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CELL GROUP DESIGN AND EVANGELISM/CHURCH GROWTH
A Ph.D. Tutorial
Presented to Dr. Peace
In Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree
Doctor of Philosophy In Intercultural Studies
The School of World Mission
FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION.
How the Tutorial Fits into the Dissertation.
Open Cells Versus Closed Cells
Cell Group Multiplication
CHAPTER 2 THE VARIOUS APPROACHES TO SMALL GROUP MINISTRY
The Small Group Movement
Variety of Models Within the Church
CHAPTER 3 CHURCH GROWTH AND CELL GROUP MINISTRY
The Movement’s Founder, Donald McGavran
The Concept Defined
The Priority Of Evangelism
The Central Role Of The Church In The Plan Of God
It Is The Will Of God That The Church Grows
The Homogeneous Unit Principle
Church Growth and Cell-Based Ministry
Examples Of This Growth In The Cell Church Today
The Cost of Church Growth
Cell Groups and the Homogeneous Unit
CHAPTER 4 CELL GROUP EVANGELISM
Net Fishing Versus Hook Fishing
Life Style Evangelism
Evangelism Through Edification
Evangelism Through Friendship
Evangelism Through Honest Transparency
Evangelism that Creates Natural Links to the Church
The Urgency of Our Task
CHAPTER 5 THE GOAL OF CELL EVANGELISM: MULTIPLICATION
Multiplication Maintains the Intimacy
Length of Time Before Multiplication
The Theme: Born to Multiply
The Process of Multiplication
Problems and Pain
The Rapid Releasing of Leadership
The Training of New Leaders
The Covenant Model
The Serendipity Model
The Meta Model
The Cho Model
The Church Growth Model
Promotion Before the Congregation
Knowledge of the Multiplication Process
Ways to Give Birth
Special Considerations of the Birth Process
This tutorial is primarily about evangelism. I’m referring to the winning of lost men and women to Jesus Christ. However, it is my conviction that simply winning people to Jesus Christ is not enough. There is more. The evangelism that will be espoused in this tutorial is firmly rooted and grounded in the church of Jesus Christ. It’s my belief that men and women are only truly evangelized when they also become responsible members of the church (church growth).
I believe that God wants His church to grow. Church growth is His will. It is this conviction that has led me to research cell-based churches. Throughout this tutorial, I will be describing characteristics of cell-based churches. However if there is one distinguishing characteristic about cell-based churches, it is that they are growing churches. 
Because of this amazing growth in the cell-church today, this tutorial will be dedicated to analyzing how the cell structure can contribute to that growth through evangelistic activity and cell multiplication.
How the Tutorial
Fits into the Dissertation
Each of my tutorials will examine some aspect of cell-based ministry. This tutorial will analyze the cell model from an evangelistic perspective. My other five tutorials will explore cell-based ministry from a theological, historical, anthropological, strategic, and leadership perspective.
Only my tutorials on the theological perspectives and the historical perspectives of cell ministry will actually serve as chapters in my dissertation. The remaining chapters are focused on my case study churches. However, one of my key research questions is focused on discovering how the cell groups are effectively evangelizing. Therefore, this tutorial will provide valuable background material.
The purpose of this tutorial is to discover principles concerning
how cell-based ministry contributes to the growth of the church. Not all small
group ministries actually contribute to the growth of the church. In this
tutorial, I hope to isolate some key
principles that cell group ministries are utilizing to both evangelize and
disciple more effectively.
I have three major goals for this tutorial:
1. Analyze the various small group ministries today.
2. Set forth a brief summary of the church growth movement
Explore how cell groups effectively evangelize and contribute to church
growth, specifically through the emphasis on cell multiplication.
The central research issue of this dissertation is an analysis of the
contribution of cell-based ministry as a positive factor
for church growth in selected growing churches in Latin America.
1. What have been the patterns of church growth that these churches have experienced before and after the implementation of a cell-based ministry?
2. How have these churches utilized their cell-based methodology as a tool for church growth?
3. What have been the patterns that characterize effective cell leadership in these churches?
4. How have the cultural distinctives of these churches affected their cell-based ministry?
I can see several delimitations in this tutorial:
1. This tutorial will not analyze in an in depth manner the great variety of the small group movement today. For example, in this tutorial, I will not even mention the house church movement which is gaining rapid momentum. Rather, my purpose in this tutorial is to summarize some of the key small group approaches that are being used in the church today.
2. Many books have been written about the church growth movement. These books go into great detail about this movement’s principles and practices. In this tutorial, I will only sketch the basic foundational concepts behind the church growth movement.
3. An attempt will be made in this tutorial to determine why cell groups multiply. From my initial research, it appears that this concept is central in understanding how cell-based ministry contributes to church growth. For this tutorial, my information about cell multiplication will primarily come from the library as well as reflection upon my own personal experience in cell ministry (founder and director of the cell ministry for three years in Ecuador). My actual field research will be several months down the road, and then I will be empirically trying to collect data on this subject. Because of my lack of present empirical data, my authority on this topic will be limited at this time.
Before I begin this tutorial, it is important that I define some
specific terms. Although these terms are common,
they offer a wide variety of meaning, depending on who is using them.
Therefore, it is important to set forth my understanding of these terms.
interchange the term cell group
with small group. I do so
because in one sense, cell
groups are small groups. However, I
believe that there is also a danger
in doing so because my definition of cell groups really refers to a particular
type of small group. In a nutshell, the small group that I’m defining in
this tutorial is one that is squarely based within the
church. Here’s a sample
Cell groups, as they are used in this paper, are small
groups of people (between 5-15) which are intimately linked to the life
of the church (Acts 2:46). These groups meet for the purpose of spiritual
edification which overflows in the form of
evangelistic outreach. Those in the cell groups are committed to
participate in the functions of the local church and when new people outside
the church are added to the group, they too are
encouraged to become responsible, baptized
members of Christ’s
body. The cell group is never seen as an isolated gathering of believers who
have replaced the role of the local church.
I believe that it will be helpful to examine several part
of my definition.
My definition makes it clear that I’m referring to church based small groups. They are not isolated units. Rather, they are intimately linked to the life of the church. Those who attend the cell groups are expected to attend the church. Those who attend the church are expected to attend the cell groups. This is precisely the model that is used in Korea. In referring to Cho’s model, Hadaway states,
Members of Cho’s home cell groups are also expected to attend the
meetings on a regular basis. Attendance is not taken lightly, and when a
member is unexpectantly absent from a cell group meeting, the house church
leader contacts the absentee person the following day to learn why (1987:99).
I reiterate this point because of the growing ‘house church movement’ that is expanding rapidly throughout the world and especially in such places as China, England, and Australia. Dr. Ralph Neighbour’s makes a helpful distinction here,
There is a distinct difference between the house church and the cell
group movements. House Churches tend to collect a community of 15-25 people
who meet together on a weekly basis. Usually, each House Church stands alone.
While they may be in touch with nearby House Churches, they usually do not
recognize any further structure beyond themselves (Neighbour 1990:193).
Versus Closed Cells
Another important part of my definition is that cell groups should be reaching out both to Christians and
non-Christians. For the most part (there will be exceptions to this
generalization), I will be investigating
‘open cell groups’ as opposed to ‘closed cell groups’.
There are some churches that use cell groups exclusively for
discipleship. It’s a system of closed cell groups (Price & Springle
1992: 46,47). The goal of these
groups is spiritual growth with little reference to evangelistic outreach of
the church (Hull 1988: 225-250).
However, my concept of cell groups includes both believers as well as unbelievers, since the group must be constantly evangelizing. This point is made quite dogmatically by Carl George,
Show me a nurturing group not regularly open to new life, and I will
guarantee that it's dying. If cells are units of redemption, then no one can
button up the lifeboats and hang out a sign, ‘You can't come in here.’
The notion of group members shutting themselves off in order to accomplish
discipleship is a scourge that will destroy any church's missionary mandate
Although ‘outreach’ will be one important distinguishing feature of
the cell groups that I will be studying, the edification of believers is also
a central concern. Since these cell groups are church based, it’s expected
that believers will comprise a majority
of the cell group. Therefore, these groups are ‘open’ for non-believers, but primarily
populated by believers. In fact, in the cell-based churches that I will be studying,
one prerequisite is that sixty percent or more of those who attend the church,
also regularly attend a cell group.
multiplication refers to the creation of a new cell group from an existing
one. This multiplication takes place when the regular attendance in the cell
group reaches an agreed upon size.
Those churches will be
considered cell-based if at least 60% of
the regular attendees are also
involved in a church related small group which regularly meets for the purpose of edification and evangelism.
The cell group ministry is not
considered to be just another program in the church but are viewed
to be the very heart of the church.
The more simple definition given by C. Peter Wagner will be used, “All that is involved in bringing men and women who do not have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ into fellowship with him and into responsible church membership” (1984:14).
VARIOUS APPROACHES TO SMALL GROUP MINISTRY
As I mentioned
in the introduction, I do not hope to be exhaustive in my treatment of small
group ministries today. For example, I will not even mention the growing house
church movement nor the famous base communities of Latin America. The models
that I do treat will not be analyzed in depth. I will spend be spending more
time with those models that are church based and have a proven track record
for contributing to church growth.
The Small Group Movement
In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that 75 million out of the estimated 200 million adults are in a small group (Wuthnow 1994:370). One out of six of those 75 million people are new members of the small group movement, thus disclosing, that at least in the U.S., the small group movement is alive and growing (Wuthnow 1994:371). After listing twenty new innovations in the modern U.S. church scene Schaller says, “…perhaps most important of all, the decision by tens of millions of teenagers and adults to place a high personal priority on weekly participation in serious, in-depth, lay-led, and continuing Bible study and prayer groups” (1995:14). William Beckham wrote the book The Second Reformation to express forcefully his conviction that the church is the midst of a new small group revolution (1995:66,67).
The small group movement can be seen in the proliferation of books on the
subject. Many Christian authors,
seeing the positive potential of small groups for Christian growth and
discipleship, have produced a multitude of literature which extols the virtues
of small groups in general. Two
Serendipity and Navigators, are known for their numerous books and
study guides on small group ministry. Several
examples that I have come across include:
Johnson (1985), McBride
(1990), and Price and Springle
(1991). The list could go on and on. Most
of this type of literature
applies equally to small groups in the church and outside the church.
Various Models Within the Church
Even if I was to focus on small group ministries that are connected with the church, it would go far beyond the range of this paper. For example, Hadaway, Wright and DuBose refer to the home Bible study, the home fellowship group, base-satellite units, the house church, and finally the home cell group (1987:12-20).
Actually, in this paper I will focus on their last category—the home cell group. It is this latter definition that is more in accord with my overall thrust in this paper. These authors say,
Home cell groups are…controlled and organized by the host church.
This is the model coming out of Korea where a congregation is divided into
small groups which meet in the home during he week for prayer, singing,
sharing, Bible study, and other activities (1987:13).
Their definition places the focal point on the church and not on the cell. The other types of small groups, according to these authors, are viewed as connected to the church, but in a more independent way (1987: 11-14).
I will now point out some of the popular models that are used today in
the church. I will attempt to define these models and then give my
critique of them. My critique will not primarily deal with each model from a
church growth perspective. In other words, does the model contribute to church
growth both qualitatively and quantitatively?
The main spokeswomen today for this model is Roberta Hestenes.  Her definition for this model is the following: "A Christian group is an intentional face-to-face gathering of 3 to 12 people on a regular time schedule with the common purpose of discovering and growing in the possibilities of the abundant life in Christ" (Coleman 1993:4:5).
From the definition it is obvious that this type of group is directed toward committed believers. One of the major goals of this model is to create long term community. There is a need for strong commitment and a high level of accountability (Coleman 1993:4:7). The word Covenant in this model refers to the commitments or promises that were established in the Old Testament between God and His people. One major focal point of this model is that the group makes a commitment (covenant) to fulfill particular goals, purposes, study topics, ground rules, and logistical details (Coleman 1993: 4:5)
Although strong on Christian responsibility and commitment, Coleman makes a wise observation, “Unchurched, non-Christians would not be interested in this type of group. There is no mechanism built into the system for the Covenant groups to multiply, or to close with honor. Frequently, Covenant groups will last until they die a horrible death” (Coleman 1993: 4: 7).
Covenant groups have a high commitment level, and therefore they are
very beneficial for spiritual growth. However, due to the lack of cell
multiplication and their closed system, his model is probably the least
effective from a church growth
The founder of this approach is Lyman Coleman, who has been a small group leader for some four decades (Coleman 1993: 4:17). Coleman was especially influenced by Sam Shoemaker, who the pastor of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City. Sam believed that all of the people around his church were his parish. His church grew in her vision to reach out to the entire parish. This vision to reach out to all people has greatly influenced Lyman Coleman (Coleman 1993: 4:17). He says, “The heart of the Serendipity model is the broken people at the door…the intention is to create a small group system where people outside the church can find a place of entry and be transformed” (Coleman 1993:4:19).
He illustrates his approach by using a baseball diamond. To experience true koinonia, the group must reach all four bases. Lyman explains the base levels in this manner, “First base is telling the story of your spiritual past. Second base is sharing your current situation, and affirming the other members of the group. Third base is goal—setting. After a group has completed this process together, real community can be experienced” (Coleman 1993 4:19). Each base represents a higher level of group maturity. The time frame to complete all four bases is one year (Coleman 1993: 4:19).
Perhaps this best understood by the characteristics that distinguish it from other models:
1. There is a definite beginning and end
Although his earlier models consisted of shorter time period groups, now Lyman Coleman suggest a one year time period. He says, “The end is marked by a period of releasing where everyone responds to his new calling” (Coleman 1993: 4:21)
2. A democracy of options
People can be in a group whether or not they are members of the church or even attend the worship services. Coleman believes that this is a distinct from Paul Cho’s model (1993 4:21).
3. Integrated model
This differs from a model which places small groups as only an appendage to the other programs in the church. There is a place for all kinds of groups in the church. “This model can also include traditional Sunday school, where people who are already involved can find a place for sharing and caring” (1993: 4:21)
4. Collegiate system
This approach is similar to the old Sunday School system where there was a definite departure from one class and entrance into another class (Coleman 1993: 4:21). “This model has a two-semester structure, with kick offs twice a year and closure at the end of each semester. There is also a graduation/celebration at the end of the year” (Coleman 1993: 2:21).
Dr. Coleman is truly an expert on small groups. In my opinion, his knowledge of how small groups function is second to none. The many books that his publishing has produced have also had a powerful impact on the small group movement in America.
However, I felt that his small group model in the church was weak in several key areas. First, although cell group multiplication is mentioned as a possibility (or one option) in his model, it’s not given a high priority. In fact, when critiquing the Meta Model, Coleman points out its over commitment to cell multiplication. He mentions that such rapid multiplication interrupts the group building process by ‘splitting cells to create new cells’ (1993: 4:13).
Second, it seems that the bulk of Coleman’s teaching concerns he quality of the small group life, wherever that small group might be (inside or outside the church) or whatever that small group might do (the variety of small groups that he promotes are dizzying). In other words, my general impression is that his model is not sufficiently centered in the church. It's not a church growth model. The emphasis is more >small group= rather than church growth. After reading through two of Lyman Coleman’s most recent manuals on small group ministry in the church  , I sought in vain for any reference to church growth, or more specifically, how his model will more effectively win souls to Christ and integrate them into the church.
Third, I have my doubts about Coleman’s use of the collegiate system. From my knowledge of the large cell-based churches today, I’m not aware of any who use Coleman’s collegiate system of graduation.  This approach seems very programmatic and Sunday School oriented.
Fourth, I question his approach to small group diversity. He seems to infer that anything that is small and a group is a functioning small group.  It has been my observation that a cell group must have certain marks (elements, characteristics) in order to be called one. In Ecuador, we never labeled our Sunday School as cell groups because there was a totally different purpose for those groups, namely Christian education.
My argument here might appear to be trivial or a matter of terminology. However, from the standpoint of promoting the cell group vision in the church, I believe that this is a very important point. 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.
how could those people 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 a 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 the person would not be comfortable in inviting his or
her friend. As pastors, we could not truly be assured that God’s purposes
were being fulfilled in the life of our members.
By calling all small gatherings ‘cell
groups’ or ‘small groups’ there is a certain confusion that is created.
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.
The Meta model was pioneered by Carl George. It is his attempt to adapt cell group principles and church growth found in the third world to a North American context (Coleman 1993:4:12). Some of the key features of this model is the Jethro system which utilizes the teaching of Jethro to Moses to decentralize (Exodus 18), so that everyone would receive the proper care (Coleman 1993:13). According to Coleman, “The main function of groups in the Meta model is multiplication…the entire purpose of small groups in the Meta model is church growth”  (1993:13). Coleman believes that the restructuring of the church organization and the rapid multiplication of cell groups is a weakness in this system (1993:13).
In George’s book, Prepare Your Church for the Future, the Meta model is introduced. The underlying thrust of George’s thinking is that because small group ministry has worked so effectively in large, growing churches around the world, it should be adapted to work in any size church, whether in North America or overseas. In that book, George gives new, fresh terminology to cell-based design. He sets forth a clear model of cell ministry in the church.  His overriding emphasis throughout the book is the cell group which emphasizes both pastoral care and evangelism, although in one chapter he does mention that other types of small groups exist in the church (1992:97-106). There is no doubt that in this book, George seems to be setting forth a new model for the cell-based church.
However, in his most recent book, The Coming Church Revolution , George redefines his so-called Meta model. He says,
“Meta-Church thinking examines the degree to which a church has been
‘cellularized,’ and its leadership linked… It tries to discern the
degree to which group leaders are in fact convening their people, and the
degree to which coaches are in fact working with group leaders. The
Meta-Church, then,…is an X ray to help you look at what you have in order to
figure out what’s mission (George 1994: 279,280).
In other words, instead of promoting a model, George is saying that he is simply providing the church with a way of discerning their small group involvement and how (or if) they are moving toward a purer cell group approach. 
CRITIQUE: Carl George’s first book, Prepare Your Church for the Future was truly revolutionary. George was able to capture like no one else the powerful potential of a cell-based ministry. He was also extremely insightful in making that model palatable to the North American Church. For me, it was highly significant that one of the premier church growth consultants had arrived at the conclusion that cell-based ministry was the wave of the future and the best way to manage a church.  Personally, out of all of the small group literature, George’s t book has had the most profound effect on my ministry.
However, in his latest book, The Coming Church Revolution, George spends most of the time describing his Meta Globe way of thinking  and attempts to categorize all groups in the church within certain boundaries. In my opinion, the concept is confusing,  and he often seems to force programs and ministries into categories that don’t necessarily fit. In the end, George’s new model (or perhaps the real model that didn’t appear in his first book) appears much like the Serendipity model. For example, he says,“Cells include Sunday-School classes, ministry teams, outreach teams, worship-production teams, sports teams, recovery groups, and more… any time sixteen or fewer people meet together, you have a small-group meeting" (1994:69,70)
He goes on to redefine the Sunday School, "The phrase 'cell groups' refers to an encompassing care system that includes Sunday School. A Sunday school is simply a centralized, on premises cell system. Churches should have as many Sunday schools as they can afford" (1994: 284).
After reading his latest book, I felt like much of the revolution had been stripped away from George’s philosophy (or the philosophy that I thought he was promoting in Prepare Your Church for the Future). For example, George recommends that the cell ministry be introduced quietly into the church. It’s not even wise to tell the board when you introduce the cell ministry (1994:259). That doesn’t seem very revolutionary to me!
In contrast to his strict emphasis on cell leadership training (the VHS) in his early work (1992:135-145), now George says that it’s possible not to even have a regular VHS, if the basic structures and principles exists somewhere else in your church (1994:203).
It’s very hard to critique the Meta Model because I’m not sure what it is anymore. Carl George has not clearly defined himself. It seems like he ‘switched gears’ from his first book on cell ministry to his second. Perhaps, the lack of clarity in George’s writing has something to do with the fact that George does not write his own books.  I have found that the very writing process helps one to think more logically and adds clarity to one’s thinking.
 John Vaughn sent me a fax on April 14, 1996 that listed the 50 largest churches in the world. It is my understanding that 24 of those churches are cell-based. Jim Egli of Touch Ministries was the first to bring this to my attention.
 I will be referring quite a bit to Paul Cho’s Korean model of cell ministry. That is because Ralph Neighbour, Dale Galloway, and Carl George receive their chief inspiration and core ideas from Cho. Granted, they have adapted Cho’s model (George more than the other two), but only slightly.
 She has become very well known for her expertise in small group ministry in general and in particular for being the spokesperson for this model. She received her doctorate from Fuller Seminary and was also a professor there. Now she is the president of Eastern Seminary.
 I’m referring to the 1993 Serendipity manual that is geared for the upper leadership in small groups. In this manual Coleman distinguishes between the various types of small group ministry. In his other earlier manual, Coleman simply goes through the six sessions of pre-training for small group leaders.
 I’m referring here to Coleman’s emphasis on a programmed beginning and end to the cell group; graduation to next group.
 Every conceivable type of small group is mentioned by Dr. Coleman: Board meetings, choir groups, usher groups, care groups, sports groups, etc.
 I knew of one C&MA church in Guayquil that 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.
 I was very surprised that Dr. Coleman picked the aspect of multiplication to distinguish the Meta Model. From my in-depth study of all of Carl George’s books on small groups, minimal reference is made to multiplication. When I say, ‘minimal’ I’m comparing George’s emphasis with say Ralph Neighbour or Cho’s model. In George’s latest book on small groups he hardly mentions cell multiplication.
 Chapter six called, “Identify Your Mice” promotes the identification of any type of small group in the church. This is unique from most cell-based churches. However, very little is mentioned about this philosophy in Prepare Your Church for the Future.
 George insists throughout the book that the Meta approach is simply a way of seeing (X-ray machine) what you already have. It’s not a model to help you get somewhere else.
 I know that Carl George has been strongly criticized for his stance. In fact, some believe that his single minded focus on small group ministry was the reason for the demise of the Charles Fuller Church Growth Institute (I can’t mention names here).
 According to George its a way of analyzing your church by placing all of the ministries into various categories.
 Dale Galloway mentioned the same thing to me at his cell conference in Columbus, Ohio (Nov., 1995) He felt that the Meta Globe idea was the worse part of George’s book. I have found that the more George talks about this concept, the more confusing it becomes. It seems that he takes a simple idea (categorizing your ministries) and makes a complex process out of it (trying to place all of your ministries on a globe with different colors, etc.).
 Warren Bird wrote both Prepare Your Church for the Future and The Coming Church Revolution.
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