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Penetrating the Resistant Masses of Thailand through the Cell Church Model
by Joel Comiskey
Thailand is one of the most resistant countries to the gospel in the entire world. After 100+ years of concentrated missionary activity (104 missionary agencies are presently in the country), less than 0.5% of the 60 million inhabitants know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
The C&MA Thailand field asked me to teach a cell church seminar in February 2000 in order to stimulate growth. The day before the seminar began, I toured Bangkok (temples, palace, etc.). Here’s what I wrote in my diary the next day: God, how I grieve for this sinful people. Idols everywhere. God, I felt like I was in the days of the Old Testament. They worship false gods, the king, the stars, etc. I felt like I was in the jaws of death—Satan’s territory. God, please help. I felt upset by this. How could a city of 10 million have so few Christians? To see the sinful culture, all the gold and glitter, etc. It’s sin city and Satan is laughing. Jesus, You deserve this place. This is not Satan’s place! It’s Yours! Take charge, Jesus!
I felt renewed power and authority as I presented my seminar. I felt like I was on a mission from God to regain lost territory from Satan. With new vigor, I trained the 150 participants to reach their neighbors, friends, and acquaintances. Those who attended learned how they could penetrate their neighborhoods through the cell church model.
I was especially thrilled to equip the three couples and one single C&MA missionaries who are planting a new cell church in Bangkok. This cell church plant is coached by Norm & Dorie Ford (Norm is also the C&MA field director in Thailand). It’s the first of its kind in Thailand and a tribute to the growing need for change. Their goal is to reach the middle-class of Bangkok.
To start this cell church plant, the missionaries moved into a neighborhood in North East Bangkok in October 1999. They started teaching English classes within the homes. This led to two cell groups. The goal is for each missionary team is to lead and multiply their own cell group. When they reach eight cells, they will gather them together for a celebration service.
Using the cell group as the base, they’re also using a wide range of activity to reach those living in North East Bangkok: interest groups, cooking classes, Christmas caroling, Valentine’s gatherings (sharing the Christian meaning of Valentine’s Day), and the Jesus video. The missionaries are making non-Christian friends by serving on Rotary Clubs, Neighborhood committees, and making themselves available as English teachers. The good news is that their diligent outreach has already resulted in four conversions. The converts are carefully discipled in the cell group atmosphere. The C&MA mission in Thailand is concentrating resources and personnel in this cell church experiment with the hope that it will model future church planting and church growth.
I believe in the cell church philosophy. I do know, however, that the cell church model is not an automatic growth technique nor is it a magical formula. Many growing cell churches are located in countries where revival is already rife. I don’t expect for this new cell church to have the same type of dramatic results as we see in other countries and cultures throughout the world. Why? Because the soil is not yet ripe in Thailand.
In fact, the church is already facing opposition. Suspicion is often expressed and some have told their children to avoid the missionaries’ homes. Family and neighbors have opposed some who have expressed an interest. The enemy’s strategy is to isolate the groups and hinder growth.
Please pray that this cell church plant would grow and bear much fruit in a land of desperate need.