Open Groups

by Jim Wall

This generation is motivated by relationships. People often come to relationship with Christians they trust before they come into a relationship with Jesus.

Last week, I blogged about the driving force behind the formation of our church’s cell vision. In 1996, we concluded that a cell-based approach was the only way we could keep our evangelistic passion and yet create opportunities for young believers to grow up in their faith. We developed a ministry that focused on celebration services designed for evangelism and a closed-cell system focused on intimacy and discipleship. It worked—the church continued to grow by conversion growth and the congregation’s maturity deepened—for a while.

In recent years, we’ve noticed that the larger the church has gotten, the more intimidating the crowds have become to unchurched, unsaved people who visit. (We call it the “deer-in-the-headlights-look” and we see it every Sunday!) Even more disturbing, we’ve found that many of the unsaved people who do come, hide in the crowd. Add to that, we had to acknowledge our closed-cell system had stagnated.

After much prayer we decided to heed Joel Comiskey’s advice to open our cells to anyone who would come. Joel had advised us to add an evangelistic element to our cells for years. I liked what he was saying, but I was nervous. After all, most of our cells leaders had come to Christ here, joined their first cell group here and had become cell leaders here. How would they react to an open-cell system? Besides, our cells weren’t growing but they were very intimate and they had become the backbone of everything we did as a body. We decided to step out by faith.

We started by casting vision for the open-system to our cell leaders. Part of the vision included inspiring our cell groups to build their own friends (oikos) list. We also took advantage of our new sanctuary construction by giving markers to our members on a Sunday morning. We invited them to write their “friends list” on the floor before the carpet went down as a reminder to pray. They filled the floor with names!

The next step was to cast vision to the congregation and encourage everyone to participate in a cell for a six-week “trial” period. Our cell numbers soared. A high percentage of those who responded stayed after the trial period.

Since then, we’ve seen a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit blowing through the place! There is a new buzz in our monthly cell leader’s gatherings. There is new fervor in our prayer times. People are coming to Christ in larger numbers than ever and intimacy among our members is at an all time high. Add to that, we’ve now started new cells on area college campuses and even on board a US Navy ship deployed in the middle east. Thanks Joel!

Next week, I’ll blog about the training process we’re using to prepare laborers for the harvest. For now, how about sharing your stories of the impact of evangelism at the cell level?


1 thought on “Open Groups

  • You are welcome. Excited to hear about your new buzz. I think you have a great opportunity to place the same QUALITY that I clearly noticed in your celebration services into the cell. This will take time, but I believe you can do it!

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