the phrase Quality Control best
describes and defends this aspect
of the pure cell system. It is
quality control that enables a McDonald’s
hamburger to taste the same in each of its restaurants. Customers expect that
a McDonald’s hamburger will taste just as good
in Georgia as
in California (or Hong Kong). A
similar approach can be found in
the ministry of Evangelism Explosion. The reason they expect that each session
is taught in a similar fashion is to assure that each trainee receives the
It is the quest for quality control in the pure cell church
that requires that the small
group format remains
the same. The goal of each cell group is to multiply. For this reason,
there is a constant need for new leaders. If
these new leaders are going to be successful, they must know exactly
what to do and how to do it.
It seems to me that evangelism has the highest priority in the cell
church. Each cell is required to aggressively evangelize the lost. However,
cell-based evangelism is different than most forms of evangelism because the
team approach is used in contrast to the individual approach.
What I’m referring to can be best illustrated by the tools of the fisherman—the net and the fishing pole. Cell group evangelism in the church uses the net to catch fish. Larry Stockstill describes it this way,
The old paradigm of ‘hook
fishing’ is being replaced by teams of believers who have entered into
partnership (‘community’) for the purpose of reaching souls together…Jesus
used the ‘partnership’ of net fishing to illustrate the greatest principle
of evangelism: our productivity is far greater together than alone.
Likewise, Cho credits the growth of his 700,000+ church to his system of cell groups.  Cho highlights his methodology of cell group evangelism by saying,
Our cell group system is a net for our Christians to cast. Instead
of a pastor fishing for one fish at a time, organized believers form nets to
gather hundreds and thousands of fish. A pastor should never try to fish with
a single rod but should organize believers into the ‘nets’ of a cell
system (Hurston 1994:107).
How specifically does Cho do it?
In a 1993 interview with Carl George, Cho explained how his cells go net fishing,
We have 50,000 cell groups and each group will love two people to
Christ within the next year. They select someone who’s not a Christian, whom
they can pray for, love , and serve. They bring meals, help sweep out the
person’s store—whatever it takes to show they really care for them…After
three or four months of such love, the hardest soul softens up and surrenders
to Christ (George 1995:94).
Commenting on Cho’s
evangelistic method of net fishing, George says,
Cho is not talking about two ‘decision cards’ per group. Rather,
his people win a person to the group, to the Lord, and then to the specific
tenets of the faith. New people, without objecting to what is happening, are
caught within the pastoral-care network of these groups…In short, Cho and
others have discovered how to blend evangelism, assimilation, pastoral care,
and leadership development within their small groups…(1994:94).
Although one might not agree with everything that Paul Cho says and
does, the fact that he has 700,000 people in his
church should cause us who are interested in church growth to listen
attentively. Effective evangelism and discipleship through cell groups is not
only a possibility; it’s a reality.
In every sense of the word, it is small group evangelism. Everyone participates in some small way—from the person who invites the guest, to the one who provides refreshments for the guest, to the one who leads the discussion. This participation can be seen in prayer . For example, at Bethany World Prayer Center (Larry Stockstill is the pastor) each group has a small white board. Names of unsaved friends and family are written on the board and the whole group prays for each name until the person receives Christ and joins the cell group.
This issue of
cell multiplication seems to be the common thread that links all of the
rapidly growing worldwide cell churches. In each one, there
is rapid cell group
In the pure cell church, the rallying cry is ‘born to multiply’.  There seems to be a genetic code established in every new group in the church—born to multiply. If the group does not multiply within a set number of months, most of these cell churches feel it’s best to dissolve the group and let those cell members integrate into groups that are experiencing growth and multiplication.
This concept of
‘born to multiply’ combines the truth
of definite, specific small
group cycles with the evangelistic goal
of cell group multiplication. Instead of denying the one to emphasize the
other, there seems to be an instant harmony between the two concepts.
From a very practical standpoint, cell groups must multiply if they are going to maintain a state of intimacy while continuing to reach out to non-Christian people. There is common agreement among the experts that a cell group must be small enough so that all the members can freely contribute and share personal needs. Hadaway writes,
…the principle of cell
division and growth seems critical here to help avert the problem of
exclusiveness. Cell division is not always experienced as a pleasant plan of
action for members who have developed deep relationships in the home group
meetings. However, the purpose of such action is designed to prevent the kind
of exclusiveness and inwardness that can eventually undermine one of the most
significant goals of cell groups---outreach and growth (1987:101).
In many of the most rapidly growing cell churches around the world, the time that it takes for the individual cells to multiply is approximately six months (Neighbour 1992: 32-35). Neighbour states,
Long years of experience with groups has
verified that they stagnate after a certain period. People draw from one
another for the first six months; after that, they tend to ‘coast’ along
together. For that reason, each Shepherd Group will be expected to multiply
naturally after six months of be restructured (1992: 113).
I recently even heard of a Baptist Church in Modesto, California which is multiplying their cell groups every four months.  However, not all cells multiply in a matter of months. For some it’s a matter of years. Carl George gives this counsel,
The gestation period for healthy groups to
grow and divide ranges from four to twenty-four months. The more
frequently a group meets, the sooner it’s able to divide. If a group stays
together for more than two years without becoming a parent, it stagnates. Bob
Orr, of the Win Arn Church Growth, Inc., reports that groups that meet for a
year without birthing a daughter cell only have a 50 percent chance of doing
so. But every time a cell bears a child, the clock resets. Thus a small
subgroup can remain together indefinitely and remain healthy and fresh by
giving birth every few months (1991:101)
Prayer Center, a true cell-based church,
has adopted the policy that their cell groups must multiply within one
year or be integrated into the existing structure. From my study thus far and
from my practical experience of starting and directing a cell-based ministry,
it seems to me that this time period is the most realistic.
In the pure cell church, there
is normally uniformity in lesson material. All of the cell leaders cover the
same lesson plan.
In fact, the defining point of the Cho Model for
Dr. Coleman is the fact that Cho uses his Sunday morning message as
lesson material for the cell
leaders (1993:4:9). Similar lesson material helps maintain the quality
In the pure cell church, there is strong administrative accountability.
Everyone is monitored, pastored, and accountable—from the high level pastor
of pastors to the cell intern.
The philosophy behind this
model is Jethro’s advice to Moses, (Jethro model). Jethro’s advice to
Moses is straightforward and demands little explanation:
his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What
is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all
these people stand around you from morning till evening?…,’ ‘What you
are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear
themselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone….You
must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to
him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the
duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people…and
appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Have
them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every
difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will
make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this
and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these
people will go home satisfied” (Exodus 18:14-23).
Taking Jethro’s advice seriously, the pure cell church is organized into groups of tens, fifties, five hundred, and several thousand. The fundamental unit is the cell leader over ten. Then there are the section leaders which are over five cell groups, for a total of fifty people. Next are the zone leaders who oversee five section leaders for a total of 250.  It is my understanding that the district pastor will oversee up to five zone pastors which make him responsible for a total of 2500 people (Neighbour 1990:195). 
Each leader of leaders is expected to visit, counsel, teach, exhort,
evangelize and help the leaders or members under their care. The difference
between the zone and district pastors is that they also perform marriages,
funerals, preach, offer communion, baptize, and generally
carry out the professional
work of the pastor.
In the pure cell church, the cells are categorized
geographically into districts according to zip codes. These geographical
districts will often act as congregations (Neighbour 1990:356).
control also takes place through the required reporting from each cell
group. From my understanding,
these weekly statistical, prayer reports are not optional. They provide the
administrative strength to the cell church.
It is through these reports that the powerful Jethro
organization takes place. A normal cell group report includes the
weekly attendance in the cell group, the location of the next meeting, those
who were saved, etc.
example, after Dr. McGavran had visited Cho’s church in 1976, he
called it ‘the best organized church in the world’ (Hurston 1995:192). I
heard Cho say in 1984 that even when he is in the United States., he can
locate every person in his
500,000 member church
(now much larger) through the cell system.
He was able to say this
because of the weekly reports that each cell group completes.
priority is given to the ongoing training of leadership in the cell church.
I personally do not know of a cell church that does not prioritize the
continual required training of
cell leadership. However, I have noticed that the amount of training and the
flexibility of training schedules does vary..
It might be best to simply highlight the ongoing training model of the premier cell church in the world—Yoido Full Gospel Church. First, Pastor Cho offers pre-training for all potential leaders. These potential cell leaders must attend an eight-week leadership training course that is taught on Sunday afternoon in one of Yoido Full Gospel Churches’ small auditoriums (Hurston 1995:75). Topics covered in this eight-week course include: cell leader responsibilities, home cell-group growth, Bible lesson preparation, etc. (Hurston 1995:215).
From the beginning, Cho required that all cell leaders attend a weekly training session to prepare them for the next lesson and strengthen their ministry skills. However, due to the incredible growth of the cell groups, Cho discontinued that practice in 1988. Since that time, printed supplemental materials are available before and after the Wednesday night services (Hurston 1995:214).
At this time, the ongoing training in Cho’s church consists of semiannual cell leader conferences in which pastor Cho personally addresses the cell leaders. However, even in these semiannual conferences, the numbers are so large that half of the cell leaders attend the conference one day, while the other half attend the next day. Practical tips and vision casting seem to be the main agenda for these conferences (Hurston 1995: 75).
In Cho’s church the main means of ongoing training takes place through the pastoral oversight of each leader through the Jethro system. Personal help and training is most effective as (Hurston 1995:75):
1. The district pastors minister to the needs of the zone pastors
2. The zone pastors serve the section leaders
3. The section leaders take care of the cell leaders
The cell leaders meet the needs of the interns
The rapid multiplication of small groups in the pure cell church makes it imperative that new leaders be found, trained, and released. This rapid releasing of new leadership can only happen as the quality control of each cell group is maintained, as diligent administrative control is exercised (e.g., the Jethro system and the weekly reporting), and as these newly released leaders find help through a ongoing system of leadership training.
Again, Paul Cho
is the best example. Even in a church of 750,000, Cho has been able to
maintain an average of one lay leader to every ten to sixteen church members (Hurston
1995:68). For example, in 1988
alone, 10,000 new lay leaders were appointed for ministry (Hurston 1995:194).
In fact, when Paul Cho was asked where he got his leadership for his sixty
thousand cell groups,
without even hesitating he said, “We get them from
our new Christians” (Galloway 1995:105).
I don’t believe that Cho immediately places these new Christians into
leadership, but it does mean that his major pool of leadership comes from this
Since the Pure Cell Model promotes cells as the most important part of
the church, all programs or activities must give way to the cells. There
should be no competing programs. In other words, in the cell church, the
program exists for the cells or better yet, the program is the cells (Neighbour
1990:68,69). Neighbour is the most radical here. He
We must actively abandon the hope that stagnant churches can be
renewed by painful restructuring and the tacking on of Cell Group Church
principles….The church cannot effectively mix traditional patterns of church
life with Cell Group Patterns. There must be a deliberate transition. After
devoting nearly a quarter of a century to attempt to help ‘renew the
churches,’ I am totally skeptical that it can be done (1990:36,37).
goes on to say,
I returned to the disturbing point that has been made before in this
book and will be repeated again and again, The Cell Church lifestyle is too
New Testament to be blended into a PBD [program based design] structure. It
causes endless conflicts for those who attempt it
the same time, I have discovered that even the pure cell churches usually have
a few pet programs--although they might call them something different.
Realistically, perhaps it’s
best to say that in the cell church very few programs exist.
Most churches that are seeking to transition from a programmed-based church to a cell-church will have to wrestle with the issue of cells and programs. Should all programs be abolished? Can some remain? Which ones? As we wrestled with programs and cells in our cell-based church in Ecuador, we arrived at the conviction that the cell groups had to be the very heart of the church, but that did not mean removing all of the programs. However, it did mean that:
Everyone in the church would
participate in a cell group.
Each pastor would have a significant
role in the cell group ministry.
3. There would be an intimate connection between the cell group ministry and the other
ministries of the church.
The ideal cell church does not need another layer of structure
(program) to take care of the basic, routine necessities of the church (i.e.,
counseling, follow-up, ushering, children’s needs, etc.). In fact,
little volunteer help is needed. Rather,
these needs are met through the cell groups. The various
districts (or in a smaller church, the sections) rotate from month to
month. With this format, the burdens of a church program do not weigh down a
few people in the church.
The active leadership of the head pastor
in the direction of the cell ministry seems to be a clear,
distinguishing mark in the pure cell church. Cho declares,
There is only one way that the home cell group system will be
successful in a church, if that system is to be used as a tool of evangelism.
The pastor must be the key person involved. Without the pastor, the system
will not hold together. It is a system, and a system must have a control
point. The controlling factor in home cell groups is the pastor(1981:107).
intuitively and experientially understands that unless the head pastor is
directly involved in the cell ministry, it will not succeed. Cho talks about
one North American pastor who attended his cell seminar training in Korea.
This pastor was excited about the idea of cell groups, but decided to
delegate the responsibility for it to an associate pastor. According to the
Cho, the cells soon failed (1981:108). Why? Cho says,
The congregation sees
the cell groups as only one of
many varied programs in this big church. They don’t see them as the key to
revival or to evangelism; after all, there are so many programs aimed at those
goals. The pastor isn’t actively involved, so the members feel that cell
groups can’t be all that important (1981: 108,109).
my research and experience in cell-based churches, I have also discovered that
the role of the senior pastor is absolutely crucial to the long term success
of the cell-based system. I don’t believe that the
head pastor can delegate his visionary leadership to someone else and expect
to have a successful cell church.
Larry Stockstill of Bethany World Prayer Center demonstrated
his leadership commitment to
the cell model in three areas:
He personally prepared the lessons for the leaders
He understood the role of instilling vision in the
cell leaders by speaking to them every Wednesday evening.
He visited a different cell group every week
He connected his vision for cell ministry with his
Sunday morning sermon.
I have already mentioned the pastoral roles in the cell church under
the subheading of administrative control. However, suffice it to say that in
the cell church each pastor has a
direct role in leading and pastoring the leaders of the cell ministry (Jethro
system). It’s always better if the staff
pastors were one time cell leaders.
Because cells form the basic building block of life in the cell church,
it is expected that everyone participates.
On the negative side, to refuse to participate in a cell group
indicates that one is not truly in line with the vision of the church. My
initial observations indicate that membership in the cell church signifies
that one is a committed to the cell ministry of the church. However, in
reality, there is no such thing as 100% participation, even in the purest of
cell churches. Some talk about 90% participation, but 70% is closer to
In this section I will compare the Meta Model with the Pure Cell Model. I do understand that these are only general categories. A fair amount of gray area exists between these two models. In other words, some churches using the Meta Model embrace many pure cell church principles, and other churches who might see themselves in the pure cell church category embrace many of the meta principles.  Having said that, it does seem these two models have sufficiently distinguished themselves to deserve careful analysis.
earlier in this study I had mentioned two
other small group models (Covenant and Serendipity model), they do not seem to be the choice of enough growing churches
to warrant a comparative analysis. In my opinion, the Meta and Pure Cell
Models are by far the most widely used in the church today.
I will start by synthesizing the main points of an excellent
comparative article by Jim Egli (1993:1-8).
In this article, Jim is primarily comparing the Meta Model as described
in George’s book, Prepare Your Church for the Future, with Ralph
Neighbour’s Pure Cell Model, as described in his book, Where Do We Go
The following table represents the major differences
between the Meta Model and the Pure Cell Model according to Jim Egli:
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO MODELS
(Adapted from Egli, 1993)
is the daughter of John Hurtson, who as an
Assembly of God missionary worked hand and hand with Paul Cho in
establishing the Yoido Full Gospel Church.
Karen’s latest book, Growing the World’s Largest Church, is
a recent case study of Paul Cho’s church. In that book, Karen examines
what she calls the incorporated system with the integrated system. What
she calls the incorporated system has many similarities with the Meta Model.
The integrated system which she describes is the
Pure Cell Model (1994:199-205).
MODEL AND INTEGRATED MODEL
from Hurston 1994:199-205)
The observations both by Jim Egli and Karen Hurtson shed light on some of the key differences between these two systems. In studying the Meta Model versus the Pure Cell Model, several key points stood out in my mind:
OBSERVATIONS OF TWO MODELS
Here I’d like to highlight some key distinctions and similarities
between the two models. I will also partly critique some of the potential
1. Both place a high priority on small group ministry.
2. Both find support in the cell group success of Paul Cho.
3. Both use the Jethro system to care for each leader.
The elements of discipleship and evangelism are normally found in both models.
1. Centrality in the Church
Probably the major distinction between the Pure Cell Church and the Meta Model is the priority given to the small groups. The Pure Cell Model makes the cell ministry the central function in the church. Cells are seen as THE program instead of one of the programs. The concentrated effort of both leader and member hinges around what takes place in the weekly cell gathering.
In contrast, the Meta Model tends to elevate the small group to the status of a very important program in the church. Because the seeker sensitive service is normally the major program in the church, the small groups seem to used as a supporting tool to the overall temple strategy of the church.
2. Pastoral versus Evangelistic
In the Pure Cell Model evangelism is a major priority in the small group. Cells are the net that draws in the harvest. In the Pure Cell Model, multiplication is not even an option. It’s part of the strategy. The Pure Cell Church positions the cells to fulfill the primary outreach of the church through the multiplication of each group.
In contrast, the Meta Model utilizes the cells groups for more of a pastoral, networking purpose. The primary evangelism comes from the seeker sensitive service. Four of the five case study Meta churches in this tutorial depended on their seeker sensitive service to attract non-Christians. In these churches the cells are the way to close the back door, but not the primary means of evangelism. The one Meta church that depended on the cells to evangelize has recently been declining (New Hope Community).
3. Similarity of Group Meeting Versus Various Group Structures
In the Pure Cell Church, the same lesson and general format is used in all of the groups. The similarity of the small group gathering helps guarantee the quality control. Leaders and members know what to expect in a cell meeting and new leaders can be trained more rapidly. Cell leader training and multiplication of the cell group is more easily accomplished in the pure cell approach because all are trained in the same techniques, goals, and material.
Due to the variety of small groups and material in the Meta Model, multiplication and ongoing training are more difficult to maintain. The needs of each leader is so unique and different that effective training and control usually breaks down.
4. Tight Administrative Control Versus Flexibility of Structure
The Pure Cell System tends to emphasize tight administrative control. Weekly reports are a must. Oftentimes the cell leaders receive weekly or bimonthly training. The Jethro system is applied to a greater extend in the Pure Cell Model.
On the other
hand, in the Meta Model, flexibility
and variety are important values.
The administrative control is often loose and flexible. The
freedom that the Meta Model offers is very
appealing in a North
American culture which is very individualistic and likes to have many choices.
In other cultures, these traits are not so highly esteemed.
In his Fuller doctoral dissertation on cell ministry David Tan states,
For the Meta-Church any type of groups within the church constitutes
the cells. All these groups may have different agendas and purposes. The main
principle is to involve as many members as possible in groups. Since it is
impossible to enroll everyone and the agenda of every group cannot be
identical, the goal of the Meta-Church is accommodation(Tan 1994:18).
As was mentioned earlier, in the Meta Model there are groups for everyone: children, ushers, parking lot attendants, greeters, staging, lighting, drama, vocal groups, orchestra, Vietnam Veterans, blended families, etc. (Galloway 1995:18). The concern that I have in labeling all of these activities as cell groups is that the emphasis subtly shifts from the components of small group life to a more generalized concept of anything small equals a small group.
This is a very subtle distinction, but I have noticed that this concept seems to have an adverse effect on the cell-based structure. It has the potential of cheapening the small group vision by saying that a small group usher’s meeting in the church is the same as a home based small group. In fact, the two are worlds apart, due to the setting and the purpose. I have a suspicion that the lack of quality control in this smorgasbord approach might eventually weaken the entire system.
For example, in Ecuador, our head pastor strongly insisted every week, that everyone attend a weekly cell group, so that they might receive personal care and might be able to reach their neighbors. What the people did not receive in the main worship service, we knew that they could receive through the pastoral care in the small groups. We also knew that the cell groups in the church would be open to receive the people that heard that announcement on Sunday morning.
Yet, how could our people in Ecuador receive this type of care by joining a ‘sports team’ which meets for a season, or by attending a ‘Sunday School class’ which meets for a semester and studies an academic subject, or by being on a ‘committee’ which might meet for a month. It’s not that such gatherings are not important, it’s simply that they do not fulfill the purposes of a cell group. By joining such a group, the person would not truly be pastored and in many cases would not be comfortable in inviting his or her friend. As pastors, we could not be assured that God’s purposes were being fulfilled in the life of our members.
By calling all small gatherings ‘cell groups’, I believe that a certain confusion is created.  In summary, I believe that the focus needs to be on the elements that make up a small group and not the fact that it is a gathering and it is small. 
Of the five churches that I have chosen, four of them overtly declare that they are part of the Meta Model. Saddleback Church is the only one which does not outwardly identify with that model. Nevertheless, what Saddleback actually does in their small group system is almost identical to the Meta Model, so I have taken the liberty to categorize it under that framework.
Many churches are experimenting with the Meta Model throughout the United States. In Carl George’s most recent book, The Coming Church Revolution, he provides vignettes about forty churches that are currently using the Meta Model (1994: 9,10). Because I could not study all of those churches, I had to make a deliberate choice among the possibilities. The ones that I did choose are:
OF CASE STUDY CHURCHES
main criterion for choosing
these particular churches was the question of prominence. In other
words, these churches are well-known throughout the United States,
both because of their numerical
growth as well of their effective small group ministry.
Probably the main criterion for choosing these particular churches was the question of prominence. In other words, these churches are well-known throughout the United States,  both because of their numerical growth as well of their effective small group ministry.
studies are not intended to be in-depth.
purpose is to give a brief summary of the church and their small group
ministry. I conducted two of the case studies through personal visits
(Cincinnati Vineyard and Fairhaven Alliance). For the other three I relied on
books, pamphlets, seminars, and personal interviews by phone or during a
refers to Dale Galloway’s church as the major advocate of the Cho model in
the U.S (Coleman 1993: 5:19).
I believe it is more accurate to describe the New Hope Community Church as the
first prototype Meta Model of small group ministry.
It was this church that was Carl George’s primary U.S. case study
before he wrote the book, Prepare Your Church for the Future.
Hunter calls Dale Galloway, ‘a significant pioneer in small groups ministries today’
(1996: 85). His church is based
on a wide assortment of small groups.
most recent work (1995) summarizes his years of experience in
groups at New Hope Community Church can be divided into three distinct types:
1. Nurture groups 2. Support
groups 3. Task groups. The
nurture groups provide most of the pastoral care in the church. The support
groups are instruments of healing, while the task groups gather together
people performing diverse types of service (ushering, etc.).
There is even an entire district of groups involved in the church’s
music ministry (Hunter 1996:88). Along
with the nurture groups, the task groups meet together for sharing, prayer,
and Bible application. According to George Hunter, “…every group has an
empty chair, as a symbol of the group’s mission to reach at least one new
person every six months (1996:87).
The training of
small group leaders is very important in this model. Galloway says it well, “The most important job of the
pastor and the pastoral staff is leadership development, training lay leaders
who will build small groups. Leadership development is essential, and it must
be top priority. It cannot be left to chance” (1995:118). Galloway offers a
Superbowl event three times a year in which any cell member is welcome to
attend. From the Superbowl future leaders emerge who face the challenge of
raising up their own group Once
the group is formed, the leaders are required to attend a weekly training
event where they are given the notes to the pastors and discussion questions
for Bible application (Coleman 1993: 5:19).
is New Community Church today? Does
this church continue to be a leading model of cell- based ministry?
At this point, the answer appears to be no. Dale Galloway has recently
resigned from the church and entered the world of
understanding, even before he left, the
church was experiencing problems. I first became aware of those problems during a brief conversation with Rick Warren during one of
his Purpose Driven Seminars.
I asked Rick about
the state of small group
ministries in the church today. He responded by
pointing out the apparent failure of the Meta Model in
Dale Galloway’s church. At
that time Rick mentioned that
Galloway’s church had dropped from 6000 in attendance to 1000 in attendance.
Actually, the situation is not that bad. I recently talked with one of the pastors who has been at New Hope Community Church for some 16 years.  Pastor Bev told me that the church has dropped from 6000 in attendance to the present 3000. The number of small groups has also dropped. From the 625 small groups reported by George Hunter (1996: 85), there are now 350. According to Bev, out of the 3000 people attending the church, there might be about 1000 people in the weekly small groups.  She made it quite clear that even before Dale Galloway resigned, the church had begun to lose steam. People stopped attending the Tender Loving Care Groups. The cell leadership began to show signs of weakness.
conversation with Pastor Bev, I readily detected that she tended to interpret
the present difficulties at New Community in a spiritual light. She was quick
to point out the positive aspects of what God was presently doing in their
midst (it’s natural that a person on staff is not going to spill all of the
‘inner workings’ of the church with a stranger over the telephone).
did mention that the new pastor, Rev. Cotton, was giving the church a new
focus and direction. Interestingly, she said that this new direction involved evangelism as a chief
focus—but not necessarily
small group ministry.
What has really gone wrong at New Hope Community Church? Is it that the Meta Model doesn’t work in the U.S.? No, I don’t think so. However, I would like to offer two observations concerning the Meta Model at New Hope Community Church. First, it appears that pastor Galloway might have become overly occupied with his seminar ministry and outside speaking.
This observation originated from one who understands cell ministry and the situation at Galloway’s church. His name is David Tan.  David told me that pastor Galloway’s outside speaking schedule became so hectic that he would arrive on the weekend to preach at New Hope Community and leave Monday morning to begin an intense seminar schedule. Such outside activity might have contributed to the difficulties at New Hope.
My second observation that might have contributed to the cracks in the
wall at New Hope has to do with the
categorization of small groups at New Hope. The fact that there was such a
plethora of small groups might have contributed to the break down of training,
vision, administration, and overall effectiveness.
Probably the most well-known church in the United States at this time
is Willow Creek Community Church. It is being promoted as the church of the
future—the new way to reach a secularized culture for Jesus Christ. George
Hunter calls it, ‘the most
visible apostolic experiment in the U.S. today’ (1996:14).
In 1975, Bill Hybels started this church with a vision to plant a church for the unchurched. However, Bill was not alone. A group of young adults who were all graduates of an innovative youth ministry accompanied Bill in the founding of Willow Creek Community Church. The goal was to plant a church for those who couldn’t handle traditional religion (Hunter 1996:14).
Like a sprinter
racing from the blocks, this church has not looked back. Starting from scratch
in 1975, the church now has a
huge facility that can seat 4,500 people and as of June, 1996 was
averaging 15,000 to 16,000 people in their
three seeker-sensitive services.
church also has 1400 small groups to care for the needs of their growing
From my research on Willow Creek Community Church, three core values stood out:
1. Commitment to reach the unchurched
The philosophy of the church is built around how to reached ‘unchurched Harry’, This fictitious person who represents the secular man or woman today who could care less about traditional religion. Everything that is done in their weekly seeker-sensitive services has the unchurched person in mind. 
2. Commitment to Small Groups
Although from the beginning small groups were important, it wasn’t until 1990 that small groups became a priority (Hunter 1996: 93). The church found that the only way to disciple those who had come to Christ was through a small group ministry. Bill Hybels says,
significant decision and step of growth I’ve made in the last decade of
ministry have come in the context of community,…That’s why we want Willow
Creek not to be a church that offers small groups but to become a church of
Jim Dethmer, the leading small group pastor at Willow Creek says it this way, “Our goal is to make average, ordinary lay person extra-ordinarily successful in shepherding the six to ten people entrusted to their care” (George 1994:59).
3. Commitment to Excellence
Those who have made their pilgrimage to one of the many seminars at Willow Creek come back with this thought on their lips---Willow Creek is committed to excellence.  Everything they do is first class. The phrases ‘high powered’ and ‘perfectly orchestrated’ aptly describe this ministry. Jim Egli of Touch Ministries reminded me that Willow Creek is located in a very wealthy area and thus has the resources to do a first class job. 
I could say much more about the Willow Creek Model. Loads of material has been written about their innovative seeker sensitive services. However, when studying Willow Creek, my main concern was how they conduct their small group ministry.
Willow Creek openly declares that they have espoused the Meta Model of small group ministry. The characteristics of the Meta Model are clearly seen:
3. Jethro Model 
Small groups supporting the program.
There are four basic types of
groups at Willow Creek Community Church:
1. Discipleship Groups
These are curriculum oriented small groups (six unit course) which runs on a two year life cycle. For the most part, they are considered closed groups (except in special circumstances). This type of small group can meet anywhere.
2. Service groups
These groups are made up of volunteer people. They are task oriented groups. The groups are built around the particular program. For example, when the drama group meets together for practice, they would pray, have a lesson, etc. Wayne, the staff person responsible for information in the church, told me that the bread and butter groups at Willow Creek are now these service groups. He said that previously, the discipleship groups were the most important groups.
3. Seeker small groups
These small groups are made up of six to eight people. The goals of these groups is to reach non-Christians.
are larger groups of up to fifteen people. They meet in a community
near the church. According to Wayne, these groups are a ‘holding place’ or
a ‘beginning place’ for those who haven’t yet found a service group. In
other words, it’s sort of a fishing pool for the service groups. These
groups normally meet once per month.
All groups can choose whatever curriculum that they want. The only criteria is that it’s sold in the Willow Creek bookstore.
Many of the
groups meet in the church. I was told that the group might arrive 1 ˝ hours
before their regular scheduled activity takes place. There are many rooms in
the church’s huge building where these small gatherings can meet.
The church follows the Jethro Model. They have coaches who are over five small group leaders. They have a division leaders over five coaches. Right now, there are twenty five division leaders on staff in the church. Under each division leader is ten to fifteen coaches. The information flows down from the division leader to the coach to the leader. The coaches and the division leaders are supposed to visit, council and generally pastor those under their care.
leadership training sessions for small group leaders every year.
There are training sessions for coaches (over 5 cell leaders) every month or every other month. Due to the fact
that there are no regular cell
leader training session, a lot depends on the visitation and care of the
coaches and division leaders.
According to Wayne, there is no time set for multiplication. The multiplication takes place naturally as the group members invite friends and family. Although Wayne gave me the impression that there was no pressure to multiply, the Willow Creek Small Group Leadership Handbook talks about reproduction as an important goal. It says,
leadership of a small group is ultimately seen in the viability of daughter
groups….The new group can only be considered viable if it eventually births
a new group itself. In this model, a ‘Senior Leader’ is someone who’s
birthed at least three groups, which in turn have birthed new groups---in
other words, a leader with at least three small group’ grandchildren (p.
3 in Hunter 1996:96).
Willow Creek is truly a work of the Almighty God. It embodies the motivation of Paul, the apostle, who sought to become all things to all men (I Cor. 9: 19-23). This general principle of using ‘bait’ that will attract men and women for Jesus Christ is a needed emphasis in the church today.
However, as in any model that God has greatly blessed, there is the danger of copying it verbatim, without analyzing the contextual factors. It seems to me that this danger is especially present in the Willow Creek Church because of the high financial and cultural level of the church. In other words, the type of high tech program at Willow Creek demands large resources and talent that many churches simply do not have.Concerning the small group system used at Willow Creek, several questions arise in my mind:
1. I wonder how many of the task or service groups can reach non-Christians for Jesus Christ. If in fact the service groups are centered around a ministry task, It seems unlikely that a non-Christian is going to join that particular ministry function (most of these groups meet before or after their particular task).
Because the task groups are central at Willow Creek, I wonder about the
dynamics and the components of small group life at Willow Creek. Are the
groups simply scaled down
programs that support the larger machinery of the church? How much of the life
of the true church is manifest in many of these
gatherings? Can a group meeting 1 ˝ hours before their church task,
experience the vital life of a home cell group? Without a further, more
in-depth study, these questions cannot be fully answered, but my initial
observations cause me to raise these questions.
 A quotation from Larry Stockstill’s two page handout during the Post-Denominational Seminar (May 22, 1996)
 This number has been disputed recently. For example, John Vaughn’s most recent list of the world’s 50 claims that there are 320,000 people attending Cho’s church each week with an additional 280,000 meeting in satellite locations. However, Karen Hurtson’s recent case study analysis Cho’s church, points to 720,000 members (17).
 In the small group movement in general, one of the major themes is born to die. Richard Peace made this clear both in private conversations that I had with him and in his small group evangelism class. Great emphasis is placed on the major stages of the small group with the last stage being termination. The group might decide to multiply, but it is completely optional.
 This information comes from a personal conversation that I had with Dr. Ralph Neighbour in May, 1996. I do know that Dr. Neighbour works closely with this church.
 The lesson might be a summary of the Sunday message (Cho’s church) or the lesson might be four carefully designed application questions that follow the Sunday morning message (Stockstill’s church).
 I believe that there are obvious cultural implications here. The cell movement began in Korea, where strict lines of authority are followed. It might be argued that these cultural norms have greatly helped the cell model to flourish in Korea. It’s also true that in other Asian, Latin American, African, and Chinese cultures, there is a stronger authoritarian emphasis. The cell church has done very well in these countries as well. Will the cell church philosophy work in America where individualism is promoted? One of my tutorials will examine the cultural implications of the cell model—specifically in the Latin American context.
 In Larry Stockstill’s church the zone leaders are on staff.
 In practically all pure cell churches, the district pastor is on staff. In Cho’s church there are pastors of district pastors and the Jethro model continues to reach up to the very top.
 Although in some cell churches, the cell leader baptizes and serves communion to those under his or her care.
 At Bethany World Prayer Center, the district pastors would hold congregational Sunday p.m. services once per month. One of the district pastors would preach.
 Some cell reports go into great detail. The reports at Bethany World Prayer Center include the activities of the cell leader during the week—number of visits, time spent in preparation, etc.
 Cho said this during the Church Growth Lectures at Fuller Semiary in 1984
 David Tam reported to me that at First Baptist of Modesto (a pure cell church) they have changed their training schedule (less requirements) to meet the demands of the cell leaders. Another example is Ralph Neighbour. He promotes that most of the training should take place within the cell groups.
 This figure 60,000 is used by Galloway in his 1995 book called The Small Group Book. It’s interesting to note that the difference in time between the publishing of this book and Cho’s 1993 interview with Carl George in which Cho said that he had 50,000 cell groups.
 At Bethany World Prayer Center, every new Christian is a potential leader. These new Christians are immediately discipled by a group member. After this six week personal discipleship, the new converts are asked to attend a training class in the church. This training continues until the new convert is ready to lead a cell group.
 At Bethany World Prayer Center they still had a children’s Sunday School, Worship team practice, Saturday morning prayer meeting, youth night and college and career night. Even if a church is pure cell, there will probably always be certain essential programs that are necessary in order to keep the church functioning properly.
 This aspect of pure cell church ministry was most vividly demonstrated at Bethany World Prayer Center. Every month, a different district provides all of the volunteer work in the church. Ralph Neighbour promotes similar principles.
 Of course, I’m referring to adults here. Larry Stockstill has mobilized 70% of the adults to attend a regular weekly cell group. In Ecuador, we reached 75% adult participation before I left. I’ve heard David Tan talk about 90%, but I have yet to see such participation.
 In another tutorial I developed a third model called the pragmatic or church growth approach. This approach embraces much of the pure cell approach but rejects the exclusivity of Neighbour and even allows various programs to exist.
 It’s important to note that Jim Egli is committed to the Pure Cell Model. He works for Dr. Ralph Neighbour. However, he was previously involved in a Meta Model that eventually transitioned into the Pure Cell Model structure (Vineyard Champaign).
 She also compares the appendage system (where I would categorize the covenant model and the serendipity model).
 I knew of one C&MA church in Guayaquil, Ecuador that promoted many types of small groups. They gloried in their diversity, but the congregation never caught on to a cell group vision because, in my opinion, it wasn’t distinct enough. The idea was foggy because many of the so called small groups had very few of the key small group elements present.
 I’m thinking specifically of the chief characteristics of spiritual fellowship and effective outreach. For example, I hesitate calling the worship team practice a cell group because it meets for a particular purpose and outsiders are not welcome. The same is true for the board. Concerning a sports team, I wonder where the face to face spiritual communion is going to take place.
 with the exception of Fairhaven Alliance Church, which is well-known among C&MA circles.
 The only in-depth case study in this tutorial is from Bethany World Prayer Center which is a model of the Pure Cell Approach.
 For a more in-depth understanding of Galloway’s system of training, read pages .93-110 in Galloway’s most recent book entitled, The Small Group Book (1995).
 This statement is based on three main factors: 1. A conversation with Dale Galloway in which he confirmed this reality 2. George’s Meta Model follows the structure of New Hope Community Church very closely, so as to confirm the truth in Galloway’s statement 3. Dale Galloway has been promoting Meta principles through his small group seminars for the past fifteen years (on page 9 of the seminar manual, Galloway identifies his system with the Meta Model).
 It’s hard to say just how many small groups there are. In his 1996 book, Hunter says that there are 625 small groups (1996:85). During one of Dale Galloway’s seminars in November, 1995, Dale said that he had some 550 small groups. However, since, Dale left the church in 1995, it appears that the number of small groups has significantly dwindled.
 Dale is now very involved in the Beeson Pastor Program which is connected to Asbury Seminary.
 This seminar took place in Dayton, Ohio in late October, 1995. I talked with Rick during a break.
 I remember that he even mentioned that he had preached at Galloway’s church since Dale had resigned.
 Her name is Pastor Bev. I spoke with her by phone (503-659-5683) on Wednesday, June 26, 1996. Pastor Bev is the Compassionate Care pastor. She is over the district called Grief, Recovery and Loss.
 This is in contrast to the claim in Galloway’s small group seminar manual that there are 5000+ in small groups every week (1995:10). That number is also confirmed in Hunter’s book, Church for the Unchurched (1996: 14). Although Pastor Bev’s figures might not be 100% accurate, it is clear that the church has greatly declined in the past few years.
 My conversation with Pastor Bev should be taken with some caution. She didn’t seem to want to reveal the hard facts surrounding the current situation. However, one thing was clear. There have been problems with the small groups at New Hope, loss of attendance in general, and the pastoral staff is reassessing their vision and priorities.
 David Tan received his doctor of ministry degree from Fuller Seminary. His dissertation was written about cell-based ministry. He is currently a district pastor of a cell church in Modesto, California
 I covered this more under my summary of the comparison between the Meta Model and the Pure Cell Model. Jim Elgi’s excellent article (1993) is very helpful in describing this potential problem in the Meta Model.
 The staff person who gave me this information is Wayne (847-765-0070 ext. 358) His title is: . Membership Service Manager. From what I understand, it’s his job to provide information about Willow Creek for those interested. Wayne is the one who answered most of my questions about small groups.
 True to the Meta Model philosophy, the 1400 groups include Sunday School and every conceivable type of small group gathering in the church.
 Peter Jenning recently did an excellent documentary entitled ‘In the Name of God’. Willow Creek Community Church was one of the featured churches. The documentary clearly described the commitment at Willow Creek to make the Bible message relevant to the unchurched mind.
 Don Moi, a C&MA pastor in Anaheim, makes a yearly trip to Willow Creek with certain staff members. The first thing that Don told me about Willow Creek is that they do everything with excellence.
 Jim mentioned this during a phone conversation in June, 1996.
 The Jethro Model used at Willow Creek conforms very closely to the pattern set forth in George’s book, Prepare Your Church for the Future.
 It is my understanding that the number of these training sessions vary according to the needs present.