CellChurch Magazine

Volume Seven - 1998

CellChurch Magazine, Volume 7, #2

Publisher’s Notes – Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr

This issue presents one of the first articles in America on the “G12” structure, so effectively being used in Bogota by Cesar Castellanos and successfully duplicated by many other Spanish speaking pastors. In a visit to Guatemala City, I saw an astonishing growth at the Fraternidad Cristiana de Guatemala, which patterned their cells after this model. Larry Stockstill is best known for implementing this model on a test basis in the United States at Bethany World Prayer Center, but he is not the only one using it. Mike Atkins, pastor of The Church of the Nations in Athens, is also working out the bugs in the context of a Georgia university town. Others on the East Coast are also involved in testing this pattern.

It is important to understand that the actual cell group format is not changed by cell management structures. The “Four W’s” (Welcome, Worship, Word, Works) are universal in all cells. What changes is the way the cells function: either multiplying (the 5 x 5 pattern) or planting (the G12 pattern).

Who should try to adapt the new G12 pattern to existing cell structures? Remember this: when a new paradigm is introduced, there is no guarantee it will solve the problems of the organization any better than the old one. Being a part of the birthing process is not for the weak in heart. Joel Barker describes those who should embark on new patterns as Paradigm Pioneers. Only 3-4% of pastors are able to do that. Others, “early adopters,” should wait until there is enough history to verify the new management system is better than the previous one.

The interesting thing about the cell church movement worldwide is that there is a similar structure for cell groups everywhere in the world. It is the work of the Holy Spirit! Acts 2:42-46 is the pattern for the New Testament church. The variations of management systems among cell churches are all men’s ideas of how to lead the cells. Those following the 5 x 5 structure refer to Jethro’s model. Those following the G12 structure refer to the model of Jesus and the Disciples. Dion Robert in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, has still another unique model patterned around a military format that works phenomenally well for him and is different than the first two mentioned.

I really don’t think the management model is as important as another factor: how do cell groups reach the lost? For many years, I have worked on the other end of the spectrum: not how cells are managed, but how cells penetrate. As you read my article in the following pages, please keep in mind that the third model presented focuses on this area. I have seen strong cell churches stagnate because they relied on oikos penetration alone. They eventually run out of contacts. Nothing is more important than transitioning cells which develop mature Christians to target specific interest groups.

I seem to have a problem making folks understand what I say next: I see oikos evangelism as “home missions” and interest group penetration as “foreign missions.” Consider the first as reaching people you already have a relationship with (your own contacts) but the second as moving into the culture to reach people who have no contact with you, but who can be reached by finding a neutral ground to develop a relationship.

Going “into all the world” exceeds the limitations of oikos contacts. Once we have won our “Jerusalem,” there are the “uttermost parts” to be touched. A cell structure that ignores the need to aggressively penetrate those in the community who have totally different lifestyles will never grow large with converts.

Thoughtfully read this issue, and consider both areas: the management structures for cells and also the penetration strategies for them. May God give you insights into both areas!

Pastor’s Pilgrimage – Interview by Jim Egli

Exploring The Groups of Twelve

César Castellanos is pastor of the International Charismatic Mission in Bogota, Colombia. ICM is perhaps the fastest growing church in the world. It has gained a lot of attention recently because it has modified the cell model in a way that enables it to accelerate leadership multiplication and cell growth. Last summer there was an assassination attempt on Pastor Castellanos’ life. After a Sunday morning service, his car was ambushed and he and his wife, Claudia, were shot multiple times. For two weeks, he was in a coma, hanging between life and death, but he was miraculously healed. Later in the summer, his family moved to Houston, Texas to find a safe haven. In January 1998, they returned to Colombia. Jim Egli of the TOUCH staff had the opportunity of interviewing César on the day they left Houston to return to Colombia.

CCM: Thank you very much for giving us the time for this interview in the midst of a busy day. Please tell our readers the history of your church.

César: ICM was birthed when God gave me a vision in February of 1983. Prior to that, I had been in the ministry for nine years, pastoring in different denominations. Four months before God spoke, I’d resigned from my last pastorship.

I had said, “Lord, I’m not going to commit myself to anyone until you speak to me. I need to know what it is that you want me to do.” Now, why did I pray like that? Because I understood something. Many pastors do God’s work, but they are not in His purpose. Many servants of God are doing what God did not call them to do. I had come to a crucial moment in my life. Even though I was pastoring, I did not feel satisfied. For that reason I decided that it was better to resign and wait for God to speak to me.

Four months after I resigned, God gave me a message that transformed my life. One of the things God told me was: “Dream of a very large church, because dreams are the language of my Spirit. The people in the church that you will pastor will be as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the sea. You will not be able to count the multitude.” But then, He asked me: “What kind of church would you like to pastor?” The largest church I had pastored had 120 members. So I was picturing about 120 people. I was striving to expand that number in my mind, but I couldn’t; I just couldn’t. I realized that picture would not contribute to the vision. So I begin to look at the sand of the sea. As I looked at it, each grain of sand transformed and became a person, and I began to see hundreds of thousands of people. Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see?”

“Lord, I see hundreds of thousands of people,” I replied.

And the Lord said: “That and much more I will give you, if you are in my perfect will.” The entire inspiration for the church came from that message.

God told me to dream. I hadn’t realized that dreaming was part of faith. I thought dreaming was New Age or something. But when God gave me this word, I understood many new things, and a veil was removed from my mind. I realized that God was the first dreamer! God dreamt of us before we ever existed! That’s why we are here in this world. So I began dreaming, and basing my work on goals. God spoke to me about this. He said, “You’re going to establish goals. You’ll have a great goal, and then short-term goals. These short-term goals will lead you to the great goal. They must be linked to one another.” Everything I did had to contribute to that grand goal.

Based on those two points, in March of 1983, we began ICM. It was birthed with eight people in our living room. My first goal was to reach 200 people in six months. The only thing I did was to apply what God spoke to me: “Dream, and establish goals.” In three months I had 200 people! God honored that faith. I was dreaming. I could see the people arriving. There were so many I could see them forming lines. People were waiting for others to leave so they could get in. From that moment on, everything I have done and everything I do is based on faith! That’s why I have no fear to thrust myself into great challenges. I know that if God is in the task, God will back it up.

Six months after I started, I began preparing certain people for leadership. I had the vision of involving all of them in cells. The only thing I knew of cells was what Dr. Cho had written. In the first years as we tried to implement Korea’s model, I found that it worked, and it didn’t work. It is not that the model is bad; it’s not that at all. The model is perhaps very good. It worked in Korea. When I tried to introduce it, I ran into a different world—an experience that I believe many pastors have had to go through.

One of the difficulties is the time it takes to build leadership. This model takes two years to prepare a cell leader. I tried to do it in the same way. I sent them to the Bible Institute, and when they came out of it, they no longer had friends to win. If sixty began the training, fifteen would finish. I wanted to give momentum to the cell model, but the people could not adapt to it. I did not let that discourage me. If it didn’t work one way, I would make it work another way.

After seven years, we had 70 cells. The model worked—but very slowly. In 1991, the Lord removed the veil. He revealed to me the model of twelve. I’d been to Korea in 1990. I saw what they were doing there, and that challenged me greatly as a pastor. I dedicated myself more fully to my work. But the moment came when I said, “Lord, I need something that will help me accelerate the growth.”

During one of my times of spiritual retreat God said to me: “I’m going to give you the ability to train people quickly.” Then he showed me the model of twelve. He asked me a question: “How many people did Jesus train?” At that moment, my mind started running through the New Testament. I began to see Jesus’ ministry with clarity. I could see the multitudes that followed him, but the question was: “How many did He train?”

I replied: “He trained twelve.” The multitudes followed, but he didn’t train the multitudes. He only trained twelve, and everything he did with the multitudes was to teach the twelve.

Then the Lord asked me another question: “If Jesus trained twelve, should you train more than twelve or less than twelve?”

I responded: “Lord, I should not train thirteen nor eleven—but twelve!”

Then the Lord said, “Focus on that.” From that moment on, I began choosing people from the leadership, and the Lord showed me very clearly how the multiplication would take place.

I met with some of my closest leaders, and I began to teach them this new way. We worked to develop it and ever since then the growth has been unprecedented!

In 1993, we had 600 cells. In 1994, about 1200 cells. In 1995, we jumped to 4000 cells. In 1996, we leapt up to 10,000 cells! I’m just waiting for 1997’s report! Even though we have been absent from our nation, the cells have continued to grow! The leadership has continued to work for their goals. There’s good motivation, and we’re expecting an excellent report.

CCM: The genius of your church is the way it produces leaders. How do you take a brand new Christian and make them a leader?

César: When a person accepts Jesus, usually they come from a world of evil. In the past, we’ve believed that with the simple act of lifting up a hand and saying, “I accept Jesus,” all of a sudden they are converted into the holiest person. But to accept Jesus is more than a mechanical prayer. There has to be a time of drawing near to God. When a hand goes up, that’s just the first step. Then you have to lead them to encounter Jesus face-to-face. This happens at the Encuentro weekend.

The person who accepts the Lord first goes through what we call the Pre-Encuentro period. This involves four sessions that prepare them to go to the three-day retreat. When they arrive at the retreat, they have a few foundations. Then at the Encuentro, we minister to them assurance of salvation, inner healing, deliverance, and fullness of the Holy Spirit. When a person leaves the Encuentro, the miracle has already taken place!

After this, there are four gatherings that are given to them after the Encuentro called Post-Encuentro. After that, we bring them to the School of Leaders. It takes, more or less, six months from their conversion till they become a cell leader. If they don’t skip out in the process, they’ll be able to bear fruit rapidly. This system is why we have leadership that quickly becomes fruitful.

As they go through these steps, they begin to fix the problems in their lives. By the time they are leading their cell, they are already living in victory.

CCM: There are four pre-Encuentro sessions before the first Encuentro. Afterwards, there are four follow-up sessions. When do they go to a second Encuentro?

César: Three months later.

CCM: Is the second Encuentro the same as the first one?

César: No, the teaching is much more advanced.

CCM: When they go to the second Encuentro are they with other people who have all already been to a previous Encuentro?

César: It’s usually the very same people they with whom they attended the first Encuentro.

CCM: Are men and women at the same encounter?

César: No. Women go to their Encuentro and men go to theirs according to the group that’s organizing it. It’s only mixed when it’s a couple’s Encuentro.

CCM: I want to ask a few questions about the groups of twelve. Let’s say I have become a Christian, I’ve gone to the Encuentro, and I belong to a cell group. When I start my own cell group, do I keep going to my original cell group? When do I become part of a group of twelve?

César: You’re chosen into a group of twelve because of your work and your fruit. These are people that have had success in their cells. There is a separate meeting for them.

CCM: How long is that meeting and what takes place there?

César: It’s relative. I spend all day Monday with my group of twelve. [Editor’s note: At this level, most of his group of 12 are full-time staff members and he can meet all day with them.] This meeting is very important. It is when the leaders are going to be with their people. The meetings might be two hours.

CCM: What happens at the lowest level in a group of twelve meeting?

César: They will do the same thing that I do with my group of twelve. They will be given whatever was given them in their own group of twelve.

CCM: So the content passes down through the groups of twelve into the cell groups?

César: Yes, all the cells will follow the theme that is given them and that is the same theme that was preached on the previous Sunday.

CCM: This is my last question. What do you want to say to the pastors in America?

César: (Laughs.) That’s a good question. I believe that leaders in the American church need the Holy Spirit. I went to a well-known, luxurious church in America, but I didn’t feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s supposed to be a Charismatic, Spirit-filled church. But you could feel the coldness. I felt deep sadness, and the Holy Spirit said to me: “Son, I will tell you what has happened to the American church. It is like a man that bought his wife a beautiful home and bought the best things to fill that home. Then she became entertained with all the things that her husband gave her and she put him out of the house. That is the condition of the American church. They have kept My things, but they have pushed Me out, and I am on the outside.”

All I want to tell the pastors of the American church is: “Come back, come back to friendship with the Holy Spirit!”

Becky Keenan of Living Hope Church in Houston TX served as an interpreter for this interview. Thank You!

Cover Article – Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.

Structuring Your Church for Growth - An Examination of Three Cell Structures

So you know there are several successful ways to structure a cell church? Each one has been effective in equipping Christians for ministry and reaching unbelievers. All hold to a similar set of values, stressing that all Christians are ministers. All emphasize the supreme place of prayer. All have a similar goal, desiring to harvest the lost by penetrating society. However, they develop and manage cells in very different ways.

As you read this article, compare the system presently being used in your church with the others described. You will see variations that maintain the basics, yet provide different ways to disciple new Christians and develop leaders.


This is the “classic” system for cell churches around the world. Its major user has been David Yonggi Cho, who has built the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea. It has been adjusted for use in El Salvador by the Elim church, which numbers over 110,000 members.

In this structure, a group of 7 or 8 believers reach out to members of their oikos (household). They grow to about 12 to 15. During the time they are together, they sponsor incoming members who are trained to prepare them for ministry.

The leader of the cell selects one or more members to become interns to lead a portion of the cell. Once maximum size has been reached, the cell multiplies and two cells of 7 or 8 repeat the cycle.

It is called the “5 X 5 structure” because of the way it groups multiplying cells together to form sub zones. A Zone Supervisor serves five cell leaders. Five sub zones are cared for by a Zone Pastor. When there are five zones, these cluster to form a district, led by a District Pastor.

In this structure, the cells are usually formed geographically. Thus, there will be a North Zone, a Central Zone, etc. In the case of Bethany World Prayer Fellowship in Baker, LA, cells were formed by zip codes. Thus, cells matched people who were not homogeneous but who lived close to each other.

A zone averages about 250 people and 25 cells. A district will number around 1,000 people in 100 cells. In this structure, there can also be homogeneous cells for children, youth, college students, etc. that may not always be geographical. Other non-geographical cells may form for those who are deaf, handicapped or who speak a foreign language.

Multiplication of the cells takes place when six or seven people grow to 12 to 15 people. Some cells can do this in about 26 weeks, although first generation cells may take much longer.

As the cells increase, the installation of Zone Supervisors is mandatory. If the ratio of five cells to one Zone Supervisor is not maintained, the lack of mentoring and supervision can cause serious problems. There must also be a full-time Zone Pastor—the first paid position in the 5 X 5 System—to coordinate five Zone Supervisors and 25 cells.

There are many examples of fully developed 5 X 5 structures in the United States. These include the Cornerstone Church and Ministries in Harrisonburg, VA, the Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Southhaven, MS and the Shady Grove Church in Grand Prairie, TX. There are also scores of examples of this structure in the formation stages, not yet large enough to require a superstructure.


1) There must be a comprehensive equipping track that takes all new believers (and existing cell members) to a functioning level of maturity within one year. Without this there is a substantial breakdown in discipleship and leadership development.

2) Each cell leader must mentor two or three members with leadership potential to keep the number of interns higher than the immediate need. Without new leaders, cells cannot multiply.

3) A constant sense of urgency to see every cell member win a “Type A” unbelieverc (a man of peace) for Christ within six months of cell life must be maintained. The cell group will ossify and eventually die if evangelism is not considered the primary purpose.


5 X 5 cell churches around the world often have a ratio of at least one new convert for every three or four cell members each 6-12 months. The 5 X 5 cell movement in the U.S. will see this when:


The 5 X 5 structure is the most widespread cell structure today because it allows members who are not ready to become leaders to work in a productive cell environment and grow at a slower pace while watching fellow members move on into leadership. For many, this modeling is very productive. It is also a structure where “sit and soak” Christians can hide from issues and strongholds when the leadership is not strong and uninvolved in the lives of the members.

Relational evangelism between cell members is very strong in this structure. Many new Christians who join cells have solid friendships with three or more of the cell members. A concern is that when the “Type A” oikos contacts are exhausted this structure can suffer long-term growth problems, observed in cell churches overseas.

Cells multiply rapidly in this structure when cell members converted through relationship evangelism reach leadership. They are excited and have no traditional church baggage to discard.

A disadvantage is that close bonds are severed between cell members at the time of multiplication. For some this is not a great issue when compared to the everlasting implications of Kingdom building. Others feel that working relationships should remain together for much longer periods of time.

Another benefit worth mentioning is that leadership comes from within. Successful cell leaders move into supervisory positions and then into full-time pastoral positions.

District pastors may feel they are “out of the action” because they no longer have direct contact with cell leaders. However, ministry opportunities are always available if they seek for them.


César Castellanos is the originator of this system. He developed it for use by the International Charismatic Mission in Bogota, Colombia. He first launched his cell church using the 5 X 5 system and grew to a few thousand members. He then changed the structure, focusing on planting new cells instead of multiplying existing groups. Look at the diagram below as you read this explanation.

He selected 12 people from the church he personally wanted to disciple. He formed a “Group of 12” as a leadership team (1). Each person was assigned a segment of the community and formed cells within it. The G12 now meets weekly to report progress, pray, strategize, and edify one another.

César Fajardo, one of the 12, began to form youth cells (2). He trained teens to reach out to their friends and to form new cells. He then selected twelve successful teens to form his own G12. Thus, Fajardo belonged to Castellanos’ G12 and pastored his own G12, with cells being planted through teens (3). In time, each of Castellanos’ twelve formed their own G12, sponsoring cell members to become cell leaders (4). This “trickle down” effect has now mushroomed into about 20,000 teens in cells, and they are doubling annually! The adult cells are growing rapidly as well.

In the G12 structure, every cell member is considered a potential leader. Each leader is involved in a leadership cell (G12) and a personal cell, called a C.A.F.E. Group. In the leadership cell, there is nurture, care, and mentoring. In the personal cell, there is edification and evangelism.

A member of a personal cell may also have a third cell, meeting on the job or school to reach seekers. Many evangelistic relationships are formed around these cells (5).

The goal of each personal cell member is to draw unbelievers from these homogeneous groups who can be reached for Christ and move through the discipleship process to start a new group.

When a cell member plants a new cell, he or she becomes a member of a newly forming G12. Thus, there is a weekly leadership meeting to attend and a weekly personal cell group to lead. Rather than multiplying, the original G12 remains as a permanent leadership cell. Thus, the personal cells grow not by multiplying but by planting new cells.

In this structure, there is no need for Zone Supervisors, Zone Pastors or District Pastors. All G12 members are given instructions for mentoring in their personal cells. The salaried staff is reduced dramatically in this structure. When a person has developed a chain of 250 cells in Bogota, the church pays half the salary; to become a full-time staff member, the worker must have a chain of 500 cells!


As in other parts of South America, Colombia is in an unusual harvest time. Roman Catholics are becoming evangelicals by the tens of thousands. Thus, this Bogota church sees as many as 1,000 new believers professing faith in Christ every single week! All make their public commitment on Sundays at services held in the 20,000 seat Bogota Indoor Stadium. They are counseled by cell members trained in the work of “Consolidation” (follow-up) and enter a cell group.


Each G12 conducts a weekend retreat called Encuentro for incoming cell members. This is a critical part of their development. Within a month of entry into a cell, groups from the G12 and the personal cells will attend a weekend which begins Friday and ends Sunday afternoon. These take place in a retreat setting.

Multiple objectives exist for these retreats. For those first attending, they experience deliverance from strongholds and soul ties, along with receiving the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It is an intense weekend of ministry, led by G12 members and fellow cell members who sponsor the new converts.

Soon after, there is a Post-Encuentro session held on the church property that continues the bonding of this group of leaders and converts. Those attending the first weekend return together for a second retreat. These meetings include testimonies of victories over sin and soul ties. As the first attendees are then learning how to walk in the Spirit, the repeat attendees meet separately to learn how to launch a cell of their own. This Post-Encuentro session is followed by a weekly class for blossoming cell leaders.


In the G12 structure, oversight is provided through relationships. Community is a priority. Cell members are constantly at each other’s homes eating, playing, sharing the responsibilities of parenting and household chores. This is a part of the Spanish culture.

Will Anglo Americans be able to duplicate this value? Living according to Kingdom values requires Christians to place relationships higher than personal freedom. Once the G12 structure has been developed in the USA, we will know. This is being tested at Bethany World Prayer Center (Baker, LA), the Church of the Nations (Athens, GA) and other places. We will learn much from these pioneers.

The G12 structure does not stress geographical structures. Instead, the homogeneous unit is the exclusive focus. Senior citizens, youth, doctors, business and professional streams are formed. There is a natural, relational linking of people to one another. This may be difficult to sustain In sprawling metropolitan areas.


Many pastors who just peer into the window of the G12 structure see only a part of the complete view. Here are a few clarifications:

1) Cells do multiply. Members move to new areas, give away G12 members to others forming a new homogeneous work, etc. It truly depends on what God wants for each cell.

2) A group of 12 may contain more than 12 persons. Husbands and wives are considered one in ministry and do not break apart from each other if they are in family cells. Communication lines remain low due to the daily contact of the members.

3) While a husband, wife and youth in a family may each have a G12 with multiple meetings every week, the family unit is stronger because of the common ministry purpose and community aspect of the structure.

4) New Christians who do not start groups quickly are not cast aside or ignored. They are loved through the issues that keep them from becoming leaders.


The Interest Group structure has been developed through many years of testing by TOUCH Outreach Ministries. It is a development of the 5 X 5 structure and flows naturally from it. It is easier for those now in the geographical 5 X 5 structure to adopt it rather than moving directly into the G12 structure.

The Interest Group structure effectively converts geographical cell members into permanent leadership teams that focus on reaching affinity groups.

1 John 2:12-14 describes three levels of maturity among believers: little children, young men, and fathers (Of course, the gender designations are only related to spiritual maturity; John’s description obviously applies to both sexes.)


In a typical cell in this structure, the little children undergo “transformation training.” They are nurtured until they discover how to overcome the battles within their own lives. Few believers are effective in winning the lost until they have settled their inner struggles with sin, strongholds and soul ties. This is accomplished through a “Spiritual Formation” weekend followed by the first sixteen weeks of the TOUCH equipping track.


While the little children know they have a Father, young men also know the enemy and have “overcome the evil one.” Young men are also virile, capable of fathering children. The “Touching Hearts Weekend” will launch the equipping of cell members to reach responsive (Type A) unbelievers and is followed by five weeks of daily study.


Young men then become fathers—those who have brought children into the Kingdom. Thus, the cell leader seeks to help each child become a young man and then mentors him or her to lead a lost person to Christ, thus becoming a father.

Fathers are then equipped to reach disinterested unbelievers. They are given training to penetrate people outside their oikoses.

Fathers form a team of three and target a specific group. They might reach out to the recently divorced, those interested in computers or who wish to learn a second language. There are literally dozens of contact points that can couple fathers to strangers through interest groups.

Interest groups meet for ten weeks. On the tenth week the whole cell becomes involved through a final activity. (This is fully explained in the trilogy of materials called Building Bridges, Opening Hearts; Building Groups, Opening Hearts; Building Awareness, Opening Hearts.)


After geographical cells have produced many fathers, they will form an outreach ministry creating 10-week interest groups to penetrate the lost. It is important for fathers to be called by the Holy Spirit into these target ministries. Christian A. Schwarz writes, “God sovereignly determines which Christians should best assume which ministries. The role of church leadership is to help its members to identify their gifts and to integrate them into appropriate ministries.” (Natural Church Development, pages 23-24)

As in the G12 structure, the geographical cells can gradually be restructured to target a specific interest group. For example, one person may have a burden to reach single women with children. Others can be given the opportunity to join in and form a new cell that will target this group. Fathers responding will withdraw from their existing geographical cells and form a new cell.

Over twenty interest group cells were formed using this strategy during the 1970’s at West Memorial Baptist Church in Houston. They included: Divorcee Share Groups, Car Maintenance for Single Women, Teen Motorbike Repair Groups, Parents Of Retarded Children, HOPE (Helping Others Practice English), etc.

When a 5 X 5 structure has reorganized so each cell group penetrates a special group, these cells begin to produce converts. They then form new cells that are homogeneous cells. They will not necessarily be geographical. Furthermore, it is possible for those in the penetration cell to remain together indefinitely, creating new cells with their converts. Close ties remain between these mother and daughter cells, since they meet regularly for strategizing new ways to reach their interest group.

When we first did this, it took about a year to see the results of restructuring cells to focus on interest groups. In our worship services, we had two rows for parents of retarded children, another row for teen bikers, Japanese families reached through HOPE, etc. In all, we had 21 different interest group areas that had naturally developed through fathers who had been led into ministry by the Holy Spirit.

One cell member had a vision for reaching people in apartment buildings. He manufactured a plastic holder for Christian booklets and installed them in laundry rooms where residents rested while washing and drying their clothes. Invitations to an interest group were placed in each booklet. Soon a large number of people had contacted him, and his cell began to swell with new converts.


The Interest Groups structure should not be implemented by cells that have not experienced a harvest of Type A unbelievers. Premature implementation could be harmful, much like running a marathon by one in poor physical condition. Cell members must overcome the evil one and sire converts and disciple them prior to launching an Interest Group.

Interest Groups require an abundance of cell leadership as well. Many cell churches move members effective in evangelizing into leadership, thus delaying Interest Group launches. This slows down penetration of the unreached. There must be a balance.

Interest Groups are very successful when disciple-making cell members have a passion to reach a segment of society. The addition of Interest Groups to a maturing 5 X 5 structure will foster body life evangelism.



Every cell structure must ultimately focus on targeting segments of the community. The pure 5 X 5 structure does so through geographical cells which seek to reach those living in a district. The difficulty with a geographical structure is that people often have no natural contact with their neighbors and eventually run out of oikos contacts that can be reached. The 5 X 5 also requires a severing of working relationships by members when new cells are formed.


The G12 structure develops through twelve leaders who focus on different segments of the community. Thus, a non-geographical network is formed to reach women, men, children, youth, professionals, etc. These new pyramid cells are planted through people who are converted. The difficulty with this structure being used in America is the time-consuming demands of being in two cells a week, plus attendance at multiple training events and continual retreats. Whether it is effective in this nation where people lead busy lives is yet to be demonstrated.


The Interest Group structure first uses geographical cells to mature believers until fathers are developed and then plants new cells targeting interest groups. It actually combines many of the best features of the 5 X 5 and G12 models. It forms cells that are focused on penetrating a certain segment of the population. Thus, these cells are homogeneous and can also be geographical.

What structure should your church follow? God will direct your path as you learn the basics of a life of prayer and harvesting. Your church will make changes in its structure as it matures and gains direction for continued growth. Your greatest challenge is to remain focused on the Wine while renewing the wineskin.

Children’s Ministry - Holly Allen

Practical Ideas For Your Cell - Your Children are Dormant Volcanos Ready to Erupt for God!

Dad, aren’t you glad we went to our cell group tonight? We got blessed! I like getting blessings over me!”

Ten year old Zachary, one of the spiritual “bricks” in our church, said this to his dad after a cell meeting. (Our spiritual bricks are those 9 to 13 year old boys who draw or make airplanes during church and ask when will it be over every five minutes.) I asked Mike, the dad, to describe what happened that night. He said:

The men and women in our cell decided to divide for prayer during cell time. We sent the younger children out for their own children’s cell, but we decided to ask the older children to stay with us. Zachary stayed with the men. After several men had requested and received prayers, I asked for prayers for my relationship with Zachary.

At this point, Mike interrupted his description and told me that he and Zach had never connected the way he had envisioned and that he felt like his efforts were failing. He continued:

First several men prayed over Zachary and myself; then there was a pause, a long pause. Then Zach began to pray . . . for our relationship, that God would bring us closer and that we wouldn’t argue so much. Then the other men prayed over us again, asking God’s blessing over Zach and me. It was the closest moment Zachary and I have ever spent together. I was really touched, but I didn’t know how Zach felt until we were driving home.

This story and other experiences like them have prompted me to examine what happens to children when they are involved in this kind of cell life. We know that adults grow spiritually in cells, but how can intergenerational cells provide opportunities for children to grow spiritually? In my church, all cells are intergenerational. Because we have relatively few older members, many of our cells have no “grandparents.” Most have children, parents, and singles and married young adults.


When our cells meet, the adults and children stay together for about half of the cell time. During this time, the children participate with the parents in the icebreaker,  worship, prayer, and the Lord’s supper. Then the children are dismissed for the children’s cell (or kids’ slot).


First we ask a question to which all (adults and children) respond. They are usually light and even silly. Sometimes the children become giggly; some say nothing; some say something absurd. But every week the children come to know the adults a little better, and the adults come to know each child. If this is all that happens during the icebreaker, it’s a good thing.

Occasionally something wonderful happens. One time the icebreaker was: “What are you afraid of?” Some of the responses were: gaining too much weight in my pregnancy; that I will die young like my dad did; that I won’t be able to finish my thesis; that I won’t pass fourth grade; that my cancer will return; and that Ben won’t get his parole.

Then a second grader named Jeremy put his head on his arm and began to cry. In a small, jerking voice he said, “I’m afraid to go to sleep because I have nightmares.” One of the fathers in the group immediately came over to Jeremy and put his arm around his shoulders. He held him for a minute, then prayed with him and over him that God would take away the nightmares. One of the older elementary girls said to Jeremy, “You know, Jeremy, I used to have nightmares, but I prayed and God took them away.”

Even the “lightweight” part of the evening can have impact.


Following the icebreaker, the group usually enters into a period of praise. Sometimes a child chooses the songs or even leads. Recently, after we had finished singing “Jesus, Lamb of God,” Justin; a kindergartner, spoke into the stillness that followed in his tiny, high voice, “Can we sing it one more time?” Of course, we did, and we sang it with a new sweetness, knowing that Justin was absorbing this beautiful message. Another time our 12-year-old son (another of the spiritual “bricks”) asked if our group could sing Dennis Jernigan’s “While You Sing Over Me.” I never even noticed that he paid attention to this song! From that moment, I looked at my son through new eyes. Our spiritual “brick” was really a dormant volcano, awaiting the time to erupt for God’s use.

Worshipping together in a close and intimate setting reveals our inner spiritual lives to our children and theirs to us.


During or after the worship time, we pause for a time of prayer for each family unit represented (including singles). These prayers are for general concerns of the families, not marital problems or specific parenting problems.

A year before joining our cell, one of the families had miscarried a child. Now the mother was pregnant again. We began praying each week for this child. As her pregnancy became more apparent, some of the preteens would place their hands on her stomach as they prayed. Our whole cell participated in the joy and anticipation of the coming and much-desired baby.

We also prayed for a father in this cell who was considering a job change. This change represented a step of faith for him and his family. We prayed several weeks as the family made this decision.

As we prayed with and for these families, all the children in the cell began to see that everything in our lives belongs to God.


We have found that observing the Lord’s Supper in small, close settings has brought new meaning and depth to what can become a rote ceremony, especially for children. The children in our church partake of the Lord’s supper with the adults. It offers opportunity for children to hear their parents and other adults they know talk about their feelings and thoughts as they take of the bread and the cup.

There are dozens of ways to observe Communion, and each way surfaces a new facet of Christ’s death: the Passover, the crucifixion itself, the resurrection, the sacrifice, the atonement, the substitutionary lamb. Here is a partial list of the various ways we have observed the Lord’s supper:

This way of partaking of the Lord’s Supper illuminates the spiritual concepts surrounding it. The children begin to discern the many facets of the sacrifice of God and Christ. It becomes more and more natural for families to discuss spiritual things and the children even like to serve the Lord’s supper.

Intergenerational cells are a blessing for the children, but when the adults begin their personal ministry time, extended prayer and Biblical discussion, the children often get bored and restless. They need prayer, ministry, and Bible study on their own level. At this point the children leave the adults for their children’s cell or kid’s slot (more on this in the next issue).

We have found over the past four years that just as adults grow spiritually in intergenerational cells, so do children. Recently, I stayed up most of the night studying for an exam in New Testament theology. I went to bed about 4 a.m. and got up again at 6:00 to review what I had learned in the night. My son (thirteen at the time) got up at 6:30 and found me poring over my notes on the couch in the living room. He asked what I was doing up so early. As I told him, my eyes filled with tears and I moaned, “I don’t think I remember anything I studied last night.” He immediately came over to the couch, sat down beside me, and asked, “Do you want me to pray for you?” I nodded, and he prayed for me without hesitation. His simple yet powerful prayer for me was to remember what I had learned and to remain calm. Then, as if nothing monumental had happened, he went back to his room to get ready for school.

I sat stunned on the couch. My son is no longer a spiritual brick. He has absorbed the spiritual realities and experiences in our cell and in our lives. He obviously knows that all of life belongs to God, even exams!

I looked down at my notes. Suddenly, whether I could regurgitate all that I had studied about New Testament theology was less important to me than the delightful fact that my son’s first response to my distress was prayer. That is a theological truth that he did not learn in class. My son experienced this firsthand in our intergenerational cells.

Holly Allen teaches in the Education Department at Abilene Christian University and was the Director of Children’s Ministries for a cell church in Abilene, Texas for four years. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Christian Education from Talbot School of Theology.

Do you have an interesting story about children in cells? We’re looking for testimonies of how God is using your children to minister to others and build His kingdom!

Digging Deeper

The Sinking of the S.S. Tradition - A captivating fable of a home away from home.

On a clear, sunny day, the S.S. Tradition set sail on its maiden voyage. The goal of this voyage was to take the practice of fishing to a remote part of the world. This mighty ship was created by the crew and captain as opposed to a master ship builder. They knew their long-held ideals and practices would bring fishing to the whole world in short order if they could build it themselves without the structural constraints of a builder with his own ideas.

The S.S. Tradition housed thousands, including my family. One day my little brother tried to fish from the deck, but the ship was so big his average-sized net never even reached the water. The ship was as long as three football fields and as high as a skyscraper. A stranger walked by and said, “Nobody fishes like that any more!” Crew members nearby eating lunch laughed and commented, “He’ll learn. He’s just a child.” They were right. My brother and I learned a lot by watching and asking questions about this ship. We grew up on board this huge ship and learned that fishing was a job for specialists.

The standard method of fishing on the S.S. Tradition was performed in such magnitude that a young man could never catch anything from the deck of the ship if he stopped to watch how it was done by the professionals. From time to time, huge nets were dropped to the bottom of the “Sea of Placid” by a highly trained group of experts. Their vast nets reached out across the water. They called this “outreach.”

Thousands of fish were caught every time the nets were hauled in by huge cranes, but most slipped away because there were never enough professional workers to attend to the catch.

The mission statement for the S.S. Tradition was “to go to the furthest reaches of the world and teach others to fish as the Great Fisherman commands.” The greatest obstacle to fulfilling this mission was that the S.S. Tradition had been renovated and enlarged into one huge, glorious structure. The vessel’s beauty and size required a maintenance schedule occupying everyone’s time. The S.S. Tradition fished occasionally to keep up appearances, but most of the time the expert fisherman had to paint the decks, polish the brass fittings and take care of very important tasks so that our ship would not look bad as it sailed by other large fishing vessels.

Every person on board paid ten percent of their income to maintain the ship and keep it afloat. I remember when I first paid my portion and how good it felt. I knew I could go about my life and not worry about fishing and maintenance because my portion helped pay for others to do it.

As you might suspect, few people on the S.S. Tradition were workers. Most of us were passengers. Passengers really had it best if you think about it. They enjoyed themselves in pleasant social activities while the exhausted crew met the needs and wants of those of us who floated along.

While I was happy to be a passenger, I wondered if life was always this way on board. I sat down with my grandfather and asked him to tell me about the old days.

Here’s what he told me:

Many years ago the first fishermen were trained by the One who invented fishing. Then, there were many small boats whose crews met one day each week on the dock to celebrate Emmanuel. The other days were spent at sea in small boats.

Grandfather said, “They were as one mind and body.” The small boats trained everyone aboard to fish and row. All their gifts and talents were used to give glory to Emmanuel. They met together on the docks and went out together in small, workable units. The legacy of the Great Fisherman lived in their hearts long after He had gone. They remembered His example, and better yet, they lived it!

Their daily catch was great and everyone was fulfilled. They had loving community where everyone had a job, but no job was frowned upon. The leaders of the tiny vessels did not wield power over others. Instead, they taught people how to row without getting tired, and how to mend a net without taking a lifetime to do it. In a sense, they cared for their crew much like a father does for his child.

My grandfather told me the sea was wild and unknown in those days. The fishermen clung to each other and learned to love fishing and its rewards. They devoted their lives to one another and realized this was how the Great Fisherman said the nets would be filled. They always heeded Emmanuel’s words, because of who He was and because His words were true.”

I’m sure you’re wondering what happened to this kind of fishing and lifestyle. No one is sure. My grandfather said he thinks the fishermen became consumed with the maintenance of their boats and fishing stopped. As the fishing community grew, they built large ships to accommodate more people instead of training new small boat leaders. Perhaps they thought they had found a better way.

Which brings us back to my life on board the S.S. Tradition. For years I enjoyed smooth sailing with the other paid passengers, but little did we know that all was not well. A few months ago, I recall a commotion on deck. The captain was found sandwiched between two groups of passengers making excuses.

As I moved closer, I realized the two feuding parties were the “Ocean Air Band” and the “Yoga Club.” It seems that the scheduling for the day had been poorly designed and the groups were meeting in adjacent rooms. The band’s drums were so loud that the sound penetrated the room where the yoga club needed peace and quiet for their new age meditation. With a ship as large as the S.S. Tradition, you would think the captain could have made a buffer zone between them.

The weary captain smiled at the groups to protect his pride. He asked them to get along nicely and go back to their meeting rooms, but he knew this might be the straw that broke the camel’s back. After all, he had allowed this sort of mishap to occur more than once because he had to do most of the maintenance and fishing himself. He knew he just couldn’t please all the passengers all the time.

Somewhere in this twisted moment, the two warring groups found a common enemy in the captain. The rage which had been cast at each other now found a new target. The captain was in trouble! I felt bad for him, but I didn’t offer to help. After all, part of my 10% payment went toward his salary to run the ship and schedule these events!

Later that evening, the first mate came running on deck screaming, “The captain is missing; the captain is missing!” The seas were calm, but aboard the S.S. Tradition the winds of suspicion and the waves of blame pelted the morale of those on board.

“What shall we do?” said a large group of passengers. “No one else has ever steered the ship!”

My heart sank first for fear of losing control of the ship, because no one knew how to navigate. Secondly, I felt sick over the fact that my concern was not for the captain’s safety. I was concerned with what might happen to those aboard the ship—especially my own well being—and everyone else was looking out for their own interests too.

Minutes later, one of the janitors came running with the captain’s hat in his hand. Exasperated, he said he thought he had solved the mystery of the missing captain. He was sure the captain had fallen overboard! Others believed he was killed by angry yoga club members, but in the end we all agreed he had probably jumped ship. The janitor said his hat was found near a missing life raft.

The next two weeks were awful. We radioed for help but no one came. We must have been out of range. We sailed out of the “Sea of Placid” and into the dangerous “Sea of Tribulation.” The S.S. Tradition became nothing more than a grumbling mass of humanity floating on steel. Some prayed to Emmanuel, yet we didn’t heed His instructions. Most people sat in their rooms contemplating their fate and the fate of the mighty ship . . . including me.

One night our light was swallowed up in darkness as we drifted. A great storm had covered the “Sea of Tribulation” and all that was upon it. We tossed violently in the water. The night club closed. The volleyball tournament stopped (by the way, that’s what we did with the fishing nets—we used them for volleyball nets!) We had no idea what to do! We had crossed into dangerous waters without a captain.

Just then we heard the most fearful noise you could imagine! We hit shallow rock, and we were sinking. The sound of our hull slamming into a reef frightened us all. Everything familiar to us was about to go under, leaving us without our dearly loved Tradition.

I know you’re probably thinking that this ship had been sinking inside for years from “moth and rust.” It’s true. That’s why the end was so terrible when it came. Many lives were lost. The life boats proved to be unsafe because they had never been used.

Fishermen in a group of small boats—like the ones my grandfather spoke of in my youth—fished many of us from the cold waters of “Tribulation.” I was one of the fortunate ones saved from stormy waters. As we bundled together trying to stay alive, we reminisced about the good old days. One fellow missed the volleyball games and the yoga. Another woman wanted a grand ship to look at so she could proudly tell her family on lesser ships about the amenities. The words of my grandfather rang endlessly in my thoughts. “It’s not the boat you row or the net you cast. It’s the legacy of Emmanuel’s truth that brings satisfaction.” And believe me, when you’re stuck on a life raft without so much as a volleyball game, you have a lot of time to think.

When we were rescued, some of the survivors left the small boats and went back to large ships. These ships look much the same as the S.S. Tradition where fishing is considered but rarely done. I decided to heed my grandfather’s wisdom. “Some things are good, but one thing is best. Follow the model Emmanuel gave us.”

With my downtime on the life raft and my grandfather’s words, I evaluated why I chose to stay on the S.S. Tradition all those years. I must have been blinded by the grandeur of the ship and the activities aboard. I realize today that boats are for fishing and the fishermen shouldn’t forget that everything hinges upon catching fish and mentoring new fishermen. When I finally learned to fish, I didn’t care about the big ship mentality I had embraced so long ago.

Today, I am part of a fishing team that lives to fulfill the plan of Emmanuel. In my community, I know I can share my burden and fellowship with others as we fish. Here I’m encouraged to worship and to pray. I’ve been taught how to row and catch fish. Best of all, I’m in a boat where I can see my net enter the water!

This wonderful story was adapted from a submission by of Rick Fraley, Grace Community Fellowship Brodheadsville, PA.

Nucleus – Billy Hornsby

A Time To Be Fathers - Mentoring in the Cell Church

he greatest desire in the heart of a young son or daughter is to have a strong loving relationship with his or her father. Depending on the statistics you read, the typical father in America spends an average of thirty seconds to seven minutes per day in meaningful conversation with his children. The increasing number of single parent families in our world reflects a parallel concern in the House of Faith. We are out of practice in training our spiritual offspring! As leaders, we must refocus and reprioritize our time for the sake of those who look up to us for discipleship and spiritual fatherhood. They need mentors. An overwhelming percentage of Christians—especially new converts—are raised up in the Church without a Christian father figure to guide them in their journey. Across the social lines of boomers, busters, and Gen X, there is many a “Timothy” looking for a “Paul.” Without a strong mentor, millions of Christians will never reach spiritual maturity.

Relationships between spiritual leaders and most of the men and women in churches today are casual and non-committal. Typically, we make eye contact on Sunday morning and say, “How are you doing? Let’s do lunch sometime.” This false attempt at friendship never satisfies the yearning in the hearts of those who need a mentor. God’s plan for “fathering” is clearly demonstrated in Romans, yet it is not always understood as a methodology. It must be employed by the Church if we desire to walk out our calling to disciple the nations.

A mentor wears many hats as a “father figure” in the church. He communicates values and passes down critical specialized information. He stands by as a counselor and advisor to help bring clarity to someone's life along the way. He passes on qualities to his disciple that are like spiritual vitamins and minerals, catalysts for digesting and assimilating spiritual truth and godly wisdom.

Seven titles describe the role that a mentor plays in the life of his disciple.

1. Discipler—He communicates the basics of following Christ. The discipler takes the disciple through the daily disciplines that help make them a successful and true follower of Christ. How to pray, build strong relationships, offer and receive forgiveness, walk in the Spirit and other important steps are taught in this caring relationship.

2. Spiritual Guide—He provides accountability and insight for maturity. To guide someone in spiritual matters is to help them understand the spiritual implications of events in everyday life. The disciple must learn to be accountable to someone who has walked the path before him and can bring correction and instruction with mature and productive methods.

3. Coach—He gives motivation and teaching skills for action. A coach shows his team members how to play the game with a victorious outcome. He knows the players and the skills in which they must improve to be their best. He provides encouragement and recognition while bringing them through the regiments of the game of life.

4. Counselor—He resolves problems in times of crisis and provides a mature perspective in a loving manner. One of the main roles of a counselor is to offer sound biblical advice on how Christians should relate to each other. This includes, but is not limited to spouses, children, co-workers, creditors and other Christians. The mentor in the role of the counselor must be sensitive to the disposition and maturity level of his disciple. A good mentor must convict and admonish yet endeavor to do so without alienating his disciple.

5. Teacher—He transfers knowledge and understanding of the issue at hand. The teacher is one who has learned the lessons in academics and through life experience and has the skill to pass on that information to the disciple as a student.

6. Sponsor—He provides opportunities for the disciple to discover the next step in his growth and keeps him connected to others who are important in his walk (most people stop the growing process when the next step is unclear). The sponsor has been down the road before and knows what to do next as well as who should come along side to help. He provides direction as well as relationship for the disciple.

7. Role Model—He becomes a living example to be emulated in all phases of life. Ninety percent of what we learn comes from what has been demonstrated for us. As the disciple observes the life of the mentor through a consistent time investment, he learns what to do in a given situation and how to give a Christ-like response. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to “follow” the faith of those who have rule over us. It is the mentor’s duty to provide a model that can be followed by others to the glory of God.

While every person in our lives is important to us, not all are to be considered “fathers.” I Corinthians 4:15 states, “For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, you do not have many fathers . . .” Oh, that God would make each of us a father of many nations! If not a nation, then a father of twelve, like Jesus was with his disciples.

As you read this, are there believers in your church or cell that need your gifts and talents as a mentor? Cast off the “let’s do lunch” attitude and put on the garment of mentorship!

Billy Hornsby, serves as Senior Associate Pastor and Cell Group Coordinator at Bethany World Prayer Center in Louisiana.

End of Issue.

Cell Church V7 I1 Cell Church V7 I2 Cell Church V7 I3 Cell Church V7 I4



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