We at Wellspring have been meeting in weekly celebrations for the past couple weeks. Meeting in weekly cells and weekly celebrations have many benefits, such as more ways to reach people and regularity in seeing the rest of the church. There are also weaknesses, such as depending too much on the “preacher” to draw in the people and more overhead cost in paying for a place to meet (we’re meeting in a junior high school).
Rob Campbell, Jeff Tunnell, and Mario Vega also have weekly celebrations. Yet, I’m convinced that some church planters will never meet weekly. I’m coaching one church planter who never wants to go back to weekly celebrations–yet his church is growing and fruitful! In my new book Planting Churches that Reproduce I have a section on this topic. I included it here:
The cells of a cell church should meet together in a large group gathering. Not all cell churches, however, meet weekly in corperate gatherings. Cell churches, in other words, do not need to gather together weekly in corperate worship to be called a cell church. Weekly celebration services will not be the norm for every church.
I donâ€™t think that the definition of a cell church requires a weekly celebration meeting. Rather, I believe that the cells do need to gather together in corporate worship to be called a cell church. The frequency of that meeting is whatâ€™s in question. The great benefit of the weekly celebration is that the cell church can reach out more frequently through the celebration wing. Yet, the cell must drive the church. The main priority is for the cells to meet weekly. Those cells should be networked together through pastoral care, coaching, training, and coming together. And these are the things that define a cell churchâ€”not whether the celebration meets weekly or not. I asked Bill Beckham about this, and he wrote back saying:
It seems to me that large group celebration can be very flexible in terms of frequency, place, number of people involved and even format of the meeting. Celebration was certainly flexible in the New Testament. Of course we must answer a question about the reference in the New Testament to â€œthe fi rst day of the week.â€ What were they doing on the â€œFirst Day of the Week?â€ Were they meeting every â€œFirst Dayâ€ of the week in a large group expression? Or, were they meeting weekly in small group expression and from time to time in large group expression. I am inclined to believe that it is the second suggestion. I believe that we must operate from the large group celebration principle and not from the historical precedent of a large group meeting. The Body of Christ needs to experience God in a large group expression along with the small group and house church expression. I believe the 21st Century Church is fi nding innovative ways to live out the principle.
The cell church movement needs to develop new models of how the church will function in its large group expression. And we must remember that the large group expression is not just the time of public worship. In addition to public worship, the large group expression could be used for training, for showing a public face in the city, for fellowship, for coordina tion, and for evangelism.
The cells of a cell church should meet together in a large group gathering. Not all cell churches, however, meet weekly in corperate gatherings. The focus should remain on the weekly cells, and the celebration should develop as the cells build strength. Those cells might celebrate all together on a weekly basis or a monthly basis. Or they might meet together more than once per week, like in the case of Elim.They might even meet once a quarter.
What do you think?