The Church in Many Houses: Reaching Your Community Through Cell-Based Ministry [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Steve Cordle & Thomas G. Bandy & William Easum
eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Although the largest churches in the world are cell-based, many have questioned whether the model will work in North America. The Church In Many Houses: Reaching Your Community Through Cell-Based Ministry makes the case that the cell model will work if key assumptions about spiritual growth and the nature of the church are reexamined and renewed. By drawing on scripture, research, and insights gained through personal experience as the pastor of a growing cell church, Steve Cordle identifies the four pivotal philosophical shifts necessary for the cell approach to work. These are mindset shifts from: programs to relationships--the purposes of the church are best fulfilled in the cell group instead of in programs. From member to disciple-maker--every member can and should become a group leader; from educating to equipping--spiritual growth is not knowing more but applying more; from "come and see" to "go and show"--the power of penetration evangelism. If we try to impose a cell structure upon a congregation which has not yet made these philosophical shifts we are likely to fail. However, when people adopt these biblical mindset changes, the cell approach will seem natural, and will result in great unity and effectiveness. Forewords by Joel Comiskey and Michael Slaughter .
eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House/Abingdon Press
Fictionwise Release Date: June 2005
Chapter One--Signs of Hope
On November 23, 2002, 150,000 people gathered in a large open air meeting space in San Salvador, El Salvador. The crowd was not assembled for a sporting event or a rock concert; it had come to worship. Amazingly, almost all those gathered belonged to one church: La Mision Cristiana Elim (Elim Church).
A church that is the size of a small city is bound to attract attention, and Elim has done just that, both in Latin America and beyond. Yet, Elim has not always been a huge church attracting international visitors. In the late 1970s the church consisted of only a few hundred people. Elim's incredible growth started after founding Pastor Sergio Solorzazo was sent to Seoul, Korea in order to learn about a ministry philosophy called "cell-based" ministry. Since adopting the cell approach in 1986, Elim has grown at a truly remarkable pace. Today, there is not a building large enough for the whole congregation to meet, so from time to time the church rents sports stadiums for worship. Tens of thousands of lives have been transformed by the power of Christ through Elim Church's ministry.
The church that inspired Elim is Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea. It is the largest church in the world, reporting well over seven hundred thousand members. Yoido is not only a cell-based church, it also known as the birthplace of the modern cell church movement. Yoido became a cell-based ministry out of necessity. Pastor David Cho had planted the church in 1961 and seen it grow to over two thousand people under his leadership. However, in trying to keep up with the demands of the growing congregation single-handedly, Cho worked so hard that he suffered a serious physical and emotional collapse in 1964. He was unable to resume full-time pastoral duties for ten years. During his time of forced rest, Cho searched for a way to keep the church's ministry growing. He felt led by God to designate lay leaders and to give them pastoral authority over a small group of other members. These leaders not only facilitated weekly group meetings, they also fulfilled pastoral care functions and led the members in reaching out to others in evangelism.
The resulting growth was truly explosive. When Cho was finally able to resume his ministry on a full-time basis, the church was many times larger than when he left it. By 1980 the church had one hundred thousand members and was the largest in the world. At one point in the 1980s Yoido was seeing up to twelve thousand people per month convert from Buddhism, secularism, and nominal faith. Yoido's remarkable ministry has influenced churches all around the world, prompting many to become cell-based congregations.
Now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the cell-based philosophy of ministry has taken root in all parts of the globe. Today, nineteen of the twenty largest churches in the world are cell churches. In addition to Elim and Yoido churches, a few of the notable cell-based ministries include:
• International Charismatic Mission in Bogotá, Columbia; more than forty-five thousand in worship attendance.
• Kensington Temple, London, England; attendance of more than ten thousand.
• Works and Mission Baptist Church, Ivory Coast, Africa; attendance with satellite sites: 150,000.
• Bethany World Prayer Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: More than ten thousand attendance.
Signs of Hope
These and other huge cell-based churches are noteworthy for more than their impressive statistics. These churches represent hope. In a world wracked with monumental crises such as war, starvation, AIDS, family disintegration, and loss of personal meaning, it is easy to become resigned to the broken state of humanity. But the effectiveness of these dynamic cell churches demonstrates that a local church can significantly penetrate a region with the light of the gospel.
The root of the world's problems can be found in the human heart. People starve because other people allow them do so. There can be no peace between nations without people who love peace. Families only stay healthy when the family members exhibit love and faithfulness. In order for the world to change, individual hearts must be changed by the power of God.
When people are changed from grasping to giving, from lustful to loving, from rage-filled to blessing others, then the social system in which they live will change also. Transformed lives can result in changed families, which can result in changed communities, and, at least in part, a changed world. In short, the kingdom of God breaks in. God has chosen to make the Church the instrument through which God will extend the kingdom. When the Church reaches the unreached by demonstrating and proclaiming the gospel, God's kingdom advances.
Most local churches desire to be agents of God in spreading the Good News. They want see God's kingdom come. However, research shows us that most churches have not been as effective as they would like to be in reaching our needy world. In spite of an increasing number of mega-churches, worship attendance in America is not growing. Three out of four churches in the United States are plateaued or declining in attendance. Roughly half the churches in the United States did not add a single person by confession of faith in the past year. Nearly three times as many churches in America are closing (3,750) as are opening (1,300) each year. Veteran church researcher George Barna concludes, "Despite the activity and chutzpah emanating from thousands of congregations, the Church in America is losing influence and adherents faster than any other major religious institution in the nation." Many have been concerned that even where the church has increased in numbers, the church has been "a mile wide and an inch deep." After surveying and analyzing the beliefs and practices of both Christians and non-Christians in America, Barna finds, "Most Christians... think and behave no differently from anyone else."
Clearly, the church needs to discover more effective ways of accomplishing its God-given mission. That is why the growth of these cell churches is so encouraging. They have demonstrated that it is possible to lead large numbers of unreached people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
The vast majority of cell churches will never become as huge as the ones mentioned earlier. However, the fact that some cell churches have grown to such incredible sizes indicates that their ministry approach can be very effective at making disciples. The ministry principles that allowed these flagship churches to grow so large can also be used by new and modest-sized churches, enabling them to reach their own neighborhoods with the gospel.
Quality and Quantity
Cell churches have shown the ability not only to reach large numbers of converts, but also to disciple them to be fully-devoted followers of Jesus.
I saw this in a vivid way one hot August night in Korea in 1998. I was part of a group of pastors visiting Kwang Lim Methodist Church. With 85,000 members, Kwang Lim is the largest Methodist church in the world. As part of our visit, we were taken to Kwang Lim's Prayer Mountain, a retreat center dedicated solely to prayer. Even though we arrived in the middle of the week, we found hundreds of believers gathered in the chapel for an all-night prayer event. After touring the rest of the facility we were escorted to our rooms for the night. As I drifted off to sleep, I could hear through my window the sounds of the leaders reading the Bible and praying. When I awoke for a 5:00 a.m. Communion service, I could still hear the voices of the leaders in passionate prayer (though they were somewhat hoarse by this time). Our group of American pastors and I left humbled by their commitment to prayer, fasting, and the cause of Christ. As we experienced these believers' generosity, attitude of service, and commitment to the gospel, we realized that Kwang Lim Church may be huge, but it is also deep.
It is not unusual for visitors of cell churches all around the world to attest to the vitality and dedication seen in the lives of the members. Cell-based ministry is proving to be remarkably effective at making more and better disciples of Jesus Christ.
What is a cell-based church?
Copyright © 2005 by Steve Cordle