Fri, 04/25/2008 – 03:14 — David Watson
One of the most difficult transitions to make is the move from relating to just the Person of Peace to the affinity group of the Person of Peace. The primary affinity group in church planting situations is usually the family of the Person of Peace. But there are cultures and situations where the primary affinity group may not be the family; such as boarding schools, universities, some gender divided societies, deployed military personnel, itinerant workers, prisons, homeless poor, and etc.
Many church planters tend to rush this phase. They pull the groups together themselves, and in doing so, establish themselves as the leaders of the groups. They may also establish an extraction group which is made up of members from different affinity groups. This causes a cascading series of problems that may result in the failure of a group to become a Community of Believers or church. The most detrimental failure is the damage done to internal leadership potential. In church planting new leaders do not easily emerge in the presence of external or established leaders.
All-star athletes do not become world class athletes by only observing others. They have to practice their sport in order to master it. They often begin learning and practicing their sport before they ever see professionals play the sport. They start playing the sport at an early age, sometimes at the encouragement of family and friends, but sometimes they pick it up on their own. As they fall in love with the sport, they watch the masters of the sport. They practice what they see, but more importantly, what they learn from coaches and teammates. They perfect what they practice. They become examples to others all along the path to stardom. And finally, they train others in what they have spent a lifetime perfecting. At this stage they no longer perform. They teach, train, coach and mentor those behind them who are coming up in the sport.
This is the same format Jesus used in training His disciples. It’s the same format used by Paul when he trained and deployed church planters. They modeled, equipped, observed to make sure things were headed in the right direction (not perfect), then they moved on. Deeply personal relationships were established with their disciples and followers. These people saw them in public and in private, and there was do discrepancy in what they said and what they did in public and in private. Jesus and Paul taught many, but disciple only a few who would be the leaders. They spent more time with these leaders and developed these leaders until they had their own groups. We do not see them starting groups for their disciples.
The Church Planter’s job is to find the Person of Peace, establish a firm relationship with this person, and then to coach this person in sharing what he or she may be learning with their affinity group, and then at some point formalize this sharing of information into a Guided Discovery Bible Study where everyone in the group learns how to study the Bible, how to apply the Bible to their own lives and their other affinity groups, and how to care for the people around them in such a way that the group grows and multiplies even before it becomes a church. As this group falls in love with Christ and members commit themselves to Christ and are baptized, this group takes the first step towards being a church.
This brings us to the next transition point – from Bible Study Group to Church. The role of the Church Planter is to coach people through these transitions, not do it for them.
From Nairobi, Kenya