Groups of Twelve: A New Way to Mobilize Leaders and Multiply Groups in Your Church
by Joel Comiskey
The Groups of 12(G-12) movement is spreading throughout the world like a wildfire. After implementing the G-12 Model, the International Charismatic Mission in Bogotá, Colombia (ICM), the founding church of this strategy, mushroomed from 70 small groups to 18,000 small groups in just eight years. Four of the largest cell churches in the world are now G-12 churches. [i] Reports come from India about churches there being transformed by this simple strategy. Since Bethany World Prayer Center, the most prominent cell church in the U.S., decided to adopt this model, many other North American churches have followed its lead. Churches want to understand the G-12 model and more importantly, how to apply it to their unique situations.
One pastor traveled to ICM to “catch the fire” and learn about the G-12 model. God transformed him during his time there. He witnessed healings, a Saturday youth service of 18,000 people, and the vision to reach a city. This pastor discovered how the 18,000 cells cared for the cell leaders and produced the amazing growth. He decided that his own church should follow the same route.
Like many before him, he went back to his church, desiring to implement this new strategy. Soon, however, he became discouraged. His congregation lacked the spiritual dynamics found at ICM. The church’s prayer base was weak, and few people understood the need for small group multiplication. The six ingrown cells at his church resisted the thought of giving birth to new cells. His enthusiasm dwindled as he discovered that his circumstance differed from that of ICM. Many return from Bogota pumped-up because of the revival atmosphere of ICM. They desire to copy the entire G-12 model but fall short by not discerning between transferable G-12 principles and those that are culturally bound.
Churches are also at a disadvantage when they try to implement the G-12
model because so little is published about it. Since so little is known about
ICM, people travel to Bogota to understand the ICM system. This book can save
you the trip.
What is this G-12 model? Dr. Ralph Neighbour states, “The G-12 model is confusingly simple." [ii] Is it a new focus on discipleship? Another cell system? An emphasis on homogeneous groups? The following chapters will define the G-12 model and remove the shroud of mystery that hangs over it. Before delving into the inner workings of the G-12 system, some initial observations are necessary.
First, the G-12 model does not effectively replace the cell church system. Rather, it can improve your cell church system by increasing your capability to develop leaders and multiply groups. It can fine-tune your cell church system, but it will not replace the cells. César Castellanos, the founder of ICM declares:
The International Charismatic Mission has grown so rapidly
and has impacted the world because of our cell structure. I have arrived at
the conclusion, after becoming acquainted with other ministries in different
countries, that the best method for a church to grow is through home cell
groups. We left behind all of our programs that absorbed so much of our time
(and produced few results) and we established only one program: cell ministry.
The G-12 model (or a combination thereof) provides a way to fine-tune your cell church for growth. It requires less structure and flows nicely from the grass roots level. It won’t, however, make you a cell church.
Second, the G-12 model preserves the fruit of evangelism. Castellanos says, “The G-12 model is not for your church to grow. What gives the growth is the evangelistic work. The G-12 model is God’s strategy to conserve the fruit.” [iv] The key, according to César, is evangelism. Many people want to learn the G-12 model, but they’re not winning the multitude. The advice of César Castellanos is to first win the multitude and then preserve the fruit through the G-12 model. [v]
Third, the crowning principle of the G-12 model is to convert every member into a potential cell leader. All cell leaders at ICM seek to transform their cell members into cell leaders. The G-12 model is essentially a leadership multiplication strategy.
Fourth, the G-12 model will fine-tune your pastoral care for cell leaders. For years, the cell church primarily used the Jethro model (5x5 structure) to care for cell leadership. The G-12 model has given the cell church a new alternative, a new way to look at cell church ministry.
The G-12 model holds every cell leader accountable to a higher authority while
taking responsibility for younger, emerging cell leaders. César Castellanos
said, “This model totally eliminates the problem of care because everyone is
cared for by a leader of 12”
I visited ICM in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999. Each visit was nearly a year apart, so I was able to discern significant progression in the G-12 model and analyze it over time. My original research was part of my Ph.D. degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. I have analyzed its material (mostly in Spanish), attended its meetings, and interviewed its leaders. [vii]
Because ICM is constantly changing as they follow the Spirit of God, I had to dig below the surface structure in order to delineate vital G-12 principles. After you understand these principles, you should apply them to your own situation.
This book is far more than a theoretical exercise. I serve as one of the pastors in a cell church called the Republic Church in Quito, Ecuador. My senior pastor, Porfirio Ludeña, visited ICM on two different occasions. He patiently guided our cell church in the transition to the G-12 model. We, as a pastoral team, wrestled with applying G-12 principles in our context. More importantly, we had to determine which principles we wanted to apply in our church. At this point, we have fully transitioned to the G-12 model. But our G-12 strategy is different from Bogota’s model. I predict that your transition will also result in a unique model. God desires each cell church to use its creativity.
While this book will explain the original G-12 model of the International
Charismatic Mission, it does not endorse all aspects of their model. You don’t
have to be “charismatic” nor in agreement with ICM to benefit from the
G-12 principles. Instead, a clear understanding of ICM should guide you to the
crucial principles that you can apply in your church.
If you desire to view each person as a potential leader or want to know how to integrate each person into your training system, the G-12 model will provide the missing link. Churches throughout the world are discovering that G-12 principles provide effective discipleship and pastoral care for new cell leaders. You don’t have to apply the entire structure of ICM to benefit from the G-12 principles.
If you’re just not quite sure about the G-12 model, by the time you finish this book you will understand the fundamental G-12 principles and should know which ones apply to your particular situation.
CLICK TO READ EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER FOUR.
[i] I’m referring to Christian Center of Guayaquil (2000 cells and 7000 in attendance), Bethany World Prayer Center (800+ cells and 8,000 in attendance), Living Water Church (900 cells, 9,000 in attendance), and ICM itself.
[ii] Jim Egli, “What Do I Do with the G-12 Model?” The Cell Church Vol. 7, Number 4, Fall 1998, pp. 26-27.
Castellanos, Sueña y Ganarás el Mundo (Bogota, Colombia: Vilit
Editorial, 1998), p. 86.
[iv] César Castellanos, “Liderazgo de Exito Atravez de los Doce” [“Successful Leadership through the G-12 Model”]. 4th Convention of Multiplication and Revival, January 1999. Audio tape.
[v] César Castellanos, “Liderazgo de Exito Atravez de los Doce” [“Successful Leadership through the G-12 Model”]. 4th Convention of Multiplication and Revival, January 1999. Audio tape.
[vi] Audio tape by Pastor César Castellanos entitled “The Cell Method through the Groups of 12” (in Spanish) given at the Living Water Church in Lima, Perú. March 1998. Before starting the G-12 system in our church, I was the director of a zone, with 25 cell groups. I felt responsible to care for the new leaders. “After all, I’m the director,” I told myself. After our church started the G-12 philosophy, I changed my philosophy. I expected that each leader take full responsibility to meet regularly with those disciples under his or her care. The G-12 model helped me pass the baton of accountability and pastoral care to my cell leaders. It will help you do the same.
[vii] My research of ICM includes four visits, watching 12 video tapes, listening to some 24 audio tapes, studying all their primary Spanish literature, attending many of their services, giving a 29-question survey to many of their cell leaders, and interviews with a large number their top leadership. Probably the most important part of my “G-12 education” was actually participating as a pastor in a transition to the G-12 model, since at that time I was able to wrestle with the G-12 principles on a personal level.