Stresses that cause cell churches to fail


Where is the Church going part 3 Stresses that cause cell churches to fail: 1)        It’s a system and these sorts of systems are like straightjackets for the Spirit of God. God is constantly renewing and refreshing the church, yet any system will lose its life after a while. We can clearly see this in the Methodist Church, which in its early life was vital and lively, with much of its life based in small groups (classes) yet within 100 years, was in need of renewal and refreshing. Whenever we take a clear move of God and turn it into a system or method, then we sign its death warrant. God wants us to work depending on Him and His grace, not on a system, method or denomination. When we divert our attention from Him to a system, He stops blessing.   2)        It builds uneven or unstable structures. Often cell churches grow in an uneven way over an unstable base. The core leaders are not sufficiently equipped within their character to support the growth occurring in their celebrations. At the same time parts of the church grow at different rates often emphasizing the insufficiencies of the leaders.   3)        Its structure is pyramidical and does not represent the true image of New Testament servant leaders. The Senior Pastor is on top of a pyramid of Zone Pastors, Area Pastors, Local Pastors, and Members. The Local (cell) Pastors although said to be real pastors are subject to a whole infrastructure of authority.   4)       Inappropriate leaders, seeking to fulfill their own goals, as opposed to group goals, often lead to splits.   5)       It falsely describes itself. It says that the real church is each individual cell, however talks of churches of 10,000 people. If what they say is true, it is legitimate to claim celebrations or communities of 10,000 people, but each church is more or less 12 people, and the 10,000 represents the church in that area, but only if it includes other denominational groups and churches within its make-up and local church leaders are seen as equals. It is true, however, that within any group of leaders some will be more spiritually gifted than others, or speak with more spiritual authority, yet the authority of a local church rests on the shoulders of the local elders, who subsequently are responsible for decisions taken on behalf of the church.   These stress areas cause an inherent instability in various areas leading to unhappiness, frustration and eventually splits, caused by:
  • Disagreements over policy
  • Disagreements over doctrinal stresses
  • New leaders not being allowed to develop
  • Unattractive leaders not given a place “Problem people” being sidelined until they leave.
  • People with problems never finding the true solution as they stay in a permanent evangelistic cell instead of a growing more or less permanent group which becomes the loving environment where they will encounter Jesus, the answer to their need.
  • Prophetic words or leads never really being communicated to the whole structure, therefore prophetic ministries feel frustrated and eventually leave.
  • Leaders without necessary character traits.
  • Abusive behavior of core leaders who must maintain the structure and therefore manipulate or otherwise abuse members into cooperation. Mustage and oughtery (“You must do this and ought to do that.’ with no scriptural basis).
  • Failure of members to mature.
  Let me give an illustration of an imaginary situation, but made up from several situations I know personally. St. A’s church in Bigtown received its new minister in January, two years ago. It was a middle of the road evangelical/charismatic church of about 80+ members. The minister introduced the elders and deacons to cell churches and it was enthusiastically agreed that it would change to a cell church structure. Within the first year the cells were up and functioning, although 20 people decided to go elsewhere or stopped coming altogether. The elders considered that 25% fall out was acceptable in the light of multiplication growth to come. At the beginning of the second year a significant prophetic leader in the church left, taking with him his cell and one other. They felt (correctly?) that the minister was more interested in his structure than what God might be saying. In the middle of the year all remaining cells had shown significant growth and the church had made up all its losses. However, when the leaders tried to put in place new cells and some new leaders, several people left, either because they were being separated from friends and loved ones, or because their leadership was not recognized. Now, two years after the start of the exercise, the 3 youth cells have announced that they are leaving to start a youth church, as they were never listened to. The cell led by an elder has dissolved due to an unresolved sin problem. And the minister is manipulating and cajoling members to comply with the system, calling those who have left rebels and jezebels, creating a sense of fear among the members, who will conform so as not to be rebellious. So in two years all that has been created is a sick church with members not really owning the vision, and a minister driving himself and his sheep to fulfill the very vision (structure) which is causing the sickness. So what is the answer? Is there a way ahead? (taken from Organic House Churches and Healing Communities by Keith W. Smith. For a complete copy please contact the author) © 2000 Prof. Keith W. Smith Reprint by written permission only