The Scriptural Way to Organize Churches
by David M. Green
This article is the result of many questions being brought up in our ranks today. I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us as we think on this subject. This subject is a wonderful subject that I love very much. It goes right along with Baptist Church History.
The New Testament gives us the true and only way that a true Baptist Church can be started.
The first Baptist church was started by our head, Jesus Christ. This first church was in Jerusalem.
Luke 6:12-16 "And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor."
1 Corinthians 12:28 "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."
Matthew 16:18 "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
HE (Jesus Christ) is the only One with the authority to start a church. Nobody else has that authority from God. If a church traces its line back to a man other than Him, that church is very much unscriptural. (Yes, I do believe in a chain link succession of churches! That is what the scripture teaches.) I also know that many times it is hard for a church to trace its line all the way back. However, if its line ever goes back to a person, it is not right.
Acts 13:1-5 "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister."
Notice, if you will the wording of these verses: The Holy Spirit worked through the church as well as Paul and Barnabas (v.1-2). The church responded by sending them out (v. 3). By saying "...laid their hands on them and sent them away.", we can see who sent them away: The Holy Spirit as well as the church at Antioch! It was not the church only, but neither was it only by the Holy Spirit. The church and the Holy Spirit worked together in this matter (v. 3-4). Paul and Barnabas responded by going forth, with the proper church authority.
Later, we find Paul and Barnabas back in Antioch, giving a report to their church! Notice the following:
Acts 14:26-28 "And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples."
"...they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles..."(v. 27) This word rehearse comes from the Greek anaggello, and means "to tell (declare, report, show, or speak) freely, openly or eminently." This means that they gave their report to the entire church. They did not just tell a few people in the church, they did not tell the pastor only, but they told everyone there. They told of what churches had been organized, what people had been saved, and the trials that occurred to them during their journeys. In doing so, they show us the proper way for a missionary to work.
So, through these few verses, we can see how it works. (1) The Holy Spirit sends out missionaries with the proper church authority. (2) That missionary goes forth preaching and teaching, and organizing churches with the authority of the church that sent him out. He does not do this in and of himself, but he does it through his church. (3) He is to report everything to his home church.
WHAT ABOUT THE TERM 'MOTHER CHURCH?'
This is what has caused much division among our churches at the moment. One false doctrine that a mother church is not needed because this term is not scriptural. It states that chain-link succession is not scriptural. One brother has a paper that is sent all over, and it could be used as good, but he isn't using it properly. I do not see mother church as being unscriptural, but my opinion is not what matters. Let's see what the Bible says.
Galatians 4:26 "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all."
If you can recall, the first Baptist Church was in Jerusalem. This is the only way that "Jerusalem..is the mother of us all." Jerusalem is not our mother in any way, but the first church was there, and hence she was our MOTHER CHURCH. This first church organized other churches, these organized more... Throughout approx. 2000 years, there have been Christ's true church. Baptists have been known by various names, but there have always been Baptists since that day when Christ organized the church. (Baptists have always been separate from Catholicism)
The people who hold to these false views of church organization say that in apostolic times, men went forth with doctrines organizing churches without any form of authority. They go on to say that these "churches" sprang up without the other churches knowing it. These were "private Christians. This would be confusing, and God's churches would have died out long ago, if this is the way it was to be done.
1 Corinthians 14:33 "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
Notice, God is not the author of confusion.. Would it not be total confusion if 'churches' sprang up everywhere without any kind of a system to follow? Do you serve a God who started His church, and then left it for men to perpetuate it? Or do you believe that Jesus, being our Head and Founder, the Almighty God, was able to perpetuate it Himself. Even during the time of the apostles? These are some serious questions that need to be asked when studying this subject.
1 Corinthians 14:40 "Let all things be done decently and in order."
God has an order for everything! Here we are told to let ALL things be done decently and in order.
Matthew 28:16-20 "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Who was Jesus talking to in this passage? He was speaking to his 11 disciples, but only as a church. If Christ was talking to those 11 disciples as individuals, they failed miserably, because they did not quite make it to all nations. However, the passage here was written to His church. It is our marching orders. We are to go to every nation, preaching the gospel, baptizing the saved, and teaching the saved. This cannot be done outside the church's authority. Notice for a moment the wording of verse 18: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." This means that Jesus Christ has all authority. I am sure that every Baptist agrees with me on that point. Now on to verse 19: "Go ye therefore..." When you see the word therefore, go to the verses before it to see what it is "there for." Jesus had the authority from heaven to start His church. In starting this church, He passed the authority on to the church at Jerusalem. Therefore, we are to go into all the world. All these other organizations and denominations
have no authority. Only a properly organized Baptist Church has God-given authority to go forth proclaiming the gospel in a lost and dying world.
Ephesians 3:21 "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
As I draw this article to a close, let me just point out that to say that God's way of organizing churches is for men to do so, means that Jesus Christ wasted part of his ministry here on earth. He started His church, which is known as the Baptist church, while He was on the earth. As for chain-link succession, it is not always possible to find each and every record, but it is not entirely impossible. Just as man cannot destroy every Bible, neither can man totally destroy God's Churches and their records. If it was ever so, it would make God a liar.
May God bless His Word and His True Churches everywhere.