In February , 1993 Bro. Larry began training the 500 members of the Gideon's Army prayer group for 10 weeks on his vision, the implementation of cell ministry, personal responsibility of each leader, and the church commitment to this new cell concept. The Gideon's Army formed the original group of Cell members and leaders.
In the first year of cell ministry, great care was taken to train and care for the initial leadership. Here are some from the early history of cell ministry at Bethany:
5, 1993, Pastor Billy Hornsby began Cell Group Leadership Training on
Wednesday evenings for over 300 Leaders and Interns.
This 13-week training
course was designed to help prepare potential leaders to fill the slots
of leadership that would be created by the multiplication of the cells.
On May 5, through July 28, 1993,
there was a Wednesday Prayer Cell Leadership Training, taught by
Pastor Billy Hornsby. Subjects covered were:
1. OLD WINE SKINS -AND PARADIGMS
2. WHY BECOME A CELL-BASED CHURCH
3. HOW DOES THE CELL GROUP CHURCH FUNCTION?
4. LIFE CYCLE OF A CELL
L RECOGNIZE L
PENETRATE L BUILD
6. HANDLING PROBLEM SITUATIONS (DEALING WITH THE
7. THE HEALTHY CELL
8. THE SHEPHERD'S LIFESTYLE
9. HEALING THE HURTING
10. THE CHRISTIAN'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD
11. CHARACTERISTICS OF LEADERSHIP
PLUS - TECHNIQUES OF GROUP
13. SHARE GROUPS & LIFELINE
On January 22, 1994
there was the first all-day Saturday Cell Intern Training class.
Throughout the history of cell involvement at Bethany,
I noticed one reoccurring theme. The church was willing to learn from
those churches already involved in cell ministry. Here are some excerpts:
From March 1-7, 1993
Pastor Larry Stockstill and four key staff members went to Singapore
for the International Conference on Cell Group Churches hosted by the
Faith Community Baptist Church. During
this time Bro. Billy Hornsby (‘second
in command’ under pastor
Larry) had lunch with Dr. Ralph Neighbour.
On March 7-10, 1993 Pastors Larry
Stockstill and Mike Ware travel to Seoul, Korea to visit Dr. David Yonggi
Cho's church. While there they
traveled to Prayer Mountain on the border of N. and S. Korea.
On April 18, 1993 Dr. David Yonggi Cho
speaks at Bethany World Prayer Center during the Sunday morning worship
On June 5, 1993,
Pastor Sergio Solarzano, pastor of the largest cell church in Latin
Ameica-120,000 people (5000 cells), speaks
at Bethany during the 8:00 a.m.
and 10:30 a.m. services.
On June 27, 1994 Bro. Billy Hornsby
travels to Portland, Oregon to Pastor Dale Gallaway's church.
From December 1-7, 1993 Karen Hurston
gives a three day seminar on
She spoke to the congregation on Sunday morning.
On April 27, 1995, eight pastors travel to
El Salvador to learn from the cell-based church
The main initial obstacle to the church accepting the cell concept was
the paradigm shift from a program-based ministry to the Cell Group Church
ministry. The idea that Cell
Groups would be the basic unit of the church instead of just an addendum to
the existing church was a foreign concept to most of the congregation.
On April 11, 1993 the church
initiates the cell groups. There were 518 total attendance in a total of 53
groups. There were 5 people saved
and 1 water-baptized.
Immediately the church was
divided into four districts.
1, Central, Greenwell Springs,
Baker an area north of Baton Rouge to the state line,
and east to the Amite River was pastored by Bro. Ted Long, with Jonathon
Gordon Atwell assisting as Zone Pastors.
District 1 had a total of 22 Cell groups with an attendance of 182 members and 46 visitors.
2, Pastored by Ken Ellis
encompassed the area south of Baker, Scotlandville, Zion City, Southern
University to Airline Hwy. They
began with 8 cell groups with 39 members and 21 visitors.
3, Pastored by Jake Benton
included the areas of downtown Baton Rouge to Airline Hwy. and I-10.
They began with 10 groups, with 68 members and 21 visitors.
4, Pastored by Cell Coordinator
Billy Hornsby included all southern areas below I-10, and Florida Blvd. to
Airline; it also stretched across
the Mississippi River north to New Roads and east to Denham Springs.
Rick Bezet, Rick Zachary and Ron Kairdolf assisted as Zone Pastors.
They began with a total of 13 groups which included 116 members and 25
Various principles were discovered and added to make the cell ministry more effective. These included:
"Spiritual Mapping" materials
were distributed to the cells. "Prayer
walks" in the neighborhoods begin.
Cell Leader mailboxes installed in the
District Pastors reports formatted.
Cell Leader Application forms made.
Need for a Coordinator's Office Report
form discussed. This would be a
form that would combine all the statistics that the different Districts
accumulated each week to provide an over-all picture of numbers and growth.
Cell Group Weekly Report forms ordered.
On June, 1993, only two months after initiating the cell ministry, clear, bold goals were made for cell group multiplication until the year 2000. Here are the goals of district 4 under the care of Bro. Billy Hornsby:
by Oct. 1,993
by Apr. 1,994
by Oct. 1,994
100 Cells by Apr. 1,995
135 Cells by Oct. 1,995
175 Cells by Apr. 1,996
200 Cells by Oct. 1,996
550 Cells by Apr. 2,000
In June, 1994, just a
little over one year after initiating the
cell ministry, Bethany held their first cell conference called, The
Cell Church in America. There were 568 registered from all parts of the USA (including
a few from Mexico and one from Holland). On January 18, 1995 Bethany
held their second conference with over 800 pastors present.
From the beginning, Bethany has intimately connected prayer with the cell ministry. Here are a few examples:
On May 18, 1993, just one month after the cell ministry began, Bethany’s
missionaries were assigned to each Cell group for active prayer duty.
10, 1994 Touch groups [the name for their cells] pray for Baton Rouge area
churches. They are encouraged to call the two churches assigned to
their group to find out prayer needs and let them know that prayer will be
focused on their congregations.
On September 17, 1994 the Touch groups
pray for unreached people groups, missionaries and nations assigned to them on
a permanent basis by the Missions Office.
The names of the people groups were obtained from Dr. Peter Wagner.
On September 24, 1994 the Touch groups
pray for government leaders, specifically the President, Vice President,
Governor and two names each from
a list of Louisiana government officials.
From early on there was a vision to involve the cell groups in the tasks and ministries of the church. For example:
On September 1, 1993 the Cell Leaders
begin to minister during altar calls. They
prepare by using Bro. Jake Benton's Training Material for Altar Workers.
On January 1, 1995 Bethany services begin
to be staffed by TOUCH Ministry members. From the nursery to the ushers,
greeters to the parking lot attendants, each District and
Zone send volunteers to man the different areas of service on Sundays
Here are a few key principles that can be learned from Bethany’s history:
1. The leadership studied other cell models around the world before initiating their own model. Several of these experts were invited to the church to teach about cell ministry. 
2. The cell leaders were well-trained before beginning the cell system and then they were trained on an ongoing basis.
3. The church was committed to the pure cell system from the very beginning (e.g., districts were set up, mail boxes for cell leaders, multiplication emphasized, etc.)
4. The system was fine tuned as needs were discovered.
5. Prayer was a very important factor in the cell system from the very beginning
6. The cells became more involved in the various ministry tasks of the church
Goals were established for cell growth.
This section reveals the very heart of Bethany’s cell structure. It
covers the most important core principles of the cell ministry. There is a
fine line between the cell philosophy and the cell system. Under this heading,
I will try to cover the broader concepts that steer the more practical rules
of the cell system.
At Bethany, the reasons why cells meet together are clearly stated.
To get to know God
To get to know each other
These three aspects might seem simple, but at Bethany, they form the
very reason for the cell group’s existence.
Unlike the Meta Model that defines the small group by its size, the
emphasis at Bethany is on the
three major purposes or components of the cell.
If these elements or purposes are not actively present in the group,
then it is not a cell group. At Bethany, each group is defined by these three
principles. Said in a different way, the components of the cell groups are:
Said in a different way, the components of the cell groups are:
Pastoral care in each group
Evangelism as a team (net versus hook)
· Exercise of the gifts in the cell group
At Bethany, the cells are a microcosm of the church.
If the components of getting to know God, each other, and
multiplication, define what a cell group is and what it does, there are also
three key ways to fulfill those components:
group is a team, not a group of spectators. From the beginning the cell group
realizes that they are called to fulfill
a goal that is greater than themselves—the goal of reaching the lost
for Jesus Christ. This goal drives them on as a unit and unites them under one
purpose. As the cell group walks toward that united purpose of cell
multiplication, they will get to know each other in a more intimate way.
Prayer invades every part of the cell group. Prayer to God through
worship is the starting point. Then there is prayer for missionaries,
unreached people groups, and especially family
Dr. Neighbour has popularized the Greek word oikos
which means household (1992:60-65). . The goal of each cell is to penetrate
society through reaching out to
friends, family, and loved ones.
There is an emphasis at Bethany on using the proper phrases. For example, the word ‘division’ is avoided. There is already a natural tendency to become ingrown instead of outreach oriented. The last thing that cell members (who are already having second thoughts about starting a new group) need to hear about is their upcoming ‘division.’ Speaking of this negative terminology, Ric Lehman, says, “You ‘divide’ people with barriers like the Berlin Wall or the Iron Curtain. Because of the…negative connotations, we exchanged these words for more life-giving words or phrases like releasing a new leader, multiplication, and birthing (1994:8).
Bethany also emphasizes the importance of naming the group. Their
counsel is not to call the cell group a care
group. By doing so, the purpose of outreach and penetration very subtly takes
a back seat. They call their groups, TOUCH groups because their purpose is to
touch the lives of the community around them.
As was note earlier, after multiplying so rapidly in the beginning,
Bethany ran out of leaders. They
have learned in a new way that:
Every new person is a potential leader.
Start your leadership discipleship track
from day one.
Be willing to equip potential
leaders immediately. Paul didn't take long period of time to equip
Larry is very dogmatic about this fact.
In a recent
interview with Ministries Today magazine he says, “We assigned all competing programs an attrition life span so they
could be phased out
as the cells were able to
take over their functions. Within two years, we no
longer needed a separate follow-up ministry, ministry to the bereaved,
altar ministry and so on. All of those functions were handled by the cells” (July,
“We assigned all competing programs an attrition life span so they
could be phased out
as the cells were able to
take over their functions. Within two years, we no
longer needed a separate follow-up ministry, ministry to the bereaved,
altar ministry and so on. All of those functions were handled by the cells” (July,
Several key principles that Pastor Larry has discovered include:
You can't have your cake and eat it too.
In other words, you can’t expect to administer all of the normal programs in
the church and have an effective cell ministry
You must focus on the cells and not
Any event that the pastor sponsors takes
away from the cell church. There is a certain train that takes place when
other programs are allowed to enter. An event can be like an infection.
It could drain the church.
They keep events to a minimum. They only
prioritize their yearly missions
conference. Wedding, funerals, etc. are done by the zone and district
All programs must be replaced by the
ministry in the cell groups
It's the same vision. No one competes for
the budget in the staff meeting. It's
a powerful concept when everyone is on the same page.
Perhaps it’s best to view programs and cells like DOS and WINDOWS 95. Bill Gates took software that did not relate to each other and gave them a common window. Larry says,
Under the Windows operating system, the programs are still there,
but they are little icons inside a new environment. In the same way, cells are
not a separate program, but an all-encompassing environment….As you look on
the ‘screen’ of your church, you can still see a youth ministry, singles
ministry or follow-up ministry, but they are now there as cells. The ministry
functions are still being served, but with relationship-based cells instead of
volunteer based programs and activities. Best of all, there is a common
ministry environment that each cell shares with the rest of the church (Ministries
Today July, 1996:39).
The groups at Bethany are similar, predictable, and repeatable. Quality
control is the issue here. During one session the point was made how that
McDonald’s hamburgers are the same. They don’t allow every franchise to
make an individualized hamburger. McDonald’s guards the quality by requiring
each hamburger to be identical. According to Bethany, each cell group needs to be teach the same thing, have the
same vision, and follow a similar (not identical) format. The purpose is to
pass down a similar recipe to the intern, so that he will know exactly what to
important illustration at Bethany that is heard often among the cell leaders
is the illustration of the flock of geese:
first reason that a flock of geese fly
as a flock is because they can rotate leadership. The first goose has to get
the major impact of the wind. But they can change roles. The point: Cells take
the burden from a few people and spread it to many.
second reason is to honk at each other. They honk because they can encourage
each other. That's why they honk. The point: We need to meet together to
encourage each other.
third reason is that geese fly 71% faster when they are in a flock than when
they are alone. The point:
We are more productive in a cell than by ourselves.
fourth thing, if a goose is shot, two geese escort that goose until it
recovers or dies. If it recovers
they join the next flock that flies by. The
point: Pastoral care takes place within the cell.
When Bethany began transitioning into the cell model some three years ago, no one was pressured to join a cell group. The pastors never insisted that all of the members had to be in a group or they were ‘second class members’. Larry states, “A common pitfall is for enthusiastic leaders to force cell groups on the congregation, rather than starting something successful and letting it gradually replace the existing programs and structures” (Ministries Today July, 1996:38). He goes on to say,
We consistently focus our attention on new converts and visitors:
the ‘growing edge’ of the church where the least resistance to
relationships is found. Gradually, many of the ‘late adopters’ have seen
the benefits of a cell relationship and are becoming involved. Now about 65
percent of the congregation attend a cell each week. At the beginning of the
transition, we informed the congregation that no one was second-class
Christian if they were not in a cell. We do require our staff to be in cells,
strictly for the increased accountability they need in leadership. However, a
rank-and-file member feels no direct pressure to join a group” (Ministries
Today July, 1996:38).
In the previous section I tried to set
forth some of the key reasons
for cell-based ministry that I heard and saw at Bethany World Prayer Center
during my five day stay with them. Now I will cover some
of the nuts and bolts of the cell ministry at Bethany.
assistant pastor cannot inspire the people like the senior pastor. In order to
truly lead the cell ministry, Pastor Larry does the following:
Prepares the cells lesson each week
Participates in a different cell group
Larry doesn’t let them know beforehand if he is coming or not. He just
drops in on them. Oftentimes it’s the best way to see firsthand
whether or not his ideas (cell
lessons) really work. It's going
from the ivory tower to the real thing.
has learned from going to these events. He went to one group and the lady
happened to be using a white
board in the lesson and prayer time. Larry was so impressed that he
ordered 300 boards for the cell groups. At another meeting he noticed
that the worship songs cassette tape that the church had prepared
was not user friendly. He immediately had that tape redone.
He ties the cell ministry into his Sunday
He encourages with fresh vision
all of the cell leaders every Wednesday night
According to Larry supervision is just that—super vision. On Wednesday he tries to pump them up with an understanding of the importance of their role.
When there is a cell multiplication,
Pastor Larry introduces the new cell before the entire church.
It is Larry’s role to guard the church
against subtle programs creeping in.
the main speaker during the cell seminar at Bethany World Prayer Center
He meets with his cell staff each week
They require that each leader fill out a report form each week. In this
way, the top leadership know what is happening in the cell groups and each
leader is held responsible.
Larry took over the responsibility of making the questions because he felt
that those done by the cell leaders were oftentimes done too quickly. Larry
now writes the lesson, but then
he gives the lesson to a team of people. This team fire the questions at each
other to determine their effectiveness.
Through this process the questions are often edited and reedited. In
the end, they come up with four questions that will really make the
small group relevant and powerful
At Bethany, they believe that the cell groups must be family oriented.
The family is already fragmented enough in society, so the reasoning is that
the cells should help bring the family together. Therefore, Bethany does not
allow women's or men's groups to meet by themselves. However, if
certain people within a normal family oriented cell groups wants to
meet on another night, that is acceptable.
the children stay in the cell
group for the praise and worship
time. Then they will go to a room in the house where they are taught a lesson,
shown a video, color, or play. The
cell members rotate as teachers of the children. There are some 1000 children
in cell groups each week.
Normally the cell format uses the following order:
15 minutes of icebreaker
40 minutes of lesson (topical and always
has a text)
15 minutes of application time
One of the great strengths of the cell system is the training that
takes place within the group. New converts are assigned a mentor who takes him
or her through the Leadership Development Training (LDT). The training system
takes on the following order:
receives individual follow
up by member of the cell group
New convert takes new believer’s class
on Wednesday night
New convert receives more hands on
training within the cell group with the intention of making that person a cell
leader apprentice and eventually a cell leader.
has designed their own music tapes for each group. One of the cell groups that
I visited was using this tape with effectiveness.
The process up follow-up for first time visitors goes something like
Visitors fill out a card
The card is funneled to a cell leader according to zip code.
The cell leader then goes to the home of
that person with a loaf of bread to give to the person as a gift. All
of this takes place within 24 hours. The person might pray for the
The cell leader invites the person to
attend the cell group and church
Each member of the cell group is encouraged to reach out to friends and neighbors. For example:
Cell members are asked to spend one hour
per week with non-Christians
Cell members are encouraged to invite
friends and family versus strangers. The goal is simply to ask people to
meet a group of your friends. You don't catch a fish by telling them
what you're doing
Cell members are instructed that their
bait is helpfulness. Everybody
can be helpful. If someone will just be helpful to those who are lost and
hurting, there will be fruit.
One of the marvelous things that I noticed at Bethany was how the cell
ministry brought a unity of vision and purpose to the church.
is the stated goal of the church. Before the cell system took root at Bethany,
there was a constant battle to interrelate programs. According to Billy
Hornsby, there was such difficulty trying to
divide the pulpit time, the budget, the pastor's attention, etc. He
mentioned how that the pastors were constantly
competing with one another.
now the cell groups are everyone's department. When everyone is working toward
the same thing, there is no competition. The cell groups bring
According to Pastor
Hornsby, the cell group concept
gives the church a better understanding of what the body of Christ is doing.
When the church moves, it moves in unison. Pastor Larry says,
According to Pastor
Hornsby, the cell group concept
gives the church a better understanding of what the body of Christ is doing.
When the church moves, it moves in unison. Pastor Larry says,
The administration system is very much like all of the cell churches around the world. The basic building block is the cell leader and his intern. Over the cell leader is a section leader. The section leader can have up to five cell leaders under his or her care. However, I heard from one zone pastor that its best to have three cell leaders under the care of the section leader.
Over the section leader is the zone pastor. The zone pastor might have eight sections under his care. I believe that the maximum is ten for one zone leader. Over the zone leaders are the district pastors. There are between five and eight district pastors at Bethany. These district and zone pastors serve five districts and fourteen zones. Each district has approximately three zones (although this varies). The youth and college and career function like districts but they are not included among the five. The reason for this is to keep them more homogenous rather than by geographical location. The five districts are divided geographically. When a new visitor comes to church or someone is saved, that person is assigned to a cell group according to the person’s zip code.
The districts are congregations within themselves. Each district might have 250-350 active cell participants. The district pastor and the zone pastors perform weddings, funerals, visits, counseling, etc. for the members of their district.
There is also a coordinator who serves directly under Pastor Larry.
This coordinator blends the focus of the distinct districts into a unified
How does one become a section leader, zone leader, or a district
pastor? First, everyone must start
as a cell leaders. Everyone has equal opportunity. The key is fruitfulness in
ministry. If the person is successful
in multiplying his or her cell
group, there is immediate recognition of God's hand upon his or her
life. Obviously, the call of God also plays a role, but that call must be seen
by the fruit.
Many times during the seminar did I hear the importance of evangelism in the cell groups. Larry made the comment that fellowship comes naturally for a cell group; it’s outreach that must be encouraged and maintained.
With regard to evangelism, Bethany copies the example of the 100,000+ cell-based Misión Elim in El Salvador. They instill vision in their leadership by constantly repeating these principles:
· I have a purpose
· My purpose is winning souls
· I fulfill my purpose best in a group
· I will never be satisfied until I fulfill my purpose
· I have no promise of tomorrow
From what I understand, they actually shout these principles to one
Another important concept of evangelism that Bethany has learned from La Misión Elim in El Salvador is alternating the emphasis of the group meeting from edification to evangelism on a regular basis. In other words, one week, the groups will be seeker sensitive and directed to non-Christians. The following week, the cell will focus on the believers. The week that the cell is seeker focused or seeker sensitive, the leadership will plan a variety of activities. For example, at Bethany:
1. Sometimes they will have a service oriented week
2. Sometimes they will have a video night
Sometimes they will have a Mother's Day outreach, or Father's Day outreach, or
Vietnam Veteran outreach.
Bethany has not lost their zeal for missions. That zeal is simply redirected through the cells groups. This summer (1996), they will send six teams of cell leaders for three week, on site visits to their unreached people groups (Ministries Today July, 1996: 38). At Bethany’s conference I heard about one cell church in Singapore which is sending 140 cell groups (with all of their cell members) to unreached people groups. According to pastor Larry, all growing churches around the world emphasize prayer, cells, and missions. The ultimate goal of Bethany is to send cell so plant churches among unreached people groups.
The pastors at Bethany make it very clear to the cell leaders, “Don't allow your people to think that they are going to stay together forever.” Rather, cell multiplication is taught as the most natural thing for a cell to do. The pastors teach that God places in everything the ability to reproduce. In every seed there is the ability to reproduce itself; Cells are a living organism that have the capacity to reproduce. God's first words to Adam was to be fruitful and multiply. The district pastor tell their people to reproduce themselves. They teach that this is the true foundation of the cells.
Why some groups
multiply and others do not is one of the key questions in my Ph.D. research. I
asked some of these same questions at Bethany.
What is the key behind cell group multiplication? I asked five people why some cells multiply and why others do not.
The first man had multiplied his group six times. His name is Carl
Everett. He is now Zone Pastor of
District 5. Even though he’s extremely shy, he had been very successful as a
cell leader. I asked Carl the secret to his success. He said, “It’s
simple: prayer, prayer, and more prayer.”
Carl would fast the day of his cell group and would not eat until the
refreshment time afterwards. This type of Spirit-led openness was common at
· I talked with another cell leader who also mentioned prayer as the chief reason behind cell multiplication
· I talked with a zone pastor (on staff) who told me that he believes that the difference is one word: commitment. He felt that those cell leaders who have a higher rate of multiplication understand the ramifications of multiplication. They understand what they are doing and they know it will cost a lot of time and energy.
· I talked to a section leader during the night when a group under his care was about to multiply. There must have been 30 people at the meeting. This section leader felt that the key difference was the love and friendliness of the leader. He felt that a leader must reach out and meet people if they hope for their groups to multiply.
I talked to another section leader who also led a group and had multiplied his
group. He felt that there were a number of variables. It was hard for him to
I was in one cell group at Bethany which had not multiplied, although they had been together for more than one year. There was one particular female member (studying law) who had previously been part of several cell groups that had all multiplied. I asked her to analyze the difference between her previous cell groups and her current cell group which had not multiplied.
She told me that they had invited several people to the present group, but those people had not stayed. However, when I asked her if all the people from her previous groups stayed, she said no. She did notice, however, that in the previous groups, there were more visitors. In other words, they had tried more times until they found success.
This suspicion was somewhat confirmed when
I participated on Friday night in another group which was celebrating
the birth of a new group (multiplication). The section leader testified how
that when they only had six people and were earnestly trying all of the 'right
things' to do, nothing was happening. Yet, they kept on trying. They kept on
praying. They kept on inviting. Suddenly, it gelled. Some key people were
added who reached out to others. The mix came together. In that group I met
about four people who had come to Christ within the last four months. For at
least three of them, they had come to know Christ in the cell group.
One aspect of cell multiplication which I would like to analyze more is homogeneity. For example, on Friday, the group that was multiplying was thoroughly homogeneous. On Thursday, the group we visited had not grown. It was frustrated. I also noticed that this particular group was heterogeneous. I noticed that the two black people in the group talked quite a bit, while the others were more apt to listen.
My theory (and only a theory) is that the reason that the heterogeneous
group did not grow is because the visitors were not attracted to come back due
to the lack of similarity among the members. In other words, like attracts
like. As McGavran said, “Men like to become Christians without crossing
racial, linguistic, or class barriers,” (1990: 223). The heart of this
principle is summed up by Rainer,
“First, rapid evangelization
takes place best when people of a culture share their faith in Jesus Christ
with others within their own culture. Second, Christians must not insist that
a person abandon his or her culture in order to become a Christian. Such is
the essence of the homogeneous unit principle” (1993:260,261)
It seems to me that the lack of cultural attraction is one important factor behind the slow growth in the Thursday night group and the rapid growth in the Friday night group.
This possibility was strengthened when Pastor Larry presented four groups on Sunday morning who had given birth to four new groups. Each one of the groups was homogeneous. Two were completely white and two were completely black. Here, I’m simply making an observation, not promoting a principle. I for one believe that the today’s racial reconciliation movement is sorely needed. However, when a cell naturally reaches out along similar cultural lines, it does seem to grow more rapidly and naturally.
These five stages are regularly taught to the cell leaders at Bethany. These stages of the cell which leads to reproduction are the following:
1. The Learning Stage
The cell starts as a blob of protoplasm. It just starts with new people looking at each other. The first stage of a cell in the human body is like that. During this stage it’s important to emphasize the ice-breaker. The time frame of the learning stage is approximately one month.
2. The Loving Stage
The chromosomes in a cell begin to pair. They look like tiny xxs throughout the cell. In the church cell group, this stage might be called the conflict stage. In the second month of the small group’s life cycle, the mask starts coming off. When the person forgets the potato chips, everyone else has to love that person. If you don't know that there will be conflict, people are going to be very discouraged. The loving stage also takes about one month.
3. Linking Stage
In a human cell, the chromosomes that are freely floating around suddenly begin to link in a north and south formation. In the same way, the people in the cell group begin to find their role about the third month. Someone is good with the new converts, others can lead worship, others are great at visiting others, bringing refreshments, etc. This is a good time to train people in evangelism. This linking stage takes about one month.
4. Launching Stage
The cells begin to move to an east, west position. They are getting ready to launch. In the same way, in the church cell, at this point, the people are ready to evangelize. They are ready to reach out. They have left the other three stages behind them. The launching stage takes place during the fourth, fifth, sixth, and maybe, even to the seventh month.
This is the fifth stage of all development. During this stage, the cell
must multiply. In fact, at Bethany, they doesn't allow a cell to live more
than one year. Something is wrong with a cell that does not multiply after one
year. As Pastor Larry said, “Usually, a group that only has four people
sitting around looking at each other after one year are quite happy to leave
get out of there!” The leaving stage lasts up to one year.
Everyone knows at Bethany that if the cell has not multiplied within one year, it will be integrated into the existing cell groups. For the integration to take place as naturally as possible, certain points should be emphasized:
1. There must be clear communication with the cell leader.
2. The group itself does not need to feel that it has done something wrong. It hasn’t.
The section leader and zone leader need to graft the group that has not multiplied into a healthy group in order
to give it an excellent opportunity to experience multiplication.
Bethany has developed various principles that help in the multiplication process:
1. The part of the cell that is going to form a new group begins to meet in the same home, but in different rooms. This helps the two groups to experience what it will be like when they actually do give birth.
2. The cells are multiplied along relational lines. That is, those people who have formed natural links to each other usually share the new group together. If someone has invited a visitor, he or she will go with their invitee.
3. Cell multiplication should be festive events. At Bethany, they celebrate cell multiplication like parties. They might go to a park and have a big barbecue. They will celebrate with a birthday cake.
4. They avoid terminology like divide.
The old and new group are presented on Sunday morning with prayer and
At Bethany, the wilderness church is the best example concerning how to pastor a church. They are shepherding people exactly like Moses did. Pastor Larry remembers the poor altar call card that had to pass through so many loops before Bethany implemented cell groups. It was truly a miracle if the card didn’t get lost. Today, everything is different. For example:
1. Immediately the cell leaders are there for the new convert
2. The cell leaders are praying in back throughout the altar call
3. The cell leaders hear when the altar call is taking place. They then stand behind the new believers
4. Within 24 hours of the person accepting Christ a zone pastor and the cell pastor visit the new convert.
5. Discipleship training starts the first time that the new Christian enters the cell group
6. If and when they complete that LDT six week course, they can then enter the class on Wednesday night.
The goal is for them to eventually become cell leaders.
One thing that greatly impressed me about Bethany was the racial mix between leaders and members. These are not strictly homogeneous groups according to racial and cultural backgrounds. There is a mixture of black and white leadership and a mixture of black and white cell membership. No attempt is made by the church to make the groups more homogeneous, although I believe in practice they probably are. However, they do direct people to a cell group according to geographical location and not according to racial mix.
I went around to the various district offices at Bethany. There are five. I counted the number of cell groups and section leaders. I came up with 363 of these leaders. I then counted the number of black leaders among these 363 cell leaders and section leaders. I counted and zone pastors. My goal was determine the race mix among the cell leaders. 149 out of the 363 cell and section leaders were black (41%) Really, 149 is not high enough because some 20 of the cards did not have their photos. Therefore, it would be more correct to say that 155 out of the 363 principle leaders are black. This is in a church where 70% of those who attend are white! I also counted 22 district pastors and zone pastors. Out of those 22, six of them were black.
This statistics are highly significant to me.
It means that half of the cell and section leaders are black. Could
this be the reason why the cells group are growing so rapidly. Generally
speaking, black culture is more friendly and family oriented than white
culture. Many blacks have more time on their hands than whites do. One of the
white zone pastors (on staff) said that white
businessman have very little time to attend a cell group,
whereas the black person has more free time.
It is also true
that the blacks oftentimes live in the poorer sections of the city. Generally
speaking, in these areas, there is a greater openness to accept an invitation
to come to a special event or to receive a free hand out.
There is always a foundation class taking place. However, to enter that class, you must be in a cell group and must have completed the six week LDT beginning course. They are working on three more modules to complete the training of the new Christian. Several points were made about leadership:
1. Originally, they just tried to get the best people
2. Everyone now is on a level playing field. Everyone starts with a cell group
3. A race has an automatic sifting affect.
4. You never know what someone can do until you put a bat in his hand.
5. Sometimes people talk a good walk but do not walk a good talk. On the other hand, there are those who are very effective, but might be passed over due to personality, etc. The cell system places everyone on the same playing field.
One carpenter multiplied a group six times in one year. He soon became a full time staff person at Bethany. Bethany has now hired some 12 people who were sitting in the pews before the cells started. When they got into cells, the cells started multiplying; Now they are section leaders or district leaders. According to pastor Larry, the cell system has finally given this church the ability to decide which leaders are truly effective.
6. They don't even send missionaries until they're at district pastor level.
7. They have various levels:
a. Apprentice (little jobs)
b. Intern (there are 10 factors; The cell is not ready until the intern is ready)
c. When the intern is ready and there are enough people, then the cells will multiply.
d. The leader then can lead a group.
I believe that Bethany is the church to watch in the future. They have bold plans. Larry states, “At Bethany we fully intend to be ready with 1,000 cell groups by the year 2000. That will enable us to assimilate and disciple 1,000 new converts per month” (Ministries Today July, 1996:40).
I have only positive comments to make about Bethany. They have made their cells the top priority and the result is an outstanding pastoral care system, a powerful evangelistic outreach, and an administrative system that is second to none. I only hope that more churches will follow their example.
In this tutorial I have endeavored to analyze the major strategies of cell-based ministry today. I have concluded that there are two major models today: the Meta Model and the Pure Cell Model. Both models stress the virtues of small group ministry in the church today. However, the Meta Model is an adaptation of cell principles for the North American church while the Pure Cell Model has more of a world wide following.
This tutorial has pointed out that the Pure Cell Model is an all encompassing system of pastoral care, church administration, evangelism, and leadership training. The Pure Cell Model places the cell at the heart of the church , and makes it the key program. Those churches that are based on cells possess many similar characteristics. For this reason, is quite easy to categorize and analyze these similar patterns and characteristics.
On the other
hand, the Meta Model tends to be less clear. Variety and flexibility are key
values, and therefore it’s harder to identify one particular type of Meta
Church. In the Meta Church, the
cell is not the driving force behind the church. Normally, the
seeker-sensitive church services are the major tools for evangelistic outreach.
The cell groups are seen
as a way to care for those
who have already come to Christ through the church services.
Further study is needed to determine the place that culture plays in
the Pure Cell Model and whether or not it can be effective in every cultural
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 Karen Hurtson, now Dr. Karen Hurtson, is well-known for her work with Paul Cho. Her latest book, Growing the World’s Largest Church, gives many insights into cell-based ministry.
 Experts who spoke at the church include: Ralph Neighbour, Paul Cho, Sergio Solarzano, Cesar Castellanos, Karen Hurtson, and others.
 During the Post-Denominational Seminar in front of a multitude of leaders from various denominations, he openly declared that he has been liberated by getting rid of all of his programs and concentrating on the cell.
 Although Pastor Larry and others talk openly about ‘getting rid’ of programs in the church and making cells the only program, I noticed that there are other programs in the church. For example, there is still the Sunday School for children, the Saturday morning prayer group, the Wednesday night high school activity, the Sunday night college and career activity, the worship ministries, the tape ministries, pro-life ministries, missions ministries, alcohol and drug support ministry, and the Christian School ministry. Larry does admit that they’re in transition, but I believe that often the word ‘program’ is redefined to appear like there are no programs when in fact there are.
I must reiterate that I'm only speaking in generalities. Some black
businessmen work longer and harder than some white businessmen. Since I have
not attempted to do a statistical study on this, I'm simply speaking in a
very broad fashion.