We have a small group in our community and we meet once a week to study the Bible. We are not connected to any church. Can we consider our group as an assembly of believers? Do we need to be a member of a church to grow in the knowledge of God or grow spiritually? Can we use a Christian website or other resources to gain understanding of God's Word by the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
Are you planning to start a church? That is a very common question after a Bible study has been started and then increases in size. If you are wondering how can our Bible study become a church, you will find this article to be helpful. Eleven steps are provided for starting a church. Scripture verses are provided to help you understand the biblical basis for the recommendations. So, let us discover how to start a church.
1) Start the Bible Study
The New Testament reveals that the early churches were often started in homes (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Philemon 2). This gives us a pattern for starting a church. A Bible study helps people learn about one another and learn about the spiritual character of the person who is teaching the Bible. The Bible study also gives everyone an opportunity to learn if the teacher has the heart of a pastor.
2) Pastor-Teacher Must Be a Believer
The most important requirement of a pastor-teacher is that he is believer. He must believe that 1) Jesus is God, 2) Jesus died for our sins, and 3) He was resurrected from the dead.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NASB)
He must believe that he is a sinner, and was headed to hell where he would suffer forever. He must believe that only by faith in Jesus Christ can we be rescued from hell and go to heaven.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)
He must believe that he cannot lose his salvation because that is the message of 1 Peter 1:3-9. 2 Peter 1:5-10 tells us what evidences we should be able to observe in his life, if he is a Christian. For more information visit these pages,
3) Pastor-Teacher Must Be Called by God
The most important evaluation of the Bible study teacher begins with his calling, spiritual qualifications, and training in the Scriptures. That is, every pastor-teacher must have a sense that God has called him to become a pastor-teacher. Ephesians 4:11 reveals that pastor-teacher is a spiritual gift. It is a gift given by the Holy Spirit.
But the real proof that he has been called is not based on his subjective feelings. The real proof is revealed by his spiritual qualifications and the effectiveness of his teaching ministry. The next two sections will explain.
4) Find a Spiritually Qualified Pastor-Teacher
The next step is extremely important. 1 Timothy 3;1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 tell us that a pastor-teacher, that is an elder, must satisfy certain spiritual qualifications. Rather than repeating the list of qualifications and explaining each one here, the following studies are recommended.
5) Pastor-Teacher Must Be Trained in the Bible
The most important evaluation of the Bible study teacher must begin with an assessment of his knowledge of the Bible. The teacher should have a strong grasp of Scripture. He must hold to the teaching of the early apostles. Jude 3-4, 17 says,
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 3-4 (NASB)
Notice that Christians are warned that false teachers secretly creep into the church and teach error. Jude 17 tells us that we must evaluate them and determine if they are holding to the truth taught by the apostles.
But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 17 (NASB)
The apostle Peter warns us about pastor-teachers and teachers who are untaught (2 Peter 3:1-9, 16-17). As a result, they are going to be judged. Revelation 2:20-23 warns followers that they will be judged too if the pastor-teacher is teaching error. This is a truth that is often missed.
The apostle Paul told Timothy how a pastor should teach believers in the book of 1 Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3-4; 4:1-5; 6:3-5). Therefore, the following studies are recommended. They will explain Paul’s teaching about how to preach.
6) Pastor-Teacher Should Be Ordained
The apostle Paul reveals in 1 Timothy that Timothy became a pastor when he and others laid hands on him (1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6). So the question that should be asked is who ordained the man? Or, the question that must be asked is does he have impeccable credentials such as having been an elder from a highly respected church or church denomination? If the Bible study is an underground study, then this qualification is more complicated. Ordination usually indicates that the man is qualified to be a pastor of a church, either through formal education and training or after years of experience as a church elder.
7) Pastor-Teacher Must Teach Scripture Verse-by-Verse
1 Timothy is written to a pastor by the name of Timothy. 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the book of 1 Timothy was written to help us understand how a church should function. Here is verse 15,
I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15 (NASB)
So, read the entire book. 1 Timothy 4:11-16 tells us how a man can be a great minister of Christ. Therefore, everyone is urged to read these studies:
As you read, you will discover if the Bible study teacher is committed to being a great minister. There are many pastors in the world, but not all of them meet these standards.
Hebrews 5:11-14 also reveals the pastor-teacher must be committed to explaining Scripture verse-by-verse. He must be willing to give the meat of the Word when he teaches. Therefore, these studies are important to read. They will help everyone understand to what a pastor should be committed. Everyone is urged to read these studies:
8) At Least Two Men Should Qualify As Elders
There should also be at least two men in the Bible study that qualify as elders since Scripture teaches that there should be a plurality of elders in every church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).
When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Acts 14:23 (NASB)
3 John warns us against having one elder in the elder who makes all the decisions. His name was Diotrephes (3 John 9). For more information read,
9) Pastor Teacher Must Be Committed to Five Priorities
The pastor-teacher of a church must also be committed to five essential priorities. They are explained in the following study:
These priorities are more important than having a nice bulletin, contemporary music, or a charismatic pastor. Be sure to read them.
It is recommended that the pastor-teacher teache the books of Ephesians and 1 Timothy to help the Bible study or the new church understand God’s design for His church.
10) Pros and Cons of Joining a Denomination
Some additional things to consider would be affiliating with a denomination. The decision should be made carefully and slowly. The doctrine of the denomination must be carefully reviewed. If there are any differences, the new church must not compromise on the truth given to us by the apostles (Jude 3-4, 17). Also, determine how much control the denomination wants of your church and its propriety, if any. Being affiliated with a denomination can be a blessing for mutual support and since many people look for a church affiliated with a denomination that they recognize. They assume the church agrees with the theology of the denomination.
11) Consider Satisfying Government Requirements
If your church is not an underground church, you should consider your government requirements for registering the church. In the United States, churches are usually required to apply to be recognized as an official church or corporation. It is usually recommended to file with the United States IRS for 501(c)3 status. However, as of 2022, that is not required. Yet, there are financial benefits in conducting business with some companies.
Your nation may also require that the church adopt bylaws. A generic set of bylaws are provided for your convenience. However, they are general and will need to be adapted.
These eleven steps do not cover every issue, but they cover the most important. But remember that God does not want the church to be an organization that is primarily concerned with legal requirements and ritual. God wants the church to be an organism that worships Him in spirit and truth. Jesus said this in John 4:23-24,
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24 (NASB)
The purpose of the church is to first give God glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). He established elders for a church for the purpose of providing oversight (1 Peter 5:2), teaching the truths of the Bible so that believers can grow spiritually (1 John 2:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 5:2), defending the truth of the faith (Titus 1:9), being an example of a mature believer (1 Timothy 3:1-7 and worshiping Him (John 4:24; Revelation 22:9b).
Finally, Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:19-20 that we are to be His witnesses.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)
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