The Cell Church’s Two Wings Penetrate Society


by Ralph Neighbour (guest blogging for Jeff Tunnell, who is on vacation this week)

Last week we discussed the biblical foundations for a Two Winged Church. Bill Beckham has a classic text on this subject you simply must read. It is a free download from, entitled Measuring God’s Small Group River. It reviews all the various types of structures for contemporary church life.

We would all fully agree that in the Kingdom there are no dismembered body parts! The first official act of the Holy Spirit is to baptize each new convert to become a functioning arm, leg, inward part, etc. Am I right? Yes! We must all live in community if we live in the Kingdom.

But why do we stop the principle there? Is a “Simple Church” a dismembered body part? (I am not trying to be offensive, just grieving over the separateness that seems to be built into the body?)

When I went to Singapore, we had 300 in the church. Five years later when my apostolic calling moved me on, we had 7,000. Four services on Sunday, one on Saturday night. The power of God fell on those services in awesome ways never to be matched by 8 or 10 people in a living room. And in the high rise flats of Bishan Village, Ruth and I would meet with our cell  on Tuesday nights and through the opened windows we would hear a sister cell in the adjoining building also singing worship songs.

My deep concern about the house church movement targets their rejection of the large wing lifestyle:

1. When the large wing is present, the impact into the community draws people who would never, ever be drawn to a little group of 8 or 12 meeting in a living room. Thus, Dion Robert’s massive gatherings in Abidjan has attracted even the President, along with powerful leaders in business and industry. (They then entered cell life. Same thing in El Salvador. Same thing in Uganda, where the 1,000+ cells gather and the President’s wife is a faithful cell member. I could go on and on . . .


2. Because of the large group wing, there is a weekly reunion of the small groups that brings cohesion and symmetry. Their separate witnesses in the community are enhanced by the larger gathering. Ride the buses in Seoul and you will find hundreds of handbags carried proudly by women cell leaders with an imprint of their main sanctuary on Yoido Island. Their handbag opens them to many hurting people who trust them on the bus to share their burdens.Yet, if you drive through the city at night you see hundreds of red neon crosses glowing to reveal a small group of 30 or so meeting in that building who have no impact on their surroundings apart from the glow of the cross.


3. One house group or small cell church that keeps multiplying when it hits 6-8 cells and remains independent will never have enough resources to serve the greater needs of the society. My classic example of what a large two wing cell church can do is the Watoto Church in Kampala, Uganda. Gary Skinner and his 1,000+ cells have built several villages of residences to house orphans of aids victims. I will never forget the drama of walking through one of them, complete with school, clinic, and underground plumbing. Harold Weitsz in South Africa is now planting an orphanage where he plants a new cell church!

I am solidly committed to the cell model. It is not just “descriptive;” it is PRESCRIPTIVE.

Dr. Ralph  W. Neighbour

4 thoughts on “The Cell Church’s Two Wings Penetrate Society

  • I agree with Dr Ralph; a large cell church has much more influence and not just for social change but for soul winning. But as I said in my previous answer to Dr Ralph’s previous post, the problems and the solutions related to this discussion are to be found in the equipping track, both biblically and practically, not in the “celebration.”

    I think the discussion would be helped by a few folks coming forward to explain why in their opinion it is necessary for Christianity to not have a large group expression. When we hear directly from people with these opinions, our response can then address the real concerns and the real issues.

    What I hear behind the statements is a fear of creeping institutionalism, the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees. I’m sure there’s more to be heard. And certainly, while the giant cell church can be an example of a light shining in the darkness, these very few are vastly outnumbered by the institutional churches that care for nothing beyond their own buildings, staff, programs and events … like the temple in the New Testament.

    My concern for the house church in the USA is that when I listen to the rank and file individuals who desire it, their interest initially is more a negative reaction against the traditional church than a positive movement toward being Christ’s Basic Bodies freely able to serve in a fully differentiated, decentralized manner not under institutional control.

    I’ve yet to hear a problem, however, that is not in some way caused by the lack of effective equipping or could not be healed by an effective equipping track. Nor has my assertion in the previous post been addressed – that when the early church came together in the temple, it was for decentralized ministry, equipping and supervision, not “celebration” – and those basic functions ARE found in the house church movement as well as in the cells of a large cell church.

  • David wrote, “I think the discussion would be helped by a few folks coming forward to explain why in their opinion it is necessary for Christianity to not have a large group expression. When we hear directly from people with these opinions, our response can then address the real concerns and the real issues.

    David, I’d like to give my opinion for why IT IS NECCESSARY to have a large group expression…

    On page 21 of my book titled, Creating Christian Communities – The Structure and Strategy of a Simple Cell-Based Church System, ISBN 1591961718; I write…

    WORSHIP – Man speaking to God — Best accomplished in celebration services as we speak to God in prayer and in the singing. Worship can also be, and should also be, accomplished in daily private devotion in prayer and thanksgiving unto the Lord.

    INSTRUCTION — God speaking to man — Best accomplished in celebration services as we hear God’s Word proclaimed from the pulpit each Sunday. Biblical instruction is also, and should also be, accomplished in daily private study of God’s Word.2

    FELLOWSHIP — Man speaking to man — Fellowship is a time when we become connected with one another. This is best accomplished within the basic Christian community known as “cell”. Cells meet once each week in homes scattered across the city. Fellowship is impossible to experience when living alone.

    EXPRESSIONS — Man speaking to the world — This is best accomplished within a network of cells as people edify one another within the body of Christ and also pray for the salvation of those who are in need of repenting and accepting Jesus Christ, and then introducing such people to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is also known as “lifestyle evangelism”.

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • It’s not only that the simple crowd deprecate large meetings, but that they discount all church leadership and the ministry of the word. The simple church group are into anarchy as a central ethos of the church. Any planning for a teaching or even leading a meeting is fleshly.

    In Pagan Christianity? Viola and Barna argue against preaching and teaching from house to house as a regular part of church life. They think only apostles preached during special times. They claim, “The earliest recorded Christian source for regular sermonizing is found during the second century,” and “the contemporary sermon delivered for Christian consumption is foreign to both Old and New Testaments.” 89, 88. But Paul characterized his times with the Ephesians as “teaching you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20)—a practice he pursued “daily” according to Luke (Acts 19:9). The Christians in Jerusalem “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Paul’s call to Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1,2), to “give attention to the public reading of scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13), his inclusion “if anyone has a teaching,” (1 Cor. 14:26), and his reference to elders who “work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Thess. 5:17), all point to the fact that early church meetings centered substantially on the word of God and preaching/teaching.

    Nor was their teaching and exhortation impromptu and unprepared like Viola and Barna extol. Paul calls on Timothy to be diligent so he can “handle accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). That implies studying. Paul’s “preaching daily at the lecture hall of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9) would hardly have been impromptu either.

    I’m with a group (Xenos Fellowship) that has been doing house churches since before any of these guys showed up, and we think the big meeting is very important. The record is unambiguous that these fragmented house groups don’t do well. They definitely are weak in missions and ministry to the poor. The ones I’ve visited are also weak at winning the lost.

    The large group meeting is exciting, and gives a chance to sit under the word in a way the small groups can’t match. Of course, I believe the small group was also strong in the ministry of the word in the NT, much more than admitted by the simpson/viola/dale group.

  • Good word Dennis! I visited your website. It appears you’re pursuing a ‘house church’ approach that is much like the vision of cell-based church we follow; interesting.

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick Diefenderfer

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