Worldwide Cell Churches
Jesus said that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Christ’s church comes in all sizes, locations, and structures. My observation is that the strongest churches prioritize cells at their very core.
In the May issue of this newsletter, we looked at the two largest churches in the world and learned important principles from them. Let’s now look at three other cell-based churches that can teach us about spiritual freedom, everyone a minister, and church planting.
Adopt the principles of these churches and you will see great things happen in your own life and the life of your church. Jump in the fray and allow the Holy Spirit to empower and direct you
The Works and Mission Baptist Church
Known for transforming lives through diligent training called soul therapy
- Works and Mission Baptist Church (EPBOM=Eglise Protestante Baptiste Oeuvres et Mission Internationale)
- Ivory Coast, West Africa
- Dion Robert
- 56 locations in Abidjan and many more throughout the country
- http://dion.kingdomconnector.com/ http://www.elim.org.sv/
- 18,000 cell groups
EPBOM organized their church through multi-site locations before the method became popular. Dion Robert started the church in his home, and it has now spread to 200,000 people meeting in many locations. This is a true multi-site structure because satellite locations follow the same materials, departmental structure, and report back to the mother church. WMBC has also planted churches in 34% of the African nations as well as in Europe and North America. Les Brickman’s book Preparing the 21 st Century Churchdetails this church’s expansion and strategy.
EPBOM doesn’t focus on the starting point of salvation (the sinner’s prayer) as much as the end goal (a changed life). They know they’ll never produce an effective harvest worker who is bound by satanic strongholds. Pastor Dion says, “ In the lives of the sheep there will often be strongholds that need to be torn down. These at times may be demonic hereditary ties or some form of demonization by evil spirits.
Through soul therapy these strongholds can be torn down and the flock of God freed from bondage” (Brickman).
Soul therapy is the process of tearing down ungodly strongholds that include immoral activity, curses, animistic fears, and ancestor worship. The training is based on the cross of Christ and the need to embrace kingdom values that leads to a transformed life. This church’s greatness is the ability to turn enslaved people into flaming evangelists for Jesus Christ. Those who go through the EPBOM training are well-prepared warriors who win unbelievers and then prepare them through soul therapy to win their friends and neighbors.
The key principle to learn from EPBOM is the need to be intentional about equipping and transforming those who “accept Christ” in our churches. Too many slip through the back door. They pray the sinner’s prayer but are never freed from the sinner within. EPBOM takes nothing for granted. They clean up those who are caught in their nets and then fully prepare them for the ensuing battle. The result is that this church is one of the three largest in the world.
The Family of God Church (GBI)
Known for seeing everyone as a potential leader
- Family of God (GBI)
- Solo, Indonesia
- Senior pastor Obaja Tanto Setiawan
- 1 main location, 50 church plants
- Church of God
- Started in 1989
- 1,500 cell groups
When Obaja Setiawan, senior pastor and founder of GBI, was in junior high school, he lost all his hair. He was so embarrassed he left school. Friends and family urged him to try witch doctors and magic potions to grow back his hair. Nothing worked. Finally someone said, “Try Jesus.” Why not? Obaja thought. He prayed to Jesus and suddenly hair buds began to sprout. When someone asked him about the new growth, he answered, “it must be the medicine.” The buds disappeared. Obaja realized he had denied Jesus and begged once again for mercy. “Please, Lord, give me another chance. I will serve you.” God answered and today Obaja looks like one of the early Beatles—a full head of black hair.
Pastor Obaja has carried his simple faith message into the church plant. Throughout his ministry he has believed God to work the impossible in weak, human vessels.
In 1999 Obaja traveled to Bogota, Colombia to learn about the G12 strategy at the International Charismatic Mission. Obaja couldn’t speak English or Spanish, so he received very little. He did catch one phrase, however: “Anyone can be a fruitful cell leader.”
He saw clearly how God wanted him to develop his entire congregation to be ministers rather than hearers.
When I visited GBI years later, I witnessed a dream come true: illiterate people leading others to Christ through cell ministry, discipling them, and then preparing them to lead their own cell groups. Obaja testified of the poor, desperate rigshaw drivers becoming zealous evangelists for Christ. And what’s amazing is the location—a Muslim dominated area of Java, Indonesia. I was also impressed by their meticulous equipping process that prepares fully devoted followers of Jesus.
Are you seeing everyone in your congregation as potential harvest workers? Obaja had to look beyond those who appeared to be the “leader-type” to see God’s power in the weak and lowly. Perhaps those who sit in your pew today are the ones that God wants to use to reach your community. GBI demonstrates how God does the extraordinary through ordinary, weak people.
Igreja da Paz
Known for church planting
- Igreja da Paz
- Santarem, Brazil
- Abe Huber
- started in 1980
- http://www.elim.org.sv/ http://www.igrejadapaz.com.br/
- 1,400 cells and 450 church plants; their mission is Project Amazon- www.projectamazon.org
Abe Huber is a North American MK, born and raised in Brazil. He married a Brazilian and now leads a church planting movement that is winning and discipling thousands for Jesus. Abe believes that discipleship must start one-on-one. “But isn’t that time-consuming,” I challenged him. “yes, but it’s worth the effort,” he replied. This “effort” has resulted in planting 100s of churches throughout Brazil. They call their unique strategy MDA (Micro Discipleship Strategy).
The goal is for the disciple to plant an evangelistic small group, multiply it, and to even plant an Igreja da Paz church. What excited me so much about this movement was its emphasis on both large and small churches. Pastor Abe realizes that it takes all kinds to get the job done. I was amazed to see many Igreja da Paz churches located just a few minutes from the 15,000 member mother church. These are independent—yet very interconnected–Igreja da Paz churches.
Abe is an apostle and is gifted to guide a church to 15,000. Yet, he realizes that many leaders don’t have those same gifts. They will pastor much smaller churches. The key is reproduction—which starts one-on-one and continues to the masses. Abe is taking his MDA strategy to major cities throughout Brazil and seeing powerful results. Abe’s example has inspired me to resist the small church/large church dichotomy. Why not both? I’ve been encouraged to take reproduction at all levels more seriously. Have you considered planting a church? Mothering a church plant? God might want your church to become a multiplication center—making disciples who eventually plant churches