House Churches, G-12, and Some Implications for the Future

Why are cells replacing, not just augmenting many congregations?

I hear it everywhere. I read it in almost every church publication I see. "Denominations are declining" … "Denominational officials are worried". … "Worship attendance in established mainline congregations is dropping" … "and what are all those 'small groups' which are forming around us?" A Worship leader in Alabama explained it in a song. He wrote, "our castles reached to the sky, and now they are crumbling and we don't know why." (Jesse Crowe, Falling Castles) I hear it from people all over the U.S. who are discontent with denominations (see Lyle Schaller in NetResults, March/April, 2004) and who are searching for an authentic way to be the "body of Christ in motion". More often than not, they tell me of their desire to form a network of small groups, cells, or a "house church."

For years I (and many of us) have taught that as a congregation grows larger, it must likewise grow smaller. Small groups are a core ministry for assimilation and discipleship in the local church. The point of small groups is growing disciples toward greater faithfulness, giftedness and maturity in an attempt to accomplish the mission of the church with greater efficiency. Newer congregations are starting here—developing their small groups or cells as "the" core ministry. Ralph Neighbor is fond of saying that when cells are done properly, no other "programs" are necessary. While many might find that limiting, I have found Neighbor to have his hand on the pulse of the people in this country who are flocking from congregations, and yet who are more spiritual than ever before. These people want more than a talking head or wiz-bang worship band. They are looking for an experience with God that will transform their lives. ...

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