Church Planting Essentials – The Group Process

An essential skill set for church planters is the ability to form, develop, and equip groups.  It is through groups that churches are established, maintained, and replicated.  Engaging, understanding, and obeying Scripture is best done through a group process.  Groups, when established properly, are self correcting, and minimize syncretism or heresy.  It is understood that all new groups have problems, but we are confident that the Holy Spirit will work to correct these problems if we have established a context in which He can speak.  It is believed this context is a group who studies the Word of God together and holds each other accountable for obeying the Word of God.
 

Groups need to be trained in the group process.  It is my experience that many leaders in church planting do not understand the group process and cannot train a group in the process.  It must be understood that the only materials a group will engage is the Bible.  If other materials are used in the initial stages of becoming and developing a church, then the group will rely on outside leadership and will not become self-correcting or self-replicating.  The rationale for this comes from John 6:44-45 (NIV).
 

44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,and I will raise him up at the last day.  45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.”
 
Groups must listen to and learn from God, not outside leaders.  When they do listen to and learn from God, they come to Christ.  The only way I know to learn from God is to study and apply His Word, the Holy Bible.  It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Bible is understood and obeyed.  This process is best when done in groups.
 

Groups that will become self-correcting and self-replicating must be led by inside leaders.  If the outsider leads the group in person or through books or materials other than the Word of God, then the group will look to the outsider for explanation and verification of all lessons learned.  And the group will effectively learn that it requires an outsider to understand the Word of God, lead new groups, and start more groups.  Teaching methodologies, instead of discovery methodologies, often lead to dependence on outside leaders.
 

The moment a group is established the outside leader must begin the process of equipping the group to lead itself.  The outside leader becomes the coach for the inside leaders.  This happens the first week.  Non-Believers can lead groups if they are facilitating a group discovery process rather than teaching lessons from the Bible.  I would never want a lost person to teach the Bible, but a lost person can lead a group in discovering what the Bible says.  The outside leader can coach the group to ask the right questions in an Inductive Bible Study discovery process.  The outside leader monitors the process until it is functioning properly.  The outside leader also maintains an on-going mentoring relationship with the leaders who emerge from the group.
 

In the group process the inside leaders are trained to deal only with the text at hand.  The first year or so this text is selected for its clarity and simplicity.  What does the Scripture simply tell us about God, man, sin, redemption, grace, fellowship, good works and etc.?  How do we simply obey what has been discovered in our Bible study?  How can we tell our family, friends, and neighbors about what we have learned about God?
 

From the first day of a group the members of the group are encouraged to discuss the stories or passages studied from the Word of God.  In security sensitive areas this process uses the chronological storytelling approach.  In other circumstances an oral Bible or audio Bible may be used.  But, the point is to get the group to process the material together and develop a group understanding of the meaning, and then share what they have learned with their community.  Again, in a security sensitive areas, form and methodology matter.  I do not believe secrecy should be a part of the process.
 

Teach and encourage the inside leaders to talk about what they have learned about God.  Help them to share in appropriate ways the lessons they are learning with the community.  Secrecy builds distrust and suspicion.  Openness about what one is learning creates dialogue and trust.  Again, how one shares with the community is important.
 

We train our friends and inside leaders to simply state, “I learned something interesting about God, today.”  Then they wait until they are asked about what they have learned.  This gives them permission to share.  In the Inductive Bible Study process they have been trained to put the Word of God into their own words for sharing to others outside the group.  They practice their own words within the group to make sure they have not changed the meaning.  This makes the sharing more natural, and insures that the one doing the sharing understands what is being shared. 
 

(You can learn more about the Inductive Bible Study process on our training website www.cpmtr.org.  I will also be saying more about Inductive Bible Study on my blog www.davidlwatson.org.)
 

I cannot stress enough how important the group process is to church planting that self replicates.  Personal Evangelism Models rely on individuals winning, teaching and training individuals.  This requires a teaching methodology because none of us want to see lost people teaching the Bible.  Personal Evangelism Models cannot lead to self replication.  When is a person qualified to teach the Bible? 
 

Small Group Discovery Models can replicate because they do not depend on a teacher, but on mentors who equip the group to discover for themselves the simple truths of the Word of God and implement (obey) these truths in their own lives, and share these truths with their communities.  Training a group to ask the right questions is not difficult, and it easily replicated.  Depending on the Holy Spirit to do His work, however, is an act of faith many find difficult to practice.
 

Church Planting is a God thing.  Our job is to introduce Him to others and allow Him to do His thing.  The best way I know to do this is to get groups to study selected passages of the Bible and to discover for themselves what God wants them to know, and listen to God for themselves.  When they do this they are drawn to Christ and churches are established.
 

If you want to see lots of churches started, learn how to do self-lead groups who discover the Word of God, discuss what it means, and endeavor to obey what is learned.  You may select the passages of Scripture they learn from in the beginning, but soon they will be ranging far and wide through the Word of God, and struggling on their own to obey it.  This produces church.
 

Blessings!
 

David Watson
From Sweden 

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