How to Establish a NEW 
Congregation of the Church Christ Built

A photo of the title page of the New Testament with a compass indicating true north illustrates the beginning of Part 2 of the document How to Establish a NEW Congregation of the Church Christ Built.

Fundamental requirements for beginning
and maintaining a congregation governed
by the New Testament

Part 1

This document in two parts is for you, dear Brother in Christ, if you feel motivated and compelled to initiate such a noble step because you have studied the New Testament and captured a clear vision of a congregation true to the blueprint developed by the Father and the Son and because there is not one in the place where you reside. The author of this document is an evangelist who has had the personal privilege and high honor of beginning a number of such congregations, some of them maturing to the point of having Elders and Deacons according to the New Testament pattern.

A meditative man in silhoutte stands in a room with white and gray geometric designs, symbolic of analyzing one's own motives in the context of church planting.

While you may be genuinely motivated, if you have not already had the exciting, fulfilling, and challenging experience of establishing a congregation, you may find this document practical and useful. It covers from the basic and obvious to attitudes, procedures, and dangers to avoid, key factors which may lead, potentially, prayerfully, and eventually, to success for you, saving you from tearful frustration and heartbreaking failure.

Depending on circumstances, success may come rather quickly, in a few months, or after more than a

year, even several years. If you work very long with a new congregation and you are perceptive, you will probably find that each new Christian is, with some exceptions, a complicated being, each in a particular life setting, maybe rather simple, perhaps very complex, who needs much spiritual love, deep, sympathetic understanding, intelligent spiritual instruction, tactful, respectful treatment, and patient spiritual nurturing in order to become a really strong, mature Christian.

If your motives are pure, your heart is right, and your own example is truly worthy to follow, all the labors you put forth and sacrifices you make to establish a vibrant, faithful congregation will probably take you yourself up to ever-higher levels of spiritual intelligence, wisdom, and joy. They will surely be rewarded richly by the Father and the Son, for “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” Hebrews 6:10. Is that not a really powerful and beautiful assurance?

A. Members.

1. A minimum of two people biblically baptized are needed to begin a congregation. Biblical baptism is by immersion in water (Romans 6:3-7; Acts 8:34-40), “for the forgiveness of sin” (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Peter 3:21) and “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:18-20. If you have been baptized in some church not governed by the New Testament, please examine the validity of your baptism in the light of relevant studies on this site.

2. A minimum of two members willing to meet together and formerly, fully committed to the only true and living God” (John 17:3) the Creator of the universe (Genesis 14:19; Deuteronomy 32:6; Romans 1:25) and “Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9), as also to the churchconceived by him, established by his Son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18), and made a reality on planet Earth by the works of the apostles specifically selected by Christ. Acts 2:1-47

B. Meeting Place. Options:

1. A private house. If the first members are all family-related and decide to meet in a private home of one of the families, all who come together for worship, children and adults, men and women, should conduct themselves, when they meet as a church, as if they were in a meeting place belonging to the church or rented by the church. Their church gatherings should be formal, that is, well organized and “done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14:40. This means, among other things, that those present should not be moving about during the services of the church, going out and coming back in, talking with each other, etcetera, as if they were participating in some social meeting of the family or families. Of course, these same guidelines are to be followed for meetings of the church in any location, whether open-air or in a facility owned by, rented by, or provided free of charge.         

Some congregations in the first century met in private homes. The church in the house of Priscilla and Aquila. Romans 16:3-5. The church in the house of Nympha. Colossians 4:15. The church in the home of Philemon. Philemon 1:2.

2. The facilities of a private or public school, academy, or university; of clubs or other such social organizations. Obtain authorization, preferably written, if possible, from the person or persons in charge of the facility.

3. The facilities of a public building. Some government buildings have conference rooms suitable for church gatherings. So do community centers, hotels, and libraries.

If the use of any such facility is obtained, either completely free of charge or for a small fee, always leave the meeting area completely organized and clean, with no damage whatsoever to the property by children, young people, or any adults.

4. Rent a meeting place, using contributions given each Sunday to cover the expense. See C, 4 below.

5. Buy a meeting place.

6. Construct a meeting place on purchased or donated land.

7. Legal matters.

Whether buying, constructing, or using free of charge any property, be careful to obtain and keep safely the necessary legal documents to avoid misunderstandings or lose the property at some point in time.

Any transaction should be done in the name of the church. For example, “The Church of Christ in (name of city, town, or village).”

Any true, faithful Christian teacher, evangelist, or preacher who initiates a new congregation will be, of course, totally honest in all matters having to do with meeting places and the use of contributions. From the first meeting of the new congregation for as long as he is associated with it. He will never manipulate the congregation, whatever its size, for personal gain.

8. Open-air meetings. This is an option when others are not possible. In the shade of a tree or trees. In a park. On an empty lot. Weather permitting.

C. Worshipping “in the Spirit and in Truth.” John 4:23-24

Young African man reads and studies the Bible in preparation for biblical ministries in the church.

1. Pray. Begin and end worship services with a prayer. Prayers may be made
   during the worship services for different purposes: For those who carry out
 different ministries during the service, for texts of the Bible, when read before the congregation, for the message and the messenger, for the spiritual songs and
       hymns selected, for the elements of the Lord’s Supper, for the contribution,
         for the sick and afflicted, for particular requests made by members, for the
     evangelistic and benevolent works of the church.

         2. Sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs acapella. That is, without playing
        instruments
of music. For that is the kind of singing in church commanded in
      the New Testament.
Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9; James 15:13. Spiritual songs by a spiritual church, not of this world. John 18:36. Keeping in mind that the Old Testament, with its material temple, Levitical priesthood, animal sacrifices, incense offerings, instruments of music, etc., were all nailed to the Cross, taken out of the way, and replaced by the New Testament. Colossians 2:16-17; Galatians

3:10-14, 23-29; 4:21-31; 5:1-6; Hebrews 8:8-13; 9:1-28, and many similar texts. Now, under the “new covenant” of Christ, all faithful Christians are “built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” 1 Peter 2:5, 9

3. Celebrate the “Lord’s Supper” the first day of every week, that is, each and every Sunday. Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 10:14-22; 11:17-33.

4. Contribute voluntarily and also generously if possible. It is not necessary to tithe, for tithing was abolished together with the rest of the ordinances of the Old Testament, as stated above in Number 2. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 9:6-15.

For more information on these four acts and related Bible texts, especially the studies on “The Ideal Church According to God the Father,” and “The Church Christ Built.” Plus, additional studies in the category of Spiritual Family-Church-Kingdom of God.”

5. Sermons. Options.

a) In the New Testament, there is no specific command to have a sermon during the worship service. If no brother qualified to preach is available, an acceptable worship service can be conducted by implementing the four acts above, the Lord’s Supper being the central one. “On the first day of the week,” the church in Troas “came together to

Back view of a young Asian man studying the Bible in search of appropiate material for a sermon.

break bread.” That is, to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Acts 20:7

b) If a brother qualified to preach is available, then taking advantage of the gathering of the church members to impart spiritual teaching for their instruction and encouragement would be most practical and wise. As per the example of the apostle Paul in his visit to the church in Troas. Acts 20

c) If in any place where a new congregation begins, there is no qualified evangelist or teacher who could prepare any qualified candidate to preach the Word, there are multiple resources on the Internet by faithful brethren designed for such preparation. Some of these Internet sites are listed in the category of Resources on Similar Sites and in Publications.” Some may offer videos and compact disks of Leadership Courses, sermons, classes, and hymns; printed books, manuals, and tracts; materials for evangelization, etc. Much of the material may be available free of charge.

d) If in a new congregation, there are not yet brethren qualified to preach, teach, lead singing, etc., videos and compact disks may be used until there is at least one such brother.

e) Another option is to read sermons and Bible class guides to the attendees, or portions of them, adapting the material to local needs, languages or dialects, cultural and social circumstances, etc. Indeed, all materials from outside your own country and local environs should be, it is to be assumed, adapted in such a way in order for them to be more effective.

6. Bible classes are to be distinguished from the worship service. If a new congregation wishes to conduct a Bible class, or more than one, perhaps one for adults, one for children, and one for young people, the distinction between a “class” and a “worship service” should be made clear to all who attend. This can be done by a simple statement such as: “The classes have ended, and we will now begin the worship service,” or “The worship service is over, and Bible classes will now begin.” This distinction is important because women, children, and young people, visitors, and the unconverted may speak up in classes, but not in a worship service. It is also advisable to officially declare the worship service “concluded” before proceeding with announcements, petitions for prayer, etc.

“Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14:26, 40

D. Items needed for worship and Bible classes.

1. Chairs and/or benches, the other option being to stand during the service or study.

2. For the Lord’s Supper: unleavened bread and grape juice, wine, or wine mixed with water.

3. Hymnals, or copies of spiritual songs and hymns. Compact disks or cassettes of hymns. Write the hymns on a blackboard or chalkboard. Another option is to learn and sing hymns by memory. No instruments of music are needed. See C-2 above.

4. At least one Bible, or at least one New Testament. Preferably, copies of the Bible for attending members and visitors. 

E. Correct attitudes by all participants are vital for the success and growth of a new congregation. More important than any material necessity or consideration, “right attitudes” are absolutely essential to the well-being and increase of any congregation, no matter what it's size. Therefore, all people involved in the congregation should make a pact among themselves and with God to:

1. To know each other spiritually, that is, to see each other
and treat one another as spiritual beings, and not as merely
physical beings, neither on a merely material level. "So from
now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”
 
2 Corinthians 5:16. Compare 1 Timothy 5:1-2. How is this teaching applied?

Attitude stands our in red in this square graphic of related terms in white, in the context of the need for ministers of Christ to have the right, spiritual attitudes regarding all their ministries.

a) To family.

(1) During the meetings of the church and for all other activities of the church, hold spiritual ties to be of supreme importance, more so than family relationships.

(a) Do not bring family tensions and conflicts to the church.

(b) Address each other with all the respect you merit as Christians, using the terms “Brother” and “Sister,” thus evidencing that you recognize each other spiritually and that the spiritual plain is very much higher than the family one. If there are teenagers and young adults in the church, address them in the same way, and not casually as children, as in an earthly family setting.

(2) Give great importance to spiritual ties. As a positive dividend, proceeding thus serves to also fortify family ties and resolve many common problems among family members.

(3) Is the congregation composed only of family members? Should that be the case, in all your functions as a church you should keep in mind, always, that you are, above all, the family of God! 1 Thessalonians 4:10. Consequently, your responsibility is to conduct yourselves as members of the spiritual family whose only head on Earth and in Heaven is Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23

a) To neighbors. The same guidelines for the family apply to neighbors who become members of the congregation. They also should make the solemn commitment of recognizing and treating each other, as well as all present, on a high spiritual level.

b) To teachers, evangelists, any who preach, and the entire membership without exception. It should be required, with frequent reminders, if necessary, that all people in the congregation recognize each other and treat each other on an elevated spiritual level. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, the apostle Paul teaches the norms of conduct that assure healthy relationships among all members of the congregation.

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”   

2. Show mutual respect always, in every circumstance or situation.

3. Do not abuse the goodwill that exists naturally between spiritual brethren and sisters due to their having the same faith.

In this graphic, respect in raised, gold letters stands out on a multicolored background, in the context of spiritual ministries, especially the formation of New Testament congregations.

a) Regarding financial dealings, never ask for a loan if you do not have the resources with which to repay it, less still if you have no intention of repaying it. Do not defraud, swindle, cheat, or rob in anyway whatsoever. Nor try to involve fellow Christians in questionable businesses or schemes, including pyramid businesses.

b) “For each one should carry their own load.” Galatians 6:5. Therefore, if one is able to work and strive to take care of himself and those dependent on him or her, it would not be honorable to load the church down with his/her material-financial responsibilities of house, food, clothing, debts, etc., for these are duties God charges each of us to discharge individually. 1 Timothy 5:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Ephesians 4:28. Only in extreme cases of justified need should the church, small or large, be appealed to for help.

4. In the congregation, in the homes of members, whenever and wherever Christians come together, let all make special efforts to assure conversations center chiefly on spiritual subjects that edify. Some dangerous subjects for any congregation, new or older, are the following:

a) Politics. Indeed, this subject should be strictly forbidden when Christians come together for worship. Political parties, agendas, actions, etc., are not subjects for a spiritual gathering of a spiritual people. The Kingdom of God “is not of this world, but “from another place, namely, HEAVEN! Jesus said it, according to John 18:36.

b) Personal affairs of members. Gossiping, defamation, and meddling are negative, counterproductive actions in which Christians should not engage.

c) Controversial, divisive doctrines, dogmas, or opinions that perhaps no member of the congregation, including anyone who teaches or preaches, may be qualified to handle. “Deity-Trinity” is one such subject. “Predestination” is another. Beware the “unlearned and unstable” who often “wrest… some things hard to be understood” in the “Scriptures, unto their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:16

Back view of an Asian man studying the Bible to be sure he is following sound doctrine in his congregation.

d) Doctrines and subjects of little or no importance. The wisdom to discern this type of subject and silence it before it can do harm is important for any congregation, especially a new one. An example of such subjects: Where to baptize, if in a river, a pond, lake, the sea or a baptistry; whether in running water or standing water. “Water” is the essential element. The New Testament does not stipulate it must be water in a river, nor that it must be running water.

5. Be positive about the congregation and its works of evangelism and benevolence.

In this graphic, Think Positive in colorful letters of decorative fonts is highlighted for those who endeavor to establish New Testament congregations of the church Christ built.

a) Think, speak,                         and act positively: with much faith, love, goodwill, and courage.

b) Speak                                       with joy and enthusiasm about the works and worship of the church.

                                                                             c) Avoid a spirit of pessimism, criticism, complaining,
                                                                              negativity, nitpicking, indifference. Teach and
                                                                               exhort against them. Publicly and in private.

d) Is the new congregation composed of only two or three members? However small the congregation, whether small or larger, the mature member expresses himself positively, also carrying out positive works. A smile, confidence, enthusiasm, and unselfish love are contagious. So are fear, negativism, indifference, and depression.

Part 2 of "How to Establish a NEW Congregation 
of the Church Christ Built"

Your evaluation of this resource is important for the author. hshappley@yahoo.com

Category. The Spiritual Family of God and Christ.