Cell Churches, or churches with cells
A question of leadership
Over and over, I have written about cells (or home churches) stressing that each
cell should be in itself a complete expression of the local church. This is aim each
church (cell) in a home, building together with others the congregation and celebrations
of the whole local church. This is markedly different to a church with cell or house
groups. Churches of this sort are hierarchical and inflexible at the base, people
are lost among the house groups and are never really picked up.
I have been a leader in this type of church and was pained that only about 50% attended
mid-week home group meetings. Many folk never had the help that they needed from
the body, preferring to go to “professional” ministers, also some potential leaders
were never given room to develop. Eventually they went elsewhere, another loss to
the church, preventing its growth.
In organic churches this never happens, as the church is the cell! Thus there is
almost 100% attendance, with very high percentages attending congregational and celebration
meetings too. Some may try to join at the congregational level, thus bypassing the
cells, but these people must be firmly encouraged to see that the church is in the
cell and the only way to participate (giving or receiving) in the church is at cell
level. In the cell someone in need will be easily spotted, and effectively helped
by their peers (body ministry), only being referred to others if their need in outside
the competence of the group.
As an organic church is constantly growing and changing, there is also a continuing
need for leaders, meaning that few will find the need to look elsewhere.
Cells = Life
Home Groups = Dead weight
I would invite any church that has house groups, to have a carefully and honest look
at them. In general, the very best only attract 50-60%of church members. Often there
is some confusion over their role, in many places they are seen as a better place
for pastoral care and Bible study, but the home group leaders are rarely given the
necessary authority and training. If a leader is expected to be a pastor, he needs
the authority to pastor, if he is expected to lead a Bible study, he needs some training.
On the other hand, a cell church leader HAS authority to care for those in his cell
and the truly humble leader will explore the Bible WITH his group. He would not teach,
unless of course that was his ministry. The church has become too professional. By
this I do not mean that we should not try to be as professional as possible, simply
that we don’t have to be a Peter or Paul before we can lead a cell. Each of us have
different callings in the Lord. Some of us are called to be apostles, others prophets
and so on, but everyone has a part to play.
Unfortunately the history of the Church (even recent history) has pushed people into
moulds that are totally unbiblical. I well remember talking to a “pastor” from a
major Pentecostal denomination. His grouping accepted the ministry of pastor, deacon
and elder, and possibly evangelist as well. This brother faithfully tried to pastor
a church for over twenty years, within his grouping he became known as a “difficult
character”, always pushing for bold central moves within the organization. Yet outside
his denomination he was highly respected, being sought out by many leaders in his
area for advice and counsel.
When I met him, he had just taken the bold step of laying down his pastorate to become
a “consultant”. When I asked him about his work as a consultant, he perfectly described
to me the role and ministry of an apostle, when I told him this, his response was
most instructive. “Yes Keith, I know I’m called to be an apostle, The Lord showed
me that over twenty years ago. But my denomination doesn’t have apostles, so I became
a pastor, something that I’ve been doing all that time, with some success. However
people kept coming to me for help in new church situations or in developing their
churches. I soon realized that I was spending over half my time in apostolic work.
But, my denomination doesn’t accept apostles, so I called myself a “consultant”.
Whilst it is true that what this man calls himself isn’t important, he had conformed
himself to a ministry that his denomination had required of him for over 20 year,
even when he began to minister what God had put in his heart, he still fought shy
of the word apostle, preferring instead to call himself “consultant”. I thank God
for this humble man, but feel sorry for a denomination that has crushed 20 years
of potential ministry from this mans life, just because they don’t think apostles
are for today. I thank God that He is unchanging and He thinks that we need apostles
Unfortunately, because the church has a history of pushing square pegs into round
holes, sometimes the reverse happens and people hardly notice until it is too late.
People who are round pegs try to push themselves into some very square hole. It’s
like the old song, “Anything you can do I can do better….”, these people feel that
they can only make a contribution if they have an “important” role, as prophet or
apostle. This is mostly because they do not understand the nature of authority and
don’t want to be submitted to another, Mar 9:34 “But they kept quiet because on the
way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve
and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant
of all.” or perhaps because they want to “lord it” over others.
I’ve seen three cases recently. One a capable evangelist, who suddenly got it into
his head that he was THE END-TIME PROPHET. His weird, negative “prophecies”, first
cased him to be disciplined by his church and later led to his divorce and mental
The second is a pastor that says he is an apostle. His bold “apostolic statements”
have led to a split in his church. Needless to say nobody apart from himself recognises
his apostolic call.
The third is an evangelist, who is trying to be a pastor. He leads people to the
Lord, but they never stay. His “church” grows to about 15 or so before collapsing
to 3 or 4 , over and over in cycles during the past 15 years. In his frustration
he has neglected his wife and children, leading to their needing long-term counselling
support. Yet still he is fixed on his call that nobody sees but himself.
What is the answer to all of this chaos? I believe it to be quite simple. Those
who feel themselves called to ministry must humble themselves and work in their cell,
until through their work they receive the recognition of the church and society.
Paul said in 1Cor.9:1&2. “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus
our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be
an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship
in the Lord.” Showing that his authority flowed from relationship. A person who demands
authority, simply shows that he doesn’t have it. After all authority comes from the
Lord, not a job title.