How To Start A Church Planting Movement – Community Groups – The Missing Link In Church Formation
One of the things that many people have been asking as they seek to get to multiplication is, “How does a group of people get shaped into a church?”
T4T has proposed that all group meetings consist of three parts – Sharing, Bible, and practice. They suggest that as the group progresses the third part will fall away and the first two will be left and morph into a church service, but we have not seen examples of this happening in our Western Culture.
At our October Mt. Bethel meeting Eddie Ventura from El Remanente Church in the Bronx introduced us to the concept of the Community Group.
A “Community Group” is the key step for them in determining if a group will become a church. Here is Eddie’s explanation of their process:
A group made up of people who live in or near a community in which they want to plant a church will begin to meet to pray for the community and for God to plant a church in that community.
As they pray they will ask God to reveal to them a person of peace. They will assign members of the group to look for a person of peace.
They will find the person of peace and lead them to Christ and then through the person of peace find and lead others to Christ.
They gather the group together and for eight weeks will do short term discipleship and a brief survey of the Gospel of John, focusing on the “I Am” statements. They call this group a Community Group. They purposely do not use the words “cell group” or “small group” or “church.” They call it a Community Group because that is what the original prayer group was praying for– a group in that community.
This is the crucial step– after eight weeks of meeting they know if this group is a church or not. If the group does not have the marks of church they invite the group attend the mother church. But, if the group has vision to grow and if a leader emerges, they know this should be a group. They then begin training the person who has emerged as a leader how to be a pastor. Like Bruce Bennett, they teach this person pastoral care and the Omega Church Planting system, even while this person is beginning to take leadership over the group.
Eddie reports that El Remanente has started about eight Community Groups and three of them are becoming churches after completing the eight week short term discipleship course.
We can learn several important lessons from this:
1. The importance of a group praying for a specific community
2. The importance of the prayer group sending people out to look for the person of peace
3. The importance of leading the person of peace to Christ quickly, and then through that person identifying other people to lead to Christ
4. The importance of the immediate eight week short term discipleship in the group
5. That we are not under pressure for every group to become a church – for now they are a Community Group, and that is fine. If God wants this group to be a church, it will be clear by the end of the eight weeks.
Eddie Venture is going to write more about this process for the Mt. Bethel Update, but I believe that this step of Community Groups is an important part of the work for our culture. We do not have to start by asking people if they want to plant a church or even be part of a church plant. We only ask them to make a short term commitment, then after they have been discipled and have been walking with God, we allow God to show them and us if they should be a church.
Reports From The Field…
Report from Willie Kirchhofer at Clifton NJ, Crossroads Church
1. Englewood group – This group is now able to run on its own. I went this past Sunday for the first time in about 3 months. They meet on Sundays at 4. The group is conducted mainly in Spanish. They average about 10-16 people. The leaders Frank and his wife Rae attend Crossroads but the others do not. They have had several meetings in the Bronx also since a number of the people who attend come from there. The focus is now on training the group and developing Frank as a pastor. A next group in the Bronx makes sense but right now the people from the Bronx are in such moral compromise that it is not advisable.
2. Paterson group – I started this group in May of this year. At present I attend every week as the co-leader – a young man and his wife who attend Crossroads are being trained. I had led them to Christ on New Year’s Eve and they have stuck with it. The Leader Lenny is a natural leader and has great potential. He is 22. This week we had 9 people not counting me and Daisy. This is the highest amount yet. The group is in English and the age is 22-28. This group has great potential because of the age of the group. None go to Crossroads except Lenny and his wife.
3. New Spanish Congregation at Crossroads. Erick Collado is a very good leader and will make a good pastor, his wife Mercedes is also an good asset and they work well together. They have about 8 people regularly now in a Spanish Sunday School class and a small group. I would estimate that by Easter it will be a congregation – the goal is to keep it as a congregation of Crossroads at this point.
On Easter 2015 we are relaunching the church with a new ministry model. We will go to 2 services – 10am and 11:45am. Sunday School for children will be during the 11:45 service. This will also simplify our system as new people will be trained in the Masters Mile discipleship program, which incorporates T4T principles. There are 3 levels and once a person finishes level 3 they will move to a point of light group (cell group). There are 7 now. People who seem able to start their own groups of unchurched people will be encouraged to do that. We will start an Adult School of the Bible with a curriculum designed to feed the ministries of the church and develop mature believers. Those who show the ability and are called will be trained in the Ministry Training Center.
Note from Pastor Willie:
Everything seems good on a report on paper but everything is extremely fragile and still in the beginning stage. I have days I am encouraged and days I say, “What happened?” The big issue is the deep brokenness and instability of the people. The key is to keep working the plan. Before a crusade Billy Graham would say – I have three things to do: 1. Pray. 2. Pray. 3. Pray.
Be With Him…
“In using all means, seek God alone. In and through every outward thing, look only to the power of His Spirit, and the merits of His Son. Beware you do not get stuck in the work itself; if you do, it is all lost labor. Nothing short of God can satisfy your soul. Therefore, fix on Him in all, through all, and above all…Remember also to use all means as means-as ordained, not for their own sake…”