Church Leadership

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Principles Versus Models

By Joel Comiskey

Summer, 2011

Many pastors believe that finding the right model will unlock their success. They might have heard the pastor of a growing cell churchsay something like, “All you have to do is follow what I’m doing and your church will grow.” You are then instructed to come back multiply times to learn the correct procedures. But is this the right way to go about it?

The reality is that principles-not models-produce fruitfulness. Principles leapfrog models every time. Principles allow for flexibility and apply to a wide range of situations. Models are culturally bound. Models are inflexible and often require the exact set of circumstances to make them work. Principles apply to any denomination, culture, or situation. The growing cell churches are innovative and break the molds.

David Cho, for example, became convinced of the cell strategy on his death bed. He realized that Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exodus 18 applied to his own situation. He then read about the house churches in the book of Acts, and God gave him the vision to start home groups. He had to innovate and tweak his structure as he went forward because he was pioneering new ground. He followed the Spirit of God based on Scripture.

The Elim Church did something similar. They became excited about cell ministry after visiting Cho’s church in Korea, but they realized that they had to adapt to the Salvadorean culture. Cho’s exact model didn’t work for them. They decided that each cell needed a weekly planning meeting to prepare for the cell group. This was one of the keys that unlocked cell fruitfulness in their own culture.

Values come from biblical truths while principles come from what cell churches are actually doing (practice). Models come from the application of biblical values and cell church principles in one’s own context. The formula might go like this: biblical values + time-tested principles= contextual models. Yet, after arriving at one’s own model, it should never be promoted as “the” model. The values and principles should always be promoted.