Cell-house Church Seminar with Kreider

 joelYesterday, I taught a cell/house church network seminar with Larry Kreider in Longview, Washington. About 100 pastors and leaders were present. IKREIDER spoke 20 minutes on one aspect of cell church, and then Larry took 20 minutes on the same topic—but from the house church persective. We covered: house church/cell church definitions, community, evangelism, multiplication, leadership training, and the nuts and bolts of both movements. We flowed very well together.

How did we come together in the first place? In my book Planting Churches that Reproduce I tackle the need to simplify church planting and make it more reproducible. Kreider had already come to the same conclusion. Dove Christian Fellowship, the network Kreider founded, has some 150 churches. Many of Kreider’s new church plants are simple house church networks, in which the house churches meet weekly but come together once per month for celebration (this is the most common scenario). I asked Kreider to review early copies of Planting Churches that Reproduce, and we realized that we had a lot in common, thus spawning the idea of doing seminars together. Our next one will be in PA in September.

It’s my conviction that most cell churches have not done a very good job of planting new churches. Many have fallen into the trap of magnifying mega cell churches and have even contracted the disease called “Yonggi Cho Envy.” They are constantly comparing themselves with Cho’s church and fail to plant new churches in the process.

It seems to me that we in the cell church world have done fairly well at multiplying cell leaders but not the best job of multiplying pastors. Both are necessary.

Do you agree or disagree? What’s your opinion?

 

Joel Comiskey

15 thoughts on “Cell-house Church Seminar with Kreider

  • Larry:

    Congratulations on your synergy. I agree with your conclusion about the pastors although I am new to this great movement

    I’d like to make few comments on the topic that you may consider looking at:

    -identify cellmembers who have higher potentials than others to lead & focus on their developments

    -stress the necesity of the leadership of the Holly Spirit as an Old & New Testiment way to be connected to God, that have been neglected by both Jews & Christans for thousands of years through the power of speaking in tonques(which I may or may not have) in the New Testament

    -cell movement may want to differentiate between so-called Chrisitian/Non-christian Book Authors on financial topics & people who really care about the flock in different financial professions using customized approach to specific situtation. Neglecting doing it will negatively affect the movement.

  • I would concur with your observation as well. Across the globe, there has always been a desire to be big in one location or under the same lead pastor (multi-site with video sermons or the preacher moves from location to location for the services).

    If you ask me, most of it has to do with pride or control. Either of the two will drive a senior pastor to keep folks instead of raising up others to pastor and releasing them to do it.

    One day soon, I will plant a cell-based house church as you have described and grow it into a network of cell-based house churches. No buildings, no salaries. Men’s and women’s cell groups meeting weekly and monthly gatherings in a home somewhere. That’s the vision God gave me a few years ago that I’ve been talking about over and over and over.

  • Randall, I rejoice in your desire to plant a simple cell church network someday. I really want to encourage you in this endeavor. You’ve already done a great job as a cell leader and a coach. If you keep it simple, pastoring several cells in a church format is not a lot different than what you’ve already done.

  • Brother Joel, I agree that we need to focus on planting more churches rather than just multiplying cell leaders. The basis for my agreement is in understanding and appreciating the scriptural roles and functions of the various church leaders. Our Lord Jesus Christ is building His Church and Ephesians 4:11-16 tells Church leaders their purpose.

    When we define leadership roles and functions, a lot depends on who is doing the defining. What a leader is called and how they function will be largely determined by the type of church they are in; whether a traditional institutional denomination, a nondenominational organization, an independent church, or a “simple church” (house church). I say this not to criticize any particular group, but to point out that each has a particular way of organizing and governing.

    Having a scriptural basis for organization and governance allows the Holy Spirit to bring His creative guidance to our ministry. Joel, I like your book “From 12 to 3” because it shows how we can take a scriptural principle (how Jesus trained disciples to become leaders) and allow the Holy Spirit to bring the way, truth and life of Christ into our ministry. Rather than adopt a cell church method wholeheartedly, which may or not be scriptural, we may adapt as we are led by the Word and the Spirit of God. Just because a leader has a large group of followers does not mean they are effectively working towards the goals set before us in Ephesians 4.

    Brother Kreider has two books which are helpful, one on the five-fold ministry and another concerning elders. Kevin J. Connor’s book, “The Church in the New Testament” gives clear, scriptural guidance for leadership in the local church.

    Randall Neighbor made an important observation concerning the wrong mixture of heart motives of many church leaders. In Galatians 5, Paul writes about how easy it is to come under a (religious) bondage that threatens the great freedom that we have in the liberty of Christ. Sadly, those who are led will come under bondage when leaders are influenced by some combination of the flesh, the world. or the devil.

    All of these issues, and many more, are of great concern to our Lord Jesus. Yes, He is building His Church and His ways are highly effective. I am grateful for all of the cell church coaches and contributors on this site because you are helping novices like me to cooperate with Him better.

    Lord, as we come underneath our brothers and sisters in the work of the gospel, may we help equip them and set them in Your divine order, so that we may all work together more effectively to further Your Kingdom.

    I plan to attend the September cell/house church network seminar in Pennsylania. I’m sure it will be a great benefit to our ministry here in Baltimore!

  • Hey, Charles, be sure to greet me at the seminar in PA. I’d like to say HELLO. Very wise comments. Jesus is using different streams to help us get the job done. And like you said, we’re all seeing it from somewhat of a different angle so we need to have grace on one another. . .

  • It greatly disturbs me that we seem ready to throw large cell churches under the bus. Yesterday I spoke in South Africa to a Zulu cell church with about 1,500 cell members present, started by a precious man named Tabo who came to Christ a few years ago, was trained by Harold Weitz at Little Falls Christian Centre, then supported to plant among the poorest of the poor living in handmade huts on the edge of Johannesburg. I wept as the presence of Christ’s Spirit fell as the Zulu worship team led the congregation. Then FIVE new pastors were ordained at one time. All have been through the three-year cell pastor’s training set up by Little Falls and all have entered an unreached area and have formed from 6-10 cells–a prerequisite for being ordained. Now Tabu’s church, about 8 years old, will add to the 10 daughter churches ALREADY planted, five new ones during the next six months. Then in the evening back at Little Falls we ordained another pastor and his wife. Six new ordinations in one day!

    My problem with “simple church” is that we may end up with a mindset that ridicules God doing a large thing, accusing a pastor God ordains to grow a massive cell church as suffering from “pride” or “control.” I confess there are those Castle Builders within the cell movement and they break my heart. But NO ONE can accuse Dion Robert of being “proud” or “controlling” with 190,000 souls in his cells, nor can such a derogatory comment apply to Mario Vega or Jimmy Seibert or Harold Weitz, all men God has blessed with the capacity to provide equipping to others who multiply the Kingdom. And I fear the “simple church” people will never band together to form orphan villages like Watoto, as has been done by a cell church with 1000 cells pastored by Gary Skinner in Uganda.

    I sense there may be a spirit of rebellion against authority lurking in some of the proponents of “simple church.” While not true of all, the cover of Rad Zero’s manual on The House Church Revolution depicts a Communist poster on the front cover and tosses the cell church out as inferior to the house church, declaring it is the final stage of getting the church right.

    In scripture, God worked through MEN! Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, Paul, for example. And while Tabu’s ministry among the poor came to the attention of the woman who was just elected the head of the State Government in his area (she has asked him to sit beside her when she is inaugurated), I do not think that small, independent unguided “simple churches” will have much impact on society.

    I sat weeping while the Zulus worshipped with clapping and dancing and felt a deep sense of grief that those ridiculing mass gatherings of the Body of Christ would never experience the sheer joy that was in that huge collection of people, every single one a member of a cell group.

    I agree solidly with Bill Beckham who wrote about a one winged bird that could never soar into the heavens because it was only half there. The traditional church has tried to fly with only a large wing and now we have the one winged “simple church” that deliberately flies with only the small wing.

    Let’s remember in ACTS they gathered both from house to house and went to the Temple to hear the Apostles teach. Was the Antioch church that seems to have a large group of elders “simple?” When Paul spoke in the Hall of Tyrranus the crowd was so large they sat on windowsills. Acts 20:7 refers to the disciples gathered to break bread, and Acts 16:2 refers to the gathering on the first day of the week.

    I got a taste of “house church” recently when I journeyed to a meeting of house church leaders. Our focus was not directed to edification but rather to a study of a Bible passage. It was obvious that the men who discussed the passage were puzzling over the implications without any understanding of the Greek, and I volunteered a comment about the impact of the verb tenses. At the close, the head man made a slam about how I had acted like an “expert” and had disrupted the “flow” of light bulbs glowing in the discussion as people found their own “light.” Is scholarship and serious research not a part of “simple church” where we pool our own insights without full study?

    I am venting my frustration and am WIDE OPEN to dialogue. Let’s share more. I am not sold on all these “church plants” if they are separate satellites. Sequoia trees live in clumps and their roots intertwine; they hold up one another if a storm strikes them, they are a society of mutual aid. They illustrate the oldest and most important law of survival in nature and in man. In the Kingdom of God we intertwine to reveal the larger Body of Christ, something I fear the independent minded Simple Churches will not experience.

  • Thank you, Ralph, for bringing me back to the vital principles of Basic Christian Communities of celebrating in BOTH small (cell) and large (corporate) group expressions of Church. Your comment on sequoia trees reminds me of John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you (the disciples) are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. Jesus cannot be separated from His Body (the Church, locally and globally). Therefore we cannot claim we love and worship Him yet reject parts of His Body. I have been learning in recent years that it is dangerous to be disconnected from the wider Body and the bigger picture of what God is doing. If a cell church planter starts thinking “I can do this on my own” dare I suggest he may end up losing the plot? A leader leads by example. If he is un-connected, disconnected, doing his own thing, without relational (peer) accountability, he is modelling the same type of behaviour for his cell / church members. Disconnected leaders produce limited, temporary fruit. Nothing can replace face-to-face, flesh-on-flesh relationships/community, that includes blog communities, quarterly / annual leaders meetings etc etc. I’m ALL for being accountable and closely connected with others because I need you and you need me so together we can advance the kingdom.

  • I have read Joel’s book Planting Churches that Reproduce. His view supported both big and small cell churches. I don’t think he was throwing large cell churches under the bus. I think that the separate satellite church plant syndrome occurs in all church plants that I have observed.

    Everyone in my town wants to plant a church (not necessarily house church or cell church) and grow it big, without being networked to anyone else. It’s a symptom of the age I live in, and the flawed church planting methods used by the pentecostal/charasmatic stream of Christianity I float in.

    The only house churches I know of here in my city ARE highly interconnected (they are part of a network that has regular celebrations and look remarkably like a cell church). Which is the point Joel made in his book Planting Churches that Reproduce…..funny that.

    Simple house church network, cell church with networked cells, who cares what it is called. Will you find Christ’s Basic Body? That’s the question that needs to be asked (suppose I’d better get that book too….) Sigh! It’s expensive to keep up with all this cell driven dialogue and the excellent books/seminars that are around. I better hurry up, multiply myself and plant a church, then I can write a book and have a seminar too…. 🙂

  • I LOVE RALPH NEIGHBOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    HE IS MY HERO!
    I LOVE RANDALL TOO.
    AND JOEL, AND LARRY (AND CHO, STOCKSTILL, CAMPBELL, BEN WONG, SKINNER ETC ETC).
    ALL YOUSE GUYS ARE GREAT!
    AND ALL THE BROTHERS WHO BLOG. OR READ THE BLOG.
    YOUSE GUYS ARE ALL GREAT TOO
    KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT!!!
    LOVE YOUSE ALL!

  • ralph, THANKS FOR THE REMINDER that God is using both large cell churches and simple house church networks. I BELIEVE IN BOTH! in fact, you, Ralph, were instrumental several years ago in helping steer the cell church movement away from glorying in mega-cell churches as THE WAY. I strongly believe it’s A WAY, but not the only way. My burden is simply to see more LEAD pastors raised up–which is often a hard thing when one church only wants to grow larger and larger. Yet, I fully concur with what Iain said about my recent book:
    “I have read Joel’s book Planting Churches that Reproduce. His view supported both big and small cell churches. I don’t think he was throwing large cell churches under the bus. I think that the separate satellite church plant syndrome occurs in all church plants that I have observed.”

  • Thank you ALL for your comments which helped Me to find out what is going on in “cell churches”.

    My name is Armand Bokoko and I am a cell leader @ Little Falls (no compromise) Christian Centre – Johannesburg (South Africa).

    Since the Lord our God has brought to that Church under the Leadership of PAstor Harold Weistz, I did have a clear understanding of what a “Cell Based Church” is about.

    Before going further, I would like to thank God for all your comments which finally will bring light to all of us.

    I believe that clarity and understanding will come to pass with the help of the Holy Spirit.

    Joel, I’m busy reading your book “churches that reproduce” and I thank God for using you in such a way that you find a common measure on simplifying church planting and making it more reproducible.

    My opinion about your comment regarding the cell church world?

    If all christians could be the “true” followers of Jesus, than the Church of Christ will not suffer at all.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ needs to be considered a an example to follow.

    Once each church leader understands the main purpose of the church and see the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church, then the discussion will be over.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ has started His ministry, chosing His disciples in a way most of the leaders did not follow. He took him time to “pray carefully” in order to make His final choice. He trained His disciples, equipped them with the Word of God. Once, they become mature enough, Jesus Christ returned to the Father and send the Holy Spirit to them as an Helper, a comforter.

    When I think about “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20), I realise that there is a huge responsibility for the church leaders to look after “God’s flock”, training them to obey the LORD’s commandments, equipping them and finally releasing them.

    Uncle Raph, I really appreciate your comments and contributions. Also,
    I would like to take this opportunity, thanking God for your visit in South Africa.

    You’ve been a blessign to all of us. what you’ve said is quite true. There is a problem with “simple church”. Before, the Lord called me out to Little Falls in 2007, I
    ve been in a “simple church” for six years. three years later, the Pastor of the Church came to a symposium organized in Little Falls (2003), symposium for those who would like to transition from “a local church” to a “cell based church”. This was very interested. My wife and I did start our first home cell that year and we did multiply twice, but the church was not healthy at all. We are about to multiply again and something happened, other cells were closing down for lack of commitment or giving up at all. I read some notes from Uncle Ralph, regarding “how to make a home cell effective” and I did suggest to the Pastor as one of the elders to help those cells who are closing down. ITherefore, a seminar was organised in the local church where my intervention was for 45 minutes. Before, my intervention, cell leaders were complaining about the fact that a home cell could not meet for more than two hours, raising the issues of security in the country by night. After that meeting, the pastor suggest to “dissolve” all cells and decide that all memebers meet in church once every Friday for a home cell meeting. This was a mistake made for after God has called us to serve under the new church Little Falls, they gave up the way of considering the church as a cell based church.

    To come to the pioint mentionned early, there is a need of training church leaders in terms of “continuous development”, equipping them so that, once becaming mature, they could start a a church where there is a need. For the Lord our God would like His Church to be extended all over the world, before His return.

    If a pastor does not train other leaders, what will happen with his fruits? Would it be considered a “tree bearing fruit” or what legacy or heritage should he leave to the church?

    I believe that it is time for the church leaders to think about it.

    We need to advance the kingdom of God, depopulating the Kingdom of darkness.

    This apply to every kind of church of Christ.

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