While this will probably be the last post I make here on this subject for a little while, there are still tons of issues to deal with, such as
- When do I express concern or dissent and when do I simply stay quiet and pray for my pastors and elders?
- What's the difference between stirring up trouble and seeking to stand up for the Gospel and the church?
- How much is too much?
Question: Supposed someone decides to START a church? Independently. He is doctrinally correct and builds, starting with a gathering in his household.And this is a regular bombshell, because above all the pontificating about whatever it is I'm talking about here, we're baptists on this blog. We believe in a sort of rugged missionary model where one person (ironically, not always a guy) can go forth and be a witness to some nation even to the ends of the Earth. Doesn't that carry over to the problem of having a fairly churchless "nation" right here in my town?
Knowing there are several risks involved, how about this as a true option? It appears in the NT they had house churches under Apostolic authority. Now can we have house churches under Scriptural authority?
Any part of this issue I'm missing? (I say this as a happy church member, 23 years same place; just interested)
We could -- well, I could -- probably do a solid week on this topic alone, but let me sort of bullet-point a few things which ought to be useful to somebody, and the rest can go to the meta or to some future series. I have a feeling that I'll be carrying the load next week as well, so maybe some of this can get fleshed out there.
So the major heading over these bullet points is this:
What does the decision to START a local church look like?
1. Does another church solve the problem?
See: I live in a town where there are about 15,000 people and 60 distinct churches -- 62, by my last survey. And all things being equal, that really isn't too bad if the average church in town really did only have 250 people in it. But the last church to be established here was due to a split over something utterly non-doctrinal and non-practical. It was over something that's not even mentioned in the Bible or frankly ought to be a point of contention between believers. I won't tell you what it was because it is so ridiculously petty, but I'll give you a parallel example: imagine that some church is willing to split over whether or not the means of taking up the collection is to pass your cash to the center aisle and dump it on the floor or to pass a plate as is done anywhere the collection is taken in an orderly fashion.
They split over something that ridiculous.
Does starting another church solve the problem of the plain hardness of heart evident in that split? My opinion is "no, it does not." So before you "start a local church", make sure you are starting a church and not a clubhouse for fussy prigs.
2. Does another church meet the need?
For example, our church has planted -- in our own facility -- a Spanish-speaking church, with a Spanish-speaking pastor, which meets (by his request) after our main service lets out. It meets later like that because -- in his words -- the Hispanics prefer to sleep in on Sunday, and not for some other less-savory reason. This church meets and worships in Spanish only rather than in English, and it is growing.
If we had invited these primarily Spanish-speaking people to our all-English services, they would have never come. But we established a church -- with the help of our convention, to be sure, to find the right man -- to meet a specific need apparent in our community. They are welcome among us, and the Gospel is spoken there.
Starting a new church has to meet a spiritual need in the community -- and a language barrier is a spiritual need.
3. Am I a missionary?
The purist will say -- and some people will interpret me to be a kind of purist, but I am not this kind -- that every single Christian is a missionary. Well, that's true in the sense that we are all called upon to give a defense of the hope that lies within us with gentleness and reverence, amen? But not every single Christian is called to be the kind of pastor and teacher it takes to set up shop for a new church.
Mark Driscoll, it seems to me, has found out the hard way that it's not as easy as it looks to do (on a first or second reading) what it appears Paul and Barnabas did back in the day. I think that's part of the reason he started Acts29 -- to keep young guys from making the kinds of physically and spiritually painful mistakes that he did, and that he has witnessed so many other guys do.
So you have to be the right kind of person, gifted beyond just normal pastoral scope, to start a church.
Or, you have to have a lot of help, which brings me to ...
4. Have you been sent?
One thing about being an SBCite is the comfort in the knowledge that we are sending people -- not just shipping them out, but sending them with material support and some spiritual back-up and accountability. No, it is not nearly perfect. However, it seems to me that if you are a missionary, you ought to be sent in some way. Someone besides your dog should agree with you that you are gifted and going for the right reasons. Someone should be willing to help you bear the spiritual burden through prayer and accountability in doctrine and practice. Someone should be willing put up part of your material needs. Someone should be willing to make sure your new local church is actually a church and not a cult.
Part of being sent is a commitment to being faithful not just in theory but in practice and in purpose. When Paul writes to Titus, the first thing he tells him is, "that's why I sent you there", and then enumerates that Titus is tasked with raising up men who will be faithful to the Gospel in the same way he is faithful to the Gospel -- and that, for the parallel purposes of edifying the church and overcoming false teachers.
A missionary is plugged back in to some kind of check switch for his fidelity. A network of grounded, mature friends is a way to do this -- people who will stay close to you and, in the right way, grill you on your teaching and practice. T4G foundationally is seeking to establish this kind of (a-hem) organic network of accountability -- to bring men of right-mind and like-mind together so that they may encourage one another and keep each other grounded in the only foundation, which is Christ Jesus.
You don't need another church to "send" you, but that's the most obvious way to be sent.
If these are the majors, there are probably 10,000 minors which might occur to you. These seem to be the theologically-basic points to me. If a church does not solve a problem, meet a need, and have a missionary to set it up who is sent in some meaningful way, maybe it's not the right way to go.
You might have another idea about this, and I'd be glad to hear you say it and defend it. Until then, be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day, and try to get the Gospel out over there. I'm sure they need it as much as you do.