Assimilation / Formation

coach-tunnell   Jeff Tunnell

My son taught me how to fish.  We attended a brief class with local lake-district personnel. They gave us some primary instructions, gave us poles and tackle boxes filled with stuff useful for fishing, issued our licenses and off we went.  Following the instructions received, our excitement grew at the prospect of actually catching a fish as a trophy of our learning!  In suprisingly short order, we pulled a nice rainbow trout from the water. Holding it carefully we removed the hook, smiled in triumph and then asked… what do we do with it?  No thought had been given to the next steps necessary for actually keeping it.  Dumbfounded by our combined ignorance, our new friend left in a hurry.

As fishers of men, we should give some thought to the differences between ‘assimilation’ (catching) and ‘formation’ (keeping)?  When Jesus attracts one of His children to Himself, a cell-based church must have a strategy in place to assimilate them into Christian community and begin a process of spiritual formation for this newly established life in Christ.  Without doubt, the Holy Spirit is the guide for the new believer’s success in both of these processes and it is likely (and my hope) that He used the members of a cell to befriend and evangelize this person.

Randy Frazee in “The Connecting Church” offers: “The church must be careful not tot confuse an assimilation strategy for church involvement with a spiritual formation model for community building. Both are necessary, but they are very different. An assimilation strategy defines how one gets involved in the life and programs of a church; a spiritual formation model defines the essential outcomes the church is attempting to get working into the lives of its members.”

I admit, I have confused the two along the way.  For example, keeping records of how many are in cell groups is an easy shift from keeping attendance on Sundays.  But I must keep an eye on the continuing spiritual formation process in each of those lives as well.  Having a pre-determined strategy, normally referred to as a training or equipping track, is a must.

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Assimilation / Formation

  • There’s an incredible resource – Randy Frazee discussing the Connecting Church available from a CCN (Church Communication Network) broadcast of October 25, 2005, entitled The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee.

    It can be purchased here for $19.95 US:

    In the hour long interview, Frazee makes a convincing case for organizing cells on a geographical basis in order to meet the needs of our busy culture – an emphasis important at Yoido but seen as less important in other cell and small group churches.

    It can also be a tool to help people get the vision of what cell community could mean in our busy world today. Rather than “one more commitment” it’s a choice that simplifies our lives.

  • David, thanks for the link to Randy’s interview. I like his views about being ‘in the neighborhood’ and simplifying our lives. In this rush-rush culture I miss the old front porch community where we knew our neighbors and their kids, spoke often from the sidewalk to the porch while strolling by. We could interract and love one another more readily.

  • hey, Jeff, I loved your illustrations and how you brought us right back to the equipping track. So important. I’m discovering more and more that the equipping track is the bread and butter of the cell church. thanks again for your reminders

  • I have been thinking about the ‘assimilation strategy’ for church involvement of traditional churches and the ‘spiritual formation’ of new and old believers. Here are some of my thoughts:
    Traditional program church vs Cell Church
    ‘Churchianity’ vs Community
    Consumerism vs Discipleship
    Smorgasbord (of ministry jobs/teams) vs The Main Thing (Matt 28)
    Task vs Relationship
    Creating Consumers vs Raising Leaders
    The list could go on and on….
    I totally agree with your comment “I must keep an eye on the continuing spiritual formation process in each of those lives” – after all isn’t this what Jesus means when He tells Peter to “feed and take care of My sheep”?

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