Cell-Based Church: Community, Nurturing, Outreach
At a recent meeting of pastors in Pasadena, California, Randall G. Neighbour, president of TOUCH Outreach Ministries and editorial director of CellChurch magazine, gave a presentation titled "Introduction to Cells." In the afternoon session, pastors Ron Dick and myself discussed our experiences in transitioning the congregations we pastor to the cell model of ministry. Ron pastors the Lexington, Kentucky, congregation, and I pastor the Wichita, Kansas, cell church congregation.
The cell-based model of ministry is one that some visionaries of church growth believe to be an important model of the church in the next century. It is a strategy of ministry that some congregations are either adopting or are considering adopting.
The cell-based approach is a shift in the purpose and function of a congregation. The cell church is based on members meeting in holistic small groups and then coming together weekly to praise and worship as a congregation.
The small group or cell group component enables the presence of Christ to be manifested in relationships of caring Christians. In this environment people are edified and equipped to minister. Unbelievers are saved and discipled. Leadership is raised up and mentored. The weekly corporate worship becomes a time of praise and celebration centered on the glory of God.
Under the unity of the larger congregation, the cell groups are mobilized to carry out the ministry vision of the congregation and the denomination. The cell groups nurture a sense of belonging that is difficult to experience in the large weekly worship assembly. In the cell groups, love, community, relationships, discipling and reaching out to unbelievers spring up naturally and powerfully.
The spiritual gifts of members are confirmed and used, worship is expanded, prayer is prominent, and ministry is extended by cell church strategy. It is in the cell group that caring for one another occurs.
It is this loving, bonded community of believers, which is the manifested body of Christ, that reaches out to unbelievers and brings Christ to the world (John 13:35). Members and new believers are taught to know, to grow in, to serve and to share Jesus. A cell-based church actively seeks to develop each Christian into the likeness of Christ.
In the human body the basic unit of life is the cell. In a cell church, the basic unit of the body of Christ is the cell group. This basic unit is the means by which Christian community is built and the work of the kingdom is performed.
Following are testimonies from Lexington, Kentucky, cell members. Pastor Ron Dick asked for and received their permission to publish their testimonies.
Pat Arthur: To me, the cell-church model has been an awakening into the workings of the body of Christ. In my cell group we have people of all ages. I am a woman in my mid-50s. I have become a grandmother figure for a teenage boy. What a joy this has been for me. We talk about everything. We pray about things in his life as well as mine.
Men and women in our cell are close. We discuss problems openly and help each other see things we might not see otherwise. Together we are working toward God's kingdom using the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Only in a cell group could I have ever hoped to get to know and love these wonderful people I now call my family.
Jenni Heaton: Facilitating a cell has been a wonderful experience. Every week I am amazed to see God working so strongly in the cell. I don't have much natural leadership ability, but I don't need it. Jesus leads the cell. I just take care of some administrative duties, ask questions and make sure we start and stop on time. The Spirit has been more evident to me as I have experienced the cell-church model than ever before in my life. I don't have to make it happen. God is taking care of everything.
I have been able to grow more as a Christian since joining a cell than in the last 10 years. I can once again see God working directly in my life. He is in control, and I feel more joy and peace than ever. I think everyone should have a chance to be equipped for Christianity and evangelism by a living cell. You don't know what you have been missing until you experience Jesus working through you in a cell.
Charles A. Calahan
Charles Calahan earned a doctorate in family life education and consultation from the School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University.