Sunday, July 08, 2007

why isn't this working?

If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway? Would you have my baby?

I guess that was the precursor to Timbaland’s new The Way I Are. But I digress.

As an adult, I’ve always worried about two things: (1) Losing my passion. I never want to be one of those people just existing, having given in to those around me and having just accepted that “this is the way it is.” “Nothing can change.” (2) I never want to be that guy in the church fighting change. God please don’t let that happen.

In that vein, one of the things I’ve always wondered is whether or nor my generation of Christians will have the ability to see beyond ourselves. Will we embrace flexibility in our forms of evangelism and discipleship, or will we too get to a point where we find a programme that we believe to be the “be all end all” of church programming. The same things goes with our style of worship.

As a local practitioner and church planter (how did this happen?), I’m getting the opportunity to experiment with many of the popular models of evangelism and discipleship. Cell church, of course, being one of the trendiest of the models (incidentally, the word “cell” takes on a seriously different connotation in a neighbourhood with a high concentration of Muslims…thus we’re not using that word.) And I have to tell you that, in our current setting, I’m just not sure of the effectiveness of the traditional model of cell church. For one thing, cell church meant to bring back the idea of community. But, within a culture that is already very much living in community, I’m not sure that the need exists. Furthermore, they might need something that is just the opposite to balance things out. I’m not suggesting that we go back to having a traditional worship service, but I am suggesting that a more traditional form of community Bible study might be in order.

Now, for those not up to speed on the cell church lingo, you might be wondering what the difference is. I’m with you. To me, cell church is nothing more than a way of breaking down some of the formal barriers of church and allowing people to interact and, therefore, journey (doh!) together. But for many hard core cell churchers, (believe this or not), there is a very formal and structured approach to cell church. And, for those who subscribe to this formality, there is a BIG difference between “cell church” and “small groups”. Some of you are laughing, but it’s true. Kind of ironic isn’t it? Anyway, as I travel around London, checking out what other churches are doing, and as I attempt to put a “model” in place in my own locality, I’m finding that the models suggested out of California and Chicago, might not be entirely relevant among Africans, those from the middle east and parts of Asia, or even more traditional English men and women (who really seem to struggle with intimacy in any form). Young, hip English men and women seem to eat it up, however, as do people from the far East (China and some of its surrounding countries), so I am not suggesting that we throw it out all together. Still, as with any “new” idea, let us keep an open mind. New ideas might have some good guiding principles, but they’ll no doubt need to be tweaked from one location to another.

Btw, I’ve added two great new blogs to my right hand column. Questionable Content and Schmuckfactor. Both good reads. Questionable Content is written by an old childhood friend of mine who, during our childhood, was Pentecostal and who spent most of his life in that church but who recently switched to the Methodist church and is now serving there as a worship minister. I’m watching with much interest (and a big grin on my face) to see how that one works out. : ) The other is an old friend of mine from one of the first churches I ever served in. He and another friend were the ones who introduced me to one of my all time favourite singer/song writers, John Gorka (the legend). Check them both out.

Comments on "why isn't this working?"


Blogger Larry said ... (2:58 AM) : 


for years we have formalized and taken models. this might work for this generation. i wonder what will work in 20 years. in order for us to be relevant and keep make a mark on society we need to be thinking ahead. what is the next thing is what we should be asking? for now, i know cells and small groups are working. i hope we don't get so inot models that we do what the church growth movement did. it took Christ out of the church and made it a marketing plan instead of intentionally fulfilling the great commission.

bless you in your ministry. did you ask jamie if we could go out?


Blogger FREEMAN said ... (7:50 AM) : 

what are the chances of checking your blog for the first time (linked off Larry Ashcraft's) to find you pondering the cell church model?! I love that!

So I'm in a cell church (USA) that was birthed out of an international student ministry almost ten years ago. Our church currently finds itself with a considerable amount of "mission drift" to confront.
We have taken a huge step, starting with our board and staff, to find a common DNA again. (This dna HAS to be more than just the 4 "W"'s!) I'm convinced more than ever that the cell church model cannot work without fervent prayer and Holy Spirit leading the way.

...But at least there's a clear pass/fail!! My experience in program-based churches is that God could leave the building and everything will just keep putting along. The cell church restates the goal: No longer will it be about the number of people in the pews (or even in groups), but instead success will be the number of disciples made. That's a big "OUCH" in my book, because discilpleship is such a Spirit-dependent process. The cost feels high for someone like me who grew up in "spectator christianity." But what a sweet deal to see it actually work!

Our leadership gaps in the church are not "leadership" gaps at all. They are discipleship gaps. And though cells are not the ONLY way to raise up disciples, I believe they may be the most effective way.

Anyway, we're still learning. We've found that it's not about 5x5, or G12, etc.- it's about disciples who make disciples. And that I think is the heart of the cell model.

Thanks Tim for all your activity and honesty throughout the blog world!
Your bro in California,


Blogger jsi said ... (3:33 AM) : 

You are very keen to the knowledge that your communty may be quite resistant to manufactured community because they already have that in their formal and informal tapestry. Yeah, using "cell" to describe your worship might get you more visitors than you anticipated and all of them would require to see within every paper bag and box and ticking tennis shoe. You are facing a complicated set of circumstances, but worshipping Christ is foundational to your attempts at outreach and development. Embrace your place within God's work in your life and be moved towards the formal or the informal measures which will reach out best. Keeping Christ within your everyday conversation keeps awareness available to everyone - Christ will be praised! Allow the Holy Spirit to be your most fundemental guidance and inspiration. There may not be a formula or an a+b+c manner in which it will happen, but you're right, it may surprise you when what these people are turning to you for is a formal worship service. Wouldn't that just knock your socks off.
Hope all is well with those women in your life. Your ministry sounds thrilling, exciting and fulfilling. Embrace and enjoy!


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