Understanding Transition Points – From Small Group to Church

Understanding Transition Points – From Small Group to Church

The church planter has coached the Person of Peace and/or spiritual leaders of the group every week for months on how to lead a Guided Discovery Bible Study focused on Knowing God. This series of Bible studies was tailor-made to address the group’s worldview and cultural gateways and barriers; and lead them to discover a holy and loving God, face their own sin, find God’s provision for their sin through Jesus Christ, come into a grace/faith relationship with Jesus, and commit to a life of faith that obeys the commands of Jesus regardless of consequences.  At some point in this process the group comes to Christ, often all at one time or over a short period of time.  They become baptized as they are guided to discover and obey the Biblical teachings on belief in Christ and baptism, and begin the process of moving from being a Bible study group to being a church.  


During this process the church planter has spent anywhere from six months to two years coaching and mentoring the Person of Peace and/or spiritual leaders of the affinity group.  He will need to spend about another two years mentoring the leaders of this new group to help them fully develop as a church.  This may not be the only group the church planter is working with, and each group will be at different stages of the church planting process.


The intensity and time required increases at each transition point.  Toward the point of transition to Church the Guided Discovery Bible Study on Knowing God has become almost routine, requiring less time and energy on the church planter’s part.  He has been simply introducing the new Scripture passages, answering questions, and continuing to build relationships with the leaders of the group.  But when the group is about to come to Christ, spiritual warfare heats up and time/relationship requirements increase.  This is often a crisis point in the relationships, and much prayer and more time is needed to usher the leaders and the group through this critical passage.  The church planter may be tempted to take control of the group.  Don’t!  Continue to coach and mentor the leaders.  Let the Holy Spirit usher them into the presence of the King and you will experience the joy that comes with the birth of a new church.


Now your job changes from the midwife that assisted in the Holy Spirit in the birth of a church to the nanny who helps the church reach maturity. Notice!  The nanny is not the parent, but assists the parent in helping the child to mature to responsible adulthood.  Just as getting pregnant and giving birth seems like hard work, those of us who have raised children to adulthood know that the hard part of being a parent lies ahead as we raise the children to responsible adulthood.  The work of the church planter increases greatly as the new church begins its walk to maturity.


The amount of time in mentoring the new church leaders increases dramatically for a few months.  There is a lot to learn from the Word in order for the leaders to understand and fulfill their responsibilities as leaders.  They also may already be involved in starting other groups or even have other groups coming to their own crisis point of becoming a new church.  There is a great temptation on behalf of the church planter to become a directive leader and/or teacher at this point.  There is so much that needs to be done, so much that these leaders need to know, so many issues that have to be addressed, that we feel compelled to set them down and inundate them with knowledge.  Resist this temptation!


Increase your time with the leaders by 50 to 100%.  Let what they are experiencing guide you in what Discovery Bible Studies you introduce them to.  Let the Word teach them and let them take this process to their groups.  Critical topics to be covered include the life and commands of Jesus.  This is a good time to use the Jesus Film.  Help these new leaders learn from Jesus and Paul how to lead by not just asking what they taught, but look at what they did with their disciples.  This is a time to start exploring the Scripture regarding the function, nature, and leadership of the church.  Let the Word and the Holy Spirit guide the group to finding their own fulfillment as the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ, and the Pillar and Foundation of Truth for their communities.  Help them to look with new eyes on their family, friends, and neighbors in order to love them more and seek ways to serve them and meet their needs.  Ministry is the key to church growth and church planting.  Brainstorm with these new leaders how to meet the needs of those around them out of their own resources.  Explore ways to develop local resources.  Don’t do anything to develop dependence on outside assistance for anything.


As you put these patterns in place with love and devotion, you will see a responsible church emerge that will transform its own community and reach out to all segments of society around it.  It will look over the horizon to other communities who need what they have found.  It will become a reproducing responsible church lead by reproducing responsible leaders who equip reproducing responsible disciples for Jesus Christ.


Now it’s time to leave.




David Watson

From Cairo, Egypt

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