obviously you are not planning on 8 hour days and 40 hours a week. Obviously you are ready to scratch the bottom of the barrel if necessary to stay alive.
Here are a couple more basics. You must not be in competition with anyone else present or past. I remember when I started in Connecticut, there was another good man starting a Church in Massachusetts. If we had been in a race, I would have become discouraged, downhearted and backslidden within the first year. His work took off like a shot. My people kept taking off like shots. The thing about it is this man was as fundamental as I was. He had Baptist standards like I did, yet his work grew and mine faltered. I had to do some reality checks and soul searching. I woke up early to the fact that God was involved in both ministries. He was in charge of both. I was doing my best and the other brother was doing his best, but God was doing what God does in these matters. Always remember, that if God is not building it then the building is vain.
O.K. back to motivation (as if we left it back there.)
You had better take on this task like we do in marriage... for better or for worse. You may find yourself in a battlefield or in a field white unto harvest... God knows the difference. God has called you to the task that he has prepared you for. Another man might throw in the towel the first time some old biddy calls him on the carpet or the main tither demands recognition. You, however, will get on your knees and put on the boxing gloves.
If God has truly called you to this place, then you have no right or privilege to leave until God says, "Go!"
Find a place to Meet
Location, Location, Location
A meeting place will depend upon what resources you have for procuring a place. You should look for a well traveled street or road. You should look for a house large enough to start in unless you have funds to rent a suitable structure. Like the storefronts of yesteryear, shopping centers can have ideal facilities. Make sure that local city codes will not restrict you now or your growth. Rent one division, then as the work grows, take other divisions of the same center. By doing this, two continuing needs are satisfied; plenty of parking and plenty of restrooms.(each division should have its own restroom facilities.)
Signs of the Times
Publicity, Publicity, Publicity
Get a supply of Tracts with your work's name and address on it. Put up a sign that can be read from the street. Don't try to crowd the sign with slogans and scripture passages, just pertinent information, such as service times and nursery availability. When people enter, there should be plenty of reading materials such as Gospel tracts, doctrinal booklets and future plans for your work. Always have a vision for the possibilities of tomorrow. Your vision must have faith and your call as its base. Now let's not forget... you are not to question who God brings your way and especially those who decide to unite with you for your ministry. While we are in this area; it is a mistake to think you can build a better Church by going after higher classes of people. Learn and obey the Lord to treat each person who comes through your doors equally.
Once more I must inject a reminder that God has to be the builder of His Church. However, He has chosen you to be His vessel or instrument.
The qualities of the Preacher
Many people are turned off and away by one of two extremes in a preacher... the first extreme is the holier than thou, know-it-all type. The other extreme is the good ole boy from off the farm type. Preachers make a big mistake when they feel like they have to know everything and be everything for their congregation. Others make a big mistake when they try to be one of the boys. A preacher must have the call of God, but he must not feel he is God. A preacher must be able to become all things in order to reach some yet he must follow the law of liberty and be the ambassador of Jesus Christ. A preacher must be transparent to reveal that he understands the frailties of our human frame; yet he must also exemplify the best of Christian life.
Preach the Word
From the very first service (even though it may be just you and your family.) Preach the Word! The World is starving for the Word of God. Preachers and Pastors think that their audience wants entertainment, wisdom, answers to current dilemmas, etc. That is not true. Yes, it is complicated to come up with alliteration for some of the Bible passages. If so, forget the alliteration, just expound on the passage. Be ready to explain why it was written, who wrote it and to whom it was written. Then apply it to yourself and those who are sitting there listening to you. By the way, you will get commendable comments on the why, who & whom. You will get un-favorable comments on the application. I shall never forget the gentleman Church member who thought he was doing me a favor when he said, "Preacher, you do an excellent job of explaining facts about the Bible, but you need to ease up with the applications to us." I accepted his advice with grace and did add to my prayer to God, "Lord keep me from interpreting your Word for my benefit or to make others do what I want."
Become known by those who talk about you..(and they will talk about you!)... that you are a preacher of the Word of God. I guess you understand that you cannot be known as a Preacher of the Word, if you don't know the Word or even if you don't have the ability to communicate the Word of God to others. This takes devotion to God and hours of study. You are a great preacher if you can spontaneously preach the Word the way God intends for it to be preached. You are a windbag if you can stand up and preach stuff spontaneously.
A prepared Preacher is better than a prepared sermon.....an old saying that is still true.
Becoming Known Around Town
Did you know that there are quite a few decent people who gather at the courthouse on November 11th and the third Monday of May to remember war dead and Veterans? They salute the flag and lay wreaths at the tombstone replicas on the courthouse lawn. It is impressive and rewarding for a preacher to show up for this meaningful service especially if you show up for the real reason. Every town or city has timely activities that a Preacher can attend and achieve recognition of participating in local activities. I recognize that you will not show up for "Octoberfest." That beer drinking party is sponsored by the Catholic Church.
The more people you become acquainted with, the more prospects you will have to walk through the doors of your Church. The more you reach out the more you will grab.
I need to raise another flag right now..... A priority in your ministry.... Train your people to share your burden to reach the lost for Christ. That may seem to be a given; but you will find that all the effort you put forth to get prospects through the door will be thwarted by a congregation that are complacent, lazy, uncommitted, self-contained, or selfish. They will run anyone off that does not meet their criteria, so you must make sure their criteria is God's criteria. Also if they have the right criteria, they will be busily bringing in prospects themselves.
Another point on becoming known around town. Make sure that you and your congregation work on the fact that your community needs to know and believe that there is something special about your Church... I did not use the word "unusual" and I certainly did not use the word "weird." There used to be a slogan that Independent Churches used...."The difference makes the difference!" It is important to realize that your Church must be different from every other Church in town, but that difference must be in favor of being scripturally sound and Biblically correct. With the help of your congregation, your guests (don't use the word "visitors") who walk through the door need to sense that they are in a place where they can truly find spiritual solace and instruction. They must know that they are welcome but not feel threatened. They need to realize that here is a place where they can serve the Lord.
Birds of Feather Flock Together
Your Church, as it grows will develop a collective personality. That personality will be developed primarily by how you conduct services and yourself. The people who begin to take leadership positions will add to that personality or detract from that personality. I am glad to report that the Bible doesn't teach that every Church has to have the same personality. It does teach that every Church should have the common faith...I wish they did!
If politics, sports or computers are the predominant subject of conversation in the gathering of men at the back of the Church, then this is the type of personality your Church will have. If they are talking of the big one that got away... referring to a man that almost got saved, then this is the type of personality your Church will have. If they are talking about closing the doors of the local Catholic Church or Kingdom Hall then this is the type of personality your Church will have. If they are debating the issues of separation or standards then this is the type of personality your Church will have. I could continue but it would be better for you to enter the other possibilities. One thing to add... you are the key to unlock the potential. Another thing; you must not try to legislate the personality of the Church. Jesus took what he had and built upon what he had. Remember that when he died, what he had sort of fell apart momentarily, but when he re-appeared they were energized to evangelize the known world. One advantage that Jesus has is that he works in the heart, you have to work on the surface of people. Notice that I said that, "Jesus has..." He still has! Give your burdens to Jesus.
The Truth About Tares
Since I do not want to end this publication on a negative note, I will sprinkle the necessary negatives in now and then. In case you didn't realize or haven't read Paul, you are going to get some knotheads or tares into your Church. It is just a natural part of Church for opposition to slip in unawares and reveal itself in the form of a song leader, pianist, Deacon or a committee of such. What do you do when such shadows fall upon an otherwise sunshiny world? Go to God first! Get Him in on the ground floor. If you don't, He will let you handle the whole thing and I guarantee you won't like the result. I am glad that God's Word has something to say in almost every one of Paul's epistles on handling such matters. Of course, Jesus gave the best plan in Matthew 18. The most important thing to remember that after all is said and done, if the tares remain after all is said and done, then you had better led God finish the task... your last word of instruction is to,"turn such an one over to Satan." In my experiences I have done more damage to the Churches that God has let me Pastor, when I tried to handle problems without God. I still regret many years later losing people for the cause of Christ.. washed out by my actions against flesh using my flesh.
Rest assured that normally the problem will not go away if it is ignored. It will not go away if you talk about it with everyone except the person causing the problem. It will not go away if you insist on handling it privately after the first private counsel with the person. Get at least one other man involved.
If the problem escalates to the place where it must be brought before the whole Church, make sure ample time and opportunity is given for the whole Church to prepare.
Adding to the Church Daily
You have no business starting a Church if you are not expecting it to grow nor wanting it to grow numerically & spiritually. You should have the desire that people from the uttermost will be welcome through your Church doors as your guests. The average new Church will attract several types of people naturally. The first to be mentioned are those who are discontented with their current Church. This could be good, this could be bad. Make sure follow-up visits are made on every guest that comes into your services. Then if they keep coming, establish communication with them. If they are visiting from another like minded Church to yours, find out why they want to leave their Church. Have the courtesy to call the other Pastor and let him know what is happening. "Do unto others....."
The primary hang-up to the reception of other Christians from any other Church is scriptural Baptism. It is abundantly clear by scripture and by history that anyone wanting to join your Church must be scripturally Baptized. Be mindful that a policy has to hold true for anyone and everyone. The most effective is to receive any Baptist Baptism, otherwise you will get yourself tangled into semantics. I have found that if a former member of a Baptist Church realizes that his or her former Church was less than acceptable then somewhere along the way they will request that you Baptise them.
A secondary but common problem of receiving Christians from other Churches is that they generally bring luggage. I mean they will shortly suggest that you start doing or being something that their former Pastor did. It is pretty difficult to deal with an excellent experienced Sunday School teacher that you have happily given a class when he or she walks in one Sunday with a handful of quarterlies that were fresh ordered for the present class. I know you may say that should have been handled in the original interview with the prospective teacher. It is hard to think of everything or to plan for anything. You just have to trust the Lord, and remember advice given by experienced pastors.
The best source and supply of Church members are those whom you have won to Christ yourself. Those who look to you for their mentorship and example. It is wise to make a separate time or service for new converts where you can disciple them and also establish a personal relationship. These folk are usually open and receptive and desire to know all they can about the things of the Lord.
Who Goes There?
As the founding Pastor of a Bible Believing Baptist Church your first priority is Acts 1:8, that is getting the Gospel out into the world at the same time as you are devising methods to reach souls in your own community. Church members need to be encouraged to take a world view of evangelism. The most effective and proven plan is to use what is known as Faith Promise. It is tried and true that God will use willing people to supply the funds for reaching the world for Jesus Christ. They are like channels; where miraculously God provides monies through willing believers. Some Churches eventually are giving as much for missions as they spend in their local budget.
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