Who really has the authority to start a local church?


What does the Bible teach about Church organization.  As I study the churches’ history, I am finding the beginning of the church to be a question. Some say a church must be started by a church. (I believe this is the best way if not the only way) I am local church all the way. Some say it must be started by an ordained minister, but not a church. I am familiar with some of the arguments, but as I seek direction here all the information I can get will be helpful. I love your web site…


I Timothy 1:1-4 says, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, NEITHER GIVE HEED TO fables and ENDLESS GENEALOGIES, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

Paul is training a young pastor/missionary, named Timothy (pastors and missionaries are the exact same thing, they just serve in different places). As he is teaching Timothy, he warns him about some things, of which one is not giving heed to endless genealogies.

The problem with saying that a church is not a scriptural church unless it has been started by another church, is that you are now cast into the matter of searching out an endless genealogy. The next question after you find out if your church was started by another church is, “Was the church that started our church a scriptural church? Did they really have the authority to start our church? And what church started the church that started our church, anyway?” It only raises endless questions.

Remember what we have seen that the Bible says? “Charge some that they teach no other doctrine, NEITHER GIVE HEED TO fables and ENDLESS GENEALOGIES, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

What if that Scripture above was ignored, and church members gave their local church the “genealogy test?” What you would have is a church full of people wasting their time. Instead of going out witnessing, they would all be in the library or on the Internet searching out genealogies. All that would do is “minister questions.” Because when one churches’ genealogy was traced, then it would start all over again trying to question or trace the next churches’ genealogy in the line.

I have recently heard of missionaries being questioned about this matter. Suppose that a missionary was being sent out by a church that had not been started by a scriptural church. Would that make him an unscriptural missionary unworthy of your support? Even worse yet, suppose that a missionary had served on the foreign field for 40 years, and had started 10 churches; but it was then found out that the missionary had been sent out to the field by an unscriptural church 40 years ago. Would that now make the 10 churches that he started unscriptural churches? Should they all be closed down? Should all of the missionaries’ support be canceled?

I agree with you that it would be nice if all churches could be started by other churches. It would give them some solid families with which to start the work. It would also provide needed finances and fellowship for the small church. But the truth is that many times a church must be started in an area, because the churches in that area are liberal and ungodly. I think you will find that many areas have Independent Baptist Churches, because God touched some man’s heart about such a work. It has always been that way throughout the Bible. Very seldom has God called a “group” to do anything. It is usually one person that He calls to begin it — one man.

When God wanted to create a nation, the nation of Israel, He did not take a group of Syrians to do it — He took one man, and called him. His name was Abraham. Genesis 12:1-3 says, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Isaiah 51:2 says, “Look unto ABRAHAM your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I CALLED HIM ALONE, and blessed him, and increased him.”

When God needed a man to stand up for righteousness, it was one man, alone, Elijah. I Kings 18:21,22 says, “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And THE PEOPLE ANSWERED HIM NOT A WORD. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.”

When God chose a replacement for Elijah, He did not go to the established “School of the Prophets,” but out to a field where a man was plowing — Elisha. I Kings 19:19,20 says, “So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee.”

In the New Testament, it was no different. The church in Jerusalem did not really take the gospel out and start other churches; rather, it was persecution that drove the Christians out away from Jerusalem. Acts 8:1-5 says, “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time THERE WAS GREAT PERSECUTION AGAINST THE CHURCH which was at Jerusalem; and THEY WERE ALL SCATTERED ABROAD throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, EXCEPT THE APOSTLES. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore THEY THAT WERE SCATTERED ABROAD WENT EVERY WHERE PREACHING THE WORD. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.”

It was not really the Church at Jerusalem making the decision to go and start some other churches. It was individuals, like Philip, that preached the gospel as he went along. It says that they were all scattered abroad “except the apostles,” and that they went everywhere preaching the Word. So we know that this “Philip” was “Deacon Philip.” Acts 6:3-6 says, “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and PHILIP, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.”

Paul later makes it clear that the church in Jerusalem did not give him orders about what to do, but that the Lord led him personally. Galatians 1:15-23 says, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; IMMEDIATELY I CONFERRED NOT WITH FLESH AND BLOOD: NEITHER WENT I UP TO JERUSALEM TO THEM WHICH WERE APOSTLES BEFORE ME; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then AFTER THREE YEARS I WENT UP TO JERUSALEM TO SEE PETER, and abode with him fifteen days. BUT OTHER OF THE APOSTLES SAW I NONE, SAVE JAMES THE LORD’S BROTHER. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And WAS UNKNOWN BY FACE UNTO THE CHURCHES OF JUDEA which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.” As it clearly says, the churches of Judaea would not have even recognized Paul. He was “unknown by face” to them. It is not that he disrespected those churches, but the fact is that they did not tell him what to do. If God tells a man to start a church, he does not have to get another churches’ permission to do it.

Baptists who get into this error, evidently do not realize how they are falling into the same error as the Catholic and Mormon religions. That has always been the old argument of the Catholic Church, that they are the “true church” because they (supposedly) trace their genealogy back to Peter (whom they falsely claim to be the first pope). The Catholics claim their authority based on genealogy.

The Mormon religion started out the same way. Their argument was that no church upon earth had the proper line of authority any more, so it was restored to Joseph Smith (and, of course, then to those in his religion). So now the Mormons say that they are the only “true church,” because of this (supposed) line of authority. That is why the Mormon Church makes much out of genealogies today. I do not have the quote before me to give due reference to, but I read that a Catholic once made the remark, “If the Catholic Church were not the true church, then I would have to go to the only other church upon the earth that would meet the requirements — the Mormon Church, because they are the only other church claiming a traceable, authoritative genealogy.”

Some Baptists today are falling into that same error of thinking — thinking that our local churches have no authority unless they can trace their genealogy to another scriptural Baptist Church. We need to get back to some basic truth here — our authority has NEVER been based upon genealogy, but upon the Word of God. It is God in his Word that has given us our commission to preach the gospel — not another church. Matthew 28:18-20 says, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

We are an independent Baptist Church. That means that there is no organization or church that dictates to us what we must do. The Lord is our Head — not man. Ephesians 5:23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH: and he is the saviour of the body.”

If we say that a church can only be started by another church, then a church has the authority to bring another church into existence. If we follow that line of reasoning, then that