One pastor transitioning to the cell church wrote: “Would a community centre offering things like a drop-in coffee shop, counselling rooms, relationship-training and other courses be considered under “programs” if undertaken by a growing cell church?” Questions like this weigh heavily on the minds of most leaders considering the cell church. “Are all programs of the devil?” many wonder, thinking that the cell church teaches this.
What is a program? According to the dictionary it’s simply a system of procedures or activities that has a specific purpose. Synonyms include plan, agenda, and curriculum. The cell church movement rightly downplays the over-emphasis on programs, believing the main focus must be the cell. Let’s be careful, however, not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Even the fastest growing cell churches have ministries that look very similar to programs.
Bethany World Prayer Centre features a children’s ministry, worship team ministry, Saturday morning prayer meeting, youth ministry, and college and career ministry. You’ll find at the International Charismatic Mission in Bogotá, Colombia, one of the most famous cell churches today, the ministries of worship, spiritual warfare, T.V., radio, counselling, ushers, follow-up, social action, pastoral care, accounting, video, sound ministry, bookstore, and more. Yoido Full Gospel Church, the founder of the modern cell church movement, highlights a number of ministries. Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore, a world renowned cell church, reaches out to the physical needs of the Singaporeans through day care centres, after school clubs, centres for the handicapped and deaf, diabetic support groups, and legal counselling.
Even Ralph Neighbour said, “Realistically, perhaps it is best to say that in the cell church very few additional programs exist.”
The word ministry comes from the Greek word “diakonia”, where we get our English word deacon. Ministry speaks of humble acts of service for others. The word program, in contrast, often carries the idea of self-perpetuation-something that has a life of its own. Ministries serve and sustain both the celebration and cell structure; programs divert theattention away from cell life. Ministries add to the success of the cell system; programs compete for time and activity.
What kind of ministries am I alluding to? I’m referring here to ministries such as prayer, ushering, the follow-up of new converts, missions, social action, children’s ministry, nursery, etc.
Those planting a cell church shouldn’t be burdened with adding ministries. Follow the policy of adding new ministries only as the need arises. Yet, many established churches reject the cell church philosophy outright, thinking that all ministries are of the devil. Don’t imagine that the cell church is only a worship service and a cell meeting and nothing more.
The key question is how are you integrating the other activity in your church? In the cell church, it’s not acceptable to erect ministries apart from the cell philosophy. Nor it is acceptable to simply call every group that is small a cell (choir, board, prison ministry, etc.).
Most successful cell churches maintain the methodology of the cell church while not butchering church ministries. It is best to say that a person should be actively involved in a cell group to be involved in other ministries.
“The purpose of all our ministries is to support, serve and empower our cells to serve others.”