A Revolution In The Shape Of Churches
As a church, we believe that we exist primarily to encourage the people around us to follow Jesus. The first commission that Jesus gave to his followers was "Come and follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." His last commission was "Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations."
The fact that the church in the west is declining rather than growing in influence tells us that there is a problem. If the Church really is the Body of Christ then, like all living organisms, it should be growing and reproducing.
The traditional model of church life, in which everything happens in an hour or two on Sunday, with an optional Bible Study group for the keen ones is no longer working (if it ever did). Through church history the movements that have grown and been effective have been the cell- based movements which have clustered christians together in small groups (less than 15 people to a group) for edification, encouragement and exhortation.
The Methodists, for example, started as a small group "Holiness" movement. In order to be a Methodist in the early days a person had to be a part of a "class" and/ or a "band." These were both small group discipleship systems which encourages their members to excel at their christian walk.
Cell churches insist that the normal form of christian gathering is in small groups or "cells", usually conducted in members' homes. These cells become focal points for pastoral care and for outreach to neighbours. The expectation is that the experience of christian community engendered by these groups is so powerful that members invite their friends (both believers and unbelievers). When the group gets to about 14 members it multiplies to become two small groups.
Cell groups are not just Bible Study groups, although the Bible is central to their practice. The aim of the groups is to minister the love of God to one another in worship, sharing and prayer. We expect the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be used in these groups to encourage, edify and transform members.
Cell churches differ from home churches in that the cell groups meet together regularly for large group celebration events.
At New Life we have several cell groups operating. Some of these are directed towards children and youth, while others are more open to all ages. You can find more information on the "Cell Groups" tab on the home page.
For more information on cell churches try these great sites:
Internaitonal Cell Church Forum Facebook group
Cell-Church UK A great site for resources, articles and links to cell churches
TOUCH-USA This is Ralph Neighbour's ministry site and is an excellent resource.
Cell Church Solutions Joel Comiskey's ministry site and is another excellent resource with great articles.
Two really excellent books to read are:
"Where Do We Go From Here?" by Ralph Neighbour
"Prepare Your Church For The Future" by Carl George.
While these books present slightly different understandings of the Cell Church, they are both excellent descriptions of the power and possibility of this new way (well it's actually the original way) of being church.
The thing we've discovered, though, is that even the best structure will not cause evangelism. Our hearts have to be filled with compassion for the lost. When we've got that, then the structures help us to reach our city with the Good News.