Unit 7.17 Follow the rules, they are told. And they do.


First, there is no innovation in the cell church or early English Methodism for the average participant. Although the leaders improve their system, the 84% of followers are simply told to implement the standard forms of implementation. Follow the rules, they are told. And they do.

Second, those who do not follow the rules are ejected from early Methodism. The original General Rules include specific behaviors and explicit restrictions. As the General Rules conclude: And all these we know his Spirit writes on truly awakened hearts. If there be any among us, who observe them not, who habitually break any of them, let it be known unto them who watch over that soul as they who must give an account. We will admonish him of the error of his ways. We will bear with him for a season. But then, if he repent not, he hath no more place among us. We have delivered our own souls (2004 Book of Discipline, 74).

Third, this changes the view of the situation. We do not have Methodism as a visionary movement for innovation with the Church of England. Wesley may have played that role, but Wesley’s organization did not. Therefore, systematically, we have two separate balancing processes at work, the traditional church on the one hand and the Wesleyan system on the other. Both insist on obedience and conformity to the rules of the movement.

Fourth, rather than functioning as a force for institutional change, the Wesleyan and cell movements scoop up individuals who are read for a change. Their approach is more one that will appeal to the pragmatic majority. This implementation of the diffusion of innovations relies on conversations between peers and the demonstrated increase in quality of life evident in the daily lives of the early Methodists. It’s unknown whether this is a matter of intentional evangelistic strategy to target pragmatic individuals or if their involvement is simply a byproduct of holy living that would appeal to such persons.

This latter thesis can be validated by the actions of individual Methodists. Do the societies leave the work of influencing kings to Wesley or do they likewise agitate for local social change? Or do they focus on implementing the Wesleyan system? This is a challenge to someone more knowledgeable in the history of the time than myself.

The cell system, as it is practiced, has more in common with the stable social environment of the balancing cycle loop. The means that once a convert enters the cell system, whether modern or early Methodist, there is a rapid conformity to social system norms and rules. The controlling social system, therefore, moderates behavior toward uniformity and a comfortable conformity. This consolidates behavior adoption and gives the person a comfortable, stable, smoothly running normality to enjoy, all needs important to the pragmatic majority. Rather than an aggressive visionary minority transforming the church of England, it is more like unchurched pragmatics could move easily in large numbers from one social system to another.

Both John Wesley and cell church pastors, then, do not innovate the traditional church so much as create a comfortable, substitute structure so that individuals at every place in the adopter framework can opt out of the church of England and into the Methodist social structure at a point that meets the needs of the adopter.

If this systemic structure is normal, it illuminates and may help explain some of the difficulties people have had in the United States in attempting to transition traditional churches to a cell methodology. The basic approach is to urgently insist the balancing structure or pragmatic majority accept the innovation; this continually fails for reasons clearly demonstrated in the diffusion of innovations theory. Theoretically, the proper approach is to refine the innovation for pragmatic values, establish a small segment among the middle adopters, and then expand that beachhead into a critical mass that will lead to rapid S-curve adoption. At each stage the innovation fills one segment, then adapts to the needs of the next segment, creates a new beachhead and repeats.

The Wesleyan model does not seem to follow this pattern of rolling from one element to another through the adopter framework. There is no time when the movement is entirely made up of innovators, then early adopters refining the system. Instead, there is always order, structure and discipline. And there is ejection for those who will not conform. Nothing could be more atypical for the visionary minority or reinforcing structure. There is no upheaval, revolution or constantly changing creative phase, as existed in the American camp meeting; Wesley arrives, standardizes everything as he sees fit, and runs it efficiently and smoothly like a well tuned machine.

Instead, it would seem, a separate but parallel social structure is created that is not at all innovative. It contains elements of the entire adopter framework. What is needed to recruit each kind of person from one social structure to another is carefully thought through, refined by experimentation, and then practiced in a routine, fully standardized manner. Individuals cross from one model to another without needing to change their orientation toward change. They do not become innovators and change their own environment; they just switch environments. The latter is much easier.        

This is an unusual twist on the normal diffusion of innovations approach. It would seem that the innovators and early adopters would interact with the nominally church of England social structure. These Aproclamation/presentation@ communications would weaken the bonds of individuals to their portion of the adopter framework. The Aconversation/dialogue@ process of communications normal to the pragmatic majority would then just draw them into the other social structure.

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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