What it takes to start a new congregation

Note: I published this article almost 15 years ago, on a third-party site, in the early days of Forthright Magazine. We republish it today, with a few tweaks, to give thanks for the Taubaté congregation, to encourage others to preach the gospel in every place, and to remind ourselves as we prepare for yet another church plant in the city of Jacareí.

Next Sunday, we’re beginning a new work in a major city near us, called Taubaté. This city has 250,00 population, with no church there yet.

Three couples of us met there yesterday, in a home, to worship together and plan ahead. I preached on what it takes to start a congregation from Acts 2. Let me encourage you to read this chapter before continuing.

Some years ago, there was a beginning made to establish a congregation in this city. A piece of ground was bought for future construction. But the work stopped and the beginning died. During all these years, the lot has remained empty, unused, almost lost.

We are not here to condemn that effort. We are here to consider what is necessary to our effort so that our beginning will not end like theirs.

Let us consider, then, from Acts 2, the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ, what is necessary to begin a congregation that will continue and grow.

First, there must be a message.

Not just any message, but the message of Christ must be proclaimed. Somebody must preach it. That somebody must be me. And you. All of us together.

This message, by its very nature, explains what God did in Christ to rescue man and how a person may receive salvation. It includes exhortation or encouragement to act, to save oneself. Preaching seeks a reaction, a response from the hearer.

God works to get people to hear the message. He did it miraculously in Jerusalem and in some other places, in the first century. Today, he wants his people out in the midst of the world, getting people’s attention. Face to face.

When the gospel is preached, people convert to the Lord, and God adds them to his church. Thus, a church, a congregation in a particular place, is “born”.

Second, there must be a meeting.

The word church, in its active sense, means “assembly, a congregating, meeting.” We are the people of God united around the table of the Lord.

The breaking of bread is the number 1 reason for our meeting, Acts 20.7. We meet on Sunday in order that Jesus may drink the new wine with us, Matthew 26.29.

It is probably not insignificant that the church began with a meeting, Acts 2.1. As a church, we must regularly meet “all together in one place.”

In order to have a meeting, we must have a place, though that is an incidental consideration. Whether it’s a building, a home, a school – any place that permits Christians to worship is adequate for the purpose.

[In Taubaté, we began in a home. Our newest work, in Urbanova, is also in a home. The planned church in Jacareí will be in a home. There are many advantages to this.]

Third, there must be a mettle.

Those who preach and meet must be dedicated. Without commitment and consistency, little will be done.

This commitment follows the apostles’ teachings and offers up constant prayer for the wisdom and power of God, Acts 2.42.

This devotion uses physical resources and money for spiritual purposes.

This mettle is not turned aside by persecution, nor broken by discouragement.

Some 10-12 years ago, in another city in Brazil, two couples wanted to begin a congregation in their neighborhood. They decided to begin a study group in one of their homes. They committed themselves to meet every week, rain or shine, to share the gospel with people they would meet.

They preached, they met, they showed their mettle.

Today, they are a large congregation with elders and deacons.

Will you preach the gospel? Will you meet as a church? Will you assume the commitment to fulfill God’s mission in this city? If so, there will be not only the beginning of a congregation, but great growth in God’s kingdom.

That was the gist of my sermon yesterday.

Why do I share this with you?

First, to point you to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ and the need to obey the gospel, Acts 2.38. If you haven’t done so yet, believe in Christ, decide to change your life, and be immersed in water so that your sins may be forgiven.

Second, to remind you, if you are a Christian, that every person, every city, every region, needs the gospel. Preach and meet regularly and faithfully, in a new place with dedication. Only in this way will everyone hear.

Third, to ask for your prayers, as one more city hears the gospel. Our resources are meager, but our determination is sharp, and, more importantly, our God is great and powerful.

We see this in the beginning of the church in Acts 2. And we believe we will see it also in the beginning of the church in Taubaté.

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