Church in Many Houses Read Through: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: The Challenge of Thinking Differently

Summary: The cell-based church is not merely a church with a small group program. The cell-based church fundamentally sees itself in a different way and behaves appropriately.

“Most people, especially long-time church members, carry a mental picture of “church”. Just as a mosaic is made up of many small pieces of colored material which are artistically arranged to form an image, our picture of “church” is formed by a cluster of assumptions. Based on our experiences, we form assumptions about the nature of ministry, the role of leaders, basic expectations of members, and so on. We may not even be aware of our presuppositions, but they profoundly influence us anyway.” (Location: 692)

Note:We need to consider and confront this as we ask the question, “How many hurdles are we asking an unbeliever to jump over when we invite them into a study or service?”

“However, I also came to realize that at the core of the resistance was a conflict of assumptions. Cell ministry is not really about structure and method. It is about values. It is driven by a specific way of thinking about the church. Conflict arose because the assumptions upon which cell ministry are based are quite different than those of the program-based church of which all of us have been part.” (Location: 707)

Note:We are blind to our assumptions until we are confronted with them. In order to be confronted we have to ask, read, listen, imagine, and study to get a better view.

“The biggest difference between a program-based church and a cell-based church is not the existence of small groups. A church can have dozens of small groups and still be thoroughly program-based. The biggest difference between a program-based and a cell-based church lies in the understanding of ministry upon which the church is built.” (Location: 714)

Note:This is key!

“There are five essential philosophical shifts program-based churches need to make in order for the cell approach to succeed.   These are:  

1) From “growing deeper” to “reaching outward”

2) From membership to disciple-maker

3) From educating to equipping 

4) From programs to relationships

5) From a church with cells to a church that is cells.” (Location: 726)

Note:I think #2 has a differing view of “membership”. See Jonathan Leeman’s book on Church Membership. I look forward to reading how he defines it later in the book.

“As we prepare to take a fresh look at commonly-held assumptions, it might be helpful for you to pause and take a brief personal inventory of what you currently believe about topics such as:  

Church: When someone says the word “Church” – what image comes to your mind? Some may see a building. Others may picture a worship service, or possibly acts of service to the poor. What is your dominant image?   At your church, what does it mean to be “active”? Does it mean attending worship services? Volunteering in service in the church or community? Something else? What do you think of when someone says they “go to church”?  

Church Membership: When one is a member of a church, to what do they belong? An organization? A family? A mission?  

Ministry: What does it mean to be in ministry? What kinds of activities does it involve? Who does ministry? How are people prepared to do ministry?  

Spiritual Growth and Maturity: What exactly does it mean to grow spiritually? What does spiritual maturity look like?” (Location: 735)

Note:Ask these!

“Our society may be changing around us, but little has changed within us. Technology continues to advance at dizzying speeds, changing the way we work, play, communicate, and learn. Major political changes have altered world alliances and the balance of power. Nonetheless, all human beings still have a deep need to be in relationship with God and with others. The priorities of the cell church focus on meeting those deep, unchanging needs. In many ways, shifting to a cell ministry mindset does not spur the church to keep up with the times, they help the church become independent of them.” (Location: 757)

Note:This last sentence is especially poignant.

“Cell ministry can cut against the grain of our American radical individualism, entertainment orientation, and consumerism.” (Location: 766)

Note:We don’t want to admit this, but it is true in so many of us. I find it easier to come, listen, and leave than to prepare, participate, and grow.

“Instead, we can think of the church as a furnace. Any working furnace will produce heat, but some are more efficient than others. The point is not that the program-based church will not produce any heat (disciples). However, when it is working right, the cell-based church is the most efficient way of making disciples who make disciples. That is why the world’s largest churches are cell-based churches.” (Location: 775)

Note: “Don’t reject this idea merely because you feel like it is attacking what you have done all your life.”

Overall, I think the main takeaway to this chapter is that we need to reconsider our assumptions of what the church “looks like”.