Unit 3.12 The Base Congregation as infrastructure.


The discipleship system is the highest priority in third world cell churches. Cell churches believe, as Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest@ (Luke 10:2). The harvest is ready; what is lacking are the laborers willing and prepared to labor. The discipleship system of the cell church produces these laborers in great number, and they bring a large harvest of persons into the cell church. The cell network is able to receive these converts and nurture them individually. Worship plays an important role, but it does not overpower the work of the discipleship system in prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace.

In planting a cell church, Beckham argues that a healthy core group is built through stages of size, from 2-3 to 12 to 70 to 120 Acore disciples@ who are ready to faithfully labor in God=s harvest.[1] The discipleship system of Jesus balanced two factors that are frequently out of balance in modern churches. Jesus cooperated with God in prevenient grace and prepared thousands throughout Israel for conversion after Pentecost. He also cooperated with God in sanctifying grace and prepared 120 core leaders as those who would be able to teach Athem to observe all that I have commanded you@ (Matthew 28:20a). The end result of prevenient grace is a disciple; the end result of sanctifying grace is not a better disciple but a disciple maker. Disciple makers can teach new disciples to obey Jesus as Lord as well as know Jesus as Savior. Jesus developed a base congregation that was well trained to do everything necessary for the church of Acts 2-6. They had practiced these exact same skills for three years as they followed Him.

The church of fifteen thousand or more of Acts 2- 6 rests upon the solid foundation of a base congregation of 120 persons gathered in prayer in the upper room in Acts 1. As Beckham notes:

Today Christ builds the same kind of church He planted in the first century. When the base congregation finally comes together everything necessary to be the Body of Christ is in place. Christ has not called us to build a church of thousand, but to let Him form His base congregation of 120 around us. Inherent within one base congregation of 120 to 200 upper room Christians is the essential infrastucture to be a church of a thousand or tens of thousands. No other structure is required. Simply multiplying the mechanics and dynamics of that congregational unit can result in unlimited growth.[2]

Beckham then definitively proves that Yoido=s transition to cell ministry was accomplished through his trained, disciplined, obedient base congregation made up of his deaconesses under the leadership of his co-pastor, Jashil Choi.[3] The functional, healthy core group of 200 women – less than 10% of his 2400 attenders – was a critical mass sufficient to begin the transition of the whole church to home cell groups, and then onward to 700,000 members. According to diffusion of innovations theory, a period of rapid adoption known as the S-shaped diffusion curve A>takes off= at about 10-25% adoption, when interpersonal networks become activated so that a critical mass of adopters begins using an innovation.@[4] Once a critical mass is achieved, large-scale, rapid adoption of the innovation is inevitable. Failure to transition is often due to the failure to build a healthy core group as a base congregation.

Don=t try to change your Eddies; they would rather destroy the church than change their ways. Instead, Beckham advises building up a healthy core group functioning as a base congregation. Practice and perfect all necessary skills within the base congregation until all problems are solved and all systems function smoothly. Get every innovation right and running smoothly in the base congregation first and then expand.

Who are the 2-3 committed leaders with whom you would begin your base congregation?

Who are the twelve or more disciples within your current church that you would ask to go with you to plant a new church?

[1]Bill Beckham, The Second Reformation, 135-199.

[2]Bill Beckham, The Second Reformation, 201.

[3]Bill Beckham, The Second Reformation, 201-203. The same sort of base congregation was present in the transition of Bethany World Prayer Center, which will be described in Unit 4.

[4]Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, 4th ed. (New York: Free Press, 1995), 12.

NOTE (my response)



The quote is from Major League Disciple Making: An Overview of the Best Research on the Cell Church, an online course developed for the Institute for Discipleship at www.BeADisciple.com in 2009. Course materials, including these lectures, can be downloaded here: http://www.disciplewalk.com/IFD_MLD_Class_Links.html

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

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