In March 2002, I met Mark, the pastor of a growing Southern Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. His church started in 1995 and had grown to 1000 worshipers and 100 cell groups. He was sold on cell-celebration ministry, telling me that it was the most Biblical and effective way to reach people in the 21st century.
"I train our cell leaders to be ready to pounce on every visitor in the church. Our cell leaders immediately try to assimilate the newcomers by inviting them to their cell groups. We've discovered here in North America people prefer to first attend a large celebration service and afterwards attend a cell group for fellowship and growth."
"What about cell evangelism?" I countered. "Shouldn't we be training and encouraging cell members to evangelize their friends and neighbors?" Pastor Mark agreed wholeheartedly with me. "It's not an either-or situation. We should ask our people to do both," he said. "Most of our small group growth, however, comes through assimilating people from the large group gathering."
Tap into your Large Group Potential
We've heard over and over the need for small group evangelism. And yes, we need to constantly exercise our small group evangelism muscles. But let's not forget the large group context. The ideal is that everyone in the church attends both cell and celebration. In reality, there will always be a pool of those who attend only the celebration. Some of these people are visitors; others have attended the church for quite a while. Some will participate in a cell group after one invitation; others require a shove.
My advice is to aggressively invite all people at the celebration service to the cell: "I'd like to invite you to my cell group on Friday night at 7 p.m. I think you'd really like ...