Understanding Integration

by Jeff Tunnell

The following article was written by Joel Comiskey and very helpful to me during the time I was trying to understand INTEGRATION.  I am posting an excerpt only.  If you would like the entire aritcle, let me know by COMMENT request.

The main point is NOT whether it’s permissible to have ministries in the cell church. The main point is not to allow those ministries to become programs that compete with the cells for time and resources. In my opinion, the word INTEGRATION best sums up how a cell church links ministries with cells. I believe that Integration is one of the hottest issues in the cell church today. We must be urgently concerned that ministries do not develop a life of their own and compete with the cell-base, but to avoid certain ministries could actually weaken cell and celebration (e.g., worship, etc.).

I see four types of integration: the first two are used in a church with cells. The second two are used in the cell church.

NON
INTEGRATION
FAULTY
INTEGRATION
MINIMUM
INTEGRATION
MAXIMUM
INTEGRATION
• Church with small groups
• Cells are one ministry
• Some in cells; some in other ministries
• No attempt to integrate cells and ministries
• Church with small groups
• Faulty definition of a real cell group
• All groups are cell groups (Sunday school, choir, cells, etc.).
• Integration is the acknowledgment that the church already has small groups
• Cell Church
• Clear definition of a cell group
• Cell attendance is just as important as celebration attendance
• Only those already attending a cell group can be involved in official church ministries.
• Cell Church
• Clear definition of a cell group
• Cell attendance is just as important as celebration attendance
• Those leading a cell group or in training to lead a cell group are involved in the official church ministries.

Non-integration is used in the programmed based church. If there are cells, they are simply one option among a variety of programs. There is no attempt to integrate ministries and small groups.

Faulty integration is practiced in churches that try to equate all small groups as cell groups (e.g., Meta Model). The motivation is noble (desire to integrate), but the problem stems from a faulty definition of a cell. In this approach, A Sunday School class, a board meeting, a choir group, a parking lot attendant meeting, a life-giving cell group, etc. are all classified as “cells.” This might bring instant integration (all ministries are small group), but many people will think they’ve experienced cell life, when in reality they’ve experienced a programmatic small group.

Minimum Integration is practiced in many cell churches. Cell churches who use Minimum integration say, “Everyone must actively participate in a cell, but not necessarily lead a cell group.” With Minimum integration, cell attendance is the key requirement before involvement in another ministry in the church.

Maximum Integration is practiced by a growing number of cell churches. According to this option, a person must be leading a cell group or in the process of preparing to lead a cell group to be involved in additional church ministries.

3 thoughts on “Understanding Integration

  • The real world always lags behind the ideal, theoretical world. I know not everyone agrees with what I am about to say, but it’s just my opinion, even if it seems impractical.

    Carefully reading between the lines of Yongii Cho’s book Successful Home Cell Groups indicates that persons coming to Christ in this cell church first are visited on their home turf by cell members, then participate in the cell and later are brought to worship by their cell group friends. This is not surprising as the worship is decidedly seeker unfriendly due to overcrowding – once people had to wait in line for an hour or more for a seat in the main sanctuary. This demonstrates the success of this methodology – the cell system evangelism as they practice it has overwhelmed their ability to provide worship space.

    So, by the time persons arrive in worship at Yoido, they are already fully integrated. This is what happens when the person’s first involvement in a church is through the cell meeting. This is a subtle level beyond maximum integration in my opinion – where cell attendance is not equally important to celebration attendance, but more important and a strategic priority. At this higher level, ministries are not operated by leaders but by the cells themselves, resulting in no conflict. The cell needs a missional purpose.

    Doing it the other way around – getting people in worship to attend a cell – is very, very, very hard work. It’s like they become glued to the pews. It’s the leaven of the traditional church – worship first, then increased involvement in the cell/small group/Sunday School/ministry. When this is the current reality, it results in the conditions that lead to this discussion on Integration. When this is the current reality – worship as first experience – it indicates to me that the cells are not really active as cells in evangelizing the lost but more focused on perfecting the saints.

    It’s a simple matter, if contrarian, to close the front door of the church and tell people to stop inviting others to worship – and instead, start inviting people to attend the cell as the first experience of the church. Lost people are likely more interested in the relationships of the cell than the worship of the saints.

    In the ideal theoretical world, a person in worship who is not in a cell should be embarrassing to cell church leadership. A person in leadership in ministry who is not in a cell would be worse than embarrassing. These things happen, I think, because this church is still harboring a mindset that the worship of the church and the ministries of the church as being more important to God and “success” than the cells.

    Like I said, this is an ideal theoretical world I’m imagining. It may not be practical but it’s worth discussing.

  • David, Thank you for your detailed comments and passion. You move my thinking and stimulate a desire for continued dialogue. I too have longed for the “ideal” that you bring to us here.

    Most often I address those who are working through transtions from Program Based Designs to Cell Based and who are running into the wall of (as you put it) “very, very, very hard work” of helping the pew dwellers make the value shifts to cell life.

    But your points are insightful and I like them! Good job!

  • David, I love the way you continually reference SUCCESSFUL HOME CELL GROUPS. That book was the foundational book for the modern day cell church movement. I also like your insight into the difficulties of moving people from celebration to cell. Pastors think it’s an easy shift but often it’s very hard because pew sitters simply don’t want to commit their time.

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