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Who really has the authority to start a local church?

q.gif (1639 bytes)  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...


a.gif (1659 bytes)   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 first Baptist church would also have the authority to revoke its blessing upon that second Baptist church. In other words, if the first Baptist church did not like something that the second Baptist church began to do, then they could declare that that second Baptist church was now no longer authorized to be in existence, because it differed from themselves in some way.

It is really strange that Baptist churches would bring themselves under that kind of bondage, because that has always been one of the distinctives of Baptist churches, to be independent. They might as well now join the Methodist denomination and let a hierarchy control what churches come into existence; and who is to be the pastor there; and how long the preacher stays.

A church does not have the sole authority to start another church. That smacks of the Pharisees attitude about Jesus, because He was not one of their group, nor was he trained in their schools. Matthew 21:23-25 says, "And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, BY WHAT AUTHORITY DOEST THOU THESE THINGS? AND WHO GAVE THEE THIS AUTHORITY? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? FROM HEAVEN, or OF MEN?"

The Pharisees were exactly like this group today that is claiming that a church is not really a church unless it has been started by "one of their churches." The first question that the Pharisees had was, "BY WHAT AUTHORITY DOEST THOU THESE THINGS? AND WHO GAVE THEE THIS AUTHORITY?" Jesus put back a question straight to them, "The baptism of John, whence was it? FROM HEAVEN, or OF MEN?"

You see, John was not trained in their schools, either. John was also not a part of their group. So Jesus was asking them, "If John was not a part of your group, and not trained in your schools, then where would you say that he got his authority (his authority to be a preacher of the gospel) — from heaven, or from man?"

The Pharisees did not know how to respond to that. Matthew 21:25-27 says, "And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things."

As preachers of the gospel, we do not get our authority from man, but from heaven itself. John the Baptist was not called of men to preach, but of God alone. Luke 1:15-17 says, "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." John the Baptist was raised alone out in the wilderness, and he was alone in his preaching, at first. But he was ordained of God to preach that message.

If God tells us to build an ark when it has never rained before, then we had better do it, despite what anyone else may say. If God tells us to move forward when there is a sea in the way, then we had better do it, despite what man says. If God tells us to go to a foreign field and start a church where no church is, then we had better do it, despite whether any other church has that burden or not. If God tells us to start a church a mile down the road from another Baptist church, then we had better listen to Him and do it; whether we understand why or not.

The sad truth of the matter is that the bigger a church becomes, usually the bigger its PRIDE becomes. They do begin to look at themselves as "the authority." But when they reach that point, they seal their own judgment. Proverbs 11:2 says, "When PRIDE cometh, then cometh SHAME: but with the lowly is wisdom." Proverbs 16:18 says, "PRIDE goeth before DESTRUCTION, and an haughty spirit before a FALL." God hates pride. It is number one on God’s "Hate List" of sins. Proverbs 6:16,17 says, "These six things doth the LORD HATE: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A PROUD look..."

When a church reaches that point, God begins to find someone "little" that He can use again. Eventually, in God’s time, that big church so filled with pride over itself and its accomplishments, will be brought to shame. Then God will begin to do a work through someone unknown to anyone but his own family and a few friends. That is what you will find time and time again in any given locality.

The churches’ place in starting other churches is to recognize God’s call upon a man to do that work. The church does not call that man to preach, but only recognizes God’s call upon the man. Acts 13:1-4 says, "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, SEPARATE ME BARNABAS AND SAUL FOR THE WORK WHEREUNTO I HAVE CALLED THEM. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So THEY, BEING SENT FORTH BY THE HOLY GHOST, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."

Notice it was not the church that called them, but only separated them for the work to which God had called them. Those two men were then "SENT FORTH BY THE HOLY GHOST." The church at Antioch did NOT tell Paul and Barnabas, "We want you to go start a church in Corinth." It was God that called the two men, and the Holy Spirit that would thus lead the men to go where He wanted. And that is exactly what happened. Acts 16:6-9 says, "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, AND WERE FORBIDDEN OF THE HOLY GHOST TO PREACH THE WORD IN ASIA, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: BUT THE SPIRIT SUFFERED THEM NOT. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, COME OVER INTO MACEDONIA, AND HELP US."

Churches are normally started by a man of God who is called of God to preach; and then listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit to know where to preach. The churches’ place is but to ordain God-called men, and then to pray that God would lead them as to His perfect will where they should preach.

When a church is started, it does need ordained leadership, which is a pastor and deacons. Titus I:4,5 shows us how Paul handled these new believers in cities. "To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ORDAIN ELDERS IN EVERY CITY, as I had appointed thee." To be a scriptural local church, that church needs an ordained pastor and deacons. Until it has those two scriptural offices functioning, then it is no more than a local Bible Study.

The matter of "plurality of elders" has been a topic that has been taught (mostly in error) by a number of very popular radio teachers in our day. So some people are asking, "Why do Baptist churches not have a Board of Elders? If Paul said to ordain elders, where are they?"

The answer is very clear when you consider all of the Bible. "Elders" are not a new, New Testament position, but something seen throughout the entire Bible as "men who are known to be mature and spiritual."

Consider back when Moses decided that he needed more help, and that he could not handle the children of Israel alone. Notice what God told him in Numbers 11:16,17 says, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, WHOM THOU KNOWEST TO BE THE ELDERS OF THE PEOPLE, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone."

An "elder" was not a "position" or an "office," but a "description" of what a man was. A man was not voted to the position of an elder. A man either was "known" to be an elder (spiritually mature), or he was not. When God told Moses to pick out 70 men, He told him to pick out men "whom thou KNOWEST to be the elders of the people." Men who were known to be spiritually mature.

So when Paul told Titus to ordain elders in every city, Titus knew exactly what Paul meant — to pick out men who were KNOWN to be spiritually mature, and ordain those elders to the positions of pastor and deacon.

That is also made clear when you look at I Timothy chapter 3. In verses 1-7 we find the qualifications for a pastor. "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." What you have just read are the character traits that make a man known to be an elder (a spiritually mature man).

Some of these popular radio preachers have taught that a church is not a scriptural church unless it has a "plurality of elders" (and they teach that that means a plurality of pastors). But please notice the use of SINGULAR nouns in the above passage in reference to the bishop (the overseer) or the pastor. "If A MAN desire the office of a bishop..." "...HE desireth a good work." "A BISHOP then must be blameless..." "...THE HUSBAND of ONE WIFE." "For if A MAN know not how to rule HIS OWN HOUSE..." "...how shall HE take care of the church of God?" etc. All of the pronouns are singular — one bishop — one pastor.

But now look at the stark contrast when the qualifications of deacons are given. I Timothy 3:8-13 says, "Likewise must THE DEACONS be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And LET THESE also first be proved; then LET THEM use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must THEIR WIVES be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let THE DEACONS be THE HUSBANDS of one wife, ruling THEIR CHILDREN and THEIR OWN HOUSES well. For THEY that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to THEMSELVES a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." Notice when it comes to the qualifications of the deacons, that everything is suddenly plural, whereas with the pastor it was singular.

So, once again, when Paul told Titus to "ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee," Titus knew exactly what Paul meant — to pick out men who were KNOWN to be spiritually mature, and ordain those elders to the positions of pastor and deacon. An elder is NOT A POSITION, BUT A DESCRIPTION of a man. From the men that are elders, Titus was to ordain a pastor and some deacons for each church.

So what you have here is an ordained man ordaining other men to the gospel ministry. Notice that a whole group of preachers was NOT sent out to ordain these men — just one preacher was sent. An "Ordination Counsel" was not called to make it official. It was just one faithful preacher who did the job of ordaining these men to pastor and deacons.

In the case of John the Baptist, the whole Jewish system was so corrupt, that John was not ordained by anyone except God. The normal New Testament practice; however, is that a pastor and deacons be ordained by another ordained man. Jesus ordained the 12 apostles in Mark 3:13,14, "And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And HE ORDAINED TWELVE, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach." The missionaries of the New Testament ordained men in each church they saw started. Acts 14:23 says, "And when they had ORDAINED THEM ELDERS IN EVERY CHURCH, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."

New Testament deacons were also ordained. Acts 6:1-6 says, "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 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." This means that a deacon is fully qualified to preach and to baptize people, in the absence or sickness of the pastor of that local church.

We do believe that the Bible teaches the importance of the local church, and that is why we must be on the guard against any doctrine which tries to bring the local church under the authority of any other church. The only Head of the local church is Christ. The pastor is simply to be the shepherd of that flock, leading the flock along to do the will of the Chief Shepherd. I Peter 5:2-4 says, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."

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