The Acommunity@ in the Faith Community remains
in the cell of second wave churches that grow into multiple thousands of
disciples. Cells provide a forum for relational intimacy and for cell members
to use spiritual gifts to edify and build up one another. The cell is small
enough for each member to minister to every other member; this opportunity for
each person to practice their spiritual gifts is why small groups build up
active leaders and large group presentations tend to create passive spectators.
A healthy core group, therefore, is found both at the micro community
level within each cell and in the network of active ministry leaders
functioning within the macro community of the large group.
Cell church pastors believe this represents the situation in the New Testament, where the early church functioned as a network of small groups described in Acts. The early church ministered within the context of the institutional church that was the Jewish temple, but not in positions of leadership in that institutional church or with any control over institutional worship forms. In my understanding of the Atwo winged@ system of church that I propose, they functioned as a discipleship system within but not in control of an institutional church. I believe that Wesley=s societies functioning within but not in control of the politics or worship forms of the Church of England are another example of this pattern. I believe this distinction is very useful in understanding how to help a church to transition to the cell model.
As Joel writes, The New Testament clearly teaches that the church is not a building or an organization. It is a living organism. As a living organism under the headship of Christ, it=s function is spiritual as opposed to political. In the early church, the atmosphere of the house church enriches this important concept. In all three of the major passages (Eph. 4; Rom. 12; I Cor. 12‑14) in which Paul talks about the body of Christ, he defines each member=s part by their corresponding gifts. In fact, when Paul talks about the church as the body of Christ, the implication is that the believers were able to participate in the exercise of their spiritual gifts. They had the opportunity to interact among themselves. Banks reminds us, APaul=s communities were instead theocratic in structure. Because God gave to each individual within the community some contribution for its welfare, there is a strong democratic tendency. Everyone participates authoritatively in its activities@ (1994:148).
How did everyone participate? Along with the united celebration (Acts 2:46a), we read that they also broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (2:46b). Paul taught the people, not only publicly, but also from house to house (Acts 20:20). It is with this intimate atmosphere in mind that Paul could say, AWhen you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction…@ (I Cor. 14:26).
Looking at the effectiveness of
the early church and drawing from my own personal experience, it seems that
there is no better atmosphere for the
exercise of one=s
giftedness than in a home group. The primary atmosphere of the early church was the intimate
character of the home. This atmosphere
of participation is being rediscovered in a fresh way through the cell group
movement. Churches are realizing that as
they grow bigger, they must also grow smaller.
Only in the intimacy of a small, closely knit group will many Christians ever be able to
exercise their spiritual gift. George
reminds us that, ABecause of the intimate, accountability‑inviting
context of an affinity‑based group, participants will readily accept the call
of God that accompanies the discovery of their gifts@ (1993: 136). Following the same line of thought, Dr. Ralph Neighbour asserts,
to exercise spiritual gifts to edify others. The early church did exactly that!
Recognizing there cannot be total participation by every member when the
gatherings are only made up of large, impersonal groups, the people of God
moved from house to house in small groups. By moving among their residences,
they became intimately acquainted with each person=s surroundings@ (Neighbour, 1990:41).
The Body Of Christ Motif, http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/chinese/articles/tutorials/CellHistPt2.html, traces the New Testament origins of the cell movement and its institutional transmutation into monasticism.
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.