Friday, October 06, 2006

Practical considerations for starting a local church

Don Hart and Wade Myers, both of Texas, have been through the process of starting family integrated churches in their respective towns. Don started out by discussing the important of starting well by first ending well at the previous church. "It is difficult for a project to finish well when it starts poorly," he said, "and it is not right to establish a church on a foundation of broken relationships in the previous places."

Don told how he left a church his grandparents founded and his father served as deacon for forty years. He said though he had deep roots in the church and loved it dearly, he began to realize that some of the church's practices were in opposition to his family's convictions about their household. Could they even hope to change the practices of this old church? He was convinced that the "disappearing act” was destructive, and that members have a duty to appeal for change first, so he and other men within the church petitioned for changes from their present leaders.

Ultimately the older church decided not to change, so Don sought their blessing in leaving to start a new congregation. This was given, and a new family integrated church was the result.

Don stressed that while there are valid reasons to leave a church, from job relocation to pastoral apostasy, but he said we don't have a right to disappear without appealing, nor to win in a fleshly manner. “We tend to think that good intentions make up for wrong methodologies," he said. "The proper way to seek change is not to build coalitions and work the system."

When starting a new church, there is usually a honeymoon as we celebrate our common beliefs, but eventually there will be conflicts on any number of issues, including music, dress, and doctrinal standards. The same process as a proper leave-taking apply – pray and work together in love and patience to establish a resolution. People can leave without hating those who stay behind.

It is important to set out your doctrinal beliefs. The whole church doesn't have to believe exactly the same thing, but the elders need to be very close. Both churches discussed today are using the 1689 Confession as their statement.

Wade Myers took the podium and shared his experience leaving a church and starting a new work in Houston with Don's counsel. Don and his father shared their view of critical issues to be maintained -- elder unity, inerrancy of Scripture, conflict resolution, family leadership of the fathers -- “the quality of the worship on Sunday has everything to do with the worship taking place in the family during the week.” --, well prepared messages, music, and hymnals.

One thing to consider is that the family integrated church model appeals mainly to homeschooling families because it is so consistent with what these families are already doing. It's not intended to start a homeschooling church, but that's the sort of families who tend to respond. Parents have to be committed to shepherding their children during the worship service, though.

Consistent prayers are for God to raise up elders among us and for men to be consistent leading their families in devotions. Both men pointed out that there are likely to be conflicts fairly early in the church's life, and that resolving them with Christlike maturity may result in some departures but a stronger body at the end.

On seeking elders, Wade said that frequently you will find men who really desire to be an elder but not with a Biblical desire; the best candidates are often humble enough that you may not notice them. They devised a candidate questionnaire to send to the elder candidate's references, they visited the candidates in their homes, and tested them from the 1689, chapter by chapter. After that, they named two men as provisional elders for a trial period; Wade suggested as much as 12 to 18 months to test the candidate in this role. The church, on the other hand, has to be aware of the tremendous burden of eldership, and minister to these men and their families as they are ministering to the church.

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