Church Planting Essentials – Establishing Core Values (DNA) in New Churches (Part 1)

Church Planting Essentials – Establishing Core Values (DNA) in New Churches (Part 1)


When I started writing this article I thought I could bang it out in a couple of hours.  But as I began to analyze all that we are doing in church planting, I discovered that the process of establishing Core Values (DNA) is much more complex than I anticipated.  I should have known this.  I have been telling people for years that everything we do in church planting establishes Core Values.


My problem is not with the major Core Values.  It’s with all the little things we do while working with new groups, and in some cases, even before we start the work with new groups.  So, I am going to publish this in parts as I work/think through all we are doing.


It is very important to start new groups with the Core Values (DNA) you want to see in the church.  This is probably the most common mistake I see in church planting.  People start groups without the essentials of church and hope to reform the group once they become Believers.  Or, they establish unintentional DNA that hinder replication and/or growth. 


The heart of a church start is a lost family or affinity group.  Redeem existing groups; don’t build new groups by winning individuals to Christ and congregating them, or by using existing Christians.  Most church planters try to build new groups by winning individuals to Christ and then forming them into groups.  If you take any time to think about this you will realize that this form of church planting is very slow, is not easy to replicate, and is not keeping up with current population growth. 


I never start churches using personal evangelism or with Christians.  If you use personal evangelism, you miss the New Testament concepts of disciple-making to salvation, family-focused evangelism and establishing the new church around a minimum social unit or existing group.  (See Matthew 10 and 28, Luke 9, Luke 10, Acts 10, and more)  If you start a church with Christians you have just established an unintentional Core Value that it requires a group of Christians to start a church.  These kinds of churches do not replicate well because, if the church is dynamic and growing, no one wants to leave it in order to start a new group.


So, start new churches with non-Believers.  Find existing families or affinity groups that will allow you to introduce the Gospel to them.  This establishes the first link in the DNA – Church Planting is about the lost, and it only requires a group of lost people who are willing to listen to God and learn from Him in order to start a new group that will become church. 


Jesus says in John 6:44-45 (NIV), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  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.


Start new churches by discipling the lost to salvation through simple Inductive Bible Studies or Guided Discovery Bible Studies.  We want lost people to listen to God, not to us.  If we simply let Scripture talk for itself, people will hear God speaking, and if they choose to listen, they will come to Christ.




David Watson

On the way to South Africa


12 Replies to “Church Planting Essentials – Establishing Core Values (DNA) in New Churches (Part 1)”

  1. David, this is right where we are at; I have been repeating this to our guys here recently and also trying to remind myself to look for a whole Oikos rather than just an individual. we are seeing right now one such case. but much of what we hv done previously has been trying to bring individuals together.
    hopefully we will get to unpack this a bit more in Pretoria?

  2. David I agree with everything you have written. I have made it my life to pursue this. What do you do when you can’t find families or groups who are interested in studying the Bible? What if the soil is so hard that all people know of God is the lies the media has sold them?

    I think of the thousands of years before Jesus came where God was preparing the soil though the prophets. By the time Jesus arrived many of the people rejected Him. I think much of Jesus’ work was preparing the soil for the time after He was going to be gone. I think of Paul finding very few interested on Mars Hill.

    What is the next best thing to do when the soil is hard and no one is interested in God, Jesus or the Bible? What if you are not being called to move to the next town or country where the soil is ripe?

  3. “So, start new churches with non-Believers.”
    –That is so simple yet so profound.

    “Don’t build new groups by winning individuals to Christ and congregating them…establish the new church around a minimum social unit or existing group.”
    –This is counter-intuitive but makes all the sense in the world. All of the evangelism training I ever got in my church or at seminary was personal evangelism or church event evangelism (VBS, Revival, Door-to-door). I would say that 99% of American Christians don’t even know what this looks like.

    Questions: (Core Values Related)

    How are church planters generally providing God’s Scripture to the lost social groups so that they can begin these Bible discoveries? Giving Bibles? (full or partial?), providing audio recordings? Selling these items? Loaning them?

    Are church planters generally working in pairs when when introducing affinity groups to inductive Bible discovery? After teaching the process and passing that on to a non-Christian natural group leader, how long to they continue participating?

    Frequency of meeting seems like and initial DNA kind of thing, as well. Is there a frequency that is more common or successful than others (daily, weekly, 2 times a week, etc)

    Are you seeing significant differences church planting success in social classes (wealthy, workers, impoverished)? How about literacy levels? ( I imagine that affinity groups can sometimes cross these economic barriers e.g. a store/factory owner and his family and their employees, a land owner and his farm hands)

    Just thinking out loud.

  4. Hi, Stephen. Many of the questions you have asked are covered in previous posts, but I will give the highlights.

    How Scripture enters the group depends on the local situation. In some situations, only oral Scripture or Chronological Bible Story Telling will work. In other situations it must be oral contextual Scripture. Regardless of how we start, as the group matures we change to written word or recorded written word. Whether Scripture is sold or given away depends, again, on the situation.

    In our context church planters are always working in pairs – one experienced and the other learning. Their job is to coach the local leader to start his/her own church. Our church planters never start churches in order to pastor those churches.

    Frequency varies, but is usually not less than once in two weeks. We have many groups that meet twice per week.

    Success among social classes is a hard one to answer. Our work is mostly in the 10-40 Window, so most are very poor. That being said, we have heads of state and cabinet level Believers involved in the process. Whether is works or not is more about the message-bearer than the audience.


    David Watson
    from Johannesburg, South Africa

  5. (Forgive me if I am being a comment hog. I am working through this and have also been listening to recordings from the recent round table conference)

    New Reproductive Church DNA Essentials (as I am understanding them)

    –Groups are begun with non-Christians who are the natural affinity/family group of a person of peace.

    –Groups that have begun a guided discovery bible study are not to add new attendees, but rather encourage its members to begin other newer groups from the beginning, while continuing in their own group.

    –Discipling and conversion which results from it is borne out of and happens in relationships. Relationships are key.

    –Groups that do a guided bible discovery are to lead themselves by relying on the Bible (and each individual contextual portion) as sufficient, rather than on an outside, professional or specially trained teacher.

    –Groups establish a dynamic or DNA that is pretty fixed by 3 meetings, so DNA has to be present and correct from the start.

    –Church planters should never become an authority (directly or indirectly) of a GBD group. A facilitator should only ask questions and point back to the text. He should not teach, solve problems, give his opinion, fill in dead air by talking, explain or correct theology, baptize, nor should he lead or host the meeting himself.

    –Group meetings should have a structure that includes these essential elements:
    Telling of needs,
    Sharing (of obedience to or personal discovery from the previous passage)
    Learning of scripture to the point of internalizing,
    Processing the scripture by responding to key questions,
    Discovering truths about God and/or how to obey the scripture
    Planning together

    Well that’s about where I am at. Looking forward to your next post, and thinking through where I will begin. (I’ve begun dozens of groups, but have established wrong DNA in all of them so far, so this is essential for me to get right)

  6. I am planning to plant a new church in cape town,south Africa,apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit which is a necessary ingredient,what else do i need whether physically or finacially?Pls get to me through my e+mail ASAP.

    1. Dear Brother Emmanuel.  I will forward your information to our team leaders in South Africa.  They will be able to assist you in decision making regarding church planting.


      David Watson

      1. Hi David,

        Interesting discussions and I pray that God will bless your work in SA. The core values are so important in my opinion and God has really emphasized with me in 09 that we the couch or planter need to know your role, do it well and consistently. We need to do the basics well and trust in God for the rest. We are seeing some beginnings of exponecial growth here in San Jose, CA after 3 lean years and a lot has to do with doing the essencials well. Keep us in your prayers and to my SA brothers, "hou aan en julle sal verbaas wees wat Heilige Gees vermeerdering kan bring in jul bediening".
        Hermie Smit

  7. Hi, Hermie. Thanks for you addition to this conversation. Getting started right is critical. If we don't know where we are going or what it's going to look like when we get there, we will have a lot of false starts and limited results.


    David Watson
    Irving, Texas

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