Reproducible Church Formation

This lesson is intended to help us understand five basic questions that we want to ask as we think about the church and then understand a Biblical answer to each question:

Start by having each person in your group memorize and show the questions that are correlated to each finger on their hand.

Who is the church?

Let’s start by reading the Bible to understand who the church is intended to be. Read together the following passages:

  • 1 Peter 2:4-5
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
  • Ephesians 5:21-33

Discussion

  • How does the Bible describe the church?
  • What is the significance of each of these descriptions?

The answer to this question encompasses the many word pictures given in scripture: the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-­31), the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-­33), the people of God, God’s household, and a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-­10).

Acts 2:41 shows us the entry point for the formation of the first New Testament churches. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

Three initial teaching points exist in this verse.

First, when the message was presented, those the Lord called, accepted his message. By faith these first 3000 were added to the family of God through the sacrifice of Christ. Their identity in Christ did not stop there, only accepting the message. They also chose to identify themselves with Christ’s body in his death, burial and resurrection through baptism.

This truth creates a second teaching point for us in this verse. Those who accepted the message were baptized. Baptism immediately follows acceptance. The point of emphasis is on both the immediate inclusion of some who
in Acts 2:36-­37 are said to have murdered Jesus, and the clear precedent of baptism after acceptance. This shows us that there is no need to live up to any standard as prerequisite to baptism, as no greater sin can be imagined than literally killing Jesus, the author of salvation.

The Bible says that those who were baptized were “added to their number.” This means they had a recognizable membership in the church. They knew who was in and who was not, who believed and who did not. The church is open to minister to all but exclusively formed around those who have followed the Lord Jesus in obedience, the first steps of which are acceptance and baptism.

When do we meet?

We don’t believe that the answer to this question can be definitively identified in the Bible. The precedent of the first church in Jerusalem would point to daily meetings (Acts 2:46). What can be stated, however, is the need for a regular plan for meeting.

Hebrews 10:24-­25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another ­­ and all the more
as you see the Day approaching.”

Many cultures not known as “time oriented” have struggled with this question. The question for us as cross­-cultural workers is: should such a schedule be imposed? The answer here should err on the side of freedom. Timing and length of service is not mandated in scripture. Consistency, however, is a must among new believers from belief systems that promote private worship. The goal is to establish the habit of meeting and seems to be the command of Hebrews 10.

We believe that each new church start should set a time and day for regular meeting at least once per week. As a new family is created, our lives together should be set apart and considered as holy unto the Lord.

Where do churches meet?

Let’s look at the following scriptures to determine what the Bible says about where the churches met:

  • Acts 2:46
  • Acts 5:42
  • Acts 16:40
  • Acts 17:5-7
  • Acts 18:7
  • Acts 19:9
  • Acts 20:20
  • Romans 16:1-5
  • 1 Corinthians 16:19
  • Colossians 4:15
  • Philemon 1:1-2

Discussion

  • Where did the churches meet?
  • What does it mean for our churches?

In each case, the New Testament precedent is clear. In fact, no other venues exist in scripture. Following the example of scripture means churches meet in homes. Take time with your disciples or church planting team to discuss reasons for homes as the venue for church. This exercise can create valuable discussion, but may not be needed for the pioneer person of peace who is likely to simply follow scripture. Challenge the believers in your church. Would they be willing to offer their home for expanding the kingdom? Hosting a new Bible study, or the willingness to host a church fits the biblical precedent established in the study above.

Why do we gather as a church?

The answer here should align with our primary motive for everything that we do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.”

This is a simple instruction for the church. Every activity the church participates in should pass the 1 Corinthians 10:31 test. Anything not committed to glorifying God is outside the realm of healthy church activity. This simple instruction is the charge of every believer. Mutual accountability to this command must be the “DNA” of our churches. This is the only pure motive. Anything less is an impure offering.

The scripture also offers mutual accountability and encouragement as a motive for the habit of meeting together. Hebrews 10:24­25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Vision, accountability and encouragement are resources that must be regularly renewed. Like food for the body, or fuel for a machine, these benefits of body life keep us moving in the right direction. Do not forsake the assembly! Among converts of eastern religions, which view worship as an individual right, corporate worship and accountability may be new concepts. While the Holy Spirit will generate an intrinsic motive for fellowship, the habit of meeting corporately must be modeled. Doing so will expose new believers to the intended benefits of body life detailed in Hebrews 10:24­25.

What does a church do?

Let’s read these three scriptures to understand what the Bible says that the church did:

  • Acts 2:36-47
  • Acts 11:19-26
  • Acts 13:1-3

We can use a simple tool here to help us identify those things that the church did. Here is a video that focuses on Acts 2 that will help us understand how we can create the Church Circle:

We are suggesting these functions as a starting point for the house of peace where the church will begin. New believers, or families of new believers should be expected to reproduce these functions are the starting point of a new church. Once this level of healthy church function exists, self­-awareness, or a corporate commitment to identity as the body of Christ, remains as a necessary qualifier of church.

Church function will proceed maturity. This means that the activities of a church, in obedience to the Christ’s commands, are the starting point for church. This does not discount the need for formal church identity, leadership, or church discipline as believers stray from healthy function. Each of these elements of
maturity will necessarily follow and help to bring order to a body’s obedience to the Lord’s commands.

For this reason, the church planter should evaluate the intended results of beginning discipleship. Introduction and expectation of obedience to the Lord’s commands are a catalyst to healthy church function and can be expected from
the beginning. Corporate obedience as a church adds the elements of body life demonstrated in the first church recorded in Acts 2:36-­47.