How to Establish a NEW
Congregation of the Church Christ Built
Fundamental requirements for beginning
and maintaining a congregation governed
by the New Testament
F. Establish very firmly the principal purposes and goals of the new congregation set forth by Jesus Christ, only Head of the church in Heaven and on Earth. Fix them clearly and forcefully in your own mind and spirit and do not allow yourself to be distracted or deterred by secondary or extraneous ones.
1. The primordial purpose of the church is to EVANGELIZE. When God the Father conceived the church, his “intent was that now,” during our Common Era, “through the CHURCH, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known…” Ephesians 3:10; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 10:2; Acts 8:4; Revelation 14:6
a) Continually emphasizing this supreme mission usually produces the healthy effect
of concentrating the energies and resources of the congregation on the truly important, avoiding wasting them on activities that contribute little or nothing to numerical and spiritual growth.
b) Lay out well defined, detailed plans to achieve
effective evangelization in your specific area. Once
wisely determined, implement them zealously and
persistently. Obviously, just theorizing, planning,
talking out ideas, and praying, without taking action on the field, will not result in true evangelization, and that means souls will not be saved and added to the church. I have known a few evangelists and “church growth specialists” who did little more than that: mostly just theorize, talk, and pray. You will be spiritually wise if you simply will not tolerate that your own evangelist work be frustrated by indecision, continual postponement, and inaction. Nor that of new members as they are added.
What is the idea of starting a new congregation if it is not basically to save souls and integrate them into a spiritual body that will nurture their growth, faithfulness, and eventual eternal salvation? Steady, intelligent evangelism is the powerful mechanism to accomplish it. “The gospel… is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16
If one particular method of evangelism proves to be ineffective, turn to another, or more than one at the same time. There are a number of options. To mention some:
Personal Bible studies, especially in homes.
Street teaching or preaching. Or in any other public place
such as a park
Obtain and distribute tracts with solid teaching. Not so
little and so superficial, or general in content, that they
do not educate and motivate the reader enough to move
him/her to action. Write and print your own if you have the
knowledge and ability to do it. Be careful any tract distributed
is suitable for your area; that no expression or graphic offends
Print invitations to studies in your house or any other suitable place.
To worship services. To conferences on spiritual subjects that you
develop, or a competent minister of the New Testament invited
by you. 2 Corinthians 3:6-17
Announcements on a radio station, in a newspaper, magazine,
etc. On the Internet, by E-mail, by a letter, etc. Social media.
Keep in mind that, no matter how many members make up a congregation,
whether two or two hundred, the church that does not evangelize, or stops evangelizing, is destined to diminish or perhaps disappear altogether!
2. The second duty of every congregation small or large is to do good works, offering help to widows, orphans, the elderly, the hungry, the bereaved, the lonely, the depressed, and any others in need of the material necessities of life, spiritual guidance, comfort, sound counsel, encouragement, prayers, etc. This is indispensable in order to be counted among those who practice “pure religion.” James 1:27. A small congregation is not exempt from this duty. To be sure, a small congregation dedicated to good works as well as to ongoing evangelization is
much more likely to grow both spiritually and numerically than one bereft of them.
“Good works,” while vital and laudable, are not more important than evangelization. They may contribute to evangelization but should not virtually take its place in any congregation. Persons benefited by good works who come to Christ and his church moved chiefly by them, and not by a profound desire for salvation and a new life of holiness in Christ, may take a long time to become true Christians, if ever they do.
G. Leadership. By deciding to establish a congregation and taking the vital steps to accomplish that most praiseworthy goal, you take the role of a “spiritual leader.” The most responsible and sensitive one you could possibly take in life. For you determine to interact with SOULS and their ΕTERNAL DESTINY. Souls that could be saved or lost through your intervention. Are you ready for such a responsibility? In mind, heart, spirit, and personal testimony? For you shall be held accountable in your dealings with them by the “Father of spirits.” Hebrews 12:9. In view of this reality, James (probably the brother of Jesus) writes:
“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes, and if anyone makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.” James 3:1-2. To be sure, I really try to keep this advice and warning in mind as I myself endeavor to exercise properly the role of teaching God’s Word.
You may wish, then, to consider and weigh objectively your own motives, attitudes,
and qualifications. This is not to discourage you. By no means. To be an absolutely
“perfect man” is not, thankfully, a non-negotiable requirement to be a spiritual
leader and start a congregation. If it were, there would be no qualified
candidates. To be above reproach in sexual conduct and free from vices
and criminal activities, yes! Are you legally married to one wife? If you
only cohabit with a “partner,” forget about being a “spiritual leader”
until you have rectified that situation. Even a cursory reading of the
New Testament sustains this observation
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure,
for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 7:2-5; Ephesians 5:22-33
Now, if you find yourself to be basically qualified to be a “spiritual leader of souls” and feel genuinely obligated before God to begin a congregation to be made up of souls who want to be saved eternally, then, I humbly, kindly, and lovingly urge you to make a pact with yourself, the church to be formed, and Christ himself as head of the church to:
1. To be humble and sincere at all times, however difficult any situation may be.
2. To serve.
a) To be in regular contact with all members, as well as with all persons who approach you or your meeting place in search of spiritual orientation and refuge for their souls.
b) To be responsive in the most sensitive and understanding way possible to members with problems, whether they be moral, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, or material. No matter their race or rank in life. Wisely knowing how far to go, lest you become embroiled in relationships and actions that would cause more harm than good, including harm to yourself and your reputation. Jude 1:12-13, 22
3. To not Lord it over the congregation, that is to say, not make yourself a spiritual dictator of souls, a most dangerous position to occupy. Remember Diotrephes, a church dictator of the first century, with whom God and the apostle John were sorely displeased. 3 John 9-10
a) Regarding plans, goals, works, and activities of all kinds, it is highly advisable to ask for and listen attentively to the opinions of the most spiritual members of the congregation. Also, when the
congregation confronts situations that could impact it adversely.
b) As soon as good candidates develop, the wise and spiritual teacher-evangelist prepares them for ministries they could perform satisfactorily, encouraging them and providing them opportunities to utilize and refine their talents. 2 Timothy 2:2. He will not continually try to do everything himself, with the deliberate or subliminal purpose of maintaining himself as the indispensable, permanent “leader, boss, kingpin of the congregation.” Jealous of anyone who might compete with him or surpass him in effectiveness, suppressing anyone who begins to shine among the members impressing them with his high level of spirituality and notable abilities.
4. Treat all members with impartiality. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality.” 1 Timothy 5:21
5. Feed the members with “pure spiritual milk” that “by it” they “may grow up to salvation.” 1 Peter 2:1-3. Also, as the congregation increases in number and members grow spiritually, provide “solid food… for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14. This you can do, of course, only if you yourself have grown to maturity in Christ, having highly trained your own faculties to
distinguish, by much practice, “good from evil.” Woe to the congregation, small, medium, or any size, whose leaders have not matured as they should have!
a) It is vital to lay a solid foundation for the congregation and that is done by inculcating divine TRUTH on every essential doctrine, sustaining every teaching with relevant Bible texts.
b) Every new member, whether man, woman, or young person, should study the fundamental doctrines of the New Testament to the point of mastering them, being able to communicate and defend them satisfactorily. To that end, offer, periodically, special classes for new converts. For example, each Thursday for ten weeks. Then, when there is a new group, though small, of new converts, repeat the procedure.
c) Another important factor for you to keep in mind: Every competent, effective teacher-evangelist follows the advice of Hebrews 6:1-3. He teaches and preaches the “elementary teachings about Christ," yes, of course. Some of those doctrines are named in the text. However, he goes “on to maturity,” taking as many of the congregation as he can with him, “not laying again,” and again, and again, that same “foundation” of the “elementary.” Not being excessively, irritatingly, boringly repetitious.
For if he does not proceed thus, the congregation will be stunted in its overall growth. Full of spiritual “children” who have been deprived of the food necessary for natural growth to maturity. Easily and quickly “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.
Following is a short list of subjects as examples of those which can help Christians to go “on to maturity.”
Divine attributes every Christian should acquire to the highest degree possible. Imitating God and Christ. Having them to the fullest in the daily walk of life. Declaring the “praises,” that is, the attributes, of the “only true and living God.” 1 Peter 2:9
Trials and temptations Christians commonly face and how to deal with them. Satan’s strategies: Identify them, be not ignorant of them. 2 Corinthians 2:11. Mental, emotional, religious, and spiritual trials and sicknesses. 1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 and many more.
The application of biblical teachings to matrimonial conflicts and the raising of children.
Prophecies of the New Testament fulfilled, being fulfilled in present times, yet to be fulfilled. Rightfully presented, this is a powerful subject to strengthen faith and commitment. The “prophetic word” is a “lamp shining in a dark place.” 2 Peter 1:16-21
All subjects and Bible texts having to do with the resurrection, judgments, the Second Coming of Christ, rewards for the faithful Christian both now and future, etc.
The priesthood of all true Christians. 1 Peter 2:1-10
Spiritual warfare. Possessing the whole armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-20. Fighting the good fight. The “weapons of our warfare” and the nature of our battle. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Textual studies word by word can be most edifying when conducted by an analytical teacher. Not just summarizing but delving deeply into meanings and applications, preferably with much class participation. Chapter 4 of Ephesians is a tremendous example of such texts. Many teachings on a fabulous variety of subjects.
In short, a well-balanced spiritual diet is what is needed for the normal growth of each and every Christian, and for the growth and maturing of the congregation as a whole.
6. Grave errors the “good minister of Christ Jesus” strives not to commit, in addition to some already indicated in this study. 1 Timothy 4:6
a) Being a gossiper or busybody.
b) Falling apart and abandoning his post because of criticisms, just or unjust.
c) Becoming discouraged and ceasing to try because few souls respond to his teaching and preaching.
d) Making merchandise of the membership in anyway whatsoever. Defrauding, cheating, robbing. 1 Corinthians 6:7-9; 2 Peter 2:1-3
e) Dressing sloppily in ways that some observers find offensive.
f) Making statements, gestures, or signs that would identify you with certain social, ethical, cultural groups whose philosophies and actions do not harmonize with norms of pure Christianity.
g) Telling off-color jokes with double meanings or sexual innuendos.
h) Making any remark which could be construed as a racial slur.
i) Using street language offensive to educated people.
j) Showing partiality to any ethnic or social class.
H. Ties with other congregations and other teachers-evangelists-preachers.
1. The primordial duty of every member of a congregation, including any who teach and/or preach, is to care for, feed, and watch out for their own local congregation. Logically, their own should have priority over any other congregation.
2. Establishing communication with other congregations of the same faith, doctrine, and practice is biblical and can bring many blessings.
3. Mature Christians and mature congregations do not establish relationships with churches short on holiness or that do not uphold the TRUTH of God and Christ as set forth in the New Testament.
In different countries of the world, there are congregations which identify themselves as a “Church of Christ,” but do not follow the basic teachings of Christ. Some are not governed by the New Testament, rather by a mixture of the Old Testament and the New. Some are
“conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2) in doctrine as well as conduct. Some do not resist the pressures of the culture about them, allowing ungodly lifestyles, indecent dress, traditions, and customs to cancel out the norms of conduct set forth in the pure gospel of Christ. It is important to recognize and mark such congregations, not permitting them to contaminate a sound, biblical congregation with their modernism and sectarianism.
4. Each local congregation organized according to the New Testament is autonomous. This means it is not subjective to any religious council, nor to the leadership or will of other congregations, not even those having the same faith and practice. This right and power of being “independent and self-governing” is clearly evident in the examples of churches established in the first century by the apostles and evangelists sent forth by Christ himself. It means that although other congregations and spiritual leaders may depart from the TRUTH of the New Testament, they have no right nor power to obligate the autonomous congregation to follow them in their apostasy, and that, in and of itself, is a great blessing.