It was the eve of the New Millennium. The news was full of scare stories about a computer glitch called the millennium bug. Apparently the internal computer calendars had not been designed with the year 2000 in mind. What would happen after the counters reached the final count at 1999? Some said all the computers of the world would crash. There would be a banking crisis. Airplanes would fall out of the sky. Others said the world was going to end. Millennium fever had arrived.
The New Year was going to usher in a new era. There was no doubt about that. On New Year’s Eve, KT/LCC gathered at our Tabernacle venue for an all-night prayer and praise celebration. We preached, we prayed and we prophesied and had breakfast together on the first morning of the new millennium—all 4,000 of us!
The Tabernacle, so named to complement the Temple building in Notting Hill Gate, was a warehouse in Acton, which we had managed to lease for a period of four years in the late 1990s. It was going to be redeveloped and therefore not available permanently. We were very grateful for the years in which we were able to gather there every Sunday evening and to use it for larger events.
Reinhard Bonnke visited us in 1998 and Joyce Meyer preached to a packed house in 1999.
We believe in big gatherings and during that season had used many buildings across London for our citywide celebrations. The Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena and London Docklands hosted us on many occasions in the 1990s.
Something special happens when the whole London City Church gather together. Network churches meet together with the KT congregations. They are times of victory, praise, celebration and spiritual warfare and are usually highly prophetic occasions.
Grace for the City
In response to a prophetic word, we launched the Grace for the City events under the slogan “There is still yet more grace for London.” In 1998 four thousand of us met in Wembley Arena. I had received a vision of God’s judgment over London and announced three signs that would take place to confirm this word from the Lord. The signs were not supernatural but clear for all those who were concerned enough to look for them. In the subsequent years these signs were all fulfilled and fully reported in Revival Times.
The judgment I announced did not spell the end of London as a city, but it was a clarion call to the church to proclaim the gospel in a totally unashamed fashion. Just as Romans chapter 1 describes God handing the Roman society over to its own God-rejecting ways, so God was turning London and the British society over to its own devices. This is a most serious judgment, but it is not the end of the matter.
Against the dark background of a society turning its back upon God, the apostle Paul said he was delighted to be able to go to Rome and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. “It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”, he said.
Renewed focus for the new millennium
The new millennium was going to bring us into an identical vision. London was turning away from God, but the church was very much alive. London is a revival hotspot compared to many other parts of Britain. But how were we going to rise to the challenge of the new millennium? Rampant secularism, false religion and the rising tide of anti-Christian measures in Parliament could mean only one thing. Every believer had to rise up and be counted. The church must become more than a place where people go on Sundays. It was essential that we return to the New Testament principles of every member ministry and the mobilisation of the entire church to live for Jesus. But how?
The answer was right there in the Tabernacle. The KT building was used as usual by the crowds who attended every Sunday morning. Then we all gathered in our thousands for one large celebration service every Sunday evening in Acton. This meant that the building was free on Sunday mornings to be used by one of our network churches that had grown very rapidly in recent days. It was the Spanish fellowship planted out from KT by Edmundo Ravelo under the direction of the senior minister of the day, Wynne Lewis.
The church had never grown beyond 300 people but now it was exploding. There was talk of the church soon reaching 3,000 attendees, all Spanish-speaking and all enthusiastic for Jesus. They had been in touch with Hispanic leaders who were using a new model of church called the G12. This was a cell church model developed by Cesar Castellanos in Bogota, Colombia.
Souls and cells
For the next two years, the KT/LCC leaders met weekly to seek God, discover more about the G12 and follow the progress of our Spanish church. Some went to the big conferences held in Bogota, bringing positive reports, having seen this cell church model in action. With full accord, the leadership of KT/LCC decided to adopt the G12. We made frequent visits to Bogota and other countries where the cell vision was operating. By the year 2003 we had fully made the transition into this new way of doing church. The celebration at the Royal Albert Hall that year was a high spot for the whole church. It coincided with my 50th birthday, and the celebration was memorable. At that time, 10,500 people were in cell groups across the London City Church network.
It was more than adding another dimension to our existing vision. We could see that the key to our whole vision was the cell strategy. Every member being a disciple, and every disciple being equipped to make more disciples – this is what New Testament mobilisation is all about. Not only is the cell ministry effective in reaching new people, it is ideally suited to help new believers grow, become strong in their faith and care for one another in true New Testament fashion.
Releasing the body of Christ
As the years went by, KT began to adapt the Bogota strategy into the culture of London. We wrote our own materials and developed fresh elements to what we had been taught. The current cell model still uses the principle of 12 and is true to the principles of the original vision, but it is now our own version of cell church ministry.
The emphasis is on the training and releasing of believers to do the work of Christ. It is about equipping the body of Christ to do the work of Christ in the world. It links Christian ministry to the workplace, to the home and community life of our members and helps them see the whole of their lives as a service to God. It is about 24/7, whole-life discipleship. It focuses on every member ministry. It is about bringing God’s kingdom into the whole of society.
After adopting the cell vision, training became the heart of everything that we do. We continued with the training of pastors and leaders for the fivefold ministry through our Bible School (IBIOL). But the emphasis was on training leaders who became trainers of trainers. It was our way of putting into practice the biblical injunction of 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”.
Raising up disciple-makers
In this verse Paul shows how the Christian faith is propagated – not only person to person, but also as each person trains others to reach others to train others to reach others. In this way a movement of people begins which we call a generational downline. We don’t just win souls, we win soul winners. We don’t only make disciples, we make disciple makers. We don’t merely train leaders; we train trainers. This is the genius and the beauty of New Testament Christianity.
Over the years KT has stood at the forefront of innovation in church life in London. That has not changed. We believe that traditional church models need to be reformed and that mere Sunday Christianity must be replaced with a new radical move of evangelism, mission and social change. Perhaps the cell vision is the single most influential innovation KT has embraced and it has the potential to bring about such a movement in London and beyond to the cities of Britain and Europe.