Starting a Local Church
What is a local church?
It is important to meet with other Christians if possible. This makes it much easier to grow closer to our Lord Jesus, to learn, and to work with others in doing what he wants. It is good to pray and to praise God together. Christians should help and encourage each other.
The Christian Church is made up of all Christians, living and dead. It includes millions of local churches - each a group of people who meet together as Christians. Many of these local churches, but not all, are joined together in what are called denominations - such as Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox etc. Each denominaton does things in its own way - there is no universal pattern for what a local church should do.
If you have decided to become a Christian find a local church. If there are several near you to choose from ask God to guide you to where he wants you.
But sometimes e-mails come to us from people who have decided to become a Christian, but where there is no local Christian church anywhere near them. Usually these are people in Moslem countries.
If there is no local church and there are several Christians near you then start a local church.
This page is written to help new Christians who cannot find a local church near them and need to start one. It is not to tell you what to do, but we hope it will help.
Remember that if you accept Christ it does not mean that you need to accept western culture or run a church as a copy of how it is done in the western world. Some people from a Moslem background who have believed in Jesus call themselves Isahi Moslem - they are still in submission to God, but through Jesus. They call their meetings Isa jamaats. Worship God through Jesus in the way that helps you most.
Purpose of a Local Church.
A local church has many purposes. Some of these are to:
Help Christians to grow in their faith and to know the Lord Jesus better
Help to learn more about what the Bible says
Enable Christians to encourage and help each other
Provide opportunity for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be used
Let Christians pray and worship together
Bring other people to become Christians
Let Christians work together to help other people
Teach children (and women if they are not present in the main church meetings)
The Bible talks about local churches soon after Jesus was raised from death, in Acts and in Paul's letters, from Romans to 2 Timothy.
Even then local churches were not all the same. What we can see is:
Some met in people's houses Romans 16 v 3-5
They read from the Bible 2 Timothy 3 v 16-17
They baptised new Christians 1 Corinthians 1 v 13-16
They ate the Lord's supper together 1 Corinthians 11 v 17-33 (Before he was crucified Jesus told his followers to eat and drink together in memory of him Luke 22 v 14-20)
Lots of people took part in the meetings 1 Corinthians 14 v 26-28
The gifts of the Holy Spirit were used in the meetings 1 Corinthians 14 v 39
Meetings were to be led by God's Holy Spirit, and to be run in an orderly and respectful manner. As part of this Paul wrote that women were to keep silent 1 Corinthians 14 v 33-35 (In the west nowadays this is not usually the case, people thinking that this was to fit in with the culture of the time and is no longer relevant)
They collected money for the poor 1 Corinthians 16 v 1-2
People taught about Jesus Acts 20 v 7
Churches need to have leaders, but be careful - Jesus said we should not want to be important but to be servants. Matthew 18 v 4, Matthew 23 v 11-12. The aim should always be to help others, not to rule over them.
In the early church there were elders and deacons in local churches, and bishops and apostles looking after many churches.
Advice on who should be church leaders is mainly in Titus 1 v 5-9 and 1 Timothy 3 v 1-12
Elders were men taking a spiritual lead and responsibility for the church
Deacons were responsible for the practical working of the church. Responsibilities might include arranging the meeting place, collecting & distributing the money, ensuring that people are cared for etc. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a deacon. Acts 7
But everyone in a church has some gifts and should be given opportunity to use these. Examples are being able to teach children, to tell others about Jesus, music, gifts of God's Holy Spirit (as in 1 Corinthians 12v4-11)
What to do
There is no need to copy what any other local church does, and it is best to keep in the culture you are used to and not try to copy weatern ideas. Keep close to the pattern in which you are used to meeting before God, but change the worship to concentrate on Jesus.
Meet together at a convenient time. Generally Christians meet on Sunday, as that is the day when God raised Jesus from death, but when to meet is not important.
Praise God. It is usual for Christians to sing. If it is not safe to sing or speak aloud God will hear you even in whispers. It is probably best to use music in a tradition you are used to rather than to adopt foreign songs which you are not comfortable with. God may give someone in the church the gift of being able to write songs of praise to Him. Ephesians 5 v 19. You may like to use the songs of praise in the Boook of Psalms.
Pray to God - again in the manner in which you are most comfortable. You may prefer to keep to the position you are used to praying in. Either all pray out loud together or someone lead the prayer as seems best. On the page "What should I do when I have become a Christian?" is the prayer Jesus taught his followers when they asked him "How should we pray?", and you can use this prayer.
Eat together the Lord's Supper to remember Jesus. You can do this as a full meal or as a small symbolic piece of bread and a sip of wine (or something non-alcoholic if preferred). You must decide whether to do this every time you meet or less often.
Give opportunity for God's Holy Spirit to work among you. There may be someone who has a prophecy, someone who needs prayer for healing or other matters, an evil spirit to be cast out, a message in a strange language to be translated or other gift of theSpirit to be used.
Collect money to be used to help the poor and to meet any church needs.
Possibly there should be a separate meeting for teaching children.
If there are new believers in Jesus to be baptised this can be done in a church meeting or elsewhere if preferred.
1 Cor 14 v 26-39 talks about church meetings.
There is no urgency to do this as soon as a church starts, but it is good for a church to have written down what they believe. This is to avoid arguments and to avoid people who do not share the church's beliefs from infiltrating and causing trouble. It is best if everyone joining the church has to agree to the Statement of Belief.
There are many such statements of belief. Two possible ones which could be used follow.
A short one, probably the best for a new local church, is:
Jesus is Lord and Saviour. The Bible is God's holy word.
A longer statement is the Apostles' Creed. This was written by Jesus's 12 apostles (his closest followers), though added to over the years. It is used by many churches.
- I believe in God, the Father almighty,
- creator of heaven and earth.
- I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
- who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
- born of the Virgin Mary,
- suffered under Pontius Pilate,
- was crucified, died, and was buried;
- he descended to the dead.
- On the third day he rose again;
- he ascended into heaven,
- he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
- and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- the holy catholic Church,
- the communion of saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- and the life everlasting.
If you are going to write a new statement of belief pray a lot for God's guidance. It is something that should come from God and not just be from man's thinking, and must be what the Bible says.
You may want to have a list of members of the church, with only those who are members being allowed to do certain things such as preaching or teaching or helping to make certain decisions. This can avoid someone who is against you from infiltrating and causing problems. However you may think it not safe to have such a list in writing.
Click here for What is a Christian?
Click here for Why should I become a Christian?
Click here for How do I become a Christian?
Click here for Why not become a Christian?
Click here for What should I do when I have become a Christian?
Click here for What is the Bible?
Click here for What if I am a Moslem?
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