Kensington Temple is a fellowship of believers living for God and meeting in cell groups all over London. It is not just about the seven services that take place every weekend in the main church building. For more than ten years we have proved that cell groups are one of the most effective ways believers can grow themselves and develop their God-ordained ministry to others.
People are being saved weekly in the cells and being brought to maturity as they grow in fellowship and in the grace of God. The cells are the first line of pastoral care and members are learning the joy of reaching others for Christ. This happens where we spend most of our time – outside the regular meeting times in the KT building. Cell ministry is one of the richest expressions of church life and it happens where it really counts – in your daily life.
In this article, I answer some of the frequently asked questions about our vision for cell church.
1.Why did KT adopt the cell vision?
A large church can be very impersonal with members only making brief contact with each other once a week on a Sunday. That is not the community vision of Jesus for his church. We are members one of another and we must build church into our daily lives. For many years we were a church with a small group ministry. With barely 100 people in small groups, it was not effective at all. The cell vision moved us from being a church with cells to become a cell church with thousands of our members active in cells. Every member now has the opportunity to build mini communities of good news right where they are in their daily life. Through the cell ministry they learn to be true disciples of Jesus and to become disciple-makers of others. This, after all, is the purpose of Jesus’ Great Commission – to make, mature and mobilise disciples (Matthew 20:18-20).
2. Why the Model of 12? Why do you think that a cell church model from Latin America can be imposed on other cultures?
For the first five years of our experience with cell church (2000 – 2005), we worked closely with the G12 Model, developed by Cesar Castellanos in Bogota, Colombia. The model is based on the way Jesus ministered. He concentrated much of his time building the team of 12 that he would later release into the world.
For five years we learned the Bogota Model inside and out, and over the next five years we worked at making it our own. We developed ways of applying the Model of 12 to our situation with precision. This is an on-going process. The basic cell principles are biblically sound and we have found that they can be effectively applied in a variety of ways in a wide range of different cultures.
3.You seem critical of traditional church models. Are you not being a bit arrogant when you say that cell church is a superior model?
In my book People with a Passion I do offer a critique of the Traditional Church Model. I don’t think many people would argue that the way we are doing church today is not working. Just look around and see the relative ineffectiveness of the traditional way of doing things. While the Traditional Church structure does have some positive points, it is fundamentally flawed at two levels. First, in the way it relates to the concept of ‘church’ (the Bible word is ‘ekklesia’). Second, in the way it expresses Christian ministry (the Bible word is ‘diakonia’).
A correct understanding of the words ‘church’ and ‘ministry’ in their biblical context is one of the most important needs of the church today. The ‘church’ in the New Testament does not refer to a building or merely to Christian meetings. Church is a relationship – we are permanently gathered to Christ in relationship with one another. This relationship exists seven-days-a-week and not just during the Sunday services. The cells help us express this aspect of church that exists outside the regular hours of ‘Sunday Christianity’.
The ‘ministry’ in the New Testament does not just refer to the official ministers, the Pastors who lead the church. It applies to all believers who, as the body of Christ, do the work of Christ. The official ministers are there to train, develop and release the whole body to do the ministry of Christ. The cell structure is an effective way of helping every believer to fulfil their call to serve Christ.
Any church structure should be assessed by its effectiveness in producing disciples and disciple makers. If we really believe Matthew 28:18-20 is the job description of the whole church, then the whole church should be structured in a way that best facilitates the fulfilment of this mission. Traditional Church tends to encourage passive spectators of the ministry rather than active participators in it. That is why we at KT have abandoned the traditional model.
4.The Bible teaches that leadership is a special gift given only to some. How can you teach that every Christian should be a leader?
I passionately believe that every Christian is called to be a leader. We are all called to lead people to Christ and to lead them deeper into the faith. This does not mean that every believer is called to be a leader as described in Ephesians 4:11. God has clearly given some (not all) to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
However, people with these ministry gifts are called to “equip God’s people for works of service”, as Ephesians 4:12 shows. In my book, The Fivefold Ministry Today, I show how each of the major ministries equip every believer for the work God. The whole church is called to think and act apostolically and prophetically. Every believer is called to reach out to others evangelistically. We are all called to care for one another pastorally. And the job of discipling others (the teaching gift) belongs to every believer.
5. The cell ministry demands too much time from people. Won’t they just get discouraged and burn out?
Discipleship is not time-consuming; it is an all-consuming passion. Our Master tells us that if we want to follow him and desire everything he has for us then we must take up our cross die to self. You cannot follow Christ fully, unless you build the whole of your life around the priorities of his kingdom.
I often say that the cell vision does not demand one second of people’s time! That is because no one is coerced into serving Jesus. What you give to God must be given willingly or not at all. Also, the cell vision is about serving Jesus as a lifestyle. It is not about giving up more and more of your free time to do church work.
When you bring your discipleship into your daily life, you realize that his plan is for you to serve him every moment of every day. Your home, your work, your school, your recreation all become opportunities to glorify Jesus. The cell vision shows you how to bring your discipleship into what you do outside the official church services. It releases you to serve God right where you are. His agenda becomes your agenda. His plan is brought into every part of your daily schedule.
Cell members reach out to the lost in the course of their daily activities. They become witnesses at work. Their social life takes on a new meaning as they build relationships with their friends and show them Christ’s love. The time spent with cell members is a joy as we become renewed through the power of fellowship. As deep relationships grow between cell members they become our closest friends. We must make sure that our busy lives do not crowd out the true purpose of our existence – to know God and introduce him to others.
6. The cells put too much pressure on people to perform.
If they don’t do what is expected of them isn’t there a danger of being treated as inferior Christians?
KT is a grace church. We believe that everything that we are in Christ is the result of God’s unmerited favour. We do not earn our salvation by our works, our good behaviour or by our Christian service. We serve God because we love him, and we love him because he first loved us.
However, a true experience of God’s grace never produces lazy Christians. A knowledge of God’s free grace motivates us to serve God with all the strength he powerfully inspires in us. If people feel uncomfortable with the cell vision it is often because they have yet to discover the riches of God’s grace. In KT, no one is pressurised into doing anything. God is looking for willing obedience not reluctant servants. Our first priority is to inspire love for Christ and to keep that fire alive. Our service for Christ flows from this love.My advice to people is to take everything that KT offers – to make the most of the opportunities we make available to all. Few churches offer the training and the facilities have established in order for people to grow in the grace of God and to develop a life of effective service. It is all about fruitfulness. We do not treat anyone as second-class citizens in the kingdom, but we do ask them if they want to be fruitful for Christ.
7. This is a hierarchical model. Surely it leads to heavy shepherding and authoritarianism.
No one should mistake the cell structure as being hierarchical or authoritarian. The system of leaders developing other leaders who in turn disciple other leaders is based on the New Testament (See 2 Timothy 2:2). Submission is not a matter of blind allegiance or being controlled by your leaders.
We teach mutual submission – submission to one another. Leadership is about enablement and support so that you can grow into all that God wants you to be. We emphasise servant-hearted leadership modelled on Christ, not authoritarian leadership based on worldly models of power and control.We reject both authoritarianism and individualism.
In the body of Christ leadership functions are given to benefit the whole body and every member is present to serve others, not themselves. The cell model cannot function without these basic principles in place. It works against the superstar model of much modern charismatic Christianity. In KT, the heroes are the ordinary members who serve so spectacularly and not the prominent ministers who stand in the limelight.