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 www.cellsymposium.com/articles, entitled Measuring Godâ€™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 . . .
QUESTION: HOW DOES THE SIMPLE CHURCH IMPACT THE SOCIETY AROUND IT?
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.
QUESTION: HOW CAN DISMEMBERED BODY PARTS IMPACT SOCIETY?
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