Acts 16:5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
Starting a church is one thing. Seeing that newly planted church take root and become firmly established in a community is another. Many churches are STARTED. Far, far less become ESTABLISHED.
Allow me to give three suggestions concerning what is needed to establish a church. I readily admit there are no doubt other things to consider, and that there are probably exceptions, but I believe that, on the whole, these suggestions will hold true:
1. A NEW CHURCH NEEDS SOME FAMILIES AND INDIVIDUALS WHO WILL BECOME PILLARS IN THE CHURCH.
- Galatians 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars…
A pillar is a “supporter; that which sustains or upholds; that on which some superstructure rests.” Samson showed the Philistines the danger of putting an entire structure on just two pillars, and yet many new churches rest totally on the shoulders of the pastor and his wife. This is often how it must be at first – but for a church to become established, it needs some solid, dependable, faithful, supportive people who can bear the weight of the church’s ministry.
I thank God for the pillar families of LBC, Wylie. Their faithfulness in attendance, in financial giving, and in service – humanly speaking, of course – allow our ministry to function. Many have come and gone; these have stayed. And not only stayed, but stood in their place and become integral parts of the church ministry.
I would suggest to church planters to focus on people with character and get them in and involved in the church. These may or may not be new converts – but they are the ones who are there, who want to be involved, and who are either dependable or becoming so. Those are the people who will one day run bus routes, teach classes, serve, lead, and support the ministry.
It is easy to go overboard on ministries in a new church. The problem is that the pastor sometimes goes beyond the ability of the church to sustain so many ministries. Often it is the pastor and his wife upholding every aspect of the church program. The wise builder will not allow the superstructure to exceed the load-bearing ability of the pillars (please see my article on “The Small Church and Multiplied Ministries”). These pastors may one day learn a lesson from Samson – when those two pillars are pulled down, the whole house comes down with it.
II. A NEW CHURCH NEEDS ITS OWN PROPERTY AND BUILDING.
We know that a church is not a building. We know that historically, Baptists did not have buildings for a long, long time. We also know that churches do better when they have a building – even a small and inadequate one. In fact, a small church filling up a small building is more conducive to building enthusiasm and excitement than a small church rattling around in a building that is too large.
I believe that independent Baptists would do well if we would focus on getting new churches into buildings of their own. Sometimes, a new church will spend tens of thousands of dollars renovating a storefront and renting a facility. Perhaps if we could figure out a way to spend that money on a down payment for an acre or two and a small, unfinished building – to be “finished” by the new church as it grows. I don’t claim to have the answer for this, but perhaps we could give it some thought – and perhaps some large, established churches or some wealthy Baptist businessmen could finance such works.
III. THE PASTOR NEEDS TO BE FULL-TIME.
Please don’t be offended if you are bi-vocational. I thank God for bi-vocational pastors. When we started LBC, I still worked full time driving a forklift or pallet jack on a freight dock, and later I had a part time job to get through a tough place. So I applaud your willingness to sacrifice and serve. Many of my best friends are bi-vocational and I love and respect them and their work.
However, churches need to understand their responsibility to support their pastor. He is their first financial priority:
- 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? (14) Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
The Old Testament house of God was supported by the tithes and offerings of God’s people. The servants, services and structures were supported by the tithes. “EVEN SO HATH THE LORD ORDAINED” carries us clearly into the New Testament house of God, where the servants, services and structures are also to be supported by the tithes and offerings of God’s people. Let the mammon-lovers scream about it all they want – this is the only plan God has given us in the New Testament for the support of His church. He doesn’t send a check in the mail to support the pastor or pay the electric bill. He expects the church to take care of their own responsibilities.
In starting LBC, I was greatly helped by some senior saints who insisted that I be paid a salary from the beginning and weren’t afraid to call for a “raise” when the offerings increased. Too often, however, the pastor is left “twisting in the wind.” The pastor does not want to bring up the issue and appear to be a hireling, and there is no one in church leadership to speak on his behalf. If you are a trustee or deacon or leader in your church, please consider the needs of the pastor and his family, and don’t be afraid to speak up for him in the church business meeting.
I understand that there are many differences in opinions, but my own observations of current churches and history tell me that when the church takes care of the pastor, and the pastor is a good steward, God will bless that church. The church will be ESTABLISHED.
I would also add that all of these steps TAKE TIME. Churches are not often established in six months today. If you are dealing with new converts, it will take time. Perhaps several years. In fact, for many church planters, it is the fifth year that has often been a turning point in their ministry.
Thank you for reading. God bless.