The Transforming Church: Contents List
This is a major series on the Cell-church and the Church Growth Movement. It looks at the cell system, house groups and all other aspects of the Church "in transition to a new apostolic paradigm."

Part One


New Church - New Leadership Kingdom-Dominion Remnant Longings



Converting The World

Historical Background Donald McGravan Eschatological Errors



The Scroll of inheritance

Part Two

An Altered Emphasis

Rufus Anserson Gustav Warneck J. Waskom Pickett Emil Brunner Juan Luis Segundo Jurgen Moltmann David Bosch







The Apostles of the New Order

C. Peter Wagner

Part Three

The Problem with the Church Growth Movt.

Numerical Growth Pragmatic Approach Marketing Strategies User-Friendly Services Mass Conversions The Homogenous Unit Social Sciences Social Reform Reconstruction (New Wineskins)









Part Four

Other Early Influences and Personalities

Student Volunteer Movement Norman Vincent Peale Robert Schuller Rod Trudinger Howard Snyder Juan Carlos Ortiz David Yonggi Cho Dale Galloway








Part Five

Home Groups in General

The Early Church Monastic and Pre-Reformation Reformation Home Groups Wesleyan Class Meetings Watchman Nee





Various Small Groups

Local Church House Groups Roberta Hestenes Seredipity Xenos Sonship/Deeper Life Groups Witness Lee T.Austin Sparks Manifested Sons of God groups Other Common-Interest groups Cultic Small Groups - Branham, Cooneyite etc










Part Six

House Churches

Gene Edwards Frank Viola Wolfgang Simson Apostolic/Prophetic groups The City Church Concept





The UK House Church Movement The "Open Church" of Jim Rutz

Part Seven

Introduction to Cell Churches The Meta-Church Model of Carl George The Pure Cell Model of Ralph Neighbour Critical Mass Group Dynamics for an Altered Paradigm

Part Eight

The Purpose Driven Church


Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) Saddleback (Rick Warren)



Faith Community Baptist Church, Singapore, (Lawrence Khong) Bethany World Prayer Center (Larry Stockstill) Yoidi Full Gospel Central Church in Korea (Yonggi Cho)



Part Nine

G12 (Groups of Twelve)

The Principle of 12 in Government Concerns about G12 A Warning From History



The Monastic Model Cell Church Leadership

The Jethro System The G12 System Discipling Errors



Part Ten

Summarising The Dangers

A New Reformation Pastors Despised Bringing In The Kingdom Unity is Demanded Community rather than Individuals Marketing The Church Tracking and Monitoring







Military Training and Revolution Conclusion

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (1)


New Church - New Leadership Kingdom-Dominion Remnant Longings



Converting The World

Historical Background Donald McGravan Eschatological Errors


The Church of Tomorrow


There's a transition taking place and hardly anyone is noticing. The model of the church is being changed, from a single-building/church-programs model to a home-based/body-ministry cell-structure. This, you might think, is a very good thing! After all, the traditional man-at-the-front lecture-style meeting is, many feel, not what God originally intended for believers. Couldn't this move liberate pew-level Christians from what has become in many cases a dictatorial leadership and open up opportunities for them to exercise their God-given ministries in an informal setting? The short answer is NO. The name of the game is CONTROL and the cell-church system is designed both to control and to monitor church membership and to achieve the ultimate goal of the apostate religious empire: to bring planet earth under the government of the Global Church! I would say that the three driving forces governing the remaking of today's church are:

1. The dominion mandate: (based on such scriptures as Genesis 1:26-28; 9:1-3,7,10; Psalm 8:5-8) with the conclusion that God's people are to rule on earth with all authority over all creatures.

2. The drive for full visible unity of all churches, which is based on a misinterpretation of John 17:20-26.

3. The Great Commission: based on the scripture in Matt 28:17-20 subtly misinterpreted as the requirement to "disciple all nations" and thus christianise the majority of the world's population before the return of Christ can take place. I would then add a fourth less prominent (but most important) principle that is driving the need for a transformed church: the return of the Shekinah GLORY to indwell the restored tabernacle on earth! This belief, like many others, is a misinterpretation based on scriptures taken out of context, but which promises to set up a "temple" fit for the physical manifestation of God on earth. Obviously then, the stakes are high!

There is a desire - especially amongst young believers - to reform the Church into a looser, more effective and user-friendly shape. Utilising this desire, and steering it towards the cell-church system could be a very effective way of introducing the "church of the new age" governed by the above three principles, without alarming too many people! At the same time, the doctrines of the revival have been planting the general and sometimes subliminal expectation of "millions" being harvested in the endtimes. The problem is, how exactly to win them and what to do with them afterwards? The popular answer to these needs is to reconstruct the Church into a completely new shape - a network of cells:

"God is restoring the church to its New Testament pattern and power. Old wineskins cannot contain new wine; they will burst. New moves of God require new structures and forms to facilitate the new truths and ministry. Therefore as we move into Second Reformation/ New Apostolic Reformation we will need new wineskins." ["Restoring the New Testament Wineskin"] Almost every denomination or church organisation is now eagerly looking into the small-group model or "transitioning" to a cell-church. From Salvation Army, to Unitarian, to Baptist, to United Methodist, to Roman Catholic - everybody is turning to small cells and home groups to maximise the potential for gaining new converts. The devil has an agenda. He wants to transform our minds with an "altered paradigm" - which is said to be ESSENTIAL for making the move to a new structure such as the Cell Church. A 'paradigm' is a pattern or model, a way of seeing things, and the way we see "church" - its buildings, ordained leadership and central role of the sermon, the Pastor and the Sunday Service - has to undergo a radical shift towards the "new paradigm" of cells, they say, before the final round in the battle for the world is won. This upheaval is labelled the "Second Reformation" by some, who see the change as tremendous and vital as that of Luther's ninety-five theses in 1517. Without

it, the long-term plans of the new "apostolic" network cannot be fully activated.

"We need to be the modern day reformers! We need to be the Luthers and Calvins and Knoxs our generation! We need to be the new paradigm thinkers and history makers! Lets rise up and lead the way in the Second Reformation and the restoration of the New Testament wineskin!" ["Restoring the New Testament Wineskin"] Larry Stockstill, pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center, a cell-based church with over 600 cells in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writes in his book, "The Cell Church":

"A paradigm controls how we interpret what we see and experience. It consists of a whole set of perspective shifts, which usually require effort and a stretch to perceive things differently, leading to a paradigm-shift .... But, without consensus among Cell Church visionaries for identifying and then implementing a standardized system of the structure and strategy of a 'pure' Cell Church, this Cell Church movement may never be realized! Yes, understanding our Cell Church system requires a paradigm-shift." Frank Viola (home group leader) says in "Rethinking The Wineskin"

"In the language of the scientific philosopher Thomas Kuhn, we need a "paradigm shift" regarding the church before we can properly build it. That is to say, we need a new world view regarding the meaning of Christ and His Body--a new model for understanding the ekklesia--a new framework for thinking about the church." What is being proposed here, amongst the more radical cell-church proponents, is a change from the accepted structure of the Church to one that is cell-based, led by the "laity" and that multiplies by division as does a human body. While some of the principles may be sound - and even attractive - the aim is no less than global government! And the method is the complete dismantling of the present-day denominational church structure and its REPLACEMENT with a system that is conducive to their aims.

New Church - New Leadership
Yes, hidden in the fancy rhetoric about the cell structure is the move towards an apostolic reformation of the Church, the leadership of self-appointed apostles and prophets, heavy shepherding, the removal of bible-study and classic bible teaching with a shift towards seeker-sensitive, social programs and selfindulgent "sharing", and the tracking and databasing of all church members. It is a shift away from preaching the gospel for individual salvation, and the subsequent teaching, bible instruction and discipline which is needed for individual sanctification; a shift towards "growth" because numbers are all-important in the race to convert the world, therefore anything that does not contribute to numerical growth in your church MUST GO. It is also a shift towards mass conversion of people-groups, and a shift towards what is called "discipling" which

is another word for CONTROLLING church members once you have them under your cell roof! Even the supposedly biblical and attractive proposition of ending the monopoly on ministry that the Pastor and elders have had for many years, transferring power to the people, and showing them the principle of every-member ministry - even this has a sting in the tail, for not only are the members of cells strictly led by shepherds, mentors, disciplers and elders in a pyramid structure to rival that of Rome's priesthood, BUT the effort being put into the transferal of ministry functions is primarily to "tap the resource" that is in the churches: ie, to train up millions of obedient little workers to go out and harvest "the unchurched". Put in that light, the "paradigm shift" doesn't seem so innocuous or benevolent.

OFFSITE LINK: "Catching the wave of spiritual renewal" by Wesley J. Gabel Rev. Roger Swanson, conference director of Operation Evangelization, said in his "New Wine for the New Wineskins" workshop in Leesburg that in the last fifty years secular culture has become the churchs competition, with more people in the United States becoming unchurched than churched. Despite that, people are "very spiritual" and looking for spiritual meaning, but they are "not studying Christianity" but looking at Christians to learn how to fulfill their most pressing needs. So the Church has to change to reflect those facts, says Swanson, for "reaching unchurched people, is a matter of changing the system each church has for making disciples." He says churches need to shift their thinking from programs that generate activity, to meeting spiritual needs by helping people get in touch with God and planning for results. Churches need to develop a "vision to serve," Swanson said, and should be going out asking people what their needs are, because "Churches grow when they meet human needs," he said. Of course, he is right. All kinds of organisations, and not only churches, "grow when they meet human [and spiritual] needs" as psychiatrists have found, and pornographers, and crystal healers, and abortionists!

Worse, behind the cell-church altered paradigm is the age-old dominion mandate, and the plan for the glorified Church to conquer and rule the earth (all "in the name of Christ" of course!!). One of the "prophets" put it this way:

"It is time for the Church to take Her rightful position, operating victoriously in winning this earth for Gods divine purpose. However, for this to happen new wine (new Church order) will have to be poured out, and only those with "new wineskins" can and will receive it. In 1993 the Lord spoke very clearly to me and said, "Any ministry that is not connected to the prophetic ministry in months and years to come will miss my next great move." He also said, "Ignorance often comes disguised as tradition anything growing will change, be open, be willing, be flexible to change." [Pastoral Dependence/A Sign Of Disorder, Clay Sikes] But because of the desperation for fellowship, and loneliness experienced by those who have been put out of, or put off, their churches in the past ten years,

will there be a move towards cell churches despite the dangers? I fear so! A drowning man clutches at a straw.

Remnant Longings
The devil has no doubt noticed the hunger amongst the remnant believers for something fresh, something more intimate, something detached from the globalist intentions of the super-churches. Here's where the danger lies! There's nothing whatsoever wrong with desiring the freedom to worship in the Spirit unhindered by conventions, or looking for simple home meetings where all are valued equally as ministers and participants. The Church "outside the camp" is something the Lord has been creating for decades and I myself have encouraged it on this website. But the devil is preparing to home in on this need and heartfelt desire, and turn it to his own advantage. I believe the devil is, in fact, trying to preempt something that God is preparing for his own true believers. God is putting ones and twos and small groups together in spiritual harmony, on an informal basis, releasing them from the restrictions that denominations have put upon their development, and encouraging them to grow in ministry and gifts. This represents our best chance for spiritual growth for centuries. It also offers unique opportunities for refreshment, worship, prayer, healing, deliverance, and one-to-one sharing of the gospel. In an intimate home setting, burdens can be shared, personal problems resolved, the weak lifted up and encouraged and the proud and ambitious humbled. Each one comes into a knowledge of their unique value to God and to the Body. Each one can be given a chance to move in the gifts and to find their footing in God, to develop their own ministry. The Holy Spirit can be allowed to rule overall, and He is given place in prayer and worship, and in teaching, so that the many-facetted truths of the word can be explored and explained in ways far beyond the scope of a conventional church sermon. So, I highly recommend simple autonomous home meetings and believe they are the provision of God for those of us who are left stranded outside the corrupt and apostate church system. That said, there's a world of difference between simple home meetings and the move to cell-churches.

How many will distinguish between the different groups and understand that not all home meetings are the same?

The Second Reformation is not about home groups that are locally-organised and autonomous; they are creating CELLS of the worldwide BODY that is rapidly becoming the great and powerful Apostate Church of the last days.

Ultimately home-groups will become the foundation upon which the entire church will be built. Home group ministry teams will actually provide the bulk of the work in equipping the saints, including teaching and pastoring Rick Joyner. What we have here is a disaster in the making, with the prospect of many naive unsuspecting converts being ushered right into the globalist system, on a fast-

track route to its massive database of participants. And there is also a huge potential for deceiving the wandering, disaffected remnant believers who are simply looking for fellowship! Having jumped out of the frying-pan of the revival churches, they may just jump straight into the fire of the cell-groups.

The trend towards small groups and cell churches, which began quietly in the 50's and has now exploded into the 21st century as the "new way of doing church", was in fact launched and promoted by the Church Growth movement centered around Fuller Seminary in southern California.

OFFSITE LINK: See here for an article about CGM and cells. We cannot understand the thinking and aims behind the cell-church movement without considering the Church Growth principles that have governed it from the very beginning.

The father of Church Growth was Donald McGavran, a graduate of Yale Divinity School who served as a Disciples of Christ missionary in India. Born in 1897 to missionary parents, he completed his college and post-graduate education in the United States before returning to India in 1923 as a missionary with the United Missionary Society. Concerned by the slow growth rate of churches, he sought for some scheme to ensure numerical success, and came upon the work of various 18th century missiological theorists who studied church growth with the intention of Christianizing the world, and who - from a post-millennial outlook - were moving away from individual decisions for Christ to mass conversions of tribes, cultures and nations. In an extended letter published in "Mission Frontiers", the Bulletin of the US Center for World Missions, McGravan explains his emphasis on "people groups" and ethnicity:

"The goal of Christian mission should be to preach the Gospel and, by God's grace, to plant in every unchurched segment of mankind "a church" or "a cluster of growing churches"? By the phrase "segment of mankind" I mean an urbanization, development, caste, tribe, valley, plain, or minority population. One-by-one conversion, is relatively easy to accomplish (but) each convert, as he becomes a Christian, is seen by kin as one who leaves "us" and joins "them." He leaves "our gods" to worship "their gods." A church which results from this process looks to the peoples of the region like an assemblage of traitors. It is a conglomerate congregation. It is made up of individuals who, one by one, have come out of several different societies, castes or tribes.

"Now let us contrast the other way in which God is discipling the peoples of Planet Earth. The goal is not one single conglomerate church in a city or a region. That must be a cluster of growing, indigenous congregations every member of which remains in close contact with his kindred. This cluster grows best if it is in one people, one caste, one tribe, one segment of society. For example, if you were evangelizing the taxi drivers of Taipei, then your goal would be to win not some taxi drivers, some university professors, some farmers and some fishermen, but to establish churches made up largely of taxi drivers, their wives and children and mechanics. As you win converts of that particular community, the congregation has a natural, built-in social cohesion. Everybody feels at home. Yes, the goal must be clear.

"Encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their own people in most matters. They should continue to eat what their people eat. They should not say, "My people are vegetarians but, now that I have become a Christian, I'm going to eat meat." After they become Christians they should be more rigidly vegetarian than they were before. In the matter of clothing, they should continue to look precisely like their kinfolk. Encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their people in most matters.

Try to get group decisions for Christ. If only one person decides to follow Jesus, do not baptize him immediately. Say to him, "You and I will work together to lead another five or ten or, God willing, fifty of your people to accept Jesus Christ as Savior so that when you are baptized, you are baptized with them." Ostracism is very effective against one lone person. But ostracism is weak indeed when exercised against a group of a dozen. And when exercised against two hundred it has practically no force at all.

The last principle I stress is this: Constantly emphasize brotherhood. In Christ there is no Jew, no Greek, no bond, no free, no Barbarian, no Scythian. We are all one in Christ Jesus. But, at the same time, let us remember that Paul did not attack all imperfect social institutions. For example, he did not do away with slavery.

As we continue to stress brotherhood, let us be sure that the most effective way to achieve brotherhood is to lead ever increasing numbers of men and women from every ethnos, every tribe, every segment of society into an obedient relationship to Christ. As we multiply Christians in every segment of society, the possibility of genuine brotherhood, justice, goodness and righteousness will be enormously increased. Indeed, the best way to get justice, possibly the only way to get justice, is to have very large numbers in every segment of society become committed Christians.

Our goal should be Christward movements within each segment. There the dynamics of social cohesion will advance the Gospel and lead multitudes out of darkness into His wonderful lite. Let us be sure that we do it by the most effective methods." [Mission Frontiers article: "A Church in Every People: Plain Talk about a Difficult Task" by Donald A. McGavran]

Eschatological Errors

A man's eschatology - his view of the prophetic scriptures about the end of the world - will govern his understanding of what is achievable or supposedly called-for by God in the latter day. As a-millennialists or postmillennialists, many 18th and 19th century missionaries believed that it should be possible to convert the world and "complete the Great Commission" if only they used the right techniques both for creating church membership and for maintaining them in suitable units. However, it was self-evident that the Church of their day could never grow at the rate necessary to "save the world" nor did they have the leadership ready to "disciple the nations", so something had to change. In order to ensure the flood of new converts that they expected, adding new members to the church became of overriding importance. "Conversion" gave way to "discipling" as the central focus of church growth, but "discipling" in the context of CGM means making sure a person believes in Jesus Christ [not necessarily saved], is willing to be obedient to God, and is prepared to become an active church member. No salvation is thought to be valid outside the structure of the Church, because the concept of obedience is much more a submission to church leadership than knowing and heeding the voice of God as an individual. The basic premise of CGM, and the cell-church system it promotes, is that one should not demand too much from people before adding them to the church membership database. The important thing is simply getting them into the church and further instruction can follow on afterwards. In a foreword to "Target Earth: The Necessity of Diversity in a Holistic Perspective on World Mission" Ralph Winter writes:

"The number of people in the world who do not claim to view things from a Christian point of view ... is steadily decreasing in proportion to the surging number of people in every land who are embracing the fatherhood of a loving and merciful God, striving to work with Him to restore the intended goodness and beauty of his creation. [Target Earth] presents an invitation to all good people of every nation to view and to participate in the final assault on the powers of darkness." ["Target Earth" 1989, Published by Global Mapping International, Pasedena California: Editor Frank Kaleb Jansen.] It does not matter whether "people of goodwill" are born-again or not according to this viewpoint, as long as they are all contributing to the overthrow of evil in the world and the establishment of the kingdom. This is the message that cell-church lay ministers will convey to their neighbourhood. The numbers-driven approach has led to a downgrading of the gospel message to the 'felt needs' approach to evangelism - the belief that meeting people's needs - real or perceived - will give an opening for conversion. Wagner defines a felt need in this way: The conscious wants and desires of a person; considered to be an opportunity for Christian response which stimulates within the person a receptivity to the gospel.[C. Peter Wagner, ed., Church Growth: State of the Art (1986), p. 44.]. This was the thinking that produced the cell system and the entire Church Growth mechanism.

CONTINUE TO PART TWO: An Altered Emphasis - Saving The World

NOTES Thanks to: (1) "The Doctrine Of Justification: The Foundation Of The Church's Life And Its Work" Presented to the Pastor/ Teacher Conference of the Manitowoc Conference : October 6, 1995 :St. John Ev. Lutheran Church : Newtonburg, WI by Bruce A. McKenney; "An Evaluation of the Church Growth Movement", Kirk Wellum, Pastor, Sovereign Grace Community Church, Sarnia, Ontario. "The History of the Church Growth Movement" section from "Law and Gospel in the Church Growth Movement" By: Robert Koester [Dakota-Montana Pastoral Conference - September 18,19, 1984] "Introduction to Church Growth" by A Scott Moreau. "Church Growth Movement" by A. Scott Moreau. "For the Sake of Christs Commission": The Report of the Church Growth Study Committee of The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod 2001

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (2)
CONTENTS of Part Two

An Altered Emphasis

Rufus Anserson Gustav Warneck J. Waskom Pickett Emil Brunner Juan Luis Segundo Jurgen Moltmann David Bosch






The Church of Tomorrow


The Apostles of the New Order

C. Peter Wagner

An Altered Emphasis
FORERUNNERS Rufus Anderson (1796-1880), Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, was a strong influence on missionary principles. Rufus, a Calvinist and a Congregationalist, taught the importance of evangelising the heathen because he expected the Church to establish the Kingdom of God worldwide as demonstrated by two of his papers: "Promised Advent of the Spirit" and "Time for the World's Conversion Come". But the man regarded as the founder of the Protestant science of missions is the German Lutheran Gustav Warneck (1834-1910) whose dominant understanding of mission was "education" for the "extending of the kingdom" and who aimed at the christianising of entire people-groups by making the gospel relevant to their existing language, culture and customs. Several of the basic principles McGavran used in developing his approach to church growth come from these Anglo-American and German missiological roots, including the concepts of responsive peoples, mass conversions, people movements, Christianization, the use of small groups led by local leaders, and the development of an indigenous 'people's' church.

However, the man whom McGravan credited with having the most influence over his new thinking was J. Waskom Pickett, whose 1933 study "Mass Movements in India" proposed three concepts that have become central to the thinking of Church Growth:

(1) more people came to Christ when mass conversion was allowed than individual conversion.

(2) the quality of converts was equal to the post-baptismal care given them.

(3) forming people into churches was not necessarily a long and difficult task, as commonly believed. Over a period of seventeen years McGravan studied 145 mission stations and eventually published his findings in 1955 in a controversial book called "The Bridges of God." The book's main concept was the shift away from individual conversion to group decisions amongst whole households, clans and people groups, and in discipling entire nations, rather than reaching individuals. The "Homogeneous Unit Principle" was based upon McGavran's observation that people are more likely to listen to the Christian message if their racial, linguistic, or class barriers are not disturbed. His application of working within existing social structures by maintaining 'homogeneity' within an individual church was an adaption of the German missiological "people's churches" concept. A study on the theme says:

According to McGavran the Lord of the church is not satisfied with search theology, which proclaims the Word without regard for results. The Lord wants a harvest theology. Numbers are important to him. This work can be done most effectively on a world level, McGavran asserts, through concentrating evangelism efforts on homogeneous units within people movements, especially among such units which give promise of being winnable peoples. This is in keeping with the Lords Great Commission to disciple the tribes, McGavran maintains. Moreover, we must aim for measurable growth, he continues. A numerical approach is essential. This requires, of course, a careful analysis of growth factors and statistics.

One does not get too far into McGavrans writings without coming to an uneasy feeling that one is dealing with a supersalesman who in his enthusiasm is becoming guilty of overselling his product by bending the truth a bit here and there. The name of the game is numbers. One critic suggests that church growth people assume you can make Christians the way you make cars and sausages. The missionary becomes a professional agent geared to the philosophy that success is the sine qua non of church work. The Bible does, of course, contain success stories. But it also records places, especially in the General Epistles, where scattered little groups are called upon to face the worlds hostility without losing hope. One could point to places in Africa where missionaries waited years before winning the first convert. Today these same areas are witnessing the most rapid

church growth in all the world. One wonders what might have happened if the early pioneers had not been willing to bear the heat and burden of the day! Had they pursued church growth strategies, they would not have persisted as they did.

The most telling attacks against McGavran have been directed against his shoddy exegesis of the Great Commission. To interpret Christs reference to all nations as to separate races, tribes or castes is contrary to all proper Greek usage as well as to Christs clearly intended meaning to include every creature, regardless of race, tribe or caste. His distinction between discipling and perfecting as two separate stages in church growth violates Greek usage as well as the entire sense of Scripture as to what discipleship involves, namely, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever the Lord Jesus has commanded. ["An Evaluation of Current Missiology" By Ernst H. Wendland. Emphasis added.] In 1960, McGravan was invited to establish an Institute for Church Growth on the campus of Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon. But far more significant in terms of today's CGM, was the invitation he received in 1965 to come to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, where he became the founding dean of the Fuller School of World Mission. In 1970, he wrote "Understanding Church Growth" which is now in its third edition, having been revised and edited by C. Peter Wagner. It goes beyond "Bridges to God" and gives us a good idea of his more mature thinking of the "theology, sociology, and methodology of church growth." But McGravan's book built on the theories of others before him, men who today are hailed as the pioneers of church growth and the 'new paradigm' evangelism:


Emil Brunner (1889-1966) was born in Switzerland, into devout Reformed stock. He studied theology at Berlin and Zurich, taking his doctorate in 1913. He was ordained as a minister of the Swiss Reformed Church, and pastored for several years before appointment at the University of Zurich, where he taught from 1924 to 1953. He was one of Karl Barth's foremost supporters. His books have had a deep impact on theology and missionary thought, as one writer notes:

"During the ten years immediately following the war, which were an exciting period of biblical renewal and theological ferment, American theological students in most mainline seminaries and university divinity schools read more works of Brunner than of any other single theologian....However, even after the market for Brunners books in the English-speaking world wanes and his students have passed off the scene, and even when his name is forgotten, Brunners impact on American theology is likely to continue for a long time. Key concepts such as the personal nature of revelation and faith, truth as encounter, and the christocentric understanding of the church and ethics have entered our theological consciousness". ["Emil Brunner: A Centennial Perspective" by I. John Hesselink. This article appeared in the Christian Century, December 13, 1989]

Brunner's contribution to the cell-church debate was to look for the renewal for the church, which he saw as free fellowship (koinonia) based on an idealised vision of the early church. He writes:

"The New Testament Ecclesia, the fellowship of Jesus Christ, is pure communion of persons and has nothing of the character of an institution about it" (p. 17); The Ecclesia . . . is no institution. Therefore the church can never be the Ecclesia either by purification or re-creation." (p. 107) [The Misunderstanding of the Church (Philadelphia, 1953)]. Another author writes:

"Soon after the Second World War, Professor Emil Brunner questioned the understanding of ecclesia [held] by the existing churches. ... He saw this legalistic institutionalism as the factor distinguishing them most sharply from the ecclesia of the New Testament, which he recognised as 'communion with God through Jesus Christ, and rooted and springing from it, communion or brotherhood with man'. Brunner did not see this as an invisible concept but rather as a living reality, visible even to unbelievers through manifested love. He saw that some form of institution might be essential for continuity of doctrine and preaching, but that 'the effective winning of souls and creating of live cells of Christian fellowship' was better achieved by organisations like the Student Christian Movement of his day. ...He looked forward to new forms of Christian communion showing a true fellowship in Christ." ["The Significance of Small Groups for English Baptist Churches", a dissertation by K. A. Morgan.]

Jürgen Moltmann was born in Hamburg, Germany, on April 8, 1926. He was raised in a rather "enlightened secular" home and grew up with poets and philosophers of German Idealism: Lessing, Goethe and Nietzsche. Converted in a prisoner of war camp during World War II, he later adopted the theology of Karl Barth. He was also influenced by Luther and Hegel. Moltmann received his doctorate in theology from Göttingen University and got married, in 1952. Then he served as pastor of the Evangelical Church of Bremen-Wasserhorst for the following five years. In 1957 he got to know the Dutch theologian Arnold van Ruler, from whom he discovered the Reformed kingdom of God theology and Dutch apostulate theology. His central theme became the "coming kingdom of God". He sees Christian faith as essentially hope for the future of human beings and this world. This hope drives him towards renewal and transformation, in a similar way to Howard Snyder, with the Church as the agent of God's redemptive work on earth. In "The Church in the Power of the Spirit" (1975) he sees history come to its close with the world filled with the glory of God. He also adopts a pantheistic

attitude towards God in creation. For Moltmann eschatology is not about something apocalyptic"the End" but about "New Beginnings" and the "coming of God" and "the cosmic Shekinah of God." Moltmann is ecumenistic and has been involved in ecumenical dialogue with Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews. Those who are moving towards cell churches see Moltmann's contribution as pushing for Church as "a community". In his book "The Open Church", he calls for new kind of Christian community group in which there is mutual acceptance. God, as love, is not experienced in large organisations and institutions but in communities in which people can embrace each other.


Juan Luis Segundo was a Jesuit priest and the founder of Latin American Liberation Theology. His work was deeply influenced by Jesuit spirituality and traditions and he followed the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and endorsed creation-centered spirituality. After opposition from the Uruguayan government in the 70's he lectured on theology at American universities. Liberation Theology, which sprang up in the 1960's in Latin America was new social and intellectual movement arose spearheaded by Protestant and Catholic churchmen and closely allied to Marxism which became embodied in the religious "base communities" they set up. These were small, lay-led groups of Christians that saw themselves as part of the Church, working together to improve their lot and establish a more just society. Like the cell-churches of today, they saw their role as "going to the people" with a message of liberation from poverty, oppression, hunger and injustice.

"It has been within these communities, typically comprising fifteen to twenty families, that the theology has been developed. Whilst further discussion of these basic Christian communities is not appropriate here, the journey they have taken, as described for example in Base Communities by Margaret Hebblethwaite, provides many parallels with the theological reflection which has brought the modern Protestant Cell Church Movement into being." [Ibid.] I see another other similarity here. Just as Wagner and others fear the independence and unstructured lay-leadership of home groups as a threat to their plan for dominion, and thus incorporate such cells only as part of an overall pastor-led hierarchical structure which keeps tabs on all the members; so Rome reacted in the same way to liberation theology cells:

"Such communities develop a sense of solidarity within the group; generate mutual aid and support; they serve as a training ground for the experience of democracy and direct their social and political actions. As a whole, these communities do not fit into the traditional vertical, hierarchical authority system of the Catholic Church. At some point the powerful and the Church hierarchy itself saw the community as a threat to its domination and used intimidation and violence against them. However, there is no way now

to turn the clock back, therefore some bishops opted to include base communities in the overall ecclesial structure and subordinate them to their rule and control as a cell in their organization." ["Liberation Theology: Religious Response to Social Problems, A Survey" Marian Hillar, Published in Humanism and Social Issues. Anthology of Essays. 1993, pp. 35-52.]


David Jacobus Bosch was born into an Afrikaner home on December 13, 1929, near the town of Kuruman in the Cape Province of South Africa. His parents were poor farmers and loyal members of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC). Quotations from both Howard Snyder and Jurgen Moltmann, amongst many others, appear in David Bosch's final book "Transforming Mission". (3) Along with Snyder, Bosch calls us to be "kingdom people", not "church people". In his book Bosch challenges the conventional view of church and evangelism, once again arriving at the conclusion that our understanding and practice of Christian mission is now shifting from the church-centered mission to a mission-centered church. He sees the mission-centered church as a "servant community, a pilgrim people, a sacrament and sign to the world" with a mission to share God's love in the community. The gospel is "the good news of Gods love, incarnated in the witness of community, for the sake of the world". K. A. Morgan comments:

"In examining the Pauline missionary paradigm, Bosch identifies the early church as a new community of people reconciled and made one together in Christ, bound up in God's plan for redeeming the whole world. Bosch has described the way that churches became institutionalised and static, and the observable shift after the Second World War when Western churches again began seeing 'mission' as 'God's mission'.

This rediscovery has brought with it the challenge of what church structures would best serve both the relational aspect of a church as a community of believers and the mission imperative. In looking at the phenomenon of "small" Christian communities, Bosch identifies many forms: the house church groups in the West, African independent churches, clandestine meetings in countries where Christianity is proscribed, as well as the base ecclesial communities of Latin America.

We would need to add the Cell Church Movement. Bosch sees their particular significance in being that the laity have come of age and are missionally involved in an imaginative way. With Moltmann, Bosch still sees some form of the ordained ministry as essential to enable the priesthood of the whole church and calls for a more organic ecclesiology of clergy and people together." Once again, we see the shift from pre-millennial theology of the Kingdom in abeyance until the return of Christ, towards the post- or a-millennial theme of the

"golden age of the Church" in which missionary effort is directed towards fulfilling the Great Commission and discipling all nations to create the kingdom of God on earth.

The 1970's saw Win Arn establish the Institute of American Church Growth, and John Wimber become the founding director of the Department of Church Growth at Fuller (now the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth).


It was not until the early 1980's, however, that one person emerged as the leader and chief spokesman of the Church Growth movement in the United States, and that person was C. Peter Wagner. He had served as a missionary to Bolivia, and had studied under McGavran at Fuller, where he had been on staff since 1971. In 1981, he published "Church Growth and the Whole Gospel," which thrust him into the spotlight as McGavran's successor, and in 1984 he took up his responsibilities as the Donald A. McGavran Professor of Church Growth. Wagner's influence is huge. He is the founding president of Global Harvest Ministries, focusing prayer on world evangelism. He is coordinator for the AD2000 United Prayer Track. He is also co-founder of the World Prayer Center in Colorado. He is presiding apostle of the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) and convening apostle of the New Apostolic Roundtable (NAR). See Wagner's comments on his Global Harvest website. It was Peter Wagner who took the CGM in a new spiritual direction as he moved into the signs and wonders camp, under the influenced by John Wimber, and then the Manifested Sons of God agenda of Bill Hamon and suchlike "prophetic" leaders. Wagner strongly endorsed Bill Hamon's book on 'Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: Gods End-Time Plans for His Church and Planet Earth.' He even wrote the foreword. There he says that Bill Hamon was influential in nurturing him through what he calls a "paradigm shift from traditional Christianity to an openness to the full ministry of the Holy Spirit." He also believes that Bill Hamon is at the "cutting edge" of what he calls "The New Apostolic Reformation." Bill Hamon says in "Meeting from House-To-House" (11/9/00)

The Apostolic Reformation will make church leaders and pastors more committed to raising up an army of equipped saints than an audience of paying spectators and fans. Church cell home groups will increase and transition into doing the work of the ministry. The pastor will make sure everyone works together in fulfilling the pastor's vision for that local church. The senior headship of the local church (pastor) will no longer be a one-man band but a band director. He will function as a choir director who makes sure all members not only sing their part well, but are in harmony with all the 'choir'. The 21st church will not function anything like the traditional church of today. Many leaders will not be able to make the transition because of their fear of losing control or lessening their authoritative position. Wagner has progressively shifted towards the MSOG agenda, taking the Church Growth movement with him, and the cell-church idea as we have seen is part of the plan. A recent meeting of "APOSTOLIC COUNCIL OF PROPHETIC ELDERS" as they style themselves, "a select group of prophets who feel the need to build personal relationships with peer-level prophets" listed as members: Wesley and Stacey Campbell, Jim Goll, Bill and Evelyn Hamon, Mike and Cindy Jacobs, Jim Laffoon, Bart Pierce, Chuck D. Pierce, Rick Ridings, John and Paula Sandford, Michael and Andrea Schiffmann, Gwen Shaw, Dutch Sheets, Sharon Stone, Tommy Tenney, Hector Torres, Peter and Doris Wagner, and Barbara Wentroble. One graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California, Richard Joseph Krejcir, has woken up to the horrifying truth about his mentor, Wagner:

"I personally worked with Wagner for over five years. He was a friend and mentor to me. I was at one of his harvest meetings recently, (11/01 Pasadena, Ca), where I was shocked and appalled! They are on the verge of cult status with crazy, unbiblical doctrine. They claim to be real apostles, they search for demons under every bush, and they lift prophecy over and against Biblical precepts. They have a total disregard of solid, essential Biblical doctrine. They ridicule people who hold to the Bible, while they lift themselves up rather than our Lord! If you are very, very, very discerning, you can pick up some good insights on prayer and some other things, but it will be like digging through trash to find bottles!" ["The Problem With Most Church Growth Paradigms" By Richard Krejcir April 01, 2002] (Note 2) Today Peter Wagner is a vociferous proponent of cell churches that combine celebration, congregation, and cell although he is not as keen on small independent house churches (and the reason for that will readily be seen when we discuss the leadership models of the cell church.) C. Peter Wagner proposes six minimum elements of the Church Growth movement: 1. Non-growth displeases God (it is abnormal, a disease, and correctable) 2. Numerical growth of the church is a priority with God and focuses on new disciples rather than on decisions 3. Disciples are tangible, identifiable, countable people that increase the church numerically

4. Limited time, money, and resources require strategy based on results 5. Social and behavioral sciences are valid tools in measuring and encouraging church growth 6. Research is essential for maximum growth. See some astonishing quotes by Peter Wagner at the DITC site.

CONTINUE TO PART THREE: The Problem with Church Growth

NOTES (2) Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of 'Into Thy Word Ministries', a discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, "Into Thy Word" and is also a pastor, teacher, speaker and a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California. He has over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant. His website, Into Thy Word Ministries, is located at (3) "Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission" by David J. Bosch, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (3)
CONTENTS of Part Three

The Problems with the Church Growth Movt.

Numerical Growth Pragmatic Approach Marketing Strategies Group Conversion The Homogeneous Unit Social Sciences Social Reform Reconstruction (New Wineskins) The Problems with the Church Growth Movement






The Church of Tomorrow



1. Numerical Growth:
The problems with the Church Growth Movement are also those of the cell-church system, for the two are closely intertwined. Cell churches are above all a way of "reaching the unchurched" and adding to the membership rolls. The Church Growth movement sees as its primary task to add quantifiable numerical growth to the Church. Indeed, some would say that it has replaced all other forms of ministry, including the worship of God, with this obsession. The worship service is used as yet another tool for attracting new members to the church, and it has to be tailored to the expectations of the "unchurched". Studies conducted by Church Growth Movement (CGM) researchers show that people want relaxed, informal and entertaining services with high quality modern music and short, positive, affirming talks that do not induce guilt or make anyone embarrassed. People want to see drama, dance and playlets, and this they shall have, say those who are eager to count heads in church. They want clowns? Then they shall have Christian clowns. They want video shows, potluck suppers and quiz shows? Let them have anything they want, for it keeps them coming to the church.

One of America's five largest churches decided to perk up its evening service by staging a wrestling match. Another sent the pastor up to 'heaven' on invisible wires to the accompaniment of smoke, music and a light show. This must have made a huge impression on "the unchurched" but were they any different spiritually when they went home? Time after time, throughout the bible, we find that God looks for quality rather than quantity. Why else would God decimate the Israelites in the wilderness or send most of Gideon's army home before the battle? Jesus the Good Shepherd forsakes the many to seek for one lost sheep (a practice that the CGM would condemn as time-wasting and ineffective!). He changed the world with a handful of disciples and apostles; He told them that only a FEW would walk the narrow way. When McGravan and others boldly state that "God is interested in numbers" surely they forget the severe penalties He handed out for counting heads in the Old Testament camp! Yet, as the following quote testifies, missionary success is seen in terms of quantifiable growth.

"In the mid-1950's, McGavran linked conversion to local church membership. He worked from conversion membership backwards to missionary technique from effect to cause. Membership was caused by effective evangelism; effective evangelism caused by effective proclamation; effective proclamation caused by proper technique. Soon, American church planting began to focus on quantifiability (numbers) and accountability (technique.) [Thom S. Rainer, The Book of Church Growth (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1993)]

"These words ignited the tinder of American pragmatism:

"How do peoples become Christian? Here is a question to which not speculation but knowledge must urgently be applied. The question is how, in a manner true to the Bible, can a Christward movement be established in some caste, tribe or clan which will, over a period of years, so bring groups of its related families to Christian faith that the whole people is Christianized in a few decades?" (Donald A. McGavran, "The Bridges of God" New York: Friendship Press, 1955),

Historian Thom S. Rainer summarizes the eventual evolution:

"Salvation would be "measured" by "responsible church membership." If someone was attending a church and participating actively in the fellowship, then the probability was high that he or she would be a Christian. . . . Hence the Church Growth Movement arose when salvation became quantifiable [emphasis added], and churches became accountable [emphasis added] for their numbers--in terms of membership, attendance, baptisms, and so forth". [Rainer, p 142]

"The logic was reduced to this sequence: Increasing church membership indicates effective discipleship." ["Unfulfilled Expectations of Church Planting" David Snapper, Silverdale, WA]

2. Pragmatic Approach
As we see from the above, it's not only numbers, but the pragmatic approach to evangelism that is of concern here. Pragmatism means choosing your methods and message according to their benefit and effect on human interests. In other words, if it works, and people like it, anything goes! Cell church leaders will be training those under them to "go out into their neighbourhoods" and reach the lost using everything and anything to hand. This sounds extremely worthy and biblical until you realise that the goal is numerical growth and the method is "the end justifies the means". Peter Wagner praises this approach thus:

"... we ought to see clearly that the end DOES justify the means. What else possible could justify the means? If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method. If, on the other hand, my method is not accomplishing the goal, how can I be justified in continuing to use it?" [C. Peter Wagner, "Your Church Can Grow - Seven Vital Signs Of A Healthy Church", 1976, pg. 137.] McGavran's influence on the CGM was to teach evangelists to use anything that produced new church members and rule out nothing unless it was specifically condemned in the word of God. Whatsoever in ministry that did not contribute to growth was discarded - for nothing was more important than "making disciples of all nations". Therefore the bible is approached by CGM churches as mostly a tool for attracting people to meetings; its message is diluted because the doctrines and passages that challenge, rebuke or condemn are not attractive, and teaching on behaviour is secondary to evangelism. Therefore the principles of Church Growth are "based on" the bible but also based on market research and other non-bible sources that appear to work when approaching non Christians. Once this thinking establishes itself in the consciousness of missionaries and evangelists, it is but a short step to watering down the gospel and hammering it into a shape that is pleasing to the world, in order to make converts without offending them too much. In his book "Marketing the Church", the sociologist George Barna says: "the audience, not the message is sovereign". When the audience is the world and its values are in complete contradiction to the bible, the result is that sinners dictate the message according to their liking, and converts - who already expect nothing more from the Church than helpful platitudes and practical assistance - resist any hint of disapproval or talk of repentance. To play along is to deny them the truth that will save them from a lost eternity!

Pragmatism means "if it works, use it" but is this a biblical method of evangelism? Are we really to be unconcerned about the purity of our methods? Does the end justify whatever means we use? Is God so pleased with quantity that he overlooks the quality?

3. Marketing Strategies:
Church Growth delights to use whatever in the world will support their cause. Thus they turn to sociologists and demographers like George Barna (who is founder and president of Barna Group, a full-service marketing research company in Glendale, California which has conducted extensive research for many corporations and organizations including Visa, The Disney Channel, Focus on the Family, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association). They justify this with 1Cor. 9:22b where Paul says, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." For the CGM, this validates the use of sociology, demography and the fruits of marketing research for their work. They happily use business planning and management techniques, and borrow whatever suits them from the secular marketplace. But using the techniques of the marketplace turns sinners in need of salvation into mere consumers of a product. Marketing the Church leads to a mentality where quantifiable "results" are of paramount importance to measure the "success" of the project. However, in evangelism there are not always immediate or discernible "results" and forcing a visible response goes beyond what God intended. Commercial companies know how to market a product. They use targeted advertising, slick glossy brochures, multimedia presentations, eye-catching professionally-produced websites. They employ celebrities to endorse their product. They make sure that their stores are large, bright, clean, freshly painted, with adequate facilities like toilets, restaurants and easy car-parking. When all of this is applied to churches, however, the result is a "product" that cannot not "do what it says on the tin". As a result of all the hype, those who come to church expecting to have their desires fulfilled and their senses ticked are either indulged in entertainment services, or sent away disillusioned and feeling betrayed and lied-to. Or both. As well as that, poorer churches are disadvantaged, and struggling little local congregations are trampled on in the rush to get the "product" out into the marketplace in the most lavish and expensive way possible. Those who have a genuine message of salvation to offer may be doing so in a run-down backstreet hall, but they may well be overlooked by the public when it is taught to expect a totally different Christianity. Church Planting is also big business these days. It is seen as one of the most effective ways of increasing the number of people attending meetings. Through analysis, people's needs and expectations are estimated. One tool used is the Holmes Stress Scale which lists life changes and estimates the amount of stress caused by each change. This scale is used to identify which communities would be receptive to the church message. After the research discovers a group of people who are, in McGravan's terminology "winnable" - they are likely to respond to the message - an organisation or company is employed to set up a church in that area, ready-made. If only the apostle Paul had been able to call on the services of these companies, think how much time and worry he could have been spared!

I have seen many "church-planting" services offered on the Internet, in which a company of consultants will undertake to set up a local church and train its leadership for a fee. One example, Crosspoint International, charges "$3650.00 to take a church planter through our two-year coaching process. This is not the total cost to plant a church, of course..."

"What is Crosspoint International's purpose? Crosspoint International exists to carry out Christ's Great Commission by catalyzing a global cell church planting movement. Our intention is nothing less than to change the world by planting thousands of multiplying cell-based churches across the United States and around the world.

"Crosspoint International has designed a process that provides skilled coaching by an experienced cell church planter and a network of peers who are also planting churches. Meeting regularly, this Cell Church Planting Network (CCPN) provides a supportive, safe environment for church planters to develop spiritually, professionally, and emotionally.

"CCPN costs break down as follows:

$625.00 annual tuition $100.00 monthly coaching fee" Yes, if you have money, equipment, talented young entrepreneurs, large modern buildings, access to commercial advertising, and an experienced Church Planting Team to train your staff then success is guaranteed. But woe betide Paul and Barnabas who have nothing more than an offensive gospel message that gets them run out of town or stoned in the marketplace.

4. Group Salvation, not Individual:
McGravan taught, and CGM proponents have followed in his footsteps, that "it is not easy for individuals to become Christians on their own". People like to stay with their cultural group, and to respond to a message and make changes in their lives as a group - whether a family, tribe, religion, culture, linguistic or ethnic group. Therefore the CGM plays down those elements that tend to emphasise the separateness of the Christian life, and individual decisions for Christ, and tries to develop a "tribal consciousness" that maintains people's comfort-factor, so that a whole group converts en bloc. To this end, the leaders and spokesmen of a group are targeted first in the hopes that they will influence everyone else. This is considered to be a more effective way of reaching large numbers of people at the same time. Modern "mission" involves targeting "people groups" around the world, and aims at changing the religious persuasion of that group to a Christian one where

most people are attending Christian churches, having their children baptised and following the commands of the bible rather than those of other sacred texts. McGravan's teaching has received a boost in recent years from those who see the "revival outpouring" and techniques such as "spiritual warfare" as a way of reaching whole nations at a time. The "prophets" say - for instance - that "millions of islams [sic]" will come to Christ, and whole nations will be impacted by an outpouring so intense that none can resist.

5. Ethnicity:
McGravan believed numerical growth is much more likely to take place if the person doing the evangelizing belongs to the same culture, class, tribe, or family as the person he is trying to evangelize, and that churches consisted of people from the same cultural background. This is the often-cricitised 'Homogeneous Unit Principle'. In reality, it is not a "principle", but a descriptive observation that people do not like to cross ethnic, linguistic, or other social barriers in coming to Christ. This - as we have seen from McGravan's own explanation - means putting an end to the "separation" from the world and often from families and former friends that converts accept when they become Christians. Jesus was himself One who separated himself from his mother and family as a deliberate act, and called believers his new family. He said that those who consider their natural ties as more important to following God do not deserve the name of disciples, for in Christ we are all as one family and there is "no Jew or Greek". Yet McGravan set in place a principle that converts must identify as closely as possible with their old way of life and keep the same company. (How does this work for Hindus and Muslims who are saved, to say nothing of tribal shamans and witches.) The reasons for all this is simple - NUMBERS! McGravan does not deny that one-by-one conversation works, but complains that it is so slow that the world will never be saved. Thus, biblical principles are overthrown for the sake of rapid church growth. Frank Kaleb Jansen (Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse) writes:

"God in his wisdom asked us to bring the gospel to every "ethne" because he knew (and it's been proven true over and over again) that then and only then would the gospel spread like a forest fire.....if this is the meaning of the Great Commission, what then is a people-group... after more than twelve years of different uses and definitions of the term, a group of missiologists came together in Chicago in 1982 and agreed upon a common definition. The meeting was sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and the minutes have therefore since served as the common ground for evangelical targeting of missions. A "people group" [has] a shared language, religion, ethnicity, residence, occupation, class, caste, situation or combinations of these. For evangelistic purposes it is the largest group within which the gospel can spread as a church-planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance." ["Target Earth: The necessity of diversity in a holistic perspective on world mission" 1989 published by Global Mapping International, Pasadena California: Editor Frank Kaleb Jansen, Foreword by Ralph Winter.]

A misinterpretation of the word "ethnos" (nation) has led to these organisations targeting clans, tribes, classes, professions and anything else that they understand as "people groupings". It has resulted in the decision to allot people targeted for evangelization to groups according to their "ethnicity". One "Joshua Project 2000" people's list has people groups in Canada, for example, as "German Jew; Hindi; Urdu". Download the Joshua Project Peoples database and listings Yet the word according to Vine's simply means a nation or people - ethnos: originally "a multitude," denotes "a nation" or "people," e.g., Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; the Jewish people, e.g., Luke 7:5; 23:2; John 11:48,50-52; Acts 10:22; 24:2,10,17; (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).

6. Social Sciences and Psychology:
The aim and urgency to increase the size of the Church has led the CGM to use sociological principles as tools rather than classic biblical evangelism, in an effort to reach the largest number of people in the shortest possible time. Thus, the emphasis of the Church Growth Movement (CGM) is to put people and their needs before sanctification and holiness. "Discipling" in cells is more often "sharing" than biblical teaching; more often meeting people's needs for comfort, friendship, healing or emotional support than a challenge to conform to the bible in genuine spiritual transformation. Sarah Leslie writes in her unpublished report on cell churches:

"In the 1970s, some groups based their home churches on the encounter group model, emphasizing humanistic psychology rather than biblical authority. For example:

"The house church movement borrows whatever skills and insights from contemporary education, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and the human potential movement may serve its purpose, whatever will enable persons to work and love more freely and sensitively, less defensively, secretively, tensely". [P.33, Anderson "The House Church" Nashville NY, Abingdon Press 1975]

Peter Wagner holds that Church Growth is:

...simultaneously a theological conviction and an applied science, striving to combine the eternal principles of Gods Word with the best insights of contemporary social and behavioral sciences, employing as its initial frame of reference, the foundation work done by Donald McGavran. [C. Peter Wagner, Principles and Procedures of Church Growth. Fuller Theological Seminary. Seminar, 1978, p. 4.]

The assumption here is that the bible is insufficient to disciple converts and needs to be supplemented with contemporary social and behavioral sciences. But when psychology takes over from doctrine, we end up with a gospel of self-esteem.

7. Social Reform
McGravan writes that the Church Growth mission is the growth of the Church, which he understands as synonymous with the "renewal of society". This view is the prevailing one amongst conservative a-millennial Christians who see the kingdom of God as the continuously-spreading government of God on earth through his people in the Church. They believe that through mission, evangelism, good works and being salt and light in society eventually the Church will spread out to cover most of the world and influence most of its population to act in a Christian way. So McGravan hopes that his book "Understanding Church Growth" might be "used of God to aid in the urgent revitalization of His Church and the incorporation of sufficient men and women in it, so that major social advance may be achieved in all nations." Another study, on house churches, has this to say:

"Although house churches also have imperfections because people are still people, the nature of house churches is a model extremely conducive to Christ's command to disciple the nations, especially as house churches network with other house churches in their community and throughout their country, and indeed with other house church networks throughout the world." [Housechurches are a Growing Part of Discipling The Nations"] Believing the Church to be God's agent of deliverance for all mankind, Church Growth and cell-church teaching looks for an advancing "kingdom" ever-increasing in power and size so that its message of goodwill and hope can eventually rescue the world from the effects of the Fall. With this fantasy in view, the target is the largest possible Christian Community, at any cost, by whatever means and as soon as possible. Wolfgang Simson who wrote the "15 Theses for a New Reformation" says in the draft of his book:

"As I shall argue later, when church is reinvented, mission will be completely revived too. 'When the church rejects its mission, the church ceases to be the church,' says Donald Miller. But when the church again becomes the church and accepts its apostolic and prophetic nature, then it can become God's instrument of transforming and discipling neighbourhoods and nations. An individual church can be used by God, in the spirit of global partnership, to pour its oil on other people's fire, so that the light increases and the world can see the one whom it has overlooked for too long: Jesus Christ." ["Houses That Change The World: Towards a Re-Incarnation of Church" Wolfgang Simson, Madras, December 1998.] In the past few years, this thinking has received a boost through the "revival" that introduced the idea of:

Impartation Evangelism
Speaking at the former Toronto Airport Church, home of the so-called "Toronto Blessing" Ralph Neighbour Jr. commented that conventional evangelism using a reasoned approach based on the truths of the word of God is not effective enough to do the job. He said:

"Compelling people to come to Christ, strictly by means of doctrinal truths has not been that effective. We need to develop friendships and relationships with people. We need to express the love of Christ through our lived experience of him. This draws people. The apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 14:23ff relates how the gifts of the Holy Spirit (in this case prophecy), can be used to convict an unbeliever of the reality of God among us. It is not so much a belief system that compels one to Christ, but the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit through us. The Holy Spirit assembles us in small group, "and we invite others to "join us" and observe the manifest power of God in our midst." [TACF conference reports for Jan 17, 2001]

8. Reconstruction - new wineskins One of the most sinister aspects of the 'Apostolic Reformation' with its church growth techniques and its cell-church structure is the push to dismantle the present-day Church and replace it with another more suited to their dominion mandate. Although not all groups subscribe to this principle, the underlying doctrine of the "new apostolic order" dictates that the "old order" with its traditions, churches, clergy, buildings and all the old ways of thinking (including much that is biblical and sound) must be removed entirely to make way for the church of the 21st century with a foundation of new apostles and prophets to lead and direct all people. In his "Houses That Change The World" Wolfgang Simson - a major leader of the house church movement - says that:

"Many churches which are desperate for renewal - or at least for change - tend to overlook the fact that you cannot produce a new quality in the church by changing the structures. As management guru Tom Peters says, renewal and reformation is out, revolution is in; a company does not really need a CEO - a Chief Executive Officer - but a CDO - a Chief Destructive Officer, regularly dismantling obstructive traditions, because it is much easier to rebuild according to a new pattern than to restore and renew an outdated one. Changing a church by changing some outward forms is as futile as trying to change your mentality by changing your clothes or walking backwards in order to stop yourself going to cinemas. Adding a new mission statement or some other cosmetic alteration without a radical genetic reformation of the church will only lead to frustration - like sewing a patch

of new cloth onto old cloth, which, says Jesus, is bad advice. Revival and reformation truly start with a complete rediscovery and reconstruction of the core essence of the church, with New Testament DNA, the genetic code of God, supernaturally empowered with growth potential from within (Mk. 4:26). This spiritual seed material is, like any grain of wheat, equipped and able to develop its own appropriate structures from the inside out, without instruction from outside; it simply unfolds itself according to a creational blueprint within; it unzips. Its soil is the soil of nations and people groups. The result of this incarnation, at least in New Testament times, was a house-church movement, that swept through the city of Jerusalem like yeast in dough, or like an unstoppable virus, in maybe less than two years. [Chapter 1: "The reincarnation of the church"] In order to establish the "kingdom" on earth they must do away with denominations, and unite all church members and leaders in a new apostolic network, presumably with the "Presiding Apostle" C. Peter Wagner at its head. The Singapore FCBC cell church led by Laurence Khong says:

"The Lord is using the Cell Church today in an incredible way to help fulfill the Great Commission worldwide. He is transforming the structure of the church to become the new wineskin, capable of fulfilling the task of world evangelization through His power. The Cell Church provides a "new wineskin" that can stretch and grow, making room quickly and easily for many more people to join the community of believers." This is not just a minor modification of the old Church. It is COMPLETE REPLACEMENT with no hint of incorporating the "old paradigm" which Ralph Neighbour, for example, thinks is incapable of doing the job. Ron Wood, one of a large number of present-day "prophets", comments:

"Jeremiah's anointing was to tear down as well as to build up. In tender mercy, with delicate but unrelenting patience, the Lord will demolish man-made structures and traditions. He will break a few tables and knock a few heads in cleansing His temple. He will hurt us to help us. The good will give way to the best. What Father did not plant will be uprooted. What God did not build will be shaken. The weakness of the present pastoral foundation of the church will become apparent in order that we may begin to cry out for the true foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone." ["Prophets Will Confront Jezebel" Ron Wood of] This same author expands on the doctrine is his article "Leaving Organized Religon":

"There is a new paradigm of church, based on a old model. It is radical in the sense that God is taking us back to our roots. The word radical refers to a root. We cant cut ourselves off from our lineage and pretend it doesnt exist. Our history cant be undone, only denied. Yes, the organized church is part of our heritage. But thank God, a new era has dawned. God is changing his church. God is pouring out the Holy Spirit on millions of Christians worldwide, stretching the wineskins with new wine. He is also changing

the authority structure of the church. Apostles and prophets are emerging, thus offering an alternative to independence or denominationalism."

Yet, in the midst of all this renewal, the historic church stands at a crossroads. Many are joining in the flow of the river of God. Others are watching from the banks, critical and doubtful. We need to be patient and intercede in prayer, not be quick to shoot our skeptical brothers. God hasnt given up on the organized church. He loves all of his family, but he doesnt want any of us trapped in ignorance and powerlessness due to substituting mans tradition for Gods word.

The church is in transition and in a state of flux. We dont yet know what it will look like. Like a chick still in its shell, we can only guess at its final appearance. We hope we will resemble the church in the Book of Acts. ...We will emerge from our limitations and traditions and look more like the Son of God, only corporate. [Note: this is the belief in the Corporate Christ.]

God has spoken to several prophetic people that the church as we know it will not be the same, either in its function or its appearance, and that this transformation will occur in our day. I believe this. [Ron Wood, "Leaving Organized Religion"] Leaving aside the question of how many of the current cell-church and apostolic networks consciously or openly subscribe to the above doctrine, it has to be said that, in practice, the work of removing people from supposed "ignorance and powerlessness" in the traditional denominations, and making a transition to a "new wineskin" is being accomplished more by the introduction of cell systems than anything else. Therefore it would be good to go on and examine this phenomenon. Starting with the history and background, and the people responsible for launching this new move, the remaining parts of this series will examine house groups, house churches and cell churches.

CONTINUE TO PART FOUR: Other Influences & Personalities

Acknowledgements to:
"The Doctrine Of Justification: The Foundation Of The Church's Life And Its Work" Presented to the Pastor/ Teacher Conference of the Manitowoc Conference : October 6, 1995 :St. John Ev. Lutheran Church : Newtonburg, WI by Bruce A. McKenney; "An Evaluation of the Church Growth Movement", Kirk Wellum, Pastor, Sovereign Grace Community Church, Sarnia, Ontario. "The History of the Church Growth Movement" section from "Law and Gospel in the Church Growth Movement" By: Robert Koester [Dakota-Montana Pastoral Conference -September 18,19, 1984] "Church Growth Movement" by A. Scott Moreau.

"For the Sake of Christs Commission": The Report of the Church Growth Study Committee of The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod 2001 "Dangers of the Church Growth Movement" by Ralph H. Elliott, Senior Pastor, North Shore Baptist Church, Chicago. See "What is the Church Growth Movement?" found online at "Church Growth Leadership Theory and Mennonite Brethren Theology" by James R. Nikkel, Executive Sect., Board of Evangelism, Canada. "Have Your Heard What's New in Church Growth?" by Kevin Fenster and Greta Olsloe

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (4)
CONTENTS of Part Four

Other Early Influences and Personalities

Student Volunteer Movement Norman Vincent Peale Robert Schuller Rod Trudinger Howard Snyder Juan Carlos Ortiz David Yonggi Cho Dale Galloway






The Church of Tomorrow



Other Early Influences and Personalities
Some say the move towards the more pragmatic, numbers-oriented seeker-sensitive approach to church growth began at the turn of the century with the Student Volunteer movement which spawned the idealistic vision of reaching the world for Christ by the year 2000. Their motto was "The Evangelization of the World in this Generation". Begun in Massachusetts in 1886, with a home bible study group, it blossomed under the leadership of A. T. Pierson who told the students that "all should go, and go to all". Pierson believed the world could be won within one generation with enough manpower and enthusiasm, but it was not to be. There are other candidates. Sarah Leslie writes:

"The earliest book we could locate on the modern home church movement is vintage mid-50s, entitled "Creating Christian Cells". This book is a series of articles about the positive spiritual successes of the new-style church that was being developed, mostly in conjunction with the Marble Collegiate Church in New York (Norman Vincent Peale's church)."

Norman Vincent Peale, in 1984 on the Phil Donahue program, announced, "Its not necessary to be born-again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine . . . Ive been to Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere."

She continues: "The book provides the earliest working definition of cell church, one which is nearly identical with definitions provided by cell church leaders decades later:

The Christian Church began AS A SINGLE, SMALL GROUP FELLOWSHIP. As it grew and divided, many such groups ("churches" or "parishes") were formed. The process resembled MITOSIS, or cell-division, in the biological world; hence, the term "cell." [foreword from "Creating Christian Cells"]" Both Peale and his close friend and disciple Robert Schuller, author of "Your Church Has Real Possibilities" espouse heretical "New Thought" Christian-Science doctrines that they have christianised into "positive thinking" and a self-esteem gospel that targets "the unchurched". MASONIC: You can judge for yourself the "christianity" of Peale by going to this site, where he is proudly portrayed as a 33-degree Mason and Honored as "Supreme Temple Architect 1991" with his "Portrait Donated by The Scottish Rite Masons of The Southern Jurisdiction."

OFFSITE LINK: "Norman Vincent Peale: An Man who Made up his Mind"

Schuller says, "Were trying to impress non-Christians and non-churched people. We are trying to make a big, beautiful impression upon the affluent nonreligious American who is riding by on this busy freeway." But Schuller doesn't intend to offend them by suggesting they are acting contrary to the laws and commandments of God. For Schuller "Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem." (Schuller, "Self-Esteem: The New Reformation", p 14) In a long letter published in the October 5, 1984 issue of 'Christianity Today', he wrote:

"I dont think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition."

In 1992, Robert Schuller launched a new organization called Churches United in Global Mission (CUGM), "to share positively the message of Jesus Christ ...[in] a spirit of unity that is truly Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, evangelical and charismatic." He backed up his ecumenical statement by sharing his church growth principles at the headquarters of Unity Church, Lees Summit, Missouri and dedicating a new Unity Temple in Warren, Michigan. Unity is a cult that denies the deity of Jesus and teaches reincarnation! [from Lion and Lamb Ministries] Despite all this, Schuller stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Wagner and other leaders in the Church Growth camp. He joined David Yonggi Cho in Sicily for the country's first Church Growth Conference in March 1998, visiting Pope John Paul II en route to the conference. He also led the First American Convocation on Church Growth in Garden Grove. In 1997 when more than eighty gay and lesbian pastors and lay leaders from the Metropolitan Community Churches participated in Robert Schuller's 'Institute for Successful Church Leadership' at his Crystal Cathedral, the speakers included cell-church big names Bill Hybels, John Maxwell and Rick Warren. 'Christianity Today' for September 8, 1989 had a picture of Schuller at the Crystal Cathedra with C. Peter Wagner and Bill Hybels. It seems that the philosophy of self-esteem is such a major crowd-puller that heresy can be overlooked in the name of "expanding the church and converting the world." Wagner has in fact paid tribute to Robert Schuller, who in turn is indebted to Norman Vincent Peale. Wagner states:

"Possibility thinking boils down basically to a synonym of what the Bible calls faith. Schullers definition of possibility thinking is the maximum utilization of the God-given powers of imagination exercised in dreaming up possible ways by which a desired objective can be attained. He is convinced that the greatest power in the world is the power of positive thinking. [C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1976), p. 58.]

OFFSITE LINK: See "The Gospel According to Schuller"

In looking at one early book on the cell concept, "Cells For Life" by Rod Trudinger published in 1979, I was struck by how many of today's ideas were already present decades earlier. For example: Mitosis, or cell division, as a model for the church (page 22) The City Church (page15) together with The Discipling group in the home (page 19) Jethro's counsel to Moses (page26) Groups of Twelve (pages 27 and 33) Felt-Needs Servant Evangelism (pages 88/89)

Trudinger speaks of his introduction to the cell concept as early as 1964 with a lecture by Bishop A. Jack Dain of the Anglican Church in Sydney, Australia, who in his turn attributed his interest to South American church growth in the 50's and 60's. [In Mexico City 1975, Bishop Dain chaired the Lausanne Continuation Committee. In an interview prior to the first International Congress on World Evangelization, Bishop Dain, who served as Executive Chairman of ICOWE, stated: "Lausanne is a Congress on evangelization, not a Congress on evangelism.] Trudinger also mentions the concept of groups of 12 as being a teaching of Howard Snyder - one of the key speakers in the 1974 International Congress on Evangelism in Luasanne. Cell churches had already influenced the UK restoration movement as early as the 1970's when Barney Coombs wrote about them in the magazine "Renewal". Like Snyder he called the new structures "new wineskins" - but this oft-repeated phrase comes straight out of dominion teaching and has been avidly adopted by the revival in promoting a totally new order of Church for the 21st century. (This is in keeping with the "Second Reformation" concept of Wagner and others. William Beckham's book on 'reshaping the church for the 21st century' is called "The Second Reformation".) See "The Net" for a further explanation of this concept. Trudinger states that beyond the renewal of the system lies an even greater concept - RESTORATION. "Renewal is the basis for something far greater: Restoration!" Cells For Life, page 11. Today his views have been adopted by almost every major ministry on the planet!

Howard Snyder, a Free Methodist (United Theological Seminary/Asbury Seminary) seems an unlikely proponent of house churches yet his books have been extremely influential, especially his 1975 book "The Problem of Wineskins" (InterVarsity Press) which he wrote after six years of missionary service in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Snyder's original landmark book and the update of that book from 1996, "Radical Renewal: The Problem of Wineskins Today" have become textbooks for instructing missionaries and cell-church leaders. Snyder, a major speaker at the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, is part of the "Christian Spirituality" circle which proposes largely Catholic mystical forms of spiritual renewal, and is on the Board of the Center for the Renewal of the Churches. He is a liberal, a ecumenist, an environmentalist and I would class him as "Christian-New-Age" His book "Earth Currents" (Abingdon Press) examines from a global perspective eight cultural trends that he believes will occur between 1990-2030. Chapters Five and Twelve are on the Environment. Snyder's 1977s book "Community of the King" is no longer available, (although some of the same thoughts are given in his web essay "An Evangelistic Lifestyle in the Church") where he says:

"We need to recover the classical doctrine that "outside the church there is no salvation" - but understood biblically. Augustine was right to emphasize the close, inseparable relationship of head and body in the church. He was right to say the history of the church parallels the history of Christ, the head. The problem with the classical view of "no salvation outside the church" is that this came to be understood institutionally and sacramentally rather than in terms of vital, visible participation in the community of God's people..." Snyder's teaching on the Church, and his insistence that "salvation by faith must always be connected to true Christian community and real discipleship." show signs of having been drawn from Catholic theologians looking to reestablish the preeminence of the visible church on earth as the one great mother of all spiritual communities, but it is also an a-millennial quest to "work for the progressive manifestation of the kingdom of God" worldwide as represented by the "community of God" - one united "holy, catholic and apostolic Church". To Snyder, growing the Church is a vital step towards "healing the earth" and reconciling all things in God. Therefore, there is a lot at stake. If churches remain numerically small and without a global impact, the "cosmic plan of God" which "even includes the redemption of the physical universe from the effects of sin" cannot take place, for this, Snyder asserts, is the mission of the Church as the agent of God on earth.

"As God has called his Church to make disciples of all peoples throughout all lands, this implies numerical growth. Disciples are countable." (p. 118 Community of the King.) In the light of this, it can be seen that the conventional understanding of the Church: "a matter of individual soul culture rather than the building of the community of the Spirit" fails to do the job.

"Growth comes from the multiplication of congregations of believers....If the church can grow only as fast as buildings are built or pastors are academically trained, or budgets are expanded, the growth is limited to the resources available for these purposes." (p. 123 Ibid.) Therefore the institution of the Church must be altered into a global community. "To do justice to the biblical understanding of the Church we must say that the goal of evangelism is the formation of the Christian community" (p.104 Ibid). But "what kind of structures can and should be created to further the oneness of the true Church and the effective proclamation of the gospel?" he asks. It will be no surprise to readers to learn that Snyder proposed, in this book written in 1977, just the very organisations we are seeing all around the world today. He proposed the City Church, regular large-scale city-wide celebrations (to include all denominations including Catholic and orthodox) and some monitoring and communications networks that have since come to fruition. He also proposed "Seven Steps Towards Renewal" in his final chapter, steps 4-7 having to do with cell-church structures and church-planting.

The emphasis on the global community being created by such means is underlined when we read:

"The time may be ripe around the world for the emergence of a thoroughly biblical evangelical movement that includes Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish Christians. Arthur Glasser notes that evangelical Protestants are beginning to encounter evangelical Catholics and are discovering that some loyal Catholics know and love Jesus Christ with in intimacy and devotion surpassing their own. The biblical and charismatic emphases within Roman Catholcism in the wake of Vatican II are rapidly invalidating many traditional Protestant criticisms of the Roman Church." (P. 181 Ibid)

Ortiz was for many years the pastor of a large Pentecostal congregation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He became internationally known through the 1974 Congress on World Evangelism in Lausanne, and the publication of his first book, "Disciple" in 1975. He is often credited with sparking the "shepherding/covering" movement by introducing the five Fort Lauderdale leaders to his discipleship and authority teachings. Like Snyder and many other cell-church proponents, Ortiz believed that the Church must reform its structures and rebuild into flexible "new wineskin", in order to do the job of forming a united world community of believers:

"God is going to have a new community. Things are starting to happen in the Church. The world generally doesn't know it yet, but it's coming. We are going to be like a city on a mountain, an example of a community that loves one another... once it starts with the pastors, it will spread quickly to the other parts of the Body of Christ in our cities. When Jesus looks at your city, he sees his shepherds and sheep as all one unity. If we are in Jesus, we will see the same thing. Not all of us have the "right" doctrine, but that doesn't seem to stop Jesus from loving us anyway. Neither should it stop Jesus' servants." (Pp 55, 59, "Disciple") Sarah Leslie writes:

"An early reference to the concept of cell churches is found in this statement by Juan Carlos Ortiz, who presented his views on the new church structure to a conference of pastors meeting at Montreat, North Carolina, home of Billy Graham, in the early 70s.

"His message, "the basic principles for restoring the Kingdom of God here on earth through the unity of the body", was published and widely circulated. Ortiz began his experiment with the formation of cell churches in Argentina in the 1950s and his model has been widely replicated across the globe.

"'Cell' is a transitory name we used for a meeting of five or more persons for certain purposes. I say it is a transitory name because

we don't see the word "cell" in the Bible. The proper name should be 'church in the home.' But the name 'church in the home' brings to mind the type of church we used to have. So we use the word 'cell' to show it is not a common meeting where they go to a home, open the Bible, read and discuss it, sing a chorus, then pray and go home. That's no advantage - that's the same as we always did. Therefore we called our new meetings 'cells' because they were a completely different concept" [p. 103 Call to Discipleship, 1975]

"Like McGravan and his mentors, Ortiz placed the emphasis on evangelism (numbers), not discipleship:

"The early church knew nothing about Sunday schools. They knew the best way for believers to grow and multiply is not through Bible lectures, but through living cells. This means small groups of four or five persons who meet in homes under a leader so their lives may be shaped so they may mobilize and multiply themselves in other cells." [p. 29, Call to Discipleship]" NOTE: Juan Carlos Ortiz is now Pastor of the Hispanic Ministry at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA., and Professor, Fuqua School of Communications, Campus of the Crystal Cathedral - The Crystal Cathedral is pastored by Robert Schuller as we saw above.

Chairman, World Assemblies of God Fellowship The most influential leader of the cell church movement is Dr. David Yonggi Cho, senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, reputedly the largest church in the world, located in Seoul, Korea. The congregation numbered over 750,000 in 1997, with more than 25,000 home cell groups. Cho has authored many books including "Successful Home Cell groups", published in 1981.

As a teenager, Dr. Cho converted from Buddhism to Christianity, and in 1958, he began conducting church services on the outskirts of Seoul. In 1967, when the cell system was introduced, it consisted of 7,750 individuals of 2,267 families organized into 125 cells. When the church membership reached 10,000, the church relocated to Yoido. The first worship service at the now YFGC was held on August 19th, 1973. In 1976, Dr. Cho founded Church Growth International (CGI) as a forum for sharing his principles of church growth. In September of 1992, Pastor Cho Yonggi was elected as the chairman of the Executive Committee of the World Pentecostal Assemblies of God Fellowship now known as the World Assemblies of God Fellowship which has a membership of 30,000,000 members among 60 nations of the world. Like the other participants in the CGM, Cho's emphasis was multiplication (numbers):

"Our church has become a living organism. The home cell groups are living cells, and they function much like the cells in the human body. In a living organism, the cells grow and divide. Where once there was one cell, there become two. Then there are four, then eight, then sixteen, and so forth. Cells are not simply added to the body; they are multiplied by geometric progression." [P.65 Successful Home Cell Groups] A researcher writes:

"Cho teaches that positive thinking, positive speaking, and positive visualization are the keys to success, and that anyone can literally "incubate" and give birth to physical reality by creating a vivid image in his or her mind and focusing upon it.

Cho claims that if there is no visualization, there will be no church growth. He insists that every minister needs to have visualization, the process in a person's mind through which pictures in visions or dreams bring about miracles and powers. This method, however, is not only unbiblical, it is the most powerful occult technique known, having been practiced by shamans and witchdoctors for thousands of years". From Biblical Discernment Ministries. The important thing to know about the Korean church, for the purposes of this article, is that it is and remains one single church, with a pastor, a hierarchical leadership and a weekly church service, at which attendance is required, with traditional hymns, choir and orchestra. It is NOT a network of "house churches" but a single church divided into cells. The church hosts many organisations and ministries, and Cho has by no means eliminated "programs" in order to create a "pure cell" structure. His church fits more into the meta-church pattern of Carl George than Ralph Neighbour's model, but the distinctions are hard to make and the church welcomes and participates in all kinds of Church Growth programs. For example, Cho holds annual church growth conferences as opposed to a cell-based ministry conference. At the 1997 annual church growth conference, Rick Warren and Bill Hybels were the featured speakers (Meta model) along with Larry Stockstill and Billy Joe Daughtery (Pure Cell model).

OFFSITE LINK: "David Yonggi Cho: General Teaching & Activities"

Dr. Galloway is a "pioneer in developing need-meeting ministries led by laypeople". Pastors from all over the world have come to his Church Growth Institute to learn how to create and sustain effective cell-group ministries. He founded New Hope Community Church located just outside of Portland, Oregon in 1972 which has more than six thousand members in small groups. He is now Dean of Asbury Theological Seminary's Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership. The book 20/20 VISION was written by Pastor Dale E. Galloway in 1986 and describes the method Galloway uses for successful church growth. There he tells

us who are his mentors and friends:

"20/20 VISION' is written for pastors and church leaders who do not want to stop. They want to charge ahead in building God's church on this earth.... Church growth has been a burning desire of my heart for as long as I can remember. ... I'm indebted to men like my father, Dr. Harvey S. Galloway, who was church administrator for thirty years. To Dr. Robert Schuller who has been a source of inspiration and motivation and personal friend to me for the past fourteen years as I have pursued the big dream. To Dr. Paul Cho [sic] whose vision and ministry has challenged me to expand my horizons beyond anything I ever thought possible. [20/20 VISION p. 7-8] Galloway, a graduate of Nazarene Theological Seminary is a very influential man with audiences ready to hear his views on how to change the church and "transition it" into the new paradigm. With more than one million copies in print of his 18 books, Galloway is in a position to alter the thinking of a large section of the Church, but with mentors like the self-esteem guru Schuller and fourth-dimension mystic Paul/David Cho we have to be concerned about what these eager disciples of Galloway will be taught.

CONTINUE TO PART FIVE: Home Groups and House Churches

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (5)
CONTENTS of Part Five

Home Groups in General

The Early Church Monastic and Pre-Reformation Reformation Home Groups Wesleyan Class Meetings China/Watchman Nee





Various Small Groups

The Church of Tomorrow

Local Church House Groups Roberta Hestenes Seredipity Xenos Sonship/Deeper Life Groups Witness Lee T.Austin Sparks Manifested Sons of God groups Other Common-Interest groups Cultic Small Groups - Branham, Cooneyite etc










House Groups Home groups have been around for centuries. Indeed, the early church met in their own homes for a long while, and this has been the preferred method of fellowship in all countries where there has been state persecution (such as China.) I shall not spend much time on the subject of home groups, since the main focus of these articles is the new cell-church system of the Apostolic Reformation. In passing, however, it will be useful to list some of the various small groups that you might hear of, or be drawn into, note their differences to the cell-church

idea, and look at the way small groups began.

The Early Church
The earliest Christian churches were small simple home groups - synagogues and other public meeting places became unsuitable after the first few years because of opposition and persecution. The book of Acts describes in several places the believers gathering in homes for the "breaking of bread" - which meant a common meal as well as the remembrance of the Lord's death - and for worship and teaching. They taught each other with "a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation" (1 Corinthians 14:26). They considered themselves to be brothers and sisters in the family of God, and the elders were fatherly figures who cared for and watched over the believers. This simple pattern of home meetings was disrupted by persecution and dispersion, and then by a gradual infiltration of pagan and legalistic ideas, so that by the time of the Second Century AD there was already a desire to reform the Church and reestablish the simplicity and purity of the home groups. The pattern had been set : a repeated move towards organisation and then subjugation, followed by a reactionary stand by a few dissenters breaking away to establish smaller informal groups that practised the original "body-ministry" style of leadership and worship. This pattern, begun in the first centuries AD, has persisted to this day. [See the excellent book "The Pilgrim Church" by E. H. Broadbent, now republished with a foreword by Dave Hunt and available from Amazon.]

It's an interesting fact that the cell system of today has many similarities to the monastic system of the Middle Ages. I shall explore that aspect later on.The Monastic movement arose for many reasons including the quest for restoration from a corrupt Church system, the awareness that the Cathedral was not the ideal place for interpersonal relationships, and the search for community and fellowship. However, it rarely if ever broke free from the teachings of Rome. There were many differences between the RC monastic cells and the home-based groups of dissenters such as the Waldensians. In particular, the clerical rule was adhered to in Monasteries where a strict hierarchical order was observed, whereas many dissenters and reformers gathered as individuals with a looser structure of leadership or none at all.

Reformation house groups
Following on from the Monastic movement, small groups who wanted to see the Church reformed gathered around individuals or beliefs and in most cases reestablished the home group system. Most were persecuted as "heretics" by the Roman church.

From the 16th century, many more groups arose with reforming zeal, including the Anabaptists, Moravians, Hutterites and Mennonites, and it is noticeable that during their informal meetings the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit were once again practised, for one bonus of informal house meetings where each individual member of the Body of Christ takes up his or her role is that God can use even the humblest uneducated peasant for His purposes.

The Pietist movement (or, perhaps "movements," as there were so many) sprang up following the Reformation and persisted as late as the mid-1800s. Pietism was seen as a kind of second phase of the Reformation. An interesting feature of Pietism was the formation of cell groups, which were called "conventicles."

John and Charles Wesley and their co-workers were influenced by Pietism although they remained loyal members of the Anglican Church. Having experienced an awakening in which thousands of new converts needed teaching and care, they turned to small groups to meet the need. In an excerpt from "John Wesley's Class Meetings And Cell Groups" written as a talk for a Cell Church we can see how Wesleys' system is being copied, especially in the modern G12 cell system:

"The answer [to an influx of new converts] began in Bristol where Wesley's Society had grown to 1,100 people. A society member by the name of Foy suggested that one person call on eleven others during the week to inquire of their status. The Bristol Society was quickly transformed, "In a while, some [class leaders] informed me that they found such and such a one did not live as he ought. It struck me immediately, 'This is one thing, the very thing we have wanted so long.'" These weekly visitations soon became weekly class meetings, "This was the origin of our classes at London," he wrote, "for which I can never sufficiently praise God, the unspeakable usefulness of the institution having ever since been more and more manifest." Soon, every Methodist Society was broken into smaller Classes of 12 persons who met weekly with a Class Leader for pastoral care, examination, encouragement and exhortation. According to Wesley, "Many now happily experienced that Christian fellowship of which they had not so much as an idea before. They began to 'bear one another's burdens,' and naturally to 'care for each other.' As they had daily a more intimate acquaintance with, so they had a more endeared affection for, each other."

"The "Class," consisting of 12 people pursuing the discipline of Christian godliness, became the centerpiece of Methodism for the next 100 years, until the mid_1800s. It was in the Class that the "awakened" were discipled, examined and instructed, and where they shared mutual fellowship and learned to bear one another's burdens. It was in the Class that the "Rules" (those standards of behavior expected of every Methodist) were read and where individuals were examined to see if they were sincere in their desire to live according to Methodist discipline. Eventual membership in the greater Methodist Society was contingent upon a probationary period in the Class. People whose lives appeared to genuinely mirror their profession would be recommended for full membership. Those who continued in their old ways and demonstrated no willingness to change their walk would eventually

be excluded from the weekly Class and the quarterly Love Feast. This was accomplished by a system of "tickets." A written ticket (eventually printed) would be issued once every three months, by Wesley or by the Class leader, to those Class members who were in good standing. This gained them entry to the Class meeting for the next three months and to the quarterly Love Feast. Then new tickets would be issued. Those members who by their lives had demonstrated growth in grace were given new tickets. Those who failed to attend meetings or whose lives had otherwise called their profession into question were not issued new tickets until they had demonstrated genuine repentance and a desire to renew their pursuit of Christian godliness.

"It was Wesley's Class meeting that most closely resembles the Cell Church today, and the larger Society meeting that most closely parallels the "Cellabration" concept [of today]. This dual structure represented the backbone of classic Methodism until the Classes began to unravel in the mid-1800s." The parts in bold emphasis demonstrate the potential for abuse of a cell-church system that does not conform to biblical standards and/or is bent on forcing conformity to a new doctrine. Only those members who fully participate in meetings, obey the leadership, conform to the rules and do not oppose the teachings will be bona fide members of the "Church". If the Apostolic/Prophetic leadership have their way, and they become the one united Church worldwide, then no person will be considered a Christian unless he or she conforms to its teachings and commands.

Communist China and Watchman Nee
Watchman Nee was a Bible study teacher in China, and he and his Little Flock established house churches throughout China during the 1920's and 30's that withstood the persecution of the Japanese invasion and later Communism in the 1940's. A history of Nee states:

"Although some of Nee's time was spent preaching to a large (5000-7000 attendance) church in Shanghai, the main result of his work was the founding of hundreds of house churches throughout China. These were lay-led groups that centered on Bible study, witnessing to the neighbors, and fellowship. Singing, prayer and communion were also practiced.

"Mao took power in 1949. During the next several years he consolidated and extended his control of the country. In January of 1956, Nee was brought up on charges by the local authorities in Shanghai, and they held a public "accusation meeting." In front of over 2500 people he was accused of espionage, licentiousness and stealing church funds. His doctrine was also denounced because his preaching on the "last days" tended to demoralize the workers. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Days after his release in 1972, Watchman Nee died in his home province. He was 69 years old." This reprint of a tract by Nee about the Body of Christ [found on a revival site] contains an interesting observation that should alert those who try to

use his supposed teachings to set up a shepherding or pyramid structure using the analogy of cells in the body: Christians are not just "cells" but "living members" of the Body of Christ, each having equal importance and each having an individual role or ministry:

"Learn to Be a Member: A member of a physical body is different from a body cell. Lacking a cell does not matter much, but the lack of a member in a body is unthinkable. Of course, a cell has its use, but please note that the Bible in its use of the analogy of the human body says that we are members of the body of Christ, not cells. How pitiful that the conditions of many Christians are like those of cells in the human body instead of members. Such a person seems to have no specific use in the body of Christ, neither does he fulfill his part. In any given church meeting his presence does not appear to add anything to the body of Christ, and his absence does not give the appearance to the body that it is lacking in anything. ...No one can be passive in a meeting. Each person is a member of the body, and consequently no one can come to a meeting as a passive spectator." Although not all of Nee's teaching can be commended, his understanding of the Body and the part each Christian should play was crucial in the continuance of the underground churches of China, when conventional organised religion and the clergy were removed. Nee says here that leaving organised religion is only part of the move towards understanding the Body of Christ, and taking responsibility for active, Spiritled, participation. We would do well to heed his words today, when many are leaving their churches because of error. Not only a physical move away from abusive leadership is needed, but an understanding of the true Body that Jesus intended:

"Perhaps a person is proud of himself for being one who has left a sect and thus deems himself to be a person who knows the body of Christ. As a matter of fact, however, leaving a denomination is not necessarily the same as, or an indication of, seeing the body of Christ. It is quite true that whoever discerns the body is delivered from denominationalism. But who can claim he has apprehended the body of Christ simply because he has left a denomination? Outwardly many have left a denomination, yet they simply set up another kind for themselves elsewhere. Their leaving the denomination merely demonstrates their own latent feeling of superiority; they fail to comprehend that all the members of the body are their brothers and sisters and therefore all are loving. For this reason, let us realize that all sectarian spirit, divisive attitude, outward action, or inward thought which separate God's children are the unfailing signs of not knowing the body of Christ....The body of Christ will deliver us from sect and sectarianism; it will also save us from self and individualism." DESCRIPTION OF THE VARIOUS GROUPS AND MOVEMENTS Today there are hundreds of small groups meeting in homes. Many are completely unconnected to, and even opposed to, the cell-church system. Others have some links to apostolic/prophetic networks. Let me try to distinguish between the different structures, although that will not be easy. There is a significant overlap and not all groups are run in the same way nor have the same vision. Each have their good and bad points.

Many traditional churches run weekly house groups alongside Sunday services. These are designed to spread the load of discipleship, to foster closer relationships between church members and to offer more freedom in prayer and worship. At these groups it's common for a trusted church member to undertake a little bible study or teaching. All the house groups come under the immediate control of the church to which they all belong, and the eldership thereof. Sunday School, Youth Groups and Bible-study groups would perhaps come into this category. The main difference between these local church home study groups and the modern cell system is that each local church organises and is responsible for its own groups, and none of them subscribe to a centralised doctrine or network of eldership/apostleship on a wider scale. If your local church runs home groups, they may be perfectly sound, although you do need to ask around to see if there is any wider-scale "mentoring" going on, or whether your Pastor is submitting to local apostles and importing their teaching into your church.


These are small home groups inspired by Roberta Hestenes, an ordained Presbyterian USA minister, who founded the Christian Formation and Discipleship Department while an associate professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. There she taught the first seminary course on small groups and smallgroup Bible studies in the church. This model is a fellowship group principally for those who are already saved, to foster fellowship and a deeper life. Her own definition is: "A Christian group is an intentional face-to-face gathering of 3 to 12 people on a regular time schedule with the common purpose of discovering and growing in the possibilities of the abundant life in Christ". Since 1980 Hestenes has served on the board of directors for both World Vision USA and World Vision International, including seven years as Chair of the Board of World Vision International. Her passions are aid to the Third World, and the role of women in ministry.

Serendipity books and seminars have had a powerful impact on the small group movement in America. The word Serendipity means surprise, the making of unexpected happy chance discoveries. The supporters say that "we believe every time a small group gathers together, there ought to be "serendipitous" experiences". The emphasis is on finding Christ and worshipping him in an "experiential way" through activities and events. Serendipity was founded in 1962. The founder is Lyman Coleman (now retired). He was especially influenced by Sam Shoemaker, the pastor of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City who had

a vision to reach all the people of his parish. This vision has greatly influenced Lyman Coleman who says, The heart of the Serendipity model is the broken people at the door...the intention is to create a small group system where people outside the church can find a place of entry and be transformed. (This approach is similar to the seeker-sensitive meetings of Willow Creek). Groups meet outside and within the church; members can join whether or not they are members of the church or even attend the worship services. This makes it distinct from the Korean model (Yonngi Cho) where attendance at church meetings is required and strictly enforced.

Xenos originated during the so-called "Jesus Movement" of the late 60's and early 70's. See their history here. Like many groups originating at that time, Xenos leaders were fascinated by the concept of underground Christianity. "Home churches," are the backbone of Xenos home group ministry. These groups usually range from 15-60 people who meet for fellowship and Bible teaching. Home churches are also open to non Christian neighbors and friends, and are a major entry point for new people into the church. Each home church also has a discipleship program involving men's and women's groups and supervised ministry experience, usually combined with some one-on-one mentoring. For years, Xenos was a disorganized association of house-based groups scattered around the campus of The Ohio State University and the north side of Columbus. During the 70's the group's theology was influenced most by four strangely contradictory sources: Francis Schaeffer and the L'Abri group, Plymouth Brethren teaching as typified by authors like T. Austin Sparks and Miles Stanford, grace-oriented Bible commentary like that of William R. Newell and Watchman Nee. Xenos leaders, having been allied to Campus Crusade staff, eventually broke with them and adopted the Eastern Orthodox tradition as the "truest expression of the Body of Christ". Today they have become Eastern Orthodox bishops, while Xenos has continued to develop the ideals they taught earlier, including a return to primitive Christianity as seen in the New Testament.

There are various low-key groups gathering out of a mutual interest, outside the conventional church system. You may encounter some and wonder to whom they are connected and whether they are safe to join. In every case, it is wise to examine the core doctrines of any group you are drawn into, and to ask who have been the main influences upon the group. Ask to see the books that are beloved by the group, and enquire about the leaders they most admire. This will tell you a lot about their foundation and goals.

Holiness groups and early Pentecostals of the 19th and 20th centuries preferred the intimacy of small home meetings. Often they were unable to find

favour amongst other denominations, anyway. The Deeper Life groups still exist today and many meet in small home-based groups. They are generally unconnected to the revival or restoration movements and usually disassociate themselves from other churches. They are often upright, biblically knowledgeable and worshipful people dedicated to ministry and to helping others. However, they teach varying degrees of error, mostly based on the ideas of adoption to sonship. Some of these groups are hangovers from specific 19th century independent deeper-life teachers.


The Witness Lee groups (Living Stream Ministry) are cultic. Although Witness Lee worked with Watchman Nee in China, his teachings took a different route. His followers tend to be fanatical and isolationist. They believe Witness Lee was the vehicle God chose to reintroduce the concept of the One Body and the local church. Lee is their focus, and his message is central to their beliefs. They even have their own translation of the Bible footnoted by Lee.

OFFSITE LINKS: For information on Witness Lee see this page and this one.

Others groups belong to the sonship-type groups influenced by T. Austin-Sparks (from Honor Oak). These groups are also autonomous and detached from conventional churches; they are keen to separate themselves from denominations and the ecclesiastical systems, but they stress the spiritual/mystical aspects of the Body and push for a separated walk that is designed to lead to higher spiritual experiences and purity that leads to the attainment of sonship.

OFFSITE LINK: The Writings of T Austin Sparks


Some more radical groups have gone further and are cult-like. These I would call the MSOG (Manifested Sons of God) groups such as followers of Sam Fife or The Walk. They are often old-style pentecostal in their worship, and their main emphasis is readiness for the endtimes, when they (the remnant) will be glorified as overcomers and immortalised as the Corporate Christ. Their teachings are dangerous and near-gnostic. OFFSITE LINKS Apologetics Index on MSOG and Immortalisation "Kingdom Triumphalism" on the Let Us Reason site

You may find yourself engaged in conversation by members of small groups that seem to offer an alternative to the church system, and they are often vehemently opposed to modern-day corruption of doctrine and the false revival - but beware of cult-like tendencies within such groups. Some are Exclusive Brethren, some are British Israelite, some are two-by-twos/No-Name fellowships - Cooneyites - and some are gathered around a single prophet (William Branham) or a school of prophets. The Cooneyites (also knows as Irvinites) are very opposed to traditional denominations. They were known as the "Damnation Army," because they constantly damned all churches to hell. Irvine and his followers revolted bitterly against everything associated with the traditional denominations and declared that they were doing things "the Jesus way."

OFFSITE LINKS: Branham groups - see this page for history of Branham See this page for a short list of independent groups and cults Links Page to various Small Groups and Home Group Networks

CONTINUE TO PART SIX: House Churches & The Open Church

NOTES Acknowledgements to: "The Significance of Small Groups for English Baptist Churches" by Kathryn A. Morgan. [pdf format] A dissertation submitted as part of the requirements for the MA in Applied Theology of Trinity

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (6)
CONTENTS of Part Six

What Are House Churches

Wolfgang Simson Gene Edwards Frank Viola Apostolic/Prophetic groups




The City Church Concept The UK House Church Movement The "Open Church" of Jim Rutz HOUSE CHURCHES

The Church of Tomorrow

In the last section we looked at house groups, and organisations that met in their homes in order to pursue their particular belief-system or walk in the Lord. In this section we consider "house churches" which are slightly different, although they also meet in homes or rented buildings. House churches are larger groups of allied or networked people all belonging to one religious system and leadership, but who chose for various reasons not to use conventional church buildings and traditional leadership structures for their organisation. In the House Church world, variety abounds:

"It goes without saying that there are many types of house churches, and many reasons Christians seek out the way of the house church. For many Christians (like Jeff Barth, 'What About Church?'), the house church is simply an extension of the home schooling principle. Their driving motivation is withdrawal from the world. For others (like Del Birkey, 'The House Church'), the house church is a key to renewal and mission in the existing church. For yet others (like Steve Atkerson, editor, 'Toward a House Church Theology'), the house church is part of apostolic tradition and should be considered normative on that basis. And for yet others (like those criticized by James Rutz, 'The Open Church') it is merely a rap session, an outlet to express frustration over the institutional church. A cursory reading of house church booklists and home pages reveals that the house church movement

is anything but uniform." ["What Is House Church?" by Mark M. Mattison] One central belief of house church organisations is about the inadequacy and redundancy of the traditional denominational churches, which they completely reject, and the desire to replace such denominations with a New Testament structure more like the book of Acts. Frank Viola in "Rethinking The Wineskin":

"We live in an hour in which the Spirit of God is beckoning His people to see and fulfill His ultimate intention regarding the church of Jesus Christ. This intention rests upon forming a people who are filled with the new wine of the Spirit for the single purpose of fitting them into a suited Bride for the pleasure of God's blessed Son.

"In closing, I trust that what I have attempted to set forth in this book will provoke my readers to no longer dilute the wine of spiritual life and confine it into old wineskins. May the Lord radically transform our hearts by a fresh unveiling of the Holy Spirit in showing us a fuller Christ, ... so mightily that the wineskins of our making -- which have obscured the Headship of Jesus and disarmed the believing priesthood -- would burst beyond recovery." This is of course identical to the decades-old sonship dream of birthing the purified Church for the endtimes, a Church that would be empowered in the fulness of the Spirit and capable of "fulfilling its task" of bringing the nations into submission to God. Spelling this out is Brian Mills in an article on the DAWN International site, which - see below - is directed by Wolfgang Simson who laid out the 15 theses for a the Church of the 21st century. Alongside Simson's own article (which is considered below), the one titled "A Time For Change" by Brian Mills has this to say:

"He [God] is getting His Church into the place and understanding where it can truly fulfil His purpose for it on the earth. He is not interested in a church's self-centred existence. He is not looking for it to survive or even merely to grow. He is looking for The Church to fill the earth with His glory, to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. He is looking for her to fulfil His purposes in the cosmos. He is looking for her to triumph over the principalities and powers. He is looking for His Church to be ready as the Bride of Christ. God is getting His Church worldwide ready for a final push towards the final mighty harvest."

What Are House Churches?
Dr. Lynn Reddick, titled an "apostle" in his ministry literature, is the Director of Open Church Ministries, based in Portal, Georgia USA. He and his wife Linda oversee a large and growing network of home based fellowships. The Reddicks were among the first in America to initiate church cell groups. In 1998, the Reddicks moved into "a more

Hebraic pattern of how the church should function" and began incorporating this perspective in Restored Christianity Seminars in 43 locations in the US and Canada. Lynn Reddick is now President of Network of Open Church Ministries. Reddick describes the house church movement as:

A quiet but active movement worldwide that is committed to the original, apostolically patterned, church-inthe-home structure. The total abandonment of church buildings, professional pastors, big budgets, and set rituals has attracted the attention of many born-again, stay-at-home believers as the solution to their frustration with many post-Biblical traditions. Intimacy and accountability are their strength. Key Leaders: Wolfgang Simson, [Houses That Change the World], Nate & Joanne Krupp, [Preparing the Way Publishing]; Hal Miller, [Salem Christian Community]; Gene Edwards, [The SeedSowers]; Steve Atkerson, [New Testament Restoration]; Robert Banks, [Fuller Seminary]; Howard Snyder, [United Theological Services] Jon Zens, [Searching Together]; Warren and Helen Peterson, [House-to-House Newsletter].

Differences and Distinctions House churches are unattached to any traditional church. They draw their membership from many denominations and churches, and have no distinct leadership structure. However, unlike the house groups, sects and cults of the previous section they often do support the "Second Reformation" which is the move to the new wineskin of the a New Apostolic Church. However, this does not make the house churches part of the New Apostolic cell-church system, which is tightly networked and often headed by the pastors and elders of mega-churches. Therefore, house groups and house churches tend to give the architects of the Second Reformation such as Peter Wagner and Ralph Neighbour the willies, because they are impossible to control and independent of the apostolic network.

Ralph Neighbours distinction is: "There is a distinct difference between the house church and the cell group movements. House Churches tend to collect a community of 15-25 people who meet together on a weekly basis. Usually, each House Church stands alone. While they may be in touch with nearby House Churches, they usually do not recognize any further structure beyond themselves.... Usually, each House Church stands alone... they do not become a true movement of church expansion... in contrast, the cell group recognises a larger structure for church life. It is composed of many cells, but no one cell would ever consider existing apart from the rest." The issue here is one of tracking, control, and leadership as well as expansion. If the aim (as we believe) is to extend the "kingdom" of the Church throughout all the world, and to govern Christians within an exclusive network under a new apostleship, some house churches are not playing the game!! For one thing, they do not like mentoring or in fact leadership of any kind. Neighbour again:

"House churches are much less traditional than cell churches. Participants meet in homes with or without leaders. In fact, leaderless groups are often promoted, especially by men like Gene Edwards who states, "Paul left every church he ever raised up . . . and left them without any leaders. No leaders of any sort." Where leaders are present, they are often a plurality of elders rather than a single pastor." However, a number of house church networks, while appearing to be independent, do subscribe to the apostolic network concept and are open to interaction with cell churches. These latter are often the neo-pentecostal groups that have participated in "the revival" and its doctrines. For example, on the "Radical Christianity" site of the Krupps, "apostles" are hailed as the new leadership of the Church, and we read:

"The Church In Transition: The Church of Jesus Christ is in the process of major change in this hour, restoring it to the radical Christianity of the First Century. This is in preparation for: a great end-time revival; a final, great ingathering of the harvest; coming persecution." Another example of interaction with the New Apostolic agenda is:


Wolfgang Simson is Director of The Swiss church-planting and mission network 'Kingdom Ministries' and head of DAWN International Network. DAWN is a highly-structured umbrella organisation that pulls together many or most of the global church-planting and mission organisations. DAWN is an acronym for "Discipling a Whole Nation". It defines itself as "a virtual network, based on visions, values, synergy and friendship.... It consists of likeminded individuals, ministries, churches, networks and movements which do not need to be part of the same organization, but who know they are part of the same contemporary move of God to fill the earth with His glory through seeing one church established...." On this website for DAWN international for whom Wolfgang Simson works, and whose purpose is stated as "to see saturation church planting become the generally accepted and fervently practiced strategy for completing the task of making disciples of all peoples in our generation" there are listed as some participating organisations: CitiReach Lighhouse Movement AD2000

Global Opportunities Lausanne Movement Hope for Europe Alliance for Saturation Church Planting Kingdom Ministries (Wolfgang Simson) Focusuisse Global Round Table World Evangelical Alliance Strategic Network OC International SCPI - Saturation Church Planting International Global Harvest Ministries

Many of these names will be familiar to those who have studied the movements working towards a Global Church and who are concerned about their activities. Simson himself speaks of radical changes taking place, taking the Church away from its traditional roots and methods. in an article on the DAWN website, he says that:

"Christianity is logical and linear, but very few people of today are thinking that way, especially not the young generation", commented a member of the ECGA. "That is why western Christianity is facing a crisis", he concluded. However, I think this crisis is selfmade, and it is not really a crisis, it´s a chance. The core elements of Christianity – faith, love, hope, vision, passion – cannot be grasped by logic and rationalistic thinking... This generation of youngsters born after 1984... are open for experiencing new things like no other generation before." It does seem odd that for hundreds if not thousands of years, people have indeed grasped the core beliefs of the bible in a rational and logical way, and have been saved as a result, despite having "experienced" nothing more than heartfelt joy and the lightness that comes from forgiveness of sin! Are these millions to be pitied because they did not achieve liberation from the kind of mental effort that Simson so despises? Simson then lists under two headings the old style and the new style preaching of the gospel, and I find this very telling, and very worrying. He lists under "Linear-logic Christianity" such things as "preaches the naked truth" whereas the new experiential faith "hints at the mysteries of the of the

Kingdom and makes people curious". Right away then, we encounter a new type of preaching that is aimed at people's love of magic and mysticism rather than telling them straight out that they are fallen and need Jesus Christ as Saviour! He also contrasts "organised religion" with "a shared life" and most crucially contrasts "explanation before experience" with the new-style of preaching which is EXPERIENCE BEFORE EXPLANATION" How much plainer could this be? Not only the Church but the gospel itself is to "transition" into something new. The altered paradigm will not only remake the Church but the very gospel of salvation itself! Furthermore, membership of the Church is also changing. Biblically, each individual is added to the family of God and therefore the Body of Christ at the time of their personal born-again experience. Simson lists this as "behave, belong, believe" which in fact is a parody of conventional Church, since nobody can "behave" until after their "believe". Be that as it may, he then lists the NEW sequence of events as "BELONG, believe, behave" so that the first element in any person's Christian walk is joining the Church!! Only afterwards are they taught (indoctrinated?) into a belief-system. This sequence is something we encounter over and over in the cell-church and house church networks, for "numerical growth" and "church membership" and "discipling the nations" has become more important than making sure that individuals are truly born again

OFFSITE LINKS: “15 Theses” For A New Reformation " by Wolfgang Simson Review of Wolfgang Simson's book about house churches, by Greg Des Voignes.

Independent Ministries
GENE EDWARDS Here I would mention groups influenced by Gene Edwards. He seems to belong to a group of Deeper Life or Fulness groups of which there are various types around the world.

Although Edwards calls himself a Baptist, he has been operating outside those circles for decades. His books show tendencies towards the mystical; he promotes the works of the mystic/quietist writers such as Madame J. Guyon (1648 - 1717) and Francois Fenelon (1651-1715). Edwards is also is given a very favourable mention by some in the MSOG camps such as Preston Eby. His Publishers, "Seedsowers" produce books, as they say: "that present the story of the first century church and the lineage of Christians outside the institutional church." and these tend to be of the mystical and deeper-life variety. Gene Edwards, a self-styled "apostle", is a passionate advocate of house churches and writes in very strident terms against the evils of the institutionalised church. He is a radical, and his followers tend to be more keen on promoting the non-conventional "ekklesia" than others. He is listed amongst the mystics on this page (horrible colour and background graphic!!) There's a comment in the sidebar about why many advocates of the house church and mystics beloved by the deeper life groups are Catholics!

OFFSITE LINK: A thorough examination of Gene Edwards and his books *** There is now an extensive and growing "watchdog site" about Gene Edwards and also Frank Viola and others expressing concerns on a number of issues. It is to be found at:

Closely associated with Gene Edwards is Frank Viola of Present Testimony Ministry. Like Edwards he advocates a completely non-institutionalised church with no leadership apart from the "headship of Christ". He was greatly influenced by Watchman Nee and his disciple Stephen Kaung with whom he had a close relationship. (Kaung came to the States in the 1950s and is now in his 80s.) Frank Viola could also be loosely classed as "deeper life" although he is not as keen on the mystics as Gene Edwards. Frank Viola mentioned Howard Snyder as being one of the influences in his book "Rethinking The Wineskin: The Practice of the New Testament Church" [1998 Present Testimony Ministry]. Some other influences were T. Austin-Sparks and G.H. Lang. Even amongst the House Church fraternity, the defects of Frank Viola's writings are being pointed out. For instance, at the New England House Church website ( see this page - a review of Frank Viola's "The House Church Movement: Which Direction?" (1) There it is commented that:

"... the existential is pushed to the exclusion of the Scriptural. This is dangerous ground upon which to tread. Paul warned of false Christs. We are to worship the Christ of the Scriptures. The written Word tells us about the Living Word. A naive person or neophyte would conclude from this book that systematic bible study is to be avoided."

OFFSITE LINKS: Read extensive extracts from Viola here See his books here, including "Who Is Your Covering?" and "The House Church Movement". Read extensive extracts from "Rethinking The Wineskin" here

Some of the more fanatical independent groups, in rejecting the current "revival", do so mainly because they hold all denominations to be "Babylon" and teach that the Church is the Great Harlot of the last days. The only way forward, according to the more radical groups, is to reject "babylon" altogether, come out of her, and to remake the Church entirely anew in a new wineskin. Thus, the restoration of the Church means setting up a completely new "temple" in which God's own appointed apostles and prophets (instead of the ordained clergy) will lead the people to purity and power and glory. Such a Church will not therefore be, strictly speaking, one where every-member-ministry prevails. It will be governed by men and women who have received the impartation that leads them beyond a simple Christian conversion into a new realm of revelation, fit for a new wineskin. This organisation will be a network, rather than a structure or organisation. Each church will be joined to and submit to its neighbouring cells, and all of them would be knit together into city-churches, area churches, national churches and finally world churches. The church "net" would cover the earth, bringing to fruition the scripture that speaks of the earth being covered by the glory of God. There are "sonship" groups and other apostolic groups who still hold to these ideals, in varying formats. They still despise denominations and clergy, so they often appear very attractive to dispossessed believers today. They consider the current charismatic revival to be part of a counterfeit "Ishmael" movement and themselves - standing outside of this system - as the pure "Isaac" who is to come to prominence in the latter day. This means that they are very elitist and in-bred. Their message of humility, holiness, independence, spiritual growth - all of this - and (in many cases) their rejection of the false revival make them sound ideal for anyone who has escaped the revival church or the globalist tendencies of today's denominations and Church Growth ventures. Sadly, the message of these groups comes with a sting in the tail. Spiritual abuses abound in such groups, where false prophecies and unscriptural revelations and speculations often fuel their spirituality; mystical experiences are encouraged; submission to apostolic leadership is required; higher spiritual "levels" are sought through suspect practices, and their eschatology is one of kingdom-dominion and replacementism. In other words, they tend to see themselves as the only group who will take over the earth in the latter days, and they replace national Israel with their own membership.


Coming out of the apostolic/prophetic vision for a global network of churches headed by new apostles and prophets is the City Church idea. Indeed, as those who support it say "The concept of "city-church" itself implies the rise of the apostolic." This scheme proposes that each city should have only one church (in the sense of "group of Christians"). Though this church can and does meet in multiple congregations ("multi-congregational"), a central leadership team gives direction to the entire network. This concept began to be promoted by, among others, Kansas City Fellowship, (now Metro Christian Fellowship, Kansas) which has shared its vision of having Apostolic Teams oversee these churches in one or more cities.

"The New Testament pattern is for there to be one church in a city with many congregations yet one unified eldership governing it. We believe that God will move to substantially accomplish this in many cities in the world in the decades ahead". [Michael Sullivan, "What Is Grace Ministries?" Grace City Report, Kansas City Fellowship, 1990. p. 9] Before that, it was yet another product of the sonship "fulness" teaching - another step on the way to perfection and glory! I might add, ominously, that the concept of "One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" with centralised leadership and a network of eldership covering all aspects of church life and activity is a dream that must have some Roman Catholics drooling into their albs.

Dangers of The City Church Looking to the bible for support of one unified Church with centralised leadership is all very well if the biblical ideal of sound doctrine and spiritual harmony between all local congregations is maintained. The "Church of the City" is an ideal that can only work if elders reflect the humble servant attitude of Jesus towards their flock. It can only work when those who attend the churches are truly born again, and when holiness and biblical orthodoxy are required of all. It can only work if the biblical commands to root out error and banish those who continue to sin are followed. And it can only work if the aim is a godly one and not world domination! But this ideal was never fully attained, even in the days of the Early Church; before the end of the first century AD separation, heresies and disputes had already fragmented the Church into different factions. This is a product of human nature and happens whenever Christians meet and worship together. Worse than fragmentation, however, is the prospect of a unified Church in which all believers are submitted to and ruled by a dictatorial eldership that is beyond the reach of correction, considers itself to be the very "government of God on earth" and has already proven itself to be as far from scriptural orthodoxy as it is possible to be. While many differing denominations and separate churches all run independently of one another there is perhaps an impression given to the world that Christians are not united. Yet the beauty of the system is that one or two heretical ideas cannot take root in the Church as a whole. This is not the case with

one centralised governing body ruling the entire Church!

Supporters The City Church is being promoted by many, many house church and cell-church organisations. It is now an integral part of the Apostolic/Prophetic move in the churches and could be seen as the ultimate goal of the cell-church system!

OFFSITE LINIK: "The City Church" report at Apologetics index

"The original apostles asked, "Is Christ divided?" The answer was, "No." In their day, the church had unity and power. Could the modern church’s decline of power be due in part to its fragmentation? In many cities today, pastors from different backgrounds are gathering together to pray. Without undoing denominational affiliations, new networks of local leaders are rapidly emerging to facilitate prayer and mutual accountability. This is unity in the Holy Spirit.The New Testament used the Greek word "ekklesia" for church. It meant "an assembly called out." It is composed of all the Christians in the city. It includes all the pastors and their congregations or cells. The church’s unity is real and relational, not theoretical or theological." ["Church in the City" by Ron Wood] (2)

"The process of reaching, saturating and transforming a city starts when the Christians realise that God sees only one Body of Christ in the city, and start to act as that one Body, taking spiritual responsibility for that city....A vision for the city requires a paradigm shift a transformation of our thinking processes for the future. A new age demands a new way of looking at our churches, our cities and our task... Particularly in a time in which new house cells, house churches and neighbourhood groups are developing, this city view is important for creating a Body of Christ identity and prevent atomisation of the local church. This common identity gives the smaller groups a public identity: "We belong to the regional church of ..." ["City Vision" by Reinhold Scharnowski, DAWN European Network, June 2001]

"In the early days of the Church, Christians had a dual identity: they were truly His church and vertically converted to God, and then organized themselves according to geography, that is, converting also horizontally to each other on earth. This means not only Christian neighbors organizing themselves into neighborhood- or house-churches, where they share their lives locally, but Christians coming together as a collective identity as much as they can for citywide or regional celebrations expressing the corporateness of the Church of the city or region. Authenticity in the neighborhoods connected with a regional or citywide corporate identity will make the Church not only politically significant and spiritually convincing, but will allow a return to the biblical model of the City-Church." ["15 Theses", Wolfgang Simson] OFFSITE LINK: See this "Kingdom Advice Centre" which is a movement planning to "play a strategic role in the development of the one church

in the city, and [to see] how Apostles and Prophets representing every element of a functioning city will be gathered to take decisions affecting their city and region."

THE HOUSE CHURCH MOVEMENT of the UK (Restoration Movement)
There has been a "house-church movement" in the UK but this is today subsumed into the revival. In the early days of the UK restoration movement, (late '60s and early '70s) when there was a move out of the dead denominations, house churches thrived for a time and eventually joined together in larger groups and movements with a desire to escape the suffocation of the old ways. However, these churches were mostly taken over and organised into what we now call the Restoration Movement, and a strong leadership came along to govern them, taking them into the Shepherding movement and various other diversions. Many of the Restoration-led house groups moved out of houses into schools, warehouses and purpose-built buildings, becoming very like a new denomination with its own eldership, beliefs, doctrines and sub-culture. Cooperation with the traditional denominations rapidly came about from the 80's onwards and now, despite some pockets of resistance, there is little to distinguish between the methodology of "house churches" and any other churches. Examples of such networks in the UK are the Ichthus churches headed by Roger Forster, Terry Virgo's New Frontiers International and the Jesus Army of Noel Stanton. However, independent house churches DO still exist, without any organisation or governing body, outside of the revival and restoration movements.

Jim Rutz, Founder and President of The Open Church, describes it as follows:

"A widespread movement with no central coordination. Open churches are full-fledged institutional congregations that allow body life in three ways: 1) open worship, in which laymen are allowed to speak in praise; 2) open sharing, in which laymen are allowed a wide range of interaction, prayer, confession, song, testimony, teaching, etc.; 3) and open ministry, in which gifts are used both

inside and outside the church-in accordance with the Spirit's innovation, not just in conformity to existing programs. Strong leadership is developed while clergy are freed from the CEO straitjacket, An open church is the next logical step beyond the cell or meta-church. Key Leaders: Jim Rutz, Open Church Ministries; Johnny and Juanita Berguson, Kingdom Co.; Donald Dunn, Partnership in the Gospel; Rich Gazowsky, Voice of Pentecost." Berit Kjos comments:

"The founder and chairman of the Open Church Ministry (OCM), Jim Rutz, lives in the mountains above Colorado Springs. His goal is to "bring new life to churches and believers by enabling them to reclaim three of the freedoms they had in the First Century: pure worship, true sharing, and free ministry." During his years as a freelance writer, Rutz wrote for World Vision, Youth for Christ, Prison Fellowship, the Lausanne Committee and Intervarsity.

For almost a decade, Jim Rutz and OCM has been distributing a promotional audio cassette titled "Christianity in a New Key: an Introduction to The Future Church". It includes statements by well known Christian leaders such as pollster George Barna, author Gene Edwards, reconstructionists Jay Grimstad (COR) and Dennis Peacock, Fuller Professor Peter Wagner, Kansas City Fellowship prophet Mike Bickle, author Rick Joyner and Tom Houston, the professional director for the Lausanne Committee for world evangelization." [Kjos, the Global Church] The statement of belief on the Open Church website contains this:

"The Church is the core of the kingdom, and will expand to fill it, even as the kingdom expands to fill the earth... if your heart follows closely after the Holy Spirit, you will be as concerned as the Father to see evil overthrown everywhere in the world. You will work hard and pray hard for specific ways that God's Kingdom will come 'on earth, as it is in Heaven'". Many years ago I bought the book "The Open Church" written in 1992 by Jim Rutz, when I was investigating house churches. It struck me as sarcastic, irreverent and lightweight; completely damning of the traditional churches and obsessed with the idea that the "open church" could revolutionise the world. A sampling of the books style is:

"God writes history. At least the parts that are interesting. Humans, however, have a dickens of a time making out his handwriting."

and "The children of Israel got out of the slave business (with a little help from You-Know-Who)...then they went into farming and ranching in Palestine." Notwithstanding, the book made some good points about the need to experience body ministry and get out of the rut of traditional services.

Later on, having received some Open Church literature, I began to be more seriously worried by its goals. The "Second Reformation" was high on their agenda and their methods were networked city churches, a complete reorganisation of the Church into house churches, and apostolic leadership. At the time I was alarmed (and amused) to see that anyone could apply for an Apostolic Starter Kit (on sale from Open Church Ministries for 50 dollars) and after three day's training and an interview you could receive "a formal certificate of qualification for apostolic ministry". Paul, eat your heart out!! On this web page Rutz lays out the "big picture" of the revolution he sees taking place, leading up to a new church for the 21st Century. You need to see this page for two reasons: it lays out the map of change taking place in today's church and lists for us the key leaders in each movement; also it exposes the Open Church agenda in alliance with these movements. Rutz lists thirty movements contributing to the Second Reformation, including Spiritual Warfare and Spiritual Mapping, Prayer-Walking (March for Jesus etc), Citywide Prayer, the Toronto Revival, The Men's Movement (PK), the Reconciliation Movement, AD2000, The Church Growth Movement and of course Church Reform including the Open Church. He lists leaders that he sees as seminal for the work of the Second Reformation on this page: Included are:

John Avanzini (Hyper-charismatic Word of Faith) Ern Baxter (Shepherding/Latter-Rain) Mike Bickle (IHOP, ex-KCP) Alan Greenspan (Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors) Dr. Jay Grimstead (COR, Reconstruction) Rick Joyner (Apostolic/Prophetic) Jim Montgomery (founder of DAWN) Ralph Neighbour (Cell Churches) Dennis Peacocke (Reconstruction) Carlos Ramirez (G12 cell movement) R.J. Rushdooney (Reconstruction) Ed Silvoso (Prayer-Evangelism) Cal Thomas (Religious Right activist) Kelly Varner (MSOG) Mark Virkler (inner healing/guided imagery)

Zig Ziglar (self-esteem motivational training guru) Jim Rutz seems now to be linked to the Hebrew Roots Movement. He is favourably quoted on 'Sacred Name' websites and one of his partners in Open Church Ministries, Dean Cozzens, distributed a prophecy in 1997 saying that the Hebrew Roots Movement was the fourth leg of the process towards reconstructing the Church. The other three were the Pentecostal Movement, the Faith-Healing Movement and the Charismatic Movement. Cozzens writes:

On Sunday morning, April 13, 1986, I heard the following prophecy. At the beginning of the twentieth century, when God looked down from heaven at the church, what he saw looked like a giant 747 airliner, but with no engines. He then set out to attach giant engines of faith and power to the body of the plane, so that the church would have the power to come to Him where He is, up in realms of glory. Each of these four engines represents one of the four major moves of Gods Spirit ordained for this century:

1) The PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT [starting at Azuza Street 1900's] 2)The FAITH-HEALING MOVEMENT [1940/50; many were also involved in the LR revival] 3) The CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT, [1960-80, including the Shepherding Movement] 4) The HEBREW MOVEMENT.

All four are sovereignly ordained of God and coordinate and interrelated in His mind. Each successive move builds upon the last, and each has its own distinctives. None are perfect, but they all have something from God to contribute to His Plan, The prophecy said that God was now beginning to attach the fourth and final engine - the HEBREW MOVEMENT. Though many of the right doctrines have been in place in the Body of Christ, from all of the past moves of Gods restoration through history, much is still missing, which God wants to restore. This fourth movement is to be called The Hebrew Movement. This movement will to some degree ENCOMPASS AND INFLUENCE the ENTIRE BODY OF CHRIST, adding depth, and leading us into greater UNITY at last, not just with one another, but with God and his Word. The Hebrew Roots Movement in its worst aspects reinterprets the bible according to a liberal, post-millennial and anti-Christian bias and seeks to reunite Christians and Jews regardless of belief. It is, in effect, part of the racial reconciliation movement. But what does Dean Cozzens predict for this movement?

This fourth major move (the Hebrew) of the Holy Spirit in this century will be every bit as powerful as the previous three, and will bring this final work of God to completion in a final, unified, four-fold thrust of power and glory; it will take us all into the heavenlies to be with Him where He is....Then Gods awesome power will fill us with the same awesome glory which is His eternally wonderful presence. On that great day, every gift of the Spirit will be operating in great release, and the Lord will be revealed in all

His fullness. We will then be like Him, full of His power and glory, for we shall see Him as He truly is, unveiled for all to see. Lynn and Linda Reddick are also on the board of The Open Church. Lynn Reddick says:

"The open church seeks to restore roots of Hebraic thought and worship revealed in the Old Testament. The early church is commonly thought to have originated with Pentecost; however, many are now tracing the roots back to Abraham. Our Lord admonishes us: "Look to the rock from which you were cut . . . look to Abraham your father" (Isaiah 51:1-2). Paul further states, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahams seed" (Galatians 3:29). One distinguishing feature of the open church movement is the emphasis on the home as the center of spiritual growth. Here the family is the mini-church with the father (or single parent) as priest. The restoration of this Hebraic heritage is central in the open church venue." [The Church Is Coming Home]

CONTINUE TO PART SEVEN: Mega-churches and Cells

NOTES 1. Published by SeedSowers. Co-authored by Tom Begier, Tim Richey, Nick Vasiliades and Frank Viola. 2. © 2000 by Ron Wood. Ron and his wife, Lana, are members of Reconciliation Ministries International led by Bishop Joseph Garlington. He has served as a State Coordinator for the U. S. Strategic Prayer Network. Ron is best known for his prophetic writing ministry.

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (7)
CONTENTS of Part Seven

Introduction to Cell Churches The Meta-Church Model of Carl George The Pure Cell Church of Ralph Neighbour Critical Mass Group dynamics for an Altered Paradigm Introduction to Cell Churches

The Church of Tomorrow

Up to now we have looked at the Church Growth model for change, and the house churches. But now we turn our attention to a different kind of enterprise - the cell church system. At first glance, there seems little to distinguish cell churches from house churches, and the rhetoric appears to be identical. Both would denigrate the ecclesiastical structures of the old denominations; both would point out the small informal structure of the Early Church and urge Christians to transform their thinking about the way the Church is organised. But there the similarities end. Christians could be forgiven for believing that cell churches are another method - a commendable method - of avoiding heavy shepherding and making sure that elders do not take on too much authority leaving the church members nothing to do but submit and obey like sheep. Unfortunately the very opposite is true, for as we shall see, the cell church system is actually designed to enforce stricter obedience to the new order of apostolic government, and to ensure that this obedience is spread to local communities and eventually the entire world. The purpose of cell churches is to transition the Church as a whole into a new order, to create a radical and ground-breaking reformation that will overthrow the established order and bring into being a pattern of apostolic government and prophetic revelation that will change the thinking of all Christians.

Viral Infection

The introduction of this "new thing" has been likened to a virus that is introduced into the Body. If this virus has to infect a Body without a central nervous system and with many radically different blood types all at variance with one another, then it will have to conquer the opposing cells of these differing systems individually one by one until they all submit to its rule. This is a lengthy and arduous task. However, if the virus enters a Body that is organised as one living organism, whose cells are all similar and act on an impulse from a central source, it will be a simple task to conform the entire Body to a new way of acting and believing. The time taken to infect the whole body is shortened dramatically! This is the model from which the house church and cell-church draws its inspiration:

"Revival and reformation truly start with a complete rediscovery and reconstruction of the core essence of the church, with New Testament DNA, the genetic code of God, supernaturally empowered with growth potential from within (Mk. 4:26). ...The result of this incarnation, at least in New Testament times, was a house-church movement, that swept through the city of Jerusalem like yeast in dough, or like an unstoppable virus, in maybe less than two years." In the same commentary from which the above quote was taken, "The Reinvention of the church", (part of "Houses That Change The World" by Wolfgang Simpson), we read about the necessity for destroying the old structures in order to transform the Church according to a new pattern. We will later consider whether this new pattern is a fitting model for the Church of Christ.

"Many churches which are desperate for renewal - or at least for change - tend to overlook the fact that you cannot produce a new quality in the church by changing the structures. As management guru Tom Peters says, renewal and reformation is out, revolution is in; a company does not really need a CEO - a Chief Executive Officer - but a CDO - a Chief Destructive Officer, regularly dismantling obstructive traditions, because it is much easier to rebuild according to a new pattern than to restore and renew an outdated one." Quite so. It IS indeed easier to destroy the old order when you want to overthrow it and move into something new. Imperial Russia discovered this when the people rose up in revolution and so did France in the 18th century. We are witnessing the complete eradication of what we know and see of the Church today, in favour of the sort of "spiritual revolution" demanded by author William Beckham in "The Second Reformation":

"Unless there is a structural wineskin, the wine of reformation, revival and the remnant will gradually evaporate. This final element is coming into place in these last days before the second the cell church movement, God is providing the structure through which the Church can be the catalyst for spiritual revolution" (Ibid.p.235) But of what spirit? And what is the aim of this revolution? It is no less than world domination.

British author Brian Mills, doyen of the cultural reconciliation movement and author of the book "Sins of the Father", writes on the DAWN International website that:

"God is transitioning His People. It is a time to get ready, a time for change. .... He is getting His Church into the place and understanding where it can truly fulfil His purpose for it on the earth. ... He is looking for The Church to fill the earth with His glory, to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. He is looking for her to fulfil His purposes in the cosmos. He is looking for her to triumph over the principalities and powers.... a spiritual paradigm shift is taking place on a number of fronts, and in different ways. A redefining of commonly held understandings, and of familiar concepts. For the way we have previously understood aspects of His will have not been sufficient to usher in the final harvest, and to express His will on earth as it is in heaven. ...Previously we have seen church in terms of denominational models...all these distinctions will be redefined - for they are limiting and sectional. There is one church of Jesus Christ on earth. There is one church in each city. We must learn to redefine church.

We now talk of cell churches, youth churches, children's churches, house churches. We will also have to allow for other expression of churches in places of employment, in institutions and in communities where it is not appropriate for a denominational model to be. ...They are also to be defined in need-related terms... They will be redefined in employment. Businesses will model church for their employees and clients. People in the entertainment profession and the arts world already do church on their terms and in their premises.

Pastors will no longer only see their ministry in terms of pastoring a specific group of people, called a congregation. Pastors will be called to cooperate together across the streams and boundaries, so as to be pastors of cities. They will as such begin to take responsibility before God for the city and all its expressions of life. They will pastor local government, the police, the education services. They will pastor the unreached areas of the city, and seek to express church there in new ways.

The cosmic battle for the control of the world is joined. Not only do we see this in human terms in this era of globalisation - we also must see it in cosmic terms. ...The Church needs to learn how it can also combat the cosmic powers of darkness - in unity of heart, mind, will and purpose, and in complete harmony with the purposes of God.... It is time for the Church as a global corporate entity to discover how to operate in unison. (Brian Mills. October, 2000 ) Thus local churches and pastors are a hindrance to The Plan, unless they get with the program. "Prophet" Ron Wood says that they are "on probation" pending judgement:

"By probation, I understood the Lord to be saying that a sentence had been handed down, but mercy from the Judge was delaying its implementation. Someone on probation has already been convicted of wrong doing. By office of the pastor, I understood the Lord to mean the congregational leader... Congregations ... are an adaptation taken from the days of captivity, a synagogue form of

former Temple worship. ... Today the foundation of government and structure in the church has rested mostly on pastors, yet Paul said the foundation should be on apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). This error by default has produced a hybrid of church life that misses the mark.

"Why would God say that pastors are on probation? ...God is concerned for more than just your congregation— He is after your whole city! Apostles make spiritual sons. And, apostles have faith to take cities. They arrive on the scene (or emerge from within our ranks) with a different kind of spiritual DNA..... They are generals in God’s army who are sent to un-seat principalities and liberate a city for Christ. Apostles think in terms of territory, not buildings on a street corner. Apostles see the need for spiritual leaders in a city to network together for the gospel’s sake. Their mission is to make war on the enemy. On the other hand, pastors offer maintenance for groups of people who have been saved within that city.

"Pastors are being offered an opportunity to allow the Head of the Church to adjust their thinking and modus operandi. It is time to partner with apostles and prophets, to network with other pastors, to break out of traditional molds so that vibrant church growth and God’s kingdom authority can be manifested among us.... It is time to quit playing in our pastoral pond and start swimming in God’s apostolic river. " (© 2001 by Ron Wood. Ron has served as a State Coordinator for the U. S. Strategic Prayer Network. and is a member of Reconciliation Ministries International led by Bishop Joseph Garlington. What is to replace the system of local congregations led by autonomous pastors? It is a universal Church organised into small easily-monitored cells, all headed up by approved and specially trained mentors, elders and city-wide apostolic groupings, which in turn answer to and are led by the central apostolic government centred around such figures as C Peter Wagner as a leading Apostle. Now if you feel that is putting a spin on the cell-church system that isn't there in reality, I feel the onus of proof is upon you, since the public statements of many who propose the system say just that, in effect. They just use a lot more words to get to the same point!

Growth is the Aim
Cell-church proponents say that "The goal of the Cell Church is to ‘make disciples’" whereas the goal of evangelism the bible way is to make CONVERTS. Granted, converts do need afterwards to conform to the teachings of Jesus Christ. But discipleship is a matter of following Christ, who is the Head Shepherd, and furthermore, we cannot get to that point bypassing the conversion and spiritual transformation process that can ONLY take place when an individual is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. The virus analogy is frequently used by Church Growth "experts" who teach that cell division is the best way to expand a living organism and infection is the best way to implant Christian values in the whole population. But the task of the Church is not to "grow" but to "preach the Word!" Preaching the Word, even in

the day of Jesus, did not necessarily lead to exponential growth! It has to be said that with "growth" as the aim, the cell-church system is very effective for all kinds of organisations, as this statement from a Unitarian site testifies:

"The largest Unitarian Universalist Church on the planet, All Souls in Tulsa, is using small-group organization techniques under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Brent Smith. They’ve grown from about 1,000 adult members to about 1,500 since Brent began using meta-church-like techniques.

In Brewster, MA, the Rev. James Robinson has been using small-group organization of this sort since 1982 and his church has grown seven-fold to nearly 1,000 adults and children, which means that one in every 20 people in that area are now Unitarian Universalist." So what we have here is a winning formula for growth - but of what kind? Is the ease with which it is possible to influence people in the neighbourhood the ONLY measure of success for the Body of Christ? And which religious creed will win this race for followers? Peter Wagner in his book "Churchquake", says that the fastest growing movement in the world is the "New Apostolic Reformation". He says this is God restoring first century Christian leadership and government. And without both the "restoration of Apostles, and first century church principles for appropriate and effective discipleship" (aka cell churches), there it little hope of bringing this glorious vision into being! If any organisation can win the race for the hearts and minds of the world's population, Wagner and the cell-church leadership are determined it shall be the Global Church of the New Apostolic Reformation. Abandoning the doctrines and modus operandi of the Church of the past two thousand years is a small price to pay.

Good Intentions
I'm prepared to admit that many of these people have good intentions. They really do see the need for a radical transformation of the Church; they really do believe in the Global Mission and that the world can be won in a generation. I don't condemn them for that, but I do warn that there is a hidden agenda behind the whole transformation scenario that many of those involved simply do not want to see or cannot see. The fact that they are throwing themselves and their followers into the arms of people who are organising a New Order on the earth, and all that that implies, is something that every true Christian should be shouting from the housetops. Whether the intention is good or evil, the end result is still the same and THAT is what should concern us.

Focusing in on the individual minister (who may be a wonderful person) and a small localised expression of the cell-church (The "I haven't seen any problems in MY group" syndrome) is too short-sighted an approach. We need to step back and see the plan as a whole. That is what I plan to do here. I will not (and cannot due to space limitations) look in depth at every ministry and organisation and author, nor can I examine every single expression of cell-church activity. But sweeping with a broad brush over the scene I hope to show that there is a forward movement towards a universal church... and that church is not the true church as established by Jesus Christ our Saviour. THE META-CHURCH Perhaps the first rung of the ladder is the meta-church model. This model for transformation is led by Carl George and his books, in particular "Prepare Your Church for the Future" [Fleming H. Revell Company 1992]. The meta-church concept is an idea or philosophy, rather than a system and Carl George describes it in his book as both a change of mind and a change of form in the infrastructure of the Church. (p. 57) The term "meta" in this system supposedly means "change" although one supporter likened the word "meta" to "metta - the "Buddhist focus on developing loving-kindness". The Greek word "meta" can indeed mean a turn-around or transformation. Thus the meta-church model seems, once again, to be all about TRANSFORMING THE CHURCH Carl George is the former director of the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism & Church Growth which is affiliated with Fuller Theological Seminary and was founded in 1975 through the vision of C. Peter Wagner, then director of the Fuller Evangelistic Association. (John Wimber became the first director of the Institute, turning it over to Carl George in 1978.)

C. Peter Wagner In his foreword to "Prepare Your Church for the Future" praises the book as the most significant step forward in church-growth theory and practice since 1970. Many churches are experimenting with the Meta Model throughout the United States and it is an integral part of the Church Growth movement of C. Peter Wagner. In Carl Georges most recent book, "The Coming Church Revolution", forty churches using the Meta Model are reviewed and analysed. These include churches like Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) and other seeker-sensitive or 'purpose-driven' church networks like Saddleback Church (Rick Warren), Cincinnati Vineyard and Fairhaven Alliance Church. George's philosophy entails using the existing small groups within the church such as Sunday schools, pastoral aid groups, music groups, women's meetings or bible study groups and slowly and carefully steering them towards the required transition. This is less alarming and disruptive than imposing a pure cell system straight away.

A church using the meta-church model mixes cells, traditional church activities and the city-wide celebration to effect a gradual transition from a conventional single program-based church system to small groups and cells. But the small group is paramount: In his book George states that "the lay-led small group is the essential growth center, and everything else is to be considered secondary to its promotion and preservation. But don't be misled by the term "lay-led" into thinking that mere pew-level members of the Church will gain any extra authority. This method has a strong emphasis on mentoring and proposes what is called the JETHRO system based upon Jethros counsel to Moses (Exodus 18). Although the principle of delegation is a sound one, the Jethro system as practised by the cell churches is in effect a pyramid structure for mentoring church members where each candidate for leadership (apprentice) is carefully trained and monitored on his performance, put under the headship of another leader, and the "staff" at the head of the church thereby pull all the strings, from the top of the tree right down to individual cell level. (See a diagram of the Jethro Leadership Model by clicking the link above) While loudly proclaiming their allegiance to the "New Testament Structures" of informal house-based cells, the writings of the Meta-Church leaders, in common with those of the other cell-church structures, are setting up a more rigid and authoritarian system of Church government that any that presently exists! This topic will be examined more closely in the section on Leadership in the Cell Church. The Meta Church, while having small groups, is still a unified body running a single church program. This is seen by many as limited and falling short of the vision of the New Testament model. Therefore, in the "pure-cell" system that we examine next, the cells themselves ARE the church. The difficulties of introducing this system into an established traditional church are well known in cell church circles and it's recognised that the only feasible way to start a pure cell church is, as Ralph Neighbour says "from scratch". Many use marketing campaigns to attract local attention, and employ church planting organisations, advertising groups and business success gurus to help them kick start a cell, hoping thereafter to multiply it into the required model. THE PURE CELL APPROACH The aim of the meta-church system is to transition its participating churches into a pure cell structure. Some, however, believe in establishing this system straight away, and are derisive of the halfway-house approach. The basic structure of the "pure cell church" is a two-winged one, that of a cell and a celebration. This is similar to the Meta-Church. But unlike the Meta-church, the united weekly or monthly celebration and programs of the Pure Cell Church do not support and create the cells. It is the other way round. The cells ARE the church, and they drive all the other activities, including the shared "celebration" event. Without its cells, the Pure Cell church would cease to exist. The champion of the system that is entirely based on cells is Ralph Neighbour who claims that "as many as 75 million people are participating in cell churches."

Author of "Where do We Go From Here (1990)," the definitive cell model textbook, Ralph Neighbour is thought to be the father of the cell church movement. He is the founder of TOUCH Outreach Ministries, which supplies an abundant amount of cell-related material for churches around the world.

According to the TOUCH website its mission is to "empower pastors, group leaders and members to transform their lives, churches and the world through “basic Christian communities” or cell groups." In his book "Where do We Go From Here" he says::

"Cell churches are the only way that true community can be experienced by all Christians.... The cell group is not just a portion of church life, to be clustered with a dozen other organizations. It is church life; and when it properly exists, all other competing structures are neither needed nor valid." [his emphasis]

"The cell is the church, and the church is the cell. It is the basic building block of a larger community called the "local church". There must be no competition with it - none at all! [WDWGFH p.86 his emphasis] In the search for a church structure that will, above all, reach the unchurched, Neighbour has little time for traditional denominations and even criticises the halfway houses of Meta-Churches as program-based. He speaks of the ongoing quest for "spirituality" and the resultant crop of alternatives to the traditional, such as "Megachurches, Praise Churches, Restoration Churches" saying that "With each experiment, the traditional church loses ground" but they do not go far enough.

"In all of these attempts, a basic flaw in church life is still evident: they're all large group structures...none of these models recognises the basic flaw in church lifestyle built about a Program Based Design (PBD)" [WDWGFH p.58] Neighbour has said that "there is the world of difference between a ‘church with cells’ and a ‘cell church’." He describes the pure cell system thus:

"It is rooted in the New Testament church pattern described in Acts 2:42-46. Like the early church, the movement forms small cells, called "Basic Christian Communities," which move from house to house. They typically begin with 6 to 8 person, multiplying in a period of 6 to 9 months to fifteen. At this point each cell multiplies and grows again to the size for reproduction. Unlike house churches, such cells are intimately related to one another, like those in the human body. ...[They] are clustered into groups of five, with each [cluster] having a volunteer worker to minister to the cell leaders. These clusters then regularly come together for "congregational events", like half nights of prayer, and "celebration services" where all the cells come together for a weekly time of praise of worship and Bible preaching. However, the thing that makes cell church unique is that there's nothing to "join" except

the "Basic Christian Community." (From an article by Ralph Neighbour now missing from the site

A useful summary of the pure cell church is found at this address: Notice that the emphasis is on human relationships and "sharing" and that "The centre of the cell meeting is not the Word of God, but the Person of God. The meeting is not a Bible study nor a prayer meeting."

Critical Mass
Another TOUCH book that is important to the cell-church lobby is "The Second Reformation" written in 1995 by William Beckham, then President of TOUCH. Like all the other cell church books it derides the present structure of denominational and local churches and proposes small groups as the only way forward; but the focus is firmly on NUMBERS and GROWTH as the aim and total social revolution as the goal. In sections referring to the "Critical Mass" terminology beloved of the New Agers, Beckham states on page 221 of his book that critical mass does not "just happen automatically" but needs "certain components to come together in a prescribed way to cause a chain reaction" leading to the desired spiritual revolution. What are these components? First he lists NUMBERS. "sufficient numbers are required to allow a chain reaction... a sufficient number of people joined together in a common purpose can cause synergistic results far beyond their numbers." Beckham asserts that Jesus decided 120 people was a critical mass to launch his own "explosion" and to fulfill his own vision. For the vision of today's leaders to come to fruition, many more are needed. (Beckham lists the VISION of the church pastor or leader as the second component towards Critical Mass.) So once more we see that the system being proposed, while trumpeting the cause of the poor lowly down-trodden church member and the disenfranchised people of our neighbourhood, simply recruits and uses these people as cannon fodder in the battle for world revolution. It is all about a vision to touch the whole world. Whether or not the vision is a biblical one should have been obvious from reading this series so far.

Social Concerns and Sharing
In all cell-church systems, however, one underlying principle emerges: don't put people off by being boring. And boring usually means, study and understanding the things of God. This is contrasted with the concept of "community" that the leaders teach is what God intends for all his people. Ralph Neighbour writes:

"Value systems are created in the context of living, not studying. That is one of the reasons values are always shaped fastest in cell groups than in more formal church structures." [WDWGFH p. 120 his emphasis] This is true, but the real question is - what is the "value system" that modern Christians are being taught?

The method being used to change the entire thinking and value system of Christians today (the "paradigm shift" so sought by the leadership) is the Hegelian Dialectic which removes a person's confidence in what he previously believed so that he is open to accept another way of thinking. As the cell church leadership have realised, this can best be done in a group setting providing love and support, but more importantly to ensure that each person is pressured to compromise his/her established rules or standards in order to be accepted as part of the group and to properly submit to the mentors and trainers set over them. The aim is not to establish objective truth, on the basis of God's word and the nature of God, whether people like it or not, but to ACHIEVE CONSENSUS. Group meetings in an informal context are the best place to do this, and that's where the change in thinking is taking place, as well as in the arena of seeker-sensitive megachurches and the revival churches where study is abandoned in favour of music, worship and experiencing God. What little teaching takes place emphsises over and over the need to conform, unite, love everybody, despise rational and critical thinking of all kinds, and agree as one for the good of the whole. One commentator interviewed for a radio show comments: "...what the Hegelian Dialectic is – most simply stated as – a synthesising of two opposites and so in a ‘seeker friendly’ church what you would see, is believers admixed with unbelievers and they would synthesise – that is coming to consensus where truth becomes somewhat in the middle; and so basically what happens is the believer ends up moved very slightly away from his original position of moral absolute – the seeker or the unbeliever is moved slightly more towards faith and the people who are doing this movement think that is good enough and eventually they will come to faith through this process. But the thing that ends up sacrificed really is the truth of the Word of God... [Jesus] always taught it factually and it would either convict people or it would not convict people. It was never watered down or softened ..." ["The Purpose Driven Nightmare"] On the website of Berit Kjos, there is an excellent explanation of this process:

"When the Word of God is dialogued (as opposed to being taught didactically) between believers and unbelievers, with multiple Bible versions utilized (with King James usage discouraged) and consensus is reached – agreement that all are comfortable with – then the message of the Word of God has been watered down ever so slightly, and the participants have been conditioned to accept (and even celebrate) their compromise (synthesis). The new synthesis becomes the starting point (thesis) for the next meeting, and the process of continual change (innovation) continues. The fear of alienation from the group is the pressure that prevents an individual from standing firm for the truth of the Word of God, and such a one usually remains silent (self-editing). The fear of man (rejection) overrides the fear of God. The end result is a “paradigm shift” in how one processes

factual information." [What's Wrong With The 21st Century Church?" by Dr Robert Klenck] Studies of this concept of the Hegelian Dialectic, and what Dean Gotcher has called DIAPRAXSIS have been undertaken, and you should not be put off by the scholarly nature of this discussion for at its heart is the basic building block of the New World Order. See for example this article on another website: Dean Gotcher's booklet and an overview and summary here: How Diapraxis manifests itself in the Church Growth Movement. What is wanted by the cell church leaders is experiential knowledge of God in spiritual intimacy, the miraculous, group hugs, laying on of hands, singing and dancing, food, fun and thrills. Bible study, teaching and preaching the Word are downplayed and in some cases derided, and the main focus is on meeting people's "felt needs", relating to one another, "sharing", social activities, psychology, counselling and using spiritual powers to effect changes in the people who attend or who are being drawn to the group. Developing community life is deemed much more important than establishing objective truth in the heart of the individual. Referring to what he sees as the church of the future, Carl George says:

"First, however, let me summarize the underlying assumptions on which the Meta-Church capitalizes:... # 3. Churches will be known primarily as caring places rather than as teaching associations. These churches of the future realize that God measures His people more by their obedience than by their knowledge of Bible facts. Therefore, they've shifted their priorities from teaching to caring, from understanding to application." (Prepare Your Church For The Future p 154) One example of cell meeting activities (St Patrick's Tawau, Malaysia) consists of five W's: Welcome (icebreaker) Worship Warmth (sharing testimonies) Word (developing previous Sunday's sermon) Works (prayer ministry and planning evangelism)

The "word" portion is the discussion of the Pastor's sermon, and not individual bible study. In the early cautious stages of cell development, says Larry Stockstill in his book "The Cell Church", stories, sharing and fun is about all that happens. Later on "fellowship" emerges with the use of "icebreakers" (ie, tell us a funny dream; or, what car did you first drive?) and food and enjoyment are the agenda. This develops a sense of belonging and group loyalty, Stockstill claims. Even after several months of this, the next stage refers to "evangelism" as "lots of fun breakthroughs occur with creative outreaches such as barbeques,

and community service projects." When the group attracts enough new members, it splits into two and begins the process all over again - thus the cells multiply and the "church" grows. You might say the same of the Women's Institute or your local Avon sales team. But it is not for nothing that these churches label themselves "Seeker-Sensitive" and the "Purpose-Driven Church". Meeting the needs of those around them may seem like a worthy cause and in some cases might truly result in a conversion, but it's hit and miss (mostly miss) when it comes to preaching and teaching the "doctrine of Christ" in all its fulness, according to the word of God.

True Ministry
Jesus commanded his disciples (all of them, not just the "anointed ones"!) to go into all the world preaching the gospel and making disciples, "teaching them to observe ALL things that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:20) How can this be done without close study of the scriptures? Paul who was a "minister according to the stewardship from God" fulfilled his calling in this way: "Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily." Col 1:25-29 Acknowledging that it was hard work, Paul still STRIVES to preach the word in fulness, teach every member and warn every member so as to instill the fulness of Christ's doctrine to all. Only in that way will he bring about any kind of maturity or completion in the believer! Forsaking this step of discipleship in favour of "ministry" that looks into how people feel about themselves and meets their needs is falling far short of what Jesus intended. The overseers of the Church must "be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." (Titus 1:7-9) and how can they do that if sound doctrine is despised and not taught? But the charge to Timothy is:

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Tim 4:1-5) The answer to the pragmatism of today, and the self-indulgent, hedonistic, subjective lifestyle that people demand, is not to steer AWAY from doctrine, study and understanding in order to cater to their needs, but to redouble our efforts, to LABOUR like Paul to show every man approved before God. By all means make learning about God enjoyable and rich, even fun, but not empty, meaningless froth pandering to the flesh! And that leads us on to look at the "seeker sensitive" churches, in the next section. Part Eight of The Transforming Church contains

The Purpose Driven Church

Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) Saddleback (Rick Warren)



Faith Community Baptist Church, Singapore, (Lawrence Khong) Bethany World Prayer Center (Larry Stockstill) Yoidi Full Gospel Central Church in Korea (Yonggi Cho)



Continue to Part Eight: "Purpose Driven Churches"

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (8)
CONTENTS of Part Eight

The Purpose Driven Church

Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) Saddleback (Rick Warren)



Yongghi Cho Bethany World Prayer Centre, (Larry Stockstill) Faith Community Baptist, Singapore (Lawrence Khong)



The Church of Tomorrow

PURPOSE DRIVEN CHURCHES We continue our study of the cell-church system by looking at organisations that have given rise to the term the "Purpose-Driven Church" (PDC). But the purpose is not so much to save people from sin and damnation, but to attract people to sign up as members of the churches represented by this movement. According to one commentator "The Purpose Driven Church came out of the teachings of Campus Crusade, Young Life and Sun Life in the 70s, researched and produced by the Fuller Institute In Pasadena, Ca in the late 80s, and popularized by Rick Warren and Saddle Back in the 90s." The Seeker-Sensitive Model, exemplified in the Willow Creek Community Church since the 80s targets people who want to find out more about God or Christians who have left church feeling bored or upset with what they found there. These meticulously-run megachurches have a name for being "seeker-sensitive", which in practical terms means the meat is spiced into extinction for the purpose of wooing as many people to the meetings as possible and not scaring them away with anything "religious". Famous in this category is Willow Creek Community Church in Sth Barrington, Illinois, possibly the largest evangelical church in America with between 17 and 18 thousand people attending the weekend services. The Church is pastored by Rev. Bill Hybels, who claims Robert Schuller as his mentor. (See more about Schuller in the earlier part of this series).

Willow Creek is a high-tech and slick entertainment centre, where according to one article "drama and soft rock are served up on a stage washed in pink and blue spotlights". The building has nothing identifying it as a church. Inside, it is an auditorium with theatre seating, and twelve huge TV screens showing multimedia presentations of the big names and celebrities of the modern Church or closeups of the on-stage action just like any rock concert. The live music, stage shows, dramas and other activities are reminiscent of a TV show and were it not for the soft-sell sermon and topics discussed you might imagine you were anywhere but a church. Willow Creek is theologically conservative; it holds to the inerrancy of the word of God, salvation by faith alone and other tenets of the Protestant faith, yet it falls over itself to cater to the crowds and address their needs rather than openly challenging their standards and sins. It preaches a gospel message, but one so compromised that it fails in its primary purpose to move people out of the fallen world and into the kingdom of God.

The Willow Creek methodology as described in one publication is this: "Take a poll of lost people, find out what they want in religion, then make an all out effort in the church to provide what they want." (5) In his book about Willow Creek, ("Rediscovering Church") Bill Hybels clearly sees himself as God's appointed leader to transform the world about him. Claiming that when God needed to accomplish any great task of transformation in society he would seek out "leaders" such as Moses, David and Solomon, Hybels says " after all, who is going to cast the vision of, or creatively imagine the future for, a biblically functioning community?" (6) and "Leaders have the ability to cast a vision: People with the spiritual gift of leadership have a God-given capability to imagine a preferred future for whatever kingdom-related enterprise they're leading.....God has created human beings to respond to a worthy vision when it's passionately presented by a gifted leader". (7) What a contrast to the Apostle Paul's denunciation of human effort and human words in preaching the gospel, for Paul recognised, in humility, that it is only the Holy Spirit's unction and drawing ability that will convince any human being of the need to repent.

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (1 Cor 2:1-5) Bill Hybels in several places in his book touches on this theme of "imagining creatively" as a method of introducing change. He even implies that Jesus

"imagined" the Church into being because he "challenged his followers to imagine a city perched on a hill..." and " his followers imagined a beacon of hope, a lamppost of love, a torch of transforming power - and the church was born" (8) Another foundational influence on Bill Hybels was the zeal of co-founder Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian who seems to have launched into the idea of seekersensitive churches after having a major warm fuzzy on the idea of "caring communities reaching out to the world in love". The blurb for the book "Community 101" by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian on the WC home site says that "Nothing is more essential, or more basic, to the church than the oneness of community." I would have thought the doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ was the bedrock of the Church, not living in community with other Christians. But the idea of community in society and the world ranks as one of the most important theories of the New Age. One quote plucked at random from the thousands of New Age sites that preach this concept as a model for transforming society is this:

"We wanted a "co-creative community"- reflecting the integration of feminine and masculine virtues and wholecentered consciousness. We wanted, as individuals and as a group, to align the values of sharing and nurturing with the traits of focused purpose and action in the world. We wanted to replace dominance with partnership and empower each individual to express his or her unique gifts. This alignment of Self to Self, horizontally and vertically, is what we mean by "cocreation." (from Global Family) Compare this to Dr. Bilezikian who "learned that the original church was a community of believers who were discovering their spiritual gifts, getting involved in small groups, having closeness and togetherness, and applying problem resolution (and) deeply desired for that kind of church to exist today. That passion permeated his teaching and eventually led he and a student of his, Bill Hybels, to start Willow Creek Community Church in 1975". (from http:// [See also:] The goals of "sharing, caring" partnership, empowerment of the individual, development of spiritual gifts, tolerance of other cultures and beliefs, malefemale integration, love and acceptance for all, and transformation of society are also the goals of the cell churches and the seeker-sensitive churches. Bill Hybels talks about his mission and the mission of his church organisation much more in terms of "changing the world" than bringing individuals to faith in God and saving them from hell. He has this trait in common with his fellow leaders in the cell-church and Church Growth system as a whole.

Compromise leads people to jump into bed with those they should be denouncing. Thus Hybels does not seem too particular about those with whom he keeps company. In 1989 'Christianity Today' photographed him with Robert Schuller and C. Peter Wagner at Schuller's Crystal Cathedral. He had monthly meetings with Bill Clinton and Tony Campolo according to one article, (1) and the Grand Rapids College (now Cornerstone College) carried Hybel's article in which he favorably quoted M Scott Peck, a prominent New Ager and ecumenist. (2)

At a leadership conference hosted by Willow Creek in 2000, "Bill Hybels interviewed Rich De Vos (Amway co-founder) and did a 90-minute interview with Bill Clinton" (3) in which he helped whitewash the President's activities and implied Clinton was a Christian brother. (4) Then:

A month after the September 11 tragedy, a Muslim cleric, Fisal Hammouda, shared Hybels's pulpit for a discussion about Islam. The imam and pastor discussed strong ties between Christianity and Islam and the congregation was impressed. ... Hybels was concerned that there "are some Christians spreading rumors and half-truths that the Qur'an encourages violence."

Hybels's mentor in ministry is Robert Schuller, whose compromises with Islam are notorious. From personally preaching in the mosque of the Grand Mufti in Damascus, to allowing the Islamic leader's cleric son to preach from his own pulpit, these things are nothing new for someone who sponsors "Christians and Muslims for Peace" at his Crystal Cathedral. [from Berean Call Newsletter, May 2002] Leaders like Schuller and Hybels tell us they are providing for a wide variety of personalities and lifestyles in order to introduce them to a better way of life in God. But as one observer noted: "Carnal Christians led by consensus are more likely to FEEL secure in their group-led opinions and actions knowing they're not alone in them, even if they are unbiblical. But unfortunately, many today have made consensus their conscience in order to avoid any personal responsibility or accountability for sin". [Paul Proctor. See his article: The People’s Church and one on the related subject of Diaprax ]

Says Proctor: "For those unacquainted with the term 'Diaprax', it is simply another word for the Hegelian Dialectic or consensus process ... Diaprax, a word coined by author and teacher Dean Gotcher, essentially brings together people of diverse and often opposing backgrounds, worldviews and belief systems in hopes they will forfeit their own values, traditions and absolutes for the emotional rewards of group acceptance." Again, the intention is to "save the lost" and no doubt many of the "unchurched" do develop a curiosity and belief in God by attending Willow Creek services, but when we mingle the vital truths concerning God, salvation and our eternal destiny with the worldly search for enjoyment, freedom, pleasure and excitement we end up with only one result - COMPROMISE. God did not send Jesus Christ to make our life on earth comfortable and trouble-free. Salvation is not about meeting our needs, keeping us happy, wealthy, contented, and entertained! Faith and holiness is not about reaching a consensus in society about what is tolerable. It is primarily about our human condition of wretchedness before God, and our need to repent and submit our lives to Him. This brings joy and peace, but it is not designed for our pleasure, but for the greater glory and praise of God, and so that we might serve and honour Him in all things - despite our circumstances.

The word of God says:

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 2:15-17)

OFFSITE LINKS: For an in-depth look at Bill Hybels and Willow Creek go to the following article hybels/general.htm

For a series of snippets about Hybels and his beliefs, go here: Excerpts from a Christian News report at this site: "WillowCreek: Conversion Without Commitment" a major study by Laura M. Kaczorowski at nrms/superch.html

In many ways, all that is said above of Willow Creek applies to Saddleback, for their philosophy is the same. Rick Warren has turned the church in Orange County, California into a centre for "reaching the unchurched" with messages that appeal to today's values.

But the Saddleback church itself is only the tip of the iceberg. The PDC philosophy is out there, in the wild and spreading round the globe - see The PDC website for details. One report states that: "Over ten thousand churches in 83 countries around the world have adopted the Purpose-Driven Church paradigm for church health and growth. Over 175,000 church leaders have been trained in the purpose-driven principles through conferences, DVD, satellite and the internet. Over 1 million copies of Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Church, have been distributed in 22 languages. Purpose Driven has grown beyond Saddleback Church -it's now a global laboratory." In January of 1998, Dr. Dennis Costella attended a "Building a Purpose Driven Church" seminar where Warren taught that the following must occur to transform

a traditional church into a dramatic growing church: 1. A contemporary-styled, non-threatening "Seeker Service" must replace the traditional Sunday worship service; 2. The dress must be casual; 3. The music must be contemporary, the kind that people hear every day. 4. The message must be only positive so that saved and unsaved alike can feel better about themselves after a message that often mixes psychology and an uplifting Scripture text; 5. Church ministries must be geared to meeting needs, with support groups for depression, eating disorders, infertility, homosexuals' family/friends, post-abortion, and marital separation. Warren scoffed at the idea of passing out gospel tracts or going door-to-door since the typical "Saddleback Sam" is offended by such old-fashioned evangelism; 6. Doctrinal instruction is not given to the church as a whole on Sundays, but is available in sub-groups apart from formal church services; 7. A spirit of pragmatic compromise must prevail. Warren said, "It really doesn't matter your denomination, folks. We're all on the same team if you love Jesus." [March-April 1998, "Foundation" evangelical magazine] As the above writer states:

"Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Church" and the related publications of Saddleback's literature ministry have influenced tens of thousands more who have never attended any of his seminars. As Warren indicated in a closing prayer, the impact of the Saddleback experience is extensive: "Thank You that there is a movement, a stealth movement, that's flying beneath the radar, that's changing literally hundreds, even thousands of churches around the world." It is necessary for the faithful believer today to be wary of any "stealth" (camouflaged, secretive) program intended to fly "beneath the radar" in order to avoid detection. For many years now the church growth movement has certainly flown into congregations undetected by thousands of churches worldwide. The onslaught must be detected, the warning must be sounded now!"

OFFSITE LINKS: Book Review of Purpose Driven Church (scroll page) Christianity Today article on Rick Warren

The two churches mentioned above fit into the category of "new paradigm" churches striving to alter the method by which churches operate. Megachurches, on the other hand, are as the name suggests, huge collections of satellites that are often cell-based but still headed by a pastor and highly-structured eldership.

Possibly the best example of a megachurch system run using cells is that of Yonggi Cho in Seoul, Korea. It is a model which has cells as the primary meeting place for all participants but which revolves around the pastor and his vision and teaching for its basic doctrine. The cells are therefore led by church-appointed elders and all are accountable to the church which has birthed the cells. The more intimate cell meetings are intended as a follow-up to the pastor's weekly sermon, and the leadership structure is intended both to reinforce the pastor's vision (in this case Yonggi Cho) and to enforce compliance with the philosophy and teachings of the church. One well-researched report makes a comment that is true of the entire cell-church system:

The proponents of this "new church" claim that they wish to mobilize the laity and reduce the burden carried by the clergy. This would be positive. .... However, upon closer inspection, it appears that the CGC system actually centralizes power and authority. It is a highly structured authoritarian system which places the leading, preaching, and teaching function in the hands of a select few, mainly one, "anointed leader"--the Senior Pastor. The Senior Pastor casts his "vision" and then the people are to embrace that "vision" and work to fulfill it. [Quoting from cell-church books]

"The Senior Pastor guides the Church... The clear direction set for the church by the pastor is a mandate for the congregation to focus on one thing alone. As one cell group pastor said to me, 'This one thing we do!'... Pastor Paul Yonggi Cho goes to Prayer Mountain once a year to fast and pray, seeking God's mandate for the church's life for the next twelve months. When he returns from that time with the Lord, the goals which are given to him are printed and framed. These framed statements are then hung on every wall of every church worker on the staff. All is in perfect focus, and everything done by every person is directed toward meeting that objective." [From "Where Do We Go From Here" Ralph Neighbour p 76]

"The Senior Pastor is over the entire home cell system. He is continually giving the vision and motivating the District Pastors, Sectional Pastors, and Lay Pastors in ministry. Through sermons and communications he is actively recruiting lay people into ministry. He sees that they are given the proper training and supervision to be successful. The Senior Pastor's heart must be in the home cell ministry if it is to be effective. This is one ministry that cannot be handed over to someone else and forgotten". ["20/20 Vision" Dale Galloway p 128]

"Every Friday the Senior Pastor receives a detailed report of attendance, number of visitors, converts, contacts made, and how the district is doing on its goals from each of the District Pastors. The District Pastor makes up his report from the sum totals of all the reports that come in from the TLC group meetings. On Friday as Senior Pastor I know exactly how many people attended a TLC group

meeting for the week. I pay close attention to these reports which let me know how we're doing on the reaching of our goals for the year". [20/20 p 149]

"In their weekly report sheets, our TLC leaders are required to tell us how much time has been spent in each of these three activities (Sharing, Conversational Prayer, and Application of Bible). We monitor this to see that our groups are kept balanced." [20/20 p 112 ]

In Dale Galloway's 20/20 Vision plan, the only power a lay person is truly afforded is the power to serve the vision. ...It is clear that the "successful" churches used as model examples, (e.g., Dale Galloway's, Paul (David) Yonggi Cho's), are strictly guided by the Senior Pastor. It is their "vision" which must be realized; anyone who questions the "vision" or authority of the Senior Pastor is released; anyone who fails to live up to the conditions required for service on staff, paid or not, is disciplined and soon released if not brought into compliance. The possibility that the "vision" of the leadership could be in error and appropriately confronted by the laity is never considered. It seems that loyalty to leadership is the real glue that holds the CGC together." [Church Growth Through Cell Churches] Since the entire structure of Yonggi Cho's church is bound and constrained by the man's vision-casting, then we should consider what Cho's vision really is. As many before me have already pointed out (Dave Hunt report, PDF download) David Yonggi Cho's teaching is based on mystical, Word-ofFaith and Buddhist-like heresies. Hank Hanegraaff, in "Christianity in Crisis", claims Cho's teaching "is nothing short of occultism..." and "a departure from historic Christian theology..." (p.353) Yonggi Cho's most famous book is entitled "The Fourth Dimension" in which he claims that a fourth dimension exists in which ALL supernatural and spiritual activities take place, regardless of source. Our task as Christians, he says, is to control and manipulate that dimension, as Jesus did, --- by our words and imaginations, through dreams and visions. He says:

"You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth. If you speak about salvation, the saving Jesus appears. If you speak about divine healing, then you will have the healing Christ in your congregation. If you speak the miracle performing Jesus, then the presence of the miracle performing Jesus is released. He is bound by your lips and by your words. He is depending on you." Fourth Dimension, (page 83)

Another megachurch with a cell group methodology is Faith Community Baptist. headed by Lawrence Khong.

The church began in 1986 and transitioned to the cell group strategy in 1988. Lawrence Khong (who trained at Dallas Theological Seminary) was fired from his church in 1986 and thus began Faith Community Baptist Church based on the Yonggi Cho model for church growth. The vision of this church is primarily that of expansion, growth and NUMBERS; people stand at the doors of the church with "number clickers" to count every person. It is also fully committed to the "paradigm shift" in thinking about the global church, whereby the entire philosophy of "church" changes. Khong begins every Cell Conference he leads by proclaiming: "There is a heaven and earth difference; an east and west difference between a CHURCH WITH CELLS and a CELL GROUP CHURCH". This statement has become a major landmark of Khong's teaching about the CellChurch. According to this way of thinking, the small groups that some tack on to their existing structure "merely amount to one more program to compete with all of the other programs which typically exist in a traditional program-based-design church." In the Cell Church, on the other hand, "the cell is the essential basic Christian community of the church." Sandy Simpson reports::

Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) has a web site which has claimed gold teeth miracles, visions, dreams, etc. in their organization. .... When Rodney Howard-Browne and Robert Schuller visited Singapore many pastors, including those from FCBC went to their meetings. ...As for FCBC, their origins are from pastor Lawrence Khong who was "sacked" from Grace Baptist for reported "unorthodox and heretical positions". Then he and his followers started FCBC and he even visited Paul Yonggi Cho in Korea and brought many of their methods to FCBC (this is reported in their own web site). The membership of FCBC is now 5,000 to 8,000 (undisclosed). [from]

The Singapore FCBC model "cell group" I attended had no Bible study at all, and I am told they don't do that. The time is spent on a formatted schedule singing some innocuous songs, playing certain types of games to get people to loosen up, sharing time which may or may not include a shallow discussion of the pastor's sermon on Sunday, prayer in a circle holding hands, food, etc. The question asked in the sharing time I attended was "What is your spiritual gift(s)?" We were supposed to tell what our spiritual gift (s) were as we went around in a circle. [from]

Bethany World Prayer Center

Bethany World Prayer Center led by Larry Stockstill is a cell-based church with over 700 cells in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It uses an outreach called the Bethany Cell Church Network as a support ministry to spread its message about the cell structure of the Church. And the message is a radical and total one. In his book "The Cell Church" Stockstill writes "A paradigm controls how we interpret what we see and experience. It consists of a whole set of perspective shifts, which usually require effort and a stretch to perceive things differently, leading to a paradigm-shift".[9] ... A commentator continues:

"Has your perspective for doing church changed? Has your vision moved from the position of the traditional twentieth century "program-based-design" church? Have you truly experienced the paradigm-shift that is required in order to see the cells as "the church"? I believe most CellChurch visionaries may indeed be looking in the (right) direction ... But, without consensus among CellChurch visionaries for identifying and then implementing a standarized system of the structure and strategy of a 'pure' CellChurch, this CellChurch movement may never be realized! Yes, understanding our CellChurch system requires a paradigm-shift. [A Paradigm Shift is Required by Richard R. Diefenderfer, Jr.] Bethany World Prayer Center, with more than 8,000 Sunday worshippers and 2 million-dollar annual mission’s budget, is an influence we cannot ignore. Their annual cell church conference attracts more than 1500 pastors and key leaders, all eager to learn how to implement the cell church "paradigm" in their own churches. In his book, "The Cell Church", Stockstill lists many leading cell-church leaders and models as his influences and he has cherry-picked from all of them. He lists Ralph Neighbour, Laurence Khong, Yonggi Cho, the Elim Church in El Salvador and the G12 principles from the International Charismatic Mission in Colombia. Once again, the key to success is choosing, training and employing loyal leaders to herd your flock. The theme of Leadership Development dominates "The Cell Church" book. Chapter eight of the book offers seven key principles of the “Bogota Model” or “G-12 Model” of cells. This is now the chosen cell-church model for Bethany, and the one it promotes on its websites. So we now turn to consideration of the G12 or "Government of Twelve" model.

Continue to "The Transforming Church" part NINE (Part Nine of "The Transforming Church" considers the G12 model.)


(2) Calvary Contender, December 15, 1995 (3) "Reflections - Journey to Willow Creek" by Gordon Miller. at (4) "Treachery At Willow Creek" October 17, 2000 (5) Plains Baptist Challenger, 1/96, p. 5 (6) "Rediscovering Church", Lynne and Bill Hybels, ZonderVan 1995 p 149 (7) Ibid: p 151 (8) Ibid p. 138 (9) The Cell Church; Larry Stockstill; Regal Books; Ventura, California, 1998 p30

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (9)
CONTENTS of Part Nine


The Principle of Twelve in Government Concerns about G12 A Warning From History



The Monastic Model Cell Church Leadership

The Jethro System of Discipleship The G12 System Authoritarian leadership and mentoring THE GOVERNMENT OF TWELVE (G12) From the Bethany World Prayer Center website we read: "The "principle of twelve" was first implemented by Pastors César and Claudia Castellanos at International Charismatic Mission in Bogotá, Colombia. The church has used this discipleship principle to build the largest small group network in the world: 30,000 small groups in a single congregation! "

The Church of Tomorrow



César Castellanos is also a politician. On March 8, 1998 he became an elected member of the Colombia House of Representatives. His wife served in the Colombian Senate from 1992 to 1994 and has announced her intention to run again. (4) Continuing: "Now, churches worldwide are implementing this dynamic principle. Its simple, personal nature is easy to duplicate. It is not a program, but the development of "fathering" relationships that help every believer become a multiplying leader who can disciple others."

Openly stated to be a discipleship program, G12 is perhaps the ultimate in control. However, the program is presented as the best and perhaps the only way to win the world to Christ. G12's stated vision is that of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . . ." but as I have said before in this series, the verse is misinterpreted to mean that all "nations" are to be "discipled" or brought under the control of a religious world government headed up by apostles and prophets. (In reality, Jesus sent out his followers to spread the gospel message that would result in individual people from OUT OF all nations ("OF all nations") receiving him and becoming Christians.)

Patterned on Jesus
The rationale behind the G12 idea is that (supposedly) it is the pattern of Jesus who "worked closely with twelve men that He mentored to take His place on the earth. Following Jesus' pattern, the apostle Paul also trained a number of young men ("Timothys") who later became the great leaders of the New Testament Church. We call this mentoring technique the "principle of twelve." " But was Jesus "mentoring" twelve men to "take his place on the earth" or was he sharing himself with them so that they could in turn share Jesus spiritually with those who needed salvation. As to taking the place of Jesus on earth, it is plain from scripture that the HOLY SPIRIT and not the apostles did that! (John 14:25-26) No human being or group of people can take the place of Jesus Christ on earth, yet this is what Church government today is all about!! The agenda is one of rulership. Continuing the Bethany commentary:

"The number twelve is the number of government in the Bible. Jesus established His kingdom and government on the earth by using the same principle that God had used to establish Israel in the Old Testament. Just as Israel had twelve tribes, Jesus had twelve disciples. Using this pattern, Jesus intended to show us a model of how to disciple not only our local communities, but also the nations of the world." [my emphasis] WHOA. Hang on a moment there! This makes the plan of salvation, and the mission of Jesus about "discipling the nations" (ruling them in a religious government) and not about individual relationships with the Saviour. 1. Did Jesus in fact come to rule the nations, and to set up a government of twelve that was to perpetuate a system of strict authoritarian discipleship? Did Jesus intend for his followers to enforce obedience to his commands in such a way? (When offered dominion over the world by the devil, Jesus refused! His first visit to earth was not to rule, but to call out a people for God. Only when he returns in person will the kingdom rule be set up.) 2. Did Jesus base his choice of twelve apostles on the Twelve Tribes, and the twelve Judges of Israel? In the sense that a new Israel of men obedient to God

was being called out, the Twelve foundational apostles (and they alone) were a reflection of times past, BUT there was no stated or implied intention to set up a pattern of governmental rule by this method. This was not a strategy for "taking the nations for Christ".

Not As The Gentiles
The twelve were to pass on the "doctrine of Christ" as given to them directly from the mouth of Jesus, and after their time the Church was to be ruled by local eldership - independent, autonomous and under the headship ONLY of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, Jesus went out of his way to warn the disciples NOT to copy human leadership models and knocked firmly on the head the pyramid scheme of ruling from the top (so beloved today in the shepherding and mentoring schemes of cell churches.) (Matt 20:24-28) He also scotched the rumours of greatness and authority that the disciples believed they would receive from Jesus on earth. He told them that they would sit on twelve thrones ONLY "in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory" (Matt 19:28)

Heaven and the Throne Coming to Earth Right Now?
Could it be therefore (and I believe this is so) that the modern-day church leadership sees this "regeneration" of all things happening RIGHT NOW, together with the glorification, and the spiritual coming of the Son of Man, such that the "throne" is AT THIS TIME coming down "from heaven to earth" allowing them to claim this promise of rulership "over the tribes of Israel" for themselves??? As evidence of this concept, please read a recent "word" that directly refers to such a belief, by Cindye Coates of "In the book of Revelation chapter 5, verse 8 it reads: …"and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and a golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." The Holy Spirit has been teaching the church lately about the responsibility of having "Harp and Bowl" prayer time. This is a key to true worship and the responsibility that elders have in the church.

"The twenty-four elders have been said by several theologians to be the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles coming into agreement, establishing government in the church. This passage of scripture depicts a descriptive view of the throne room right now. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Wouldn't it only make sense to study what is going on in heaven first and then pray " that" into the earth? .... In the days ahead, there will be many "David's" leaving the field and coming into palaces to rule with great authority. Everything about God is SUPER! In heaven there are SUPER BOWLS filled with prayers that are carried on melodies from Super Harps. The youth hunger for this Super Bowl and will follow this model as it brings heaven to earth. This restoration of the Tabernacle of David brings relevance to worship as it channels passion upward!" [my emphasis] [Super-Bowl Worship & Intercession]

So we see over and over that the model of G12 is one of governmental rule, and of "bringing heaven down to earth". Another site proclaims:

"What is the Government of Twelve? In one sentence, the Government of Twelve is when a trained and approved leader, serving under the spiritual authority of the pastor, gives spiritual oversight to twelve others for the purpose of discipleship and personal evangelism." [Cornerstone Church, San Antonio]

Disciples are not under man's authority
Found in an article about the Boston Church of Christ, the following statement could equally apply to the cell church and G12 discipling system.

"This movement is based on the thesis that Christ's master/disciple relationship with the twelve apostles is a pattern to be followed in making, training and leading disciples today. According to this doctrine, a true disciple of Christ will make other disciples who learn to follow Christ by following him in an authoritarian teacher/student relationship. This training includes teaching new disciples how to make other disciples, and how to train and lead them in the same way. A chain of these master/disciple relationships results in a pyramid." The article goes on to point out the fundamental errors of such discipling: that Jesus made many more than 12 disciples; that the chosen Twelve were in fact apostles; that a disciple is simply one who follows Christ and not one "who is trained through a subordinate relationship with another Christian." that the verb "to disciple" never appears in the bible used to mean one man mentoring another. that the biblical way to become a disciple is to repent, believe and be baptised into Jesus Christ, NOT to sit at the feet of any man to be taught how to "do Christianity". "Discipling" in terms of the cell church, however, means getting your membership in line and making sure they do as they are told. Please read this sobering testimony from a family caught up in the G12 discipleship nightmare. It serves as a warning not only about G12 and the abuse of authority, but the entire Church Growth agenda.

Since the setting up of the G12 system, it has changed and taken on the character of dominion rulership with an almost magical belief in the number 12 as covering all aspects of its agenda. One of the first changes was the shift in name from "groups of twelve" to "the government of twelve" taking the emphasis off community and individuals in partnership, to mentoring and rulership.

Other concerns are voiced by one of the leading proponents of the cell church, author Joel Comiskey, who has himself written a complimentary book about G12. He says:

My understanding of ICM comes from visiting ICM each year from 1996-2000 in order to write my two books: Groups of Twelve (Touch Publications, 1999) and From Twelve to Three (Touch Publications, 2002). ...[but]... I [am] deeply troubled by what we are observing in the G12 movement today. The concerns I share with you fall into three categories:

1. Spiritualization of the Number Twelve in the Bible I listened to the entire audio cassette series of ICM’s 2002 cell church conference in preparation for my book From Twelve to Three. I was aghast by the spiritualization of the text (eisegesis) to justify the primacy of the number twelve.

We’re told that Elijah would not have chosen Elisha if he had been plowing with eleven instead of twelve oxen and that the number twelve was the key to the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost.[1] We’re told that the twelve stones that Elijah used to build Jehovah’s sacrifice resulted in God answering his prayer [2] and that “the model of the twelve restores the altar of God that is in ruins.”[3]

I freely admit that the number twelve is an important number in the Bible, but it’s not the only number that carries great weight in the Bible. ...On top of this, the New Testament provides no evidence that the apostles or other church leaders attached any significance to a specific number of disciples chosen in a church. In Acts, the New Testament history book, you won’t find the apostles diligently looking for twelve disciples in order to follow Jesus’ pattern of twelve disciples. In order to apply theological significance to a particular number of disciples in the church today, it is necessary for the entire bible to give witness to this practice. I find no substantiation for the idealization of the number twelve or any other number in Acts or the Epistles. In addition, it is absent in the rest of church history and 2000 years of theological development.

2. Franchising of the G12 model Franchising is the new talk circling around the G12 world. You have to follow the entire G12 model, just as a McDonalds franchise has to follow exact standards. ...This wasn’t always true. When I first studied the ICM G12 strategy back in 1996-1997, I observed

a carefree excitement and open sharing of information. Yet in 1998 and beyond, I’ve noticed a certain exclusivity that has progressively become more iron-clad and closed minded.

3. The division this model is causing In a very real way, the G12 movement has separated themselves from the cell church movement, claiming to be God’s new wineskin for the last days. Listen to Ralph Neighbour ’s appeal in a paper he submitted to the Cell Church Missions Network in November 2002, "The concept of building a multilevel marketing structure that peaks in the authority of a special Global Apostle with his hand-picked assistants has now come into existence. Bedazzled by the promise of fast track growth for their congregations, pastors are kneeling to kiss the gold rings worn by the Apostles. At the same time, they are severing relationships with fellow cell church workers who are not among the devotees. In many parts of the world, painful reports are coming about pastors who one or two years ago were very intimately involved in helping each other and working together in the cell movements in their cities but who now shun fellowship with others who did not bow before the Apostle’s strategy."

One of those principles that we hold dearly to in the cell church movement is that the cell is just as important as the celebration and that both of them must be equally emphasized. We find this principle in the New Testament church. The early church celebrated together in large temple gatherings and then met from house to house (Acts 2:42 -46; 5:42 ; 20:20 ).

But let us humbly admit that none of the current cell church models are perfect. I wouldn’t promote Yongii Cho (Seoul , Korea), Ralph Neighbour (Houston , TX ), Mario Vega (San Salvador , El Salvador ), Larry Stockstill (Baker, LA), Dion Robert (Abijan , Ivory Coast ), Billy Joe Daugherty (Tulsa , OK ), or César Castellanos (Bogota , Colombia) as having the only true biblical cell church model. The pattern, or principle, is cell-celebration. The application of the cell church for today is varied and changes from culture to culture and church to church." [Read the whole article at "Concerns About the G12 Movement"] OFFSITE LINK: For one example of the kind of emphasis that is of concern to the above writer, and to us all, go to "The Group of Twelve"

A Warning From History
We see the flawed principle of "Government of Twelve" in movements beloved of the mystics (and modern-day prophets!) such as the Knights of the Round Table. And self-styled "illuminati" of the modern day still seek to institute such a rule of twelve over the nations, or at least the United States.

"... these United States of America should be Governed by a "Supreme Jury". This is the Policy which is advocated in a soon to be completed "Natural Organic Constitution for the People of the United States of America"; ..., the USA should be Organized Directly Under Twelve "Super-State" Districts, with One "Judge/Juror/Justice of the Peace" Chosen from Each such "Super-

State". Similarly, & at the More Localized Levels Directly Under Each of these Twelve SupremeNational Judicial Jurisdictions; many More "Supreme Juries" such as this, should be"Organized" to Govern their Progressively "Smaller & More Localized Jurisdictions".

This is all similar to how "St Columbia" Organized the Non-Romanized Christian "Celtic Church" of ancient Britain, & it is Probably how "King Arthur" Organized his "RoundTable" at "Camelot". It is clearly how Ancient "Israel" was Organized under the "TwelveTribes"; & it is Clearly How "Christ/Messiah Jesus/Yeshua", was Organizing the True IsraelitePeople under his "New Jerusalem" Government of "Twelve Apostles". All of these Historical Precedents lend great Support to the here-in contained Proposition that our American People Should Adopt This Form of "Natural/Organic Government". [The Christian/Israelite Common-Law World Court website ]

But where can we find the "Government of Twelve" in the history of the Church? Unfortunately, the sole example - the city of Munster in the 16th century - highlights what is most of concern to us all: the potential for over-zealous application of apocalyptic beliefs and the setting up of the kingdom rule on earth, leading only to tyranny and the violent enforcement of the rule of "God's" law. Munster is a city in Germany not far from the Dutch border which became a haven for Anabaptists during and after the Peasant’s Revolt. The Anabaptist movement was a radical religious group opposed even to Luther's beliefs, holding to the scripture as as the sole foundation of faith, universal priesthood, adult baptism, the common ownership of property and the soon return of the Lord Jesus to set up his kingdom over all. Anabaptists - although having a genuine and commendable desire to beak away from the corrupted doctrine and practises of traditional denominations - were (rather like today's prophetic movement) religious revolutionaries bent on social and religious reform. In an effort to establish a Godly kingdom in Munster they evicted all non-believers on pain of death and offered refuge to Anabaptists across Europe. After the death of their leader, a tailor named Jan van Leiden immediately took control of the city and styled himself "King John". Leiden abolished the city council and created a “messianic kingship with 12 elders as leaders from the 12 tribes of Israel”. This was in effect an absolute theocracy ruled by King Jon and his council of Twelve. It was a "New Jerusalem". Leiden then instituted a vow of poverty and ruled with an iron fist. Moral standards were enforced as being of utmost importance and capital punishment was used for such crimes as blasphemy, disobeying a master, scolding parents, and complaining. Polygamy was also instituted due to the 3:1 women to men ratio. All of this was "supported" by the application of various "proof texts" from the bible. All single women above the age of fifteen were obliged to marry, but either men or women could dissolve their marriages due to unhappiness. Rebellion against "king" Jon was punished by death. Leiden saw no contradiction in his treatment of his own wife whom he trampled to death because she disobeyed him. He had come to see himself as above the law since he WAS the Law of God.

On June 22, 1535, this trial kingdom collapsed in a spectacular and bloody defeat when Lutheran and Catholic forces stormed the city. But it stands as a testament to the folly of those who seek to "bring heaven down to earth" and set up the New Jerusalem prematurely.

Other Models
Where else can we see the love of the number 12 in community and government? Well, the Ancient Order of the Templars had as part of their constitution an "Executive Council (Cabinet) consisting of twelve members". The Essenes - a pious Jewish sect with a tendency towards mysticism - met in cells of twelve. They structured their community in cell groups with small groups gathered together in what was sometimes called twelve 'men of holiness' who acted as general guides of the community. Traditionally, a wiccan coven consists of thirteen people. This is made up of twelve members and the thirteenth will be the High Priest or Priestess. New Age groups out to "heal the earth" also look to twelve as an optimum number: "Millions of individuals throughout the world are inspired by the hope that we can create a world of peace and harmony and joy. Doing so in even little groups, twelve or fewer people at a time, we alter our personal energies and help to heal the world. Today, hundreds of "Peace Circles" exist worldwide, and more are forming every day. The circle is a very simple yet powerful tool. Twelve or fewer people meet every other week, or in some cases once a month. We suggest that people keep the groups to a small number because we are fostering what we call a "social intimacy," a way for people who do not necessarily know each other very well, to have the experience of each other's common humanity at the deepest level." The European Union has a flag of twelve stars even though its members number many more than that. These twelve gold stars on a blue background reflect the stars seen around the head of the Virgin Mary in many RC statues and pictures. They are modelled on the "Woman of Revelation" clothed with the sun. One site explained the symbolism of the flag this way: "Against the background of blue sky, twelve golden stars form a circle, representing the union of the peoples of Europe. The number of stars is fixed, twelve being the symbol of perfection and unity." For the purposes of rulership from a base in Brussels, the UK is divided into TWELVE "regions" each with an EU member of parliament. Monastic rule often involved cells of twelve monks as in the Cistercians and the Benedictine Order. Gregory writes that Benedict formed twelve communities of twelve monks each. When the Cistercians branched out to form new communities they always did so in groups of twelve. The Celtic missionary movement probably began with Columba in 563 when he went to Iona with twelve helpers. Using the same small group strategy, Columban and twelve companions went to Gaul around 590. Successive waves of these small bands of missionaries were sent out all over the continent. A community of monks (1012) would settle in a non-Christian area in Europe and establish a Christian church. They would preach and congregate those converted. They would teach those converts. Once they had established the church they would leave to go to another part of Europe.

The cell-church movement has been likened to Monasticism in many articles. Amongst all the other concerns, we can identify in the cell-church literature a desire to recreate the early Roman Catholic system of "community" and the influence of monks and lay brothers over the local populace. Is the cell-church system in fact modelled on the Roman Catholic and Celtic monastic lay-preachers' movement? The author of many scholarly religious books, Herbert T Mayer writes, This was the common pattern for centuries: the real strength and vitality of the church lay in the small groups of clergy gathered around a cathedral and the bishop or in the small group of monks gathered around a strong and influential leader. [5] Ralph Neighbour's explanation of the benefits of the cell system seem to have much in common with monasticism. His summary speaks of: a community that fosters a sense of loyalty and belonging the ease of monitoring members' activities and beliefs ability to "deeply penetrate" the locality flexible structures that can change and adapt (no buildings) a message that appeals to local people and meets their needs personal mentoring and discipline for all training of "the laity" to do the work of the Church in the context of the community.

Consider how many of the points above would also apply to the monastic system of the Middle Ages. It is understandable that the Church Growth leadership would plunder for ideas a system that effectively spread Christianity throughout a pagan land such as Celtic Britain and we know that the search is on for a method of expanding the Church quickly and adding members and loyal adherents. But we must consider the potential for abuse. Since genuine Christianity cannot be simply "taught" (even less "enforced") and must be accepted by faith willingly, it will always be an alternative religious message that succeeds in spreading, instead of the gospel of salvation in Christ. Many articles on monasticism are glowing in their praise of its missionary endeavours. But the truth is, those nations evangelised so "effectively and fully" are now steeped in the dogmas of Roman Catholicism. Setting up a system to "penetrate deeply" into all areas of society is only a good idea if the TRUTH is being preached, but not if the fast-growing message is that of a false religion, and the cell-church doctrine as we have already seen is far from ideal.

Potential of the Monastic System

It is no surprise that the cell system has been chosen as the new face of the Church as it does have massive growth potential. It tackles a number of difficulties besides: how could the present seemingly-impregnable denominational Church system be broken down, how could apostolic teachings and the "new paradigm" break into their structures and displace the present creeds; how could the new leadership that has been trained to take over the Church gain more influence over the membership without becoming "ordained" clergymen? It must have occurred to those leaders how useful the monastic system had been in that regard, in times past. In their monastic cells, men and women were bound in allegiance to the Pope, under strict discipline, while at the same time free to develop, in many cases, radical new approaches to worship and mission. The Catholic mystics and free-thinkers of their day had all been raised in the cell-church system, the monasteries and convents of the RC church, and their influence amongst common folk was far-reaching and profound. Indeed it could be said that they changed the face of Catholicism and introduced a personalised religion that took us into the world of the non-conformist and reformer. (But as a result were also leading the field in esoteric religion - you need only think of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross for example.) The task of many nuns and monks was to minister to the needs of the community (what today is called "servant evangelism") and in doing so they could plant ideas and doctrines that could never take root in a rigid and formal ecclesiastical atmosphere. Indeed, church services were held in Latin; the humble folk of the parish were much more likely to respond to the common touch of a man or woman of God in the local convent or monastery. Thus the message spread - but was that a good thing? Such is the potential for spreading a religious message and influencing the locality that many sectors of the Christian Church as well as those outside it are experimenting with small groups today. There is also a potential for ecumenism as evidenced by the following advertisement from former British revival enthusiasts:

"A new monastic community, lay and ordained, with a heart for spiritual renewal and service. ...a new monastic community based in Ithaca, NY with friends around the world. Jane and Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, [6] abbess and abbot, are the apostolic overseers and spiritual parents of the community.... a new type of church—home based, relational, egalitarian, charismatic, sacramental . . . a new form of monasticism. We have embraced emphases from a number of historical traditions—the early Celtic Christian communities of the fourth to ninth centuries in Northern Britain and Ireland; the desert fathers and mothers and monastic movement; the Anabaptist radicals of the sixteenth century; the charismatic movement and Christian feminist emphases of the twentieth. We are committed to the "convergence movement"—the coming together of the Evangelical, Charismatic and Sacramental streams of the church's witness." Notice the reference to the Anabaptists, amongst other groups! Let's pray they do not settle in Munster.

The common perception of monks and nuns, although probably simplistic, does focus on the strict discipline and lack of personal choice in such cells. For the monastic system is nothing if not hierarchical, as one observer astutely notes:

"But living together cannot work, unless one has order and structure. Several Church Fathers and saints devised rules for communal monastic life, including St. Anthony the Great, credited as the founder of monasticism, St. Pachomius, who wrote the first detailed rule for monastic life, and then St. Basil the Great, who wrote the ultimate rule and the one upon which all monastic communities are based. ... Since the monastic life was designed to divinize followers in this life in order to get them deified in the next, the rule and pattern was based upon the Holy Trinity, with a hierarchical structure. There was no time to waste on such foolishness as the monastic demanding to have his or her way, with all his wants and desires. He completely submitted his will to that of God, expressed in the leadership of the monastery."

Leadership from the Top
The G12 cell-church model, like many others, has a strict system of "discipleship" and "mentoring" which means that every person from top to bottom is accountable to his over-shepherd in matters great and small, both religious and secular. From Rivertown Christian Ministries International we can see a summary of the G12 system in action, focusing on mentoring and training up your own disciples.

"Jesus started by finding 12 people that He could disciple to become world-changers. He prayed all night before choosing His twelve. Then, he mentored and molded them over the next three years, turning them into a powerful team. Later, in the book of Acts, we see the apostles choosing and mentoring their “twelve.” The principal of twelve is dynamic and explosive yet simple to understand and implement. Fundamentals of the G12 vision:

1. Everyone is a potential leader 2. Everyone can disciple twelve people. 3. Everyone is ministered to and then ministers. 4. A person is in your twelve only when he/she has opened a cell group. 5. Everyone should win souls and develop potential leaders. 6. Cells open most rapidly when they open homogeneously. 7. Your twelve are your assistants." Both new believers and new church members are "plugged in" to the church through the consolidation process. Members of the consolidation team are assigned to new believers or new members to help enroll them in a weekly cell meeting, guide them through a short Pre-Encounter course, and register them to attend

an Encounter Retreat. At this weekend retreat, they "encounter God" through teachings on inner healing, deliverance, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the vision of the church. Following the retreat, they are encouraged to attend a ten-week new believers' class entitled Post-Encounter. After completing the consolidation process, the new disciple enters the School of Leaders, which consists of three ten-week trimesters of study. During the second trimester, the students will open their own cells but will also continue meeting in their original cells, which now become their leadership, or G-12, groups. As the disciple progresses through the School of Leaders, he opens his own cell and begins to develop his twelve, taking them through each step of the process of the vision: winning them, consolidating them, discipling them, and eventually sending them "to make disciples of all nations." This focus on a hierarchical structure is intentional, for - as Ron Wood of "Reconciliation Ministries" says - conventional Church and small bible groups are "lawless":

"When God has finished with his reformation, we will not be lawless, prideful, or independent. .... We will recognize leadership, be fitted into the body, and walk in covenant love. ...The true church ... must be organically connected to its Head, even Jesus, and to his apostles. ...Jesus said that if we dont receive those he sends, then we dont receive him. Relationship is a reality. God is ending our isolation from one another. Apostolic networks are emerging. The Holy Spirit is inspiring covenant connections with these new circles. There really is a difference between a home Bible study and a church. One is set order in order; the other is embryonic or dislocated, or worse, perhaps even lawless. Jesus builds the universal church. His apostles build local churches." (From "Leaving Organised Religion" by Ron Wood [] )

A re-emphasis on personal discipleship
"Rice Broockes, the overseeing apostle of MorningStar Ministries writes In case you havent noticed, discipleship is back All across the Body of Christ, discipleship or mentoring is being heralded as the churchs critical need. Frans Wowor the senior pastor of The Arrow Generation Church in Indonesia writes: As you read through the gospels you will unmistakably recognize that discipleship takes place, not in big a meeting, but in a small group. Discipleship happens away from crowds and meetings, within the confines of open relationships in cell groups. Jesus formed a small group of twelve young men in order to make disciples. If we are serious about making disciples we must follow his pattern and do discipleship within the confines of the cell structure. The cell is where we make ourselves transparent and teachable with people we trust, people who we know will encourage us in our walk with God. There is absolutely no substitute for this type of small group discipleship. Biblically there can be no substitute for personal discipleship, and the best place for this to happen is in small groups or cells." (From "meeting from house to house.htm") From the same document above, we read that there is a "mandate from God to raise up leaders." and this is not being taught but passed on by "an impartation and investment from one person to another". And where is the arena for such impartation? "Only cell groups can provide the practical training ground and apprenticeship that is needed ...the key to

church growth is multiplying leaders....the most effective way of releasing and raising up hundreds and thousands and potentially unlimited numbers of leaders, is through the cell system. " So there you have it. Growth is the aim; leadership the method (because the new doctrine must be taught to the masses); and cell churches are the vehicle.

The Jethro System (Discipled and Discipling)
There are a number of leadership models used in cell churches but all are driven from the top down and depend on close monitoring of each and every person - however far up the ladder they climb. The Church Growth Movt. rates leadership and pastoral oversight very highly. As Wagner says, "In America the primary catalytic factor for growth in the local church is the pastor. In every growing, dynamic church I have studied, I have found a key person whom God is using to make it happen." As in Cho's church, the "vision-casting" is done by a dynamic leader controlling the direction of the whole church and making sure his vision is implemented all the way down the pyramid to the bottom. The system of mentoring differs slightly from system to system but some basic models are: (1) the Jethro system based on advice about delegating leadership given to Moses by his father in law Jethro. This is structured around groups of 10, 50, 100 and 1,000 headed by the pastor, and allocating descending ranks to district pastors, zone pastors, apprentices and cell members.The system is used by both meta-church and pure-cell systems. A pictorial version of the Jethro Model of leadership can be seen by clicking the link HERE (2) Five-By-Five as used by David Yonggi Cho in Seoul, Korea and based on the Jethro system. The Senior Pastor heads five district pastors, who head five zone pastors and so on right down to the cell leaders who mentor their disciples. (3) the G12 system which as we have seen is based around the number twelve. Also highly structured, it aims at reproducing its cells by making every member a leader who is tasked with producing his own cell of twelve. Here all staff no matter what their position lead a cell and at the same time mentor other cell leaders or disciples. Each cell member is being trained to form his or her own cell of twelve by making recruits from friends and family but at the same time each person is still being mentored by his or her own cell leader. Members therefore are expected both to lead and to attend different cell groups! Every new convert goes through discipleship training to equip him or her to become a new cell leader. Please go to this page to see the differences between the G12 and the Jethro model for cell-group leadership.

Thus the key of the cell system is that everyone is being discipled and is also discipling someone else. The senior pastor disciples the assistant pastors, the assistant pastors disciple the area leaders, the area leaders disciple the cell leaders, and the cell leaders disciple the cell members. Every activity and belief as well as personal relationships and the minutiae of life is funneled through the discipleship pyramid.

Cho writes, "The sub-district leaders are constantly questioned and encouraged by the large district pastor, 'If you do not work properly, you will be punished'" The leadership structure at Cho's church is diagramed by a pyramid with Cho of course at the top. Such discipling schemes have emerged before in the UK and elsewhere and are discussed in the articles linked below: Shepherding Considered Website looking at Spiritual Abuses List of articles by various people on spiritual abuses The 1970's Dominion/Shepherding Movement "The Discipling Dilemma and Church Growth" online book More articles on spiritual abuse

CONTINUE TO PART TEN (Part Ten summarises the dangers of the Church Growth and Cell-Church Movements) NOTES 1] Claudia and Cesar Castellanos, The Vision Of Multiplication, Audio Cassette. Bethany World Prayer Center : International Cell Conference, 2001. [2] Claudia & César Castellanos, Audio cassette. How to Influence Others ( Como influir en Otros) January 2002 conference in Bogota . [3] César Castellanos, The Ladder of Success ( London : Dovewell Pblications, 2001), p. 25. [4] ["Colombia's Bleeding Church" Christianity Today report, May 18, 1998] [5] Meyer 1976 "Pastoral Roles and Mission Goals: Currents In Theology And Missions" [6] The Fitz-Gibbons are in fact native to England, having spent many years in the Charismatic movement there and from 1994 onwards hotly defending the notorious "Toronto Blessing" that had hit their church. Jane FitzGibbon is a Dental Therapist and part-time feminist theologian. Although a pastor from 1981 Andrew FitzGibbon says he was ordained "ecumenically" in 1998. His wife wrote a monthly column in "Renewal" Magazine (UK) for three years.

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth


The Transforming Church (10)
CONTENTS of Part Ten

Summarising The Dangers

A New Reformation Pastors Despised Bringing In The Kingdom Unity is Demanded Community rather than Individuals Marketing The Church Tracking and Monitoring Military Training and Revolution






The Church of Tomorrow



Conclusion Summarising The Dangers

A New Reformation
Perhaps the fundamental problem with the Cell-church and Church Growth movement is that it aims to "create a new wineskin" for the revival outpouring of today. The leaders have long realised that denominational church structures could not be transformed sufficiently to contain a doctrine so alien to its historical message. They planned to transition all willing participants into new structures where they could be formed up into a army under discipline. For example, we see the plan discussed at the "National Symposium on the Postdenominational Church" convened by C. Peter Wagner, and held May 20-23, 1996. This meeting was co-sponsored by the Office of Continuing Education in Ministry, Global Harvest Ministries, and the Prayer Track of AD 2000 and Beyond. There the decision to transition the Church into cells was firmed up in order to take the New Apostolic agenda to the public. The cells were to be organised by zip code and city districts and brought under the leadership of the postdenominational church and its pyramid structure hierarchy. Naturally, modern-day "apostles" are in charge!

Wagner is in many ways the kingpin of what is happening, both in the revival, the rise of new apostles and the changeover to cell churches. Go to his leadership site at and you will not only see names of many cell-church leaders but those of other "prophets" and major names in the revival, all networking to promote their agenda, which is the "transformation" of the Church. Much more could usefully be said about this one subject, which in a sense is the bedrock of it all, but the limitations of space mean that further information must be provided in the form of offsite links to the articles of other people, and the statements of the apostles themselves, including Wagner. In an article on the New Apostolic Reformation that appeared in "Arise" magazine, the comment was made that:

"There is no doubt that the greatest change in the Church since the Protestant Reformation is taking place before our eyes. Not only is it affecting the way local churches are operating, but it is changing the paradigm of traditional denominational structures and giving birth to new interdenominational alliances. And it is all pointing us towards world harvest.

"The thing that attracted me to studying this was the incredible rate of growth among this segment of Christianity, and a lot of that growth is taking place among the younger generation," Wagner concludes. "This is a new wineskin that's going to appeal to them, and I think we are going to see a lot more people giving up traditional systems to embrace this more relational kind of organization [= cell churches]." [Arise article]

For more on Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation: Sandy Simpson's index to relevant articles on this subject Moriel Ministry article Books required for supplemental reading in C. Peter Wagner's course CG802/AM802 Growth Dynamics of New Apostolic Churches... "a one-page report form must be filled out for every book read (whether in whole or in part) and submitted along with the self-evaluation paper in order to receive credit." List includes Manifest Sons of God teachers Bill Hamon and Doug Fortune. [PDF download]

The Facts on the Apostolic Reformation "The Church Map is Changing all over the World"

Attitudes towards the Opposition
This move to cell churches is seen as THE single requirement for "fulfilling the Great Commission" and indeed for rearranging the Church into its (supposed) proper structure governed by apostles and prophets and the rest of the five-fold ministry. Therefore, any who will not network with the apostles nor transition their churches towards cells come in for some strong language from the leadership.

Prophecies undergird this movement, and time and again we read that the old "Saul-type" leadership must give way to the "David" and that traditional leadership must end. Local pastors and elders are under tremendous pressure to network their churches with the City Apostles and through them to the Global Church. We are told that those who will not submit will die out, be judged by God, or be removed and lose their churches.

Resistance is Futile
David Hood, who has received "advanced cell training" under William Beckham and has been helping an Australian church in the transition process for five years says that religious people (as he calls them) are those who will resist the paradigm shift for longest and cause the most trouble in the transformation process. He likens them to the Pharisees at the time of Jesus: "Jesus encountered such a reaction in His ministry on earth, and it is interesting to note through whom it came – the most religious people. It was the religious people who persecuted the apostles when they carried on Jesus’ ministry after He ascended, and it is likely that Satan will use those he has bound in tradition to resist you.... Jesus was uncompromising in His challenge of religion and tradition." No, in fact Jesus was uncompromising in his challenge of FALSE TEACHING. He had come to liberate mankind with the truth; the Jews who opposed him were in fact bound to a religious ritual and legalism that had removed any trace of the truth from their thinking. Now it is any who dare to resist the juggernaut that is pushing them towards a reorganised Global Church who are labelled "pharisees" and "religious". Traditional leadership is despised and small independent churches are supposed to shape up or ship out. "When God has finished with his reformation, we will not be lawless, prideful, or independent. .... We will recognize leadership, be fitted into the body, and walk in covenant love". (Ron Wood "Leaving Organised Religion")

Bringing In The Kingdom
The aim of this entire movement and doctrine as I have said many times before, and everywhere on this site, is to bring about the supposed "kingdom of God" on earth, the millennial rule, but before and without the physical presence of the Lord Jesus. Having dealt with that doctrine in so many other places, I will keep my comments here brief. The rule of God, and conversion (or compliance) of the nations, is a wonderful promise of God and something to which we can all look forward. The bible is full of the glories of the world transformed by King Jesus and wisely and fairly ruled by his chosen government on earth, Himself being the Lord and Head. However, until quite recently these promises were rightly seen by evangelical Christians as coming to fulfillment AFTER the physical return of Jesus in the Second Coming. Until then, Jesus is not given the title "king" of earth, but is "Lord" of believers and Head of the Church only.

Now a different and alarmingly heretical doctrine has had a resurgence, being a mixture of Manifested Sons of God, sonship, Latter-Rain and post-millennialism, so that the return of Jesus is relegated to the dim recesses of post-history so that the Church on earth can become the "incarnated Christ" by means of an impartation of glory - the Glory Cloud ("shekinah").

"[in cells]...experiencing the activity of the Spirit as they become a true body for Christ, they are being immersed (baptizo) into a new structure. They are becoming hands and feet for the incarnate Christ to use in fulfilling His work on the earth." [Foundations April 2001; "Man-made and Spirit-Made Cells" by Ralph Neighbour.] As the Christ, these men who have received their transformed glorious resurrection bodies (opinions differ on this) will be invincible, all-knowing, powerfully anointed and enabled to rule over the Church. They are likened to Joseph who went before Israel into Egypt to prepare the way for the nation and like Joshua who led the people over the Jordan into the Promised Land. This process in now beginning, they say, and in preparation for it everyone must come into obedience and be subject to divine authority, under the covering of the apostles. The only option is therefore the cell-church system which not only restructures the "wineskin" to adapt it for the New Order, but provides a handy vehicle both for discipling the members and for propagating the message. Naturally, if you ask about these things, you will be fobbed off with some bible verses and idealistic rhetoric that makes the whole scheme sound marvellous, for the real meat is reserved for those trusted disciples who have undergone "transition" and passed "beyond the veil".

Unity is Demanded
Dr. Peter Wagner says, "The church is Gods power plant to destroy the works of the evil one. It is now waking up to the most powerful weapon in its arsenalunity." (Breaking Strongholds in Your City, Regal Books, 1993) It was Jesus who came "to destroy the works of the evil one" in fact, and we are simply here to proclaim that victory to any who will hear. But putting that aside, is unity really the most powerful weapon that the Church possesses? If so, pity the poor Church that for two thousand years has never possessed full visible unity! Translated, this statement really means: without everyone under the same leadership, adhering to the same doctrine and singing off the same hymnsheet, the task of converting the world cannot take place. Independence is a threat to those who seek to rule.

Having authority over eachother is unbiblical The apostles and prophets speak much about their "authority" but the bible nowhere talks of eldership "taking authority" over their flock or discipling members of the Body. In the word of God, those who have authority are God, angels and demons, and on earth kings and rulers, but at no point do believers have authority over one another.

As Christians, in Jesus, we are privileged to have authority over the devil and his works, and some material things, but never other Christians.It is only kings and governors who are set in authority over others - they "lord it over you" in a way expressly forbidden by God for the Church eldership. But in cell-churches, authority is strictly enforced, one over another in a pyramid fashion. Churches are being reorganised into interlocking, networking cells and city churches, and all must all be united and under authority of apostles! "Unity affects authority. Elders in a united church in the city have spiritual authority. It affects the whole city when they pray. They sit at the gates of the city. Divided elders have diminished authority, or none at all. Disunity prevents effective corporate prayer". says Ron Wood, in "The Church in the City". I doubt that Elijah's authority in prayer was diminished because he was alone. History records that many men and women, single-handed and without organised support from a recognised church, have made major impacts in missionary work and all other Christian endeavours. It has very often been the work of inspired individuals (often opposed by all they knew) that made the biggest breakthroughs in the history of the Church! Division does not affect spiritual authority, especially not if the division has been because of doctrinal error. In that case, withdrawing from error (as God commands) can actually intensify our authority by purifying doctrine and bringing us closer to God. One man or woman truly following and serving God can achieve more for the kingdom than thousands who are mere robots to a dogma! Unity is only of value if the united belief is that of the true gospel. Unity in any other kind of teaching would be fatal to the Church - whereas independence allows for dissent and disagreement and the examination of teachings so that anything erroneous can be rooted out. Nonetheless, unity is the cry today. We are told over and over that without unity the task "cannot be completed". Without one united voice, heart and purpose, we cannot bring the "christ spirit" down to take over the Church. This teaching has much more to do with New-Age "critical mass" and the Global Brain than the bible!!

Community rather than Individuals
The idea of "the community" is another danger-sign in the cell-church model. Personal and individual salvation, while acknowledged, cannot be completed and fulfilled, according to Ralph Neighbour, unless performed in community. A "common-unity" or community in New Age terms is all about people subsuming their personal and individual selves for the "good of the whole" and creating large (and eventually global) entities that think and move as one, relegating individuals to cogs in a huge wheel, robotic living parts of a massive machine. Naturally such machines do not function without orders, and those orders have to come from the "head". The ideal community for such a purpose is one where there is no personal thought and belief, but all are submitted (mindless) and unthinkingly do as they are told.

The concepts of a religious "community" and its task in setting up the kingdom on earth; its role as the earthly expression of the incarnate Christ; these ideas are not so far from the New Age ones as some like to think.

"The group forming the cell group must undergo significant value changes....We are all aware that salvation from the penalty of sin is the result of the finished work of Christ on the Cross. The return of Christ will also bring salvation from the presence of sin. But becoming free from the power of sin requires the work of Christ actively working in the group.... [Foundations - April 2001; "Man-made and Spirit-Made Cells" by Ralph Neighbour.] The concepts of birthing a corporate "christ-body" on the earth, and becoming merely working cells in that community, is very akin to the Manifested Sons of God idea of the coming spiritual "corporate christ" which is to rule over the nations. The House of God takes on a meaning far beyond the Christian one when it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Individual Christians should have the freedom to rebel against all they know to be ungodly, abusive and unbiblical. Yet in cells their personal freedom of thought and action is dissolved into the good of the community.

Marketing the church
The need to attract huge numbers of people has led to a change in methodology. Now the tools of the secular marketplace are being used to soft-sell the Church. I have dealt with this elsewhere in the series. For further information, please read the article "Niche Marketing, Audience-Driven, Full Service Churches: How We Got Here?" By Orrel Steinkamp, The Plumbline, Volume 8, No. 1. Of equal concern is the soft-pedalling on sin and the attempt to produce a Church that is comfortable and easy-going, offending no one. The examination and teaching of doctrine is in some cases expressly forbidden "because it divides" while sins ("mistakes") are glossed over and "love" emphasised above all. This extract from a membership course for a G12 cell group illustrates the point:

School of leader, course #12, level 2 "Principles for a dynamic & successful cell."

4. No discussion on doctrines. They are divisive. (Romans 14:1 1 Timothy 6:20-21) We are here to build lives on the Word. Do not be afraid of saying that you do not permit conversations on doctrinal issues.

5. Do not say anything about someone's mistake. Don't permit negative comments. (Luk 6:37)

7. Lead in love. This is what we need the most (John 3:16). Love accepts the person but not the sin... The cell group must be an island of comfort.

Monitoring and Tracking
Yonggi Cho was heard to say in 1984 that even when he is in the United States, he can locate every person in his 500,000 member church (now much larger) through the cell system. Cho could say this because every leader is accountable to another leader who is also accountable to someone else. There is also a sophisticated monitoring system in most cell churches that logs the activities and progress of every member. Everyone is monitored, pastored, and accountable - from the pastor of pastors to the raw recruit. Detailed statistical reports are handed in each week. A normal cell group report includes the weekly attendance in the cell group, the location of the next meeting, those who were saved, and other important details.

There is even a market for cell-church computer software that is used for databasing the members, events and activities and producing reports. On this "Keeping Track" meta-church website the instructions are complicated and look like hard work. Peter and Paul had it easy!!

"Reports created in database software should give counts of groups with a leader interviewed by a coach for each month for each staff member and overall. Also for count of groups with Xa named, by staff member and overall. Head counts are interesting as observables, but are not as significant as recency of coaching interviews as driving indicators In filling in the record (row) for a particular group, use parentheses to indicate when a staff person or an active group leader is also serving in the role of a coach...(and so on)"

Would you feel easy about sensitive personal information that you shared in private with your "shepherd" being logged and stored on a database, possibly ready to be used against you if ever you should kick against the system? Other popular cell church software is EXCELLERATE and CELLTRAK which is sold on the TOUCH website (Ralph Neighbour.) CellTrak contents include such things as: Complete tracking of cell members and cells.



Member notes, children, history, skills, background and training data fields are included. Contact tracking of non-members. Cell profiles of active members, sessions, start date and meeting times. Speedy weekly cell activity data input. Numerous built-in reports with a variety of selection options. Exports member data to your donation program.






Way back in the 80's I remember the Copeland ministries asking all their newsletter subscribers to send in full personal details about themselves, complete with photograph, to be stored on card files. (I declined!!) So, at the same time that cell churches are databsing information about all their members, so too are large organisations, ministries and the globalist "missionary" centres such as the World Prayer Centre which is planning to database believers and ethnic groups right across the globe! [see my own previous report on this]

"The World Prayer Center located in Colorado Springs is a trans-denominational effort spearheaded by two Christian leaders. They are: Dr. C. Peter Wagner of Global Harvest Ministries, and Pastor Ted Haggard of New Life Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado. The WPC contains prayer rooms, a spiritual mapping repository, classrooms, a large auditorium, and a bookstore containing an extensive selection of materials on prayer, spiritual warfare, the new apostolic reformation, the prophetic ministry, anointing oil and art.

Why Is There A Need For The World Prayer Center? Never in the history of the church has it been possible to link believers throughout the world. ... a fully equipped nerve center with data and information about prayer needs throughout the world enable intercessors to pray intelligently. This cell church structure and its software therefore provides for an integration technology that ultimately ties it to the database of such ventures as Promise Keepers, Lighthouses of Prayer, Bethany World Prayer Center, Brigada, and the other globalist organisations. This is creating in effect a global database that soon will include every man, women and child on the earth: where they are, what they are doing, and what nationality they are! The database is structured to ethnic groups, since the Church Growth rationale is that people can more easily be influenced to adopt a message that is being accepted by others in their own culture. (The homogeneous principle, as previous discussed in the Church Growth section)

Built to Withstand Opposition
The Historian Herbert Butterfield says:

"The strongest organizational unit in the worlds history would appear to be that which we call a cell because it is a remorseless self-multiplier; is exceptionally difficult to destroy; can preserve its intensity of local life while vast organizations quickly wither

when they are weakened at the center; can defy the power of governments; is the appropriate lever of prising open any status quo. Whether we take early Christianity or sixteenthcentury Calvinism or modern communism, this seems the appointed way by which a mere handful of people may open up a new chapter in the history of civilization (Herbert Butterfield, The Role of the Individual in History, Writings on Christianity and History ed. C.T. McIntire (New York: UOP, 1979) Notice here the potential of cells, both for good and evil. To defy the governing authorities, to "prise open the status quo" and to "open up a new chapter in history" may be an altogether good thing at times. But what if this model fell into the wrong hands, and was used for the wrong purposes? The parallel between cells and the Internet is striking. The internet was originally conceived as a military device for ensuring the continuance of vital communications at a time of war or national disaster. The authorities realised that a simple serial daisy-chain communication model could easily be disrupted by knocking out one of the nodes. A net model was more effective. If one or many of the nodes were removed, the communications could bypass the missing or damaged nodes and find an alternative route to the target node. (That is the way the internet still works today.) The Church is being remoddelled as a NET. That means each node (cell or church) is connected to the net by more than one link, and if one link breaks down - or if one cell defects - the message can keep on moving and multiplying regardless. It can therefore be UNMOVED BY OPPOSITION and UNAFFECTED BY THE REMOVAL OF SOME CELLS. Cells present a very difficult target when dealing with heresy, because a successful move against one individual node or collection of nodes cannot shake the structure as a whole. A comment about introducing the cell church structure into Russia illustrates this point:

"The beauty of these three different meetings is the mobility and flexibility this allows the Cell Church through any changes that are forced upon the Church by the government. If the government stops all public gatherings the main function of the Cell Church is still intact, its "Cell Groups". This second wing, the Cell Church, consists of Cell Leaders, Zone Supervisors, and Zone Pastors who still continue to carry out the main part of their jobs throughout the week. The church goes on! Congregations can meet corporately in a culture house that seats under 300 in their Zones on Sunday. They have the ability to move from culture house to culture house if changes are mandated, the word can get out quickly and quietly through the cells." (Cell Church Resource network) We need to realise that the cell-church movement is huge and growing. If the above observations are right, it will also be near unstoppable, by any means! Thousands of churches involved in the revival, and involved in "fulfilling the Great Commission" are now undergoing a "transition" to a cell structure. It is seen

as THE way forward, and THE method par excellence, for evangelising the "unchurched". The trouble is, they are right! Young people in particular are much more likely to come to a home than a church building, and converts are much more likely to stay where they know all the members of a cell and enjoy one to one discipleship and counselling.

For good or ill
Again, this cell model can be used for good or evil. It is a method that can be very effective in evangelism, but if it is used for preaching the wrong message it can be devastating. Those who are converted into and discipled under a system that is intrinsically wrong, are much less likely to escape it. They will not only have their original allegiance to worry about, but the pressure of intimate friends and colleagues in their cell. Unlike conventional church membership, any defection or sign of rebellion in a cell would be noticed instantly and dealt with by the elders; any desire to move out or move on would be seen as a personal betrayal; any decision to leave would have to be done in the context of losing one's closest friends and family! A cell system opens up many possibilities for surveillance and tracking, and makes it easy to keep tabs on the members's personal lives as we have seen. It has been pointed out before that practises such as group confession of sin, or making confession to an elder, puts the participants at risk. Sins and failings could be held over the head of a disobedient member as a subtle blackmail should they be so rash as to leave the cell. The same is true of the intimate "sharing" that would take place between cell members. There is simply too much at stake for a member to make waves!

Military Structure and Revolution
Exactly the same tactics are used by the Patriot groups of America and elsewhere. A "military manual" of the "Free Militia" until recently available online outlines the problems facing any such organisation, and the way they are to be overcome - organisation as cell groups. Please see below how many of these statements are echoed in the cell-church literature! Part "2.3.1 The cell structure" in the manual says:

"The fundamental rule guiding the organization of the Free Militia is centralized principles and planning but decentralized tactics and action....What is meant by this key statement is that the whole Militia must be committed to the same cause and coordinated in their joint defense of the community. Thus, there must be allegiance to a higher command. But specific tactics should be left up to the individual elements so that the compromise of a part does not compromise the whole.

The way a balance between these competing concerns is achieved in the Free Militia is to organize all elements into "cells." A cell is a group of eight men who train and work together to accomplish a particular goal or task important to the broader purposes of the Militia.

We use the term "cell," because a cell is the basic building block in any living organism. Just as all life, growth and reproduction is based on living cells, all Militia "life" is centered around its cells. The identities of cell members are known only within the cell and by their immediate superior. All basic training is done within a cell.

Why the cell structure? Military operations must depend on teamwork. But the teams that comprise the larger organization must be small for several reasons: The small size facilitates camaraderie. For the most part, the men who train, work and fight together in a cell will stick together and the cell will remain intact, even though the cell as a whole may be transferred from unit to unit. This will develop personal closeness, trust and loyalty among its members that is critical to effectiveness.

The small size allows for personalized training. By knowing and having frequent personal contact with each member, a cell leader can train each man at his level and pace simultaneously with developing a strong cohesiveness among the team.

The small size means manageable communication and coordination. The cell leader easily conveys clear orders to a small group of men. The higher command elements can give orders to the whole Militia through the chain of command without direct contact with the individual soldier.

2.3.3 Companies organized by cells: The cell is the smallest unit of organization within the Free Militia. All larger units consist of cells organized together under the same command. For instance, four cells comprise a platoon and are led by a lieutenant. Four platoons comprise a company and are led by a captain. This system is illustrated in the following organizational chart. [not shown here, but very similar to that seen in the cell church literature.]

Perhaps only one cell will exist at first. As new recruits join up, seasoned men will be promoted and new cells formed. Eventually platoons, companies, or even battalions (four companies), will form.

All basic training is done within and by the combat cells with oversight from their platoon lieutenant. This includes training in ideology, individual combat skills and team combat skills. Particular orders or instructions are conveyed through the chain of command and are carried out by the combat cells. In the event the combat cell is isolated from the main group, it is designed to continue to fight on its own, using guerilla tactics.

Main ideas of this section: A cell is a group of eight men who train and work together to accomplish a particular goal or task important to the broader purposes of the Militia. In the Free Militia, your contact and exposure to other members will be limited to direct lines of command and two levels of rank above and below.

In the Free Militia, you are only responsible to obey those of superior rank who are in direct line of authority over you in the chain of command. Basically, you are obliged to obey any order pertaining to preparations for or conduct in actual combat regardless of how you like or "feel" about it."

This manual shows us that the cell-church structure has much in common with a tightly-organised military operation. Indeed, military language is often used to describe the "new paradigm" (Joel's Army) and young people in particular are being called to train as revolutionaries. Back as far as 1990 this "endtimes army" was being called out "You, too, can be a world changer. Even now, God is grooming a troop of revolutionaries who will accomplish great things simply by making themselves available to God." (Jay Rogers) and today this talk of revolution is everywhere in the apostolic/prophetic movement. Cindy Jacobs, one of the "Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders" gave a “A Prophetic Call to Revolution” in August 2000 calling for “radical revolutionaries to the church.” This year "The Call Revolution" spoke of the need for a new "Jesus Revolution" amongst the young, "Calling forth extreme devotion to God and Nazirite consecration in a young generation destined to be the flashpoint of a Jesus revolution." But what is the objective? Jesus Christ did not come for military combat nor to "take the nations" in this way. The gospel message does not need to be enforced either inside or outside the Body, if all are taught to know the Lord individually, and are submitted to HIM. Great variety and even disagreement can be tolerated within the Body, and groups may organise totally independently of one another, but still the main task of proclaiming the message of salvation can continue so that people are brought to God! Nonetheless, world domination does require a somewhat different approach - unity, obedience to human authorities and tight organisation.

The Bottom Line
In all things, we are to obey God rather than man. Man-made systems for trying to improve on God's word (for instance, trying to convert millions when God's word says that few will be saved, and that many will fall away from the faith before Jesus comes) will ultimately bring only frustration and disillusionment. God's word and God's will should govern all that we do - whatever replaces or contradicts them cannot be Godly, and cannot bear genuine everlasting fruit. (The supposed "fruit" of attracting large numbers of people into churches doesn't count - all religions recruit new members.) In the meanwhile, however, there's a false gospel being preached and a false kingdom being set up that appears to be the real thing. There's a false unity being pushed that is far from the organic one-to-one spiritual unity that Jesus gave us as believers. The problem is, most people don't want to know what God says, or what he's asking, nor what he's told us will happen. Most people are unwilling to see or accept God's truth because it's unpalatable to them. In this world of immediate sensual gratification and pleasure all they want to hear about is success and victory. They are:

"Children who will not hear the law of the LORD; who say to the [truthful] seers, "Do not see," and to the [genuine] prophets, "Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits." (Isa 30:9-11) Believers looking for excitement, self-fulfillment and a "positive" message (whereas the bible is not always "positive" and pleasing) will be drawn into cell churches and the apostolic reformation without understanding that - on a global scale - it is a method of control and indoctrination. The fact that many - elders included - are sincere and zealous, seeking to save souls, is to be applauded, and I'm not here to criticise well-meaning pastors engaged in evangelism and discipleship. The motives in many cases may be worthy, but the doctrines and methodology are incorrect. Does this matter? YES, it matters vitally, because nothing we do for God can be an invention of our own minds and thoughts and ideals. Finding a few scriptures to back up our own predetermined plans is deceitful. Everything must be initiated by and sanctioned by God. The leaders need to heed this before it's too late. Is it better to save one person by a genuine word of God and lead that person into a biblical faith, than to influence thousands to follow a false doctrine?

What shall we therefore do? What is to replace all these things, you ask. What shall we therefore do - how can we "evangelise the world" and "filfill the Great Commission" and "reform the Church" without these things! This is like the drug addict asking "if I give up my heroin, what can you give me to replace it? How shall I get my kicks now?" No, drug addiction is entirely wrong! There is nothing to replace it, but living the life God gave you without artificial substances to support your needs. Even if we had absolutely nothing in this life, would falsehood be acceptable just to fill the gap? Is it right to turn a blind eye, accept second best, go along with error simply because that is all there is? However, it's not true that we have nothing - we have everything! God has richly provided for our needs. Faith in God, belief in his word, heeding his call, trusting in his provision and power, serving him - this is what we are called to do. We can have powerful, effective worship and intercession without religious systems and tight organisations, if only each individual is taught to know God and hear God. With God as the Head, not men, each individual fits into the Body as a limb, just as the bible says. Each person has a place, a positioning, a gifting, a role and a mission.

Self or the true God?

Are you prepared to accept a small-scale, humble, hidden work that does not attract glory and status? Are you prepared to go on faithfully preaching from the word of God, despite the fact that few will accept the gospel message and that you will meet with persecution rather than approval and acceptance in the local community? Do you value truth over excitement, and faith over works? Are you prepared to fellowship with the one's and two's, the misfits and the cast-offs? Will you seek out those who genuinely trust, love and serve God and obey his word, rather than personal satisfaction? Will you do the hard work of seeking God and knowing him intimately through prayer and study, rather than sit back and expect the leadership to know everything and do everything? Some argue that it's "negative" to expose the deceptions of cell churches without putting something in its place. But that would be to imply that Jesus has not given us sufficient for all our needs. Hasn't he said that he has given us "ALL THINGS THAT PERTAIN TO LIFE AND GODLINESS"?? What then do we lack? We already have all we need (potentially) to serve God and do his work. What is desperately needed is the obedience, faith and dedication to put those things to use, in the good old-fashioned way, believing that God will bless the tools he's given us.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:31-32)

"So Jesus said to them, "...if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt 17:20) .

Copyright 2008 Tricia Booth

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