AN INTERNATIONAL MINISTER'S MANUAL
By Rev. Jim and Carolyn Murphy
PART THREE - THE LOCAL CHURCH
THE DIVINE MANDATE
The last mandate Jesus gave to His disciples before He ascended to His Father in heaven was, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Mat 28:19-10 NIV)
Often we in the Evangelical church have misunderstood what Jesus said. We tend to interpret His command as "make converts." Its a whole lot easier to make converts than disciples! A good, prayer-birthed evangelistic outreach will usually make converts, but it takes teaching, guiding, encouraging, mentoring and demonstrating a daily walk with Jesus to make disciples. In other words, it takes a church setting to make disciples.
This is why the early church, in fulfilling Jesus' command, immediately set about establishing churches. The first century church's leaders quickly learned that the most effective way of making disciples was to establish a church. I believe that for us to be obedient to Jesus' command, we, too, are to establish churches until He returns!
Of course, we know that the Apostle Paul was probably the most effective church planter in our history. Let's look at his commissioning.
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Act 13:1-3 NIV)
Scripture does not tell us what Paul's position was in the Antioch church or how long he had worshiped there but we do know he and Barnabas were commissioned there. Notice the setting in which the Antioch church leadership heard the Holy Spirit's instructions concerning Paul and Barnabas.
The Actioch church was fasting and worshiping. Scripture does not tell us exactly why they were fasting, but we generally associate Christians fasting with a spiritual burden. Fasting is a very effective way to focus our entire being on spiritual things. We may have a burden on our heart and we are unable to deal with it without God's direct intervention. The act of diminishing our physical appetites to sharpen or focus our spiritual man brings us more in tune with the Lord. Worship just naturally flows from the spirit of one who is fasting.
This was the atmosphere among the church leadership of Antioch. So, even if we don't know why they were fasting, we do know that it was in the midst of this worshiping and fasting that they heard the voice of the Holy Spirit! I believe every denominational leadership, church leadership, and/or individual who has a burden to send out church plants, (or go themselves), should begin the process with prayer, fasting, and worship. That's the way the Antioch church sent out the most powerful apostle in church history and we should do no less.
1. The Apostle
In the first century, and I believe continuing through today, the Lord has most often used apostles to plant churches. That is their call and they are equipped to do so. We read in Acts about Paul's journeys and establishing of churches. After he planted a church in a location, he moved on. But he remained in an oversight position for the churches he founded. His letters to Timothy are those of an overseeing apostle to a pastor whom he had previously selected. Look at the following instructions Paul gave Timothy:
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work--which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (1 Tim 1:3-7 NIV)
Clearly, Paul was keeping close watch on the churches under him. We know from his trips and his writings that he revisited many of the churches he planted. He knew what was happening. He knew who the troublemakers were. He knew which ones were totally sold out to Jesus. Not only did he know these things, he made corrections when necessary. Sometimes the correction was blunt. Look at what he wrote to the Corinthian church:
This will be my third visit to you. "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you. (2 Cor 13:1-4 NIV)
As Paul was the first great apostle, that same call to the office of the apostle exists today. As with any call to the ministry, the initiative is the Lord's. No minister simply decides he wants to be an apostle, (or a prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher, for that matter.) He or she must be called to that office by the Lord Jesus.
In my travels to the emerging nations of the world I meet many apostles. I have fellowshipped with a number of African and Asian apostles, all busy building the Lord's church. They are national Christians planting churches in their own nations. Or in some cases, these apostles have gone to nations other than their own and are building churches where they are sent.
2. Denominational Church Planting and Oversight
Often in today's church the process of sending out someone to start a church, and to oversee new churches, is done by the local or regional leadership of an established denomination. It is this leadership, acting in an apostolic office, that sends out pastors to begin churches in new areas. This oversight, whether from an individual apostle or a selected group of denominational overseers, is what keeps the churches on the proper course. It keeps demonic activity to a minimum. And most importantly, it keeps the church focused on Jesus.
Scripture gives these overseers authority. Again we turn to Paul's writings:
For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.
I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. (2 Cor 10:8-11 NIV, emphasis added.)
3. What if You're Not an Apostle But Want to Plant a Church?
At this point you may say, "I know I'm not an apostle. In fact I believe I'm a called pastor but the Lord sure has placed a burden on me to start a church. What should I do?" Even if you aren't an apostle, Jesus' words are not a divine option, they are a divine command. Though it is the primary responsibility of an apostle to start a church, that does not exclude those who are not apostles from starting a church. Certainly many churches have been started by someone other than an apostle. Often someone who simply has a burden for lost people will start a church. When we couple that burden with acts of faith God honors it.
As I have already stated, a denomination can act as your spiritual authority and overseer. I suggest you go to your pastor, or someone else in your leadership circle, and explain your burden to him or her. Take their counsel, continue to pray, and move through every door the Lord opens for you.
What if you are not connected with any denomination, but rather have affiliated yourself with an independent church? I have been in, and preached in, many fine independent churches that the Lord has not placed in a denomination.
However, I believe strongly that every church should be under spiritual authority and oversight. There is an organization here in the US called Master Builders which was started by an apostle with the vision of being a loose oversight organization for independent churches. Many existing independent churches have joined Master Builders and they also are sending out pastors to plant new churches. It is working very well. The independent pastors and church leaders come together for prayer, fellowship, to share ideas, and to affirm the direction of their individual churches. This is so necessary. It is a very strong safeguard against the enemy trying to pull a church in the wrong direction.
So let me encourage you that if you are part of the leadership of an independent church, look around and ask the Lord to join you with a group of fellow ministers with whom you can be in fellowship and have as a covering. Of course, if you are thinking of planting a church but have not yet done so, it is doubly important that you find some overseers who are godly, mature Christians who will work with you and guide you.
The Lord gives leadership skills to those whom He directs to plant churches. Leadership is the ability to inspire others to action. Those with leadership have the ability to attract and inspire others, and to motivate group human effort toward a common goal. A leader also has the ability to read people, determine their strengths and weaknesses, and then place them in the exact organizational position to best use those strengths.
Leadership skills are essential for every person, apostle or not, who is founding and/or building up a church. Peter demonstrated this kind of leadership when, on the day of Pentecost, he stood, began to speak and thereby took control of the crowd. Of course, Paul also demonstrated great leadership in Philippi, Ephesus, and other places through his preaching and church building. (Please note that leadership skills in varying degrees are common to all of the five-fold ministries.)
Every person, apostle, pastor, or whomever, who plants a church, must understand the absolute necessity of laying a proper spiritual foundation for that church. Churches should be "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." (Eph 2:20 NIV) Paul seems to doubly emphasize the importance of a proper spiritual foundation for he also wrote, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 3:9 NIV)
I cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper foundation. I have had the unfortunate experience of observing churches whose foundations were not properly set. Invariably they encounter disaster, most often in the form of doctrinal error. Usually such churches are born in the excitement of revival, or are built around the personality of a strong leader. In either case the numerical growth of the church exceeds the spiritual growth. As a result, proper doctrinal foundation stones are ignored. A true apostle or overseer will never permit this to happen in a church under his care, nor should anyone else who is in the position of church leadership.
A proper biblical foundation is especially important in the life of a new believer. And new believers will probably make up most of the congregation of a newly established church. If we do not lay a proper doctrinal foundation, or if we do it in a half-hearted manner, the new Christian is headed for trouble down the road in his or her spiritual walk. If you multiply these potential problems by 40, 60, or a 100 new converts, just imagine what will happen over the next few years to that church!
Let me illustrate this point by a recent experience I had. I was the guest speaker in a church and after the service, three men approached me asking my assistance in settling a doctrinal discussion they were having. Two of the men were solid, well-taught believers. The third was a new believer. The problem was that the new believer was dogmatically insisting that there were three separate Gods, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
He refused to accept the idea of the Trinity that we Christians have held for centuries! This man was building his Christian house without a proper foundation. If he does not go back and submit to the basic teachings of the church, he will eventually fall into gross error. In fact, he is already half way there. Worse yet, suppose he is a very gifted leader who goes out and gathers a following and starts his own church! It's easy to see how so many of today's near-Christian cults get started.
Scripture has made clear how we are to lay spiritual foundations:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22, emphasis added NIV.)
We see clearly in Paul's journeys that time and again after he had a number of converts he would stay for an extended period teaching the new converts. What he was doing was laying the spiritual foundation.
But again you may say, "I am starting a new church and I am not an apostle or prophet. What am I to do? Who is to lay the foundation for me?" Don't worry. Many apostles and prophets over the years have put their teachings into writing. And many denominations such as the Assemblies of God have excellent written material on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Or most any good commentary Bible will teach these essential doctrines accurately. Thus, a pastor or teacher can lay a good foundation using the materials of the apostles and prophets.
Or, if you establish a new church without strong apostolic oversight, and if there are apostles and prophets available within your circle of churches, have them oversee the teaching. In this way the apostles and prophets are, in effect, laying the foundation. If the apostles and prophets are available to do the actual teaching, so much the better. The most important thing is that all new converts receive thorough instruction in the essential doctrines of the church.
In a new church, with mostly new believers, it should be done the same way Paul did it, by teaching and preaching. In an existing church, this is often done in what we call the "new believers' class." Unfortunately, many churches do not have such a class, or are very lax about new believers attending. I know of a few churches in which attendance to such a class is mandatory. If a person misses a class, he or she can make it up by listening to the audio tape of the missed class if possible or by getting a fellow class member's notes.
What topics should be taught in foundational classes? In my view the subjects taught are what I call essential doctrines, that is, the doctrines essential to the existence of Christianity. (See chapter 35.) This list includes,
The virgin birth of Jesus
The deity of Christ
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus
The resurrection and judgment
The universal sinfulness of man
Salvation by grace through faith
The inerrancy of Scripture
The return of the Lord
I believe the Lord has a specific geographical area or location for every one of His churches. But as a rule, I don't think He has specific lots set aside for each and every church. This is not to say that He never leads church planters to a specific plot of ground. Sometimes He does. But in seeking the Lord in prayer, expect His leading to be to a neighborhood or general area. If He chooses to be more specific, praise Him for such specific direction!
There are also times when the Lord restrains or forbids entry into certain areas for reasons we may not understand. In Acts 16 we see these words:
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. (vs 6,7 NIV)
The obvious message here is that we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If He leads you to a community, you have the right to expect Him to protect and provide for you. If you went without His leading, you are going to have a lot of problems!
Once you have settled on a location, you must select a meeting place and set a time for your service. You may start with just a few people, maybe only one or two families. Don't be discouraged. The test is obedience, not how many come the first Sunday or even the 50th Sunday.
There are two ways people come to a church. One way is by making converts from unbelievers. The other way is by gathering sheep from other flocks. I have seen many proud pastors displaying the sheep of their churches only to learn that most of them were already established Christians and that there were very few new converts.
This is not to say that a new church may not have sheep from other churches. There are legitimate reasons for someone to leave one church and go to another. What I am saying is this: in starting a new church, your goal should be to reach the lost, not just to have a growing church.
Now let's look at the primary way new converts are going to be gathered in from among the lost.
Along with establishing a place and time to meet, you must evangelize. Evangelism has always been the principal way new converts are won to Christ and it can be done in many different ways. Let's look at just a few.
Open air or outdoor preaching is commonly used to reach the lost. The logic is simple: go where there are lost people and preach the gospel. We cannot expect the lost to come to our churches. Most don't even know they're lost!
In many countries buses are the most common method of transportation. Thus, there are often large concentrations of people at bus stops. It is quite common to see a preacher or an evangelist preaching the gospel at a bus stop. Any large concentration of people should be viewed as a target for evangelistic preaching. Look for places like markets, village squares, busy streets, and so forth. Use your divinely inspired imagination. God will give you ideas.
Some years ago Carolyn and I were in a large church in the Philippines. The pastor began to make announcements about the "bus ministry." We look at each other wondering, "How can this poor church afford buses?" knowing that buses cost many thousands of dollars each. Later that day we asked the pastor what he was talking about when he said "bus ministry." We were surprised, pleased and amused at his answer. Buses are the principal means of transport in the Philippines. The church gives their young people a small amount of money for a bus ticket, then sends them out to ride a bus. The young Christian gets the driver's permission and preaches the gospel from the front of the bus! That is creative. That is effective, and it is an excellent way to train young preachers!
Go where the lost are and preach the gospel!
2. Videos and Film
There are many films on the life of Jesus which are available today. They are in many languages. A friend of mine has a film on the life of Jesus that was filmed in India with no white people in the film!18 He has it in several of the most common dialects in India. Teams of people are taking the film to thousands of villages in India where many of the people have never seen a movie or TV. They hang a large white cloth in the village square and show the film. The entire village comes out to see it.
People who had never before heard the name "Jesus" openly weep when they see Him crucified. They stand and cheer and shout when He is resurrected from the dead! After the film the team holds an altar call. They are experiencing thousands of converts using this film. Sometimes 25 - 30 percent of the village receives Jesus as Savior! Their major problem is that they don't have enough pastors to shepherd the thousands of converts.
3. Personal Witnessing, Tracts and Mime
Another effective way of gaining converts is by training people to personally witness. I know a brother whose sole ministry is personal witnessing and training others to witness. They go to public events, to recreational beaches, into bars . . . any place their imagination takes them to witness for Jesus. If people are properly trained, this is a very effective way of bringing people to the Lord.
I have heard many testimonies from Christians who accepted Jesus through reading a tract. This is a highly effective way of spreading the gospel. Once I was with a group of talented young people who would watch for the coming of a sporting event or movie and write a tract relating to the event. They would then attend the event and hand out their custom designed tracts. Such tracts, if well done, are highly effective.
Other young people use mime to portray an aspect of the gospel, presenting the mime in public places. While the presentation is in progress, other workers are among the crowd looking for people with whom to share Jesus.
4. Bible Studies
Going into homes in your targeted community and holding Bible studies is another highly effective way to evangelize. People who would never listen to a street evangelist, attend a church, or read a tract, will often respond to a neighbor's invitation to his or her home. I personally know of many such Bible studies that grew into churches and almost every person was a new convert!
Using someone's home for the Bible study is not necessary. You can use hotel meeting rooms or community halls. For a new outreach into a community it may be important that the meeting place not be in a church. That can put a barrier in the minds of some unbelievers. They cannot separate your meeting from the church and look on your meeting as if it were an extension of the church whose building you are using. They need to hear about Jesus, not about the denomination of the church building.
5. Planting a Daughter Church
Often small plants that have grown from runners or seeds will appear near larger ones. Or a gardener, wishing to multiply a plant, will remove part of a large one and place it in its own environment apart from the main plant. This same idea is used in church plants.
Carolyn and I witnessed a church plant one Sunday morning in Manila, Philippines. In a church with about 2,000 members, the pastor stood and announced that they were starting a new church in another part of town and gave the location. He then said, "We need 300 people who will agree to make this your church home for three months. After three months, you can stay there or return here. Who wants to be a part of this new church?" He had the people stand while the ushers counted them. The following month, a new church started with 300 people in the first service!
This is a highly effective way to start a new church if the mother church is large enough to be able to do it. The new church plant already has a core of people who love the Lord. People in the new community are drawn to a new church, if it has a sizable congregation already. And, of course, you can start your outreach immediately into the new community.
6. Using Your Particular Talents and Skills
The Apostle Paul was a tent maker by trade. He worked with his hands. He often worked to open an opportunity to witness to unbelievers. In other words, he used his skills to reach the lost. He said, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." (1 Co 9:22 NIV) Peter agreed with Paul when he said, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." (1 Pe 4:10 NIV)
People are hungry for Jesus, but often they don't realize it is Jesus who is the answer for that hunger. Once I was in a television studio in the Philippines. I was off-stage watching the production of a medical educational program sponsored by the government in which a doctor examined a volunteer who had some medical problem. In front of the camera he would explain the problem, talk about the symptoms, and give medical advice as to what to do in such cases. This program was very popular and lasted for two hours every afternoon. Even though the show could have only ten or so patients per program, more than 200 people would line up to see the doctor because his services were free.
As I saw all those people, I was especially touched by one woman. I walked up to her and asked if it was all right to pray for her. She quickly said yes, so I placed my hands on her head, closed my eyes, and began to ask Jesus to touch her. I prayed for three or four minutes and opened my eyes. To my utter amazement there was a line of forty to fifty people wanting me to pray for them, too! People are hungry for a touch from God. Our job is to learn who and where they are and to reach them with the message of Jesus' saving love.
Often churches have members who are doctors, dentists, lawyers, or other professionals, who can use their secular skills to win people to Jesus. Large churches can send teams into a targeted area to hold free medical or dental clinics. They are showing the love of Jesus in a physical way. As they give free medical treatment, they also gave a one-on-one witness about Jesus' saving grace.
But not every church has doctors and dentists. However, most churches have auto mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, painters, and so on. You can use their services to show the love of Jesus to the lost. Be creative, pray and ask the Holy Spirit how to develop an outreach using the particular skills and talents of your church people.
7. Day Care and PreSchool
Many churches use their facilities to provide day care for the small children of working mothers in their neighborhoods. Carolyn and I recently saw this in Tanzania. The church had more than forty neighborhood children in a preschool program. Most of the children were from Muslim homes. But the church taught the children to sing Christian songs, memorize Bible verses and to pray in Jesus' name!
8. Feeding the Poor
Churches in every part of the world have outreach ministries to the poor by giving away free food. This, too, is showing the love of Jesus in a very real way.
9. Clothing and Shelter
Along with feeding the poor, some churches also provide used clothing for those who are in need. Some open their building for shelter to those who have none.
10. Vocational Classes
The opportunity to reach your community with vocational classes is limited only by the skills of the willing people in your church. Teaching basic mechanics or other specialty classes that fill a community's need will draw unbelievers who can then be told about Jesus. People are much more willing to listen to your witness after you have shown them, in a practical way, that Jesus really does love them.
11. Language Classes
Do you have people in your church who can teach other languages? If so, they can be very valuable for attracting unbelievers who want to learn another language. I have seen language classes in many places that use the Bible as a study text.
12. Counseling for the Community
Offering free counseling service to the unbelieving community can open doors for the witness of Jesus. Many who would never come to a worship service will readily come for marriage or family counseling when there is a need.
13. Acts of Kindness
In many countries of the world, Christianity is seen in an unfavorable or negative light. This has happened in America due to the bad publicity some prominent Christians have caused in the past few years. The sin and arrogance in a few high profile Christians has had a negative impact on the American people and their view of the whole church.
As a result, people have rebuffed many good, Jesus-loving Christians who are passing out tracts or giving witness of Jesus' saving grace. They often respond, "You are one of those Christians like that guy on TV. No thanks, I don't need your Jesus!" So, often we must overcome this negative view of Christianity before unbelievers will open themselves to the gospel.
A pastor in a large city here in America began a program he calls "random acts of kindness." For the past few years he has involved the people of his church in going about the city performing acts of kindness to people and business establishments. After they have done the kind act, people ask them, "Why are you doing this?" They respond, "Because Jesus loves you." Here are some things he has trained his people to do:
Sweep floors and sidewalks of business Clean public toilets Wash windows Give away cold drinks at busy intersections or stores in town Run errands for sick and invalid people Wash cars for people
A lot of these chores are done by the young people in the church. But individuals and whole families also participate. Once people become involved, they are very enthusiastic about helping. Often people try to give them money which they refuse, simply saying that they are showing the love of Jesus to the stranger. People ask what church they are from. Only then do they identify their church and hand them a small card with information about the church such as its location, times of service, and so on. Remember, it's not your church you are doing this for, it's Jesus! The effectiveness of this plan is multiplied when several churches in an area participate.
The pastor who began this plan had a congregation of less than 300 when he started five or six years ago. Today his church has over 5,000 people! Not only has his church grown, but every church in his city has grown!
This is perhaps the most effective way I have ever seen to overcome the negative impression of Christianity which many unbelievers hold. No, not everyone changes their mind and becomes a Christian. But thousands of people can be reached this way and become born-again who otherwise would have died not knowing our Lord Jesus.
Up to this point we have discussed the evangelism phase, or ways of reaching and converting individuals to Jesus. Now, let's assume you have a number of converts and your church is growing. There are two aspect to every church, the spiritual and the physical. Let's briefly look at the spiritual functions of the church first.
I define the spiritual aspect of a church as the spiritual growth and development of the believers. By this I mean instilling in the people the good habits of prayer, the reading and understanding of Scripture, and the forming of a disciplined life. In short, the spiritual aspect of a church encompasses everything necessary to form a body of believes into the image of Christ.
When teaching new believers Scripture, and how to live a Christian life, you don't start with the book of Revelation and the visions of Daniel. It's like constructing a building, there must first be a foundation. Then, piece by piece, the rest of the building is fitted together on the foundation until it is completed. So it is with the spiritual growth of the church.
Every church needs mature, competent leadership with spiritual insight. Every church needs a governing body responsible for the spiritual and moral conduct of church. Every church needs those able to teach others how to live a Christian life pleasing to the Lord.
These responsibilities should begin with the elders of a church. But who are they? Where do they come from? How are they placed in the position of elders? We see an example of Paul appointing elders in Scripture:
They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Act 14:21-23 NIV)
Paul and Barnabas had clearly spent an extended period at each city mentioned in Acts 14 determining who among the disciples had common sense, good judgment, was not proud, loved the Lord, and was reasonable. So it should be today. Every church planter should do as Paul did, looking for those who fit the requirements Paul listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. These are the potential elders. (We have written previously and extensively on the topic of elders so I will not take the space to again teach the subject of eldership.)
And mistakes are going to be made. Invariably there are going to be people set in the office of elder who are either unqualified or become stubborn and difficult. But rest assured, if you walk in obedience to the Lord and thrust your cares on Him in prayer, He will help you in such situations. Note in the Scripture above that Paul and Barnabas "with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust." We can do no better and we should do no less. After all, its God's church, not ours.
After elders are set in place the church begins, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to govern itself, teach, evangelize, elect deacons, and so on as the needs arise. The Physical Aspects of a Church
Someone once said to me, "the church is built with the widow's mite." Anyone who has ever started a church from nothing will readily say, "Amen!"
It seems as if there is never enough money. There are always obstacles to overcome. It can even appear that hundreds of our prayers for a physical facility to meet in go unanswered. "Where are You, God?" we ask again and again, "You told me to build a church, but You aren't helping!"
In the New Testament church there were no buildings. They met in various homes or in the open air. So having a building is not absolutely necessary, but it is immensely helpful. A building makes every aspect of church life easier. (Of course, some countries do not allow Christian churches so people must meet in the privacy of homes.)
Let's assume you need a building. Here are some helpful ideas.
First, identify your basic needs. Location and weather are important. In much of the world the weather is always warm. The only problem is rain. I have preached in Africa and the Philippines where the churches are a frame structure of bamboo covered on top with large plastic sheets or plant leaves. This works fine. Of course, if you are in an area where winters are harsh, obviously a closed-in building is a necessity.
In many churches different members of the church bring the necessary equipment such as benches, extension cords (which may run to a neighbor's house!) a PA system, keyboard, etc. I was in a Philippines church of more than 100 people where this worked beautifully.
After you establish a location, a very practical decision you face is, "Do we rent a building or buy a building (or land), if possible?" Perhaps the answer is first rent, then buy.
Once you prayerfully make the above decisions, its time to act. If God has led you to a specific area and told you to build a church you have something that is far better than money. You have the word of the Lord.
To illustrate the value of that word, let's assume for the moment that you have a very rich friend in your town whom everyone knows. His name is Mr. Mensa. You walk into a building supply store and give a long list of items worth thousands of US dollars to the store owner. You tell him, "My good friend, Mr. Mensa, is paying for this. Please deliver the materials to my lot and he will pay you." There would be no hesitation on the part of the seller, would there? Why? Because everyone has confidence in Mr. Mensa.
Should we have less confidence in God?
I know a brother in Georgetown, Guyana who did exactly that! He, 1) had God's instruction to build a church to seat 300 people, 2) found the lot God led him to, and 3) literally began to place orders for building materials and contract workmen! All this was done when he had less than $12 US in his church treasury!
Every morning (sometimes when the workers were there!) he would walk boldly around the property prayerfully and loudly declaring, "My God is building His church on this property. My God is supplying the money to pay for these materials! My God is supplying the money to pay these workers!" I was in that finished building. It is serving a powerful need in the community. It is serving God by reaching the neighborhood.
Let us review how my friend built this building. First he 1) had a clear word from the Lord to build. This word included how big and where to build. Then, like Abraham, he believed God and acted in faith! Faith accomplishes all genuine work for God. Look at these verses:
We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7 NIV, emphasis added.)
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Th 1:3 NIV, emphasis added.)
. . . These promote controversies rather than God's work--which is by faith. (1 Tim 1:4 NIV, emphasis added.)
From this and similar stories I have heard, and more importantly, from these Scriptures, I know it gives God great pleasure to find those who will hear His word, believe it, and act on it. But I offer one word of caution here. This man in Georgetown acted in faith . . . not presumption. He did not set out to build a building to inflate his ego. God does not honor man's presumption nor does He rescue man's ego. God honors His word and His direction.
Paul experienced great opposition throughout his ministry. Look at what he told the church at Corinth:
. . . I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Cor 11:23-29 NIV)
1. Demonic Opposition
Needless to say you will face strong satanic/demonic opposition whenever you begin to build the church of Jesus Christ. Just as Satan opposed Jesus, he will oppose you too when you begin to walk in obedience to Jesus, especially in the spreading of the gospel. But Satan made a major mistake when he incited the crucifixion of Jesus. He had no idea that the Father was going to resurrect Jesus from the dead and send His Holy Spirit into the hearts and lives of every believer. And it is this power that will cause you to prevail over every obstacle Satan tries to set before you.
2. Financial Testing
There will be financial pressures. Financial circumstances tested my brother in Georgetown. It was not easy. He was forced to believe and obey God time and again. Once the devil tried to get him to resort to his own scheme to get money. He had promised to pay $3,000 by a certain date. He had no money. A wealthy Englishman flew into town and asked my brother to drive him to his various appointments. This man had lots of money. He could easily have given the needed $3,000. A voice inside my friend kept saying, "Ask him for the money! He has the money. This is God's provision�ask him!" But another, still small voice, was saying, ". . . Wait."
He drove the man around town, then drove him to the airport at the end of the day. He saw him to his plane and never asked for money. On the way back to his office, he thought, "You really missed it. Now you have no money and today is the deadline." But he sensed in his spirit that he had obeyed the Lord. He arrived at his office to find that a total stranger had sent a check for exactly the $3,000 needed and, of course, it had been mailed days earlier.
When moving in faith, I cannot overemphasize the importance of obedience.
3. Opposition from Other Religions
In some countries there is fierce opposition from other religions. In Muslin controlled countries Christians can be killed and/or imprisoned for their faith. In recent years militant Muslims have martyred many Christians and burned many churches.
Recently Christians have been martyred at the hands of militant Hindus in and around India.
In many Latin American countries the Roman Catholic church has incited riots against Evangelicals. Here, too, Christians have been martyred at the hands of Roman Catholics.
There will be more martyrs before the Lord returns. But those who run with the words of the Lord are just like Jeremiah when he said, ". . . his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." (Jer 20:9 NIV)
4. Opposition from Governments
In many countries being a Christian is illegal. Governmental agencies arrest and jail Christians, even executing some. Other countries oppress Christians by denying them jobs, or educations, or by confiscating their property. Some countries refuse to allow the construction of church buildings.
We must continually remember to pray for Christian laborers in such countries. They have a very difficult task. Governments do have the power to take the life of a believer. But they cannot stop the power of the Holy Spirit in spreading the gospel!
5. Opposition from Families
In certain countries when people become Christians, their families turn away from them. Some families even hold a funeral service, declaring the Christian convert to be dead. These are extreme cases of family opposition, but the devil can (and does!) incite members of our own family to oppose the work of the gospel. Satan will use any and every means at his disposal to stop the planting of new churches. In every case we need to pay close attention to what James advised, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (Jas 4:7 NIV)
Church planting is one of the most urgent needs in the world today. As a church begins to grow and develop skilled leaders, there is often no place for them to minister within the structure of their home church. My advice is to lay hands on them and send them out to establish new churches. If this is done with much prayer and fasting, the harvest will be great.
Let us close with Jesus' compassion for the lost and is words to His disciples.
"But when he saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'" (Mt 9:36-38 NIV)
18. Not available outside India nor in English.