There is a competency limit to the numeric growth of a church.

This entry is part 91 of 118 in the series Diagnosis, Dialogue, Decision: A DMin Project

There is a competency limit to the numeric growth of a church. Heylighen’s Generalized Peter Principle states that in evolution systems tend to develop up to the limit of their adaptive competence.[1] In nature a species population will naturally reproduce up to the limit that can be supported by the environment. Yoido Full Gospel Church is the world’s largest church with more than 700,000 members. As the largest church, it represents the highest level of competency in a local church; therefore, its management processes and structure are the model for the “best practice” or highest competency known. While worship is central to Yoido Church, growth is largely due to the world’s most effective discipleship system; Yoido is a cell church.

            Small groups called cells minister to people and bring them through stages of prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace to spiritual maturity.[2] As cells begin to proliferate, the organizational infrastructure of the cell church becomes crucial in keeping growth orderly and healthy by managing the disciple-making work of the cells. This supervisory infrastructure extends the competency limit of the growing church, allowing a healthy core group to grow from twelve leaders to over 100,000 leaders smoothly cooperating to make disciples.[3] This increased competency in the balancing process creates the necessary room for growth, and the reinforcing process fills the extra capacity automatically. The challenge in church growth is not to discover new methods of evangelism; growth occurs almost automatically in response to an increase in system competence.





[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

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.

[1]Francis Heylighen, “The Generalized ‘Peter Principle,’” Principia Cybernetica Web, ed. F. Heylighen, C. Joslyn, and V. Turchin, (accessed June 18, 2007).

[2]Traditionally, as with Wesley’s class meeting, cells are used only as a means of sanctifying grace to retain and mature the converts gathered through preaching. Bill Easum and Bil Cornelius, Go Big: Lead Your Church to Explosive Growth (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006), 51-52, 125. Yoido intentionally uses cells as a means of prevenient grace for explosive growth.

[3]The span of control in cell management infrastructure differs and is a matter of debate. Yoido uses a 5×5 model where one mentor supervises five leaders. The second wave G12 structure expands the span of control to twelve, as Jesus did; many churches are shifting from the 5×5 to the G12. Joel Comiskey recommends that American churches in the third wave reduce the span of control to three for volunteers. Cf. Joel Comiskey, From Twelve to Three: How To Apply G12 Principles In Your Church (Houston: Touch Publications, 2002), 9-10, 13-17, 49. Traditional management theory advocates a span of control of six direct reports for one manager.

Series Navigation<< Mrs. Choi set up a tent on ten thousand square feet of land given to her in the poor section of Bulkwangdong and asked Yonggi Cho to be the pastor while she would serve as his assistant.while the world’s largest churches are found in Seoul, Korea, they are far outnumbered by churches of fifty or less >>
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