Models versus Principles


by Mario Vega

There are several working models of cell ministry. Sometimes people try to present one model as THE best and then look down on everything else. Some pastors are moved by a feelling that by jumping into a model they will find the growth they’ve been longing for. The fact is that switching from one model to the next often negatively affects the cell work and ends up disconcerting the church members.

It is important to underline that the key is not the model but the need to persevere in cell principles. There is no magical model that will lead to guaranteed success. Only perseverance and hard work can bring the desired fruit that will glorify Christ.

It is not bad to inquire and know about the existing models. However, to switch from one model to another must be avoided. Rather, cell church principles must be understood and applied to every church’s particular culture and context. The next step is to persevere and be faithful to those principles.

Do you have any comments on this topic?


Translation into Spanish:

Modelos y principios.

Existen diversos modelos de trabajo con células. Algunas veces un modelo se ha tratado de presentar en oposición a los demás como mejor. Tal actitud, mueve a algunos pastores a saltar de un modelo a otro pensando que de esa manera obtendrán el ansiado crecimiento. Esos cambios de modelo a veces afectan profundamente el trabajo y terminan desconcertando a los miembros de la iglesia.

Es importante resaltar que la clave no es el modelo sino la perseverancia en los principios del trabajo con células. No hay un modelo mágico que por s mismo lleve el éxito garantizado. Solo la perseverancia y el trabajo pueden dar como resultado el avance de la causa de Cristo.

No es malo informarse y conocer los modelos que existen, pero hay que evitar cambiar de un modelo a otro con facilidad. Se deben comprender los principios de este trabajo y aplicarlos a las condiciones particulares de cada iglesia. Luego, la clave será la perseverancia y la fidelidad a esos principios.

¿Tiene algún comentario sobre este tema?

11 thoughts on “Models versus Principles

  • Very wise counsel, Mario. And I really appreciate hearing this from you since you have such a highly successful model! It would be so easy for you to procalim, WE HAVE THE ONLY TRUE MODEL! Thanks for your humility, brother.

  • Si es sierto muchos al escuchar de las iglesias grandes creen que cresieron por arte de majia, pero no saven el trabajo que esto a tenido.
    otros toman el modelo pero le asen muchas adaptaciones que alfin no se save que es, estoy de acuerdo con usted hermano Mario.

  • Before I severely damaged my right leg, I was a successful marathon competitor. Other runners use to seek my advice on training schedules and tips to improve their running. I use to say to them that it did not matter what kind of training they did, just make sure you were consistent with the elements of the training.

    When I read this blog, it reminded me of this principle and I concur that what ever model you choose, just be consistent in applying those practices for that model. All models should have the same goal as stated in the blog “to give glory to Jesus Christ.”

    What ever model you choose, if the goal is to give Jesus Glory and you are consistent with the cell practices, you shall succeed.

  • I’ve two comments germane to this topic…

    1) Mario, I’ve often pointed to your 5×5 structured church when told that the G-12 structure is “anointed” and all other models for cell-based church life are inferior or man-made. It’s all about the ministry of the members in groups, not how they are coached, isn’t it?

    2) I’m VERY pro-cell church, but I wonder if we are all guilty of elevating our cell models of church life over other relational models that are also achieving the great commission and the great commandment. The rest of the church world—the non-cell based church leaders in particular—view the cell movement as a small faction within the body of Christ that believes we are doing church “the right way” and they are doing church in a very wrong and even ungodly way.


  • I recall “wrestling” these comments early on in transitioning to cell structures. Clearly pinning down the principles became a quest for me and my leaders. We spent a year (way too long) meeting each week trying to determine just what we believed and practiced instead of finding principles that would shape those practices. When we focused on PRINCIPLES, a reversal was made and new practices followed. Thank you Pastor Mario for coaching us to win this match, it was one of the hardest matches of my ministry.

  • Mikel Neumann in “Home Groups for Urban Cultures” (Pasadena: Wm Carey, 1999) found that eight universal “cell” functions varied in their implementation according to (at least) six cultural “ariable” and twelve differing communication patterns. A simple formula of 8 X 6 X12 suggests that there may be as many as 576 distinct cell church models. Now, since all “principles” must be put into “practice”, every society’s many sub-cultures must experiment to find ways in which to thrive as the living, reproducing Body of Christ.

  • Great comments here.

    Jeff, I love the way you have really wrestled with principles in your church.

    Randall, I also use Elim to counteract those who say G12 is THE WAY. However, Randall, your OTHER statement seemed very generalized to me:

    “The rest of the church world—the non-cell based church leaders in particular—view the cell movement as a small faction within the body of Christ that believes we are doing church “the right way” and they are doing church in a very wrong and even ungodly way.”

    Ahhh. . . wow. So you believe the REST OF THE CHURCH world believes the cell church movement thinks they are doing church in a wrong, ungodly way? I certainly don’t agree with such a generalized comment!

    I think you need to use the word “SOME”

    Now I agree that in the early days of the cell church movement the WE against THEM was more pronounced. And granted, we all have to diligently watch our attitudes–MYSELF INCLUDED.

    Yet, there’s also the reality of conviction and passion for what someone is doing. In one sense, any passionate ministry believes that what they are doing is correct and has to guard the tendency to criticize those not doing it the way they’re doing it. . . .

  • There’s a lot of research on innovation – people who are always trying to improve, update and fix everything over which they have some influence. Innovation results in a multitude of models and a diversity of methods, and the focus shifts from implementing a model to finding a better model.

    The Diffusion of Innovations by Rogers and Crossing the Chasm by Moore describe the scientific study of how innovations are adopted by a culture. Fundamentally, 16% of people are interested in change and 84% of people basically aren’t interested in change.

    For those who are into Emergent things, consider that: if this is true, 84% of lost people aren’t interested in change, in the church or outside of it.

    When innovators and early adopters get their hands on a cell model, they are often too busy “improving” it to actually practice it. They are so interested in new things that they find it hard to concentrate on just simply implementing a process that has worked somewhere else. They are very teachable as they are highly interested and quickly grasp the principles – but they are not by nature obedient. They fail at tests of obedience and follow through. (I’m one of them.)

    But once a cell method “crosses the chasm” into the 84%, it is in the hands of people who will repeat what works over and over again, piling up beneficial results exponentially.

    I have a belief that the very large cell churches have grown because the people who are simply obedient to Christ and a model that works,are working that model to reach out to the 84% of the lost culture who are open to being simply obedient and practicing a model that works. Like is reaching out to like.

    When a model crosses from one culture to another, it is the innovative minority who bring it over. But they are frequently poor at helping the pragmatic majority adopt the innovation they recommend because they don’t understand how to reach those people. Rogers and Moore describe the pragmatic majority and how to reach them; it’s contrary to what most of us are doing in evangelism, as we are the Christian innovators bringing the gospel to a pragmatic majority uninterested in our “new ideas”.

    For those who love the Myers Briggs, the innovative minority is “NT” and the “willing to consistently obey” segment (34%) is “SJ”. If the cell method becomes embedded in the SJ segment, it becomes the status quo and cycles on and on. It’s not “new” – instead, “it’s the way we’ve always done it here.”

    So, yes, there are many cell methods and models. But are people working the model consistently and obediently? I believe that is where the results will be found.

    As an innovator, I love the flash and excitement of creativity. But I’ve learned to deeply respect the person who simply and effectively obeys Jesus Christ and lovingly attends to the details of the harvest. I yearn also to be more like them.

  • Yo creo personalmente que las celulas deben de tener un enfoque evangelistico, por que todo gira a ganar las almas para Cristo.
    Pero critico a las congregasiones que sus celulas las convierten en grupos de oracion solamente, olvidando al perdido.
    Gracias hermano Mario por tocar este punto muy importante.

  • Cell Church models (general concepts/theories explaining cell church phenomena) are important. It’s from them that we can derive the principles that work ACROSS the different cell churches. The best models are derived from real examples. They are not too abstract, but grounded in real life happenings.

    One problem that can occur is that explanation of models gets too entangled in the the real examples. People have to learn how to separate the two (models and real examples). Otherwise you can’t learn from the model why something works the way it does (that’s why you have the model, so you can learn from it).

    Of course there are a lot of church leaders who try to innovate by copying (what’s that church doing successfully?) Of course just copying a model won’t work. It is hard to implement something successfully if you don’t know how it works. Also if you don’t know why something DOES work in certain context, you are unlikely to figure out why it may NOT work in your context. It surprises me how many church leaders don’t know that models are for learning from, not copying. I don’t think they teach that stuff at Bible College. I think it could prevent a lot of grief if they did.

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