The church in Jerusalem had leaders who were raised up by God. After the fourth persecution many were scattered abroad, and they went everywhere preaching the Gospel. These were probably the first missionaries. Among them were Philip, a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. These are two of the basic essentials and credentials of a true servant of God.
No one should launch out into the Lords work without them.
The first Samaritan church was probably established in the city of Samaria.
The exodus of believers from Jerusalem leads us to believe that many Jewish and Samaritan churches were established.
See Acts 9:31—“Then had the churches rest throughout Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.”
The first Gentile church was established in Antioch. Please note that this thriving church was ruled by men of God. Acts 13.
I believe that it is imperative that local churches should be governed by spiritual men, God-appointed elders. An assembly cannot function scripturally apart from elders, neither can it rise above the spirituality of its elders.
Acts 13 and 14 show us how Paul went about establishing local churches. He preached the Gospel and the converts were taught and formed into a church.
Of necessity these newborn churches were then left for a short period. When Paul reached the limits of his missionary exercise, he retraced his steps. He visited the young churches, appointed elders with much prayer and fasting, and then he committed them to the Lord.
The elders were appointed as an expedient in the first instance, but some later abused the office. This necessitated the issuing of explicit instruction regarding the qualification of future elders.
Important Factors in Starting a New Work
The birth of the church at Pentecost was the result of Christ’s suffering and death. The birth of any new local church should be the outcome of the agonizing and deep spiritual exercise of godly men before the Lord.
Brethren, whatever you do, you must have God’s mind on any matter before you can have God’s approval. Your movements must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. They must be for the glory of Christ. They should have the support and prayerful and financial interest of the State Assemblies.
You cannot build a fruitful local church with a few new believers, or with carnal men at the helm. For the spiritual welfare and the expansion of the local church there has to be spiritual leadership, either in the form of a qualified full-time worker or spiritual elders. The ideal is to have both.
Choosing a Full Time Worker
He must be raised and led by the Spirit.
1. He must be a man of God.
2. He must have a heart for the work.
3. He must be a pastor as well as a teacher.
4. He must know how to counsel with people.
5. He must know how to handle and relate to people.
6. He must know how to involve people in the work.
7. He has to be active and yet stay in the background.
He must be a visitor. Personal visitation is a must. Give some experiences here.
The bringing of a full time worker into the area is probably one of the most effective ways of reaching the community but it is fraught with difficulties and pitfalls.
The Birth of a Church
Before considering this very important event, let me remind you that when God wanted an ark to save His own from the flood, He gave Noah implicit instructions and the exact measurements. When God wanted a house in which to dwell on earth He gave Moses the exact details. They were not to be questioned nor altered.
This was God’s work. Man had only to follow His instructions.
Note the unity of these followers as they waited in the upper room. “They were together.” “They continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” Acts 1:13.
v. 14—Note the phrase “with the women.”
When the church was born, note the conditions in which the birth took place.
“They were with one accord in one place”—2:1.
In these circumstances the Holy Spirit was free to move.
There were 120 people in the upper room united in purpose. They were baptized with the Holy Spirit and made one in Christ. This was a miracle—120 isolated individuals who had been living separate lives, are now, by one mighty act, by the Spirit baptized into one body.
Note now the three symbols associated with this event:
1. The Wind—a symbol of invisible power. It is sovereign, mighty, powerful, irresistible, invincible, but it is invisible. These people were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they were endued with power. This is God’s concept of the local church.
2. The Fire—passion and purity. Fire in the OT depicts at least two things: (1) it is a purifier, burning up the dross and waste; (2) it is a symbol for enthusiasm, passion and purpose. If these two elements are present in any local church there will be a hunger for God that will purify the lives of those in fellowship.
3. Tongues which speak of Proclamation. Those baptized into one body, filled with the Holy Spirit, lost no time in proclaiming the Good News. The first proclamation of the Gospel was presented miraculously in 15 different languages.
Each time we read of the apostles or the church being filled with the Holy Spirit they always spoke or proclaimed the Gospel with boldness, clarity and power. This is a picture of what every local church should be today. The epitome of power, passion and proclamation.
Against the picture of the biblical birth of the church there are many new things springing up. My considered judgment of these is that although they were launched with the best of intentions they have gotten out of hand, they are not of God. They are simply gratifying to the flesh.
Having said that, let me hasten to say that many assemblies are not remiss in adding confession to the chaotic religious scene. We lag behind other evangelistic groups where once we were leaders. Our evangelical zeal has waned and in many cases is non-existent. We seem to be sinking into an introverted exclusivism.