Implement The Groups Of Twelve (G12) Model

by Joel Comiskey

The G-12 strategy has become a powerful tool for refining the cell church worldwide. The amazing growth of International Charismatic Mission (ICM) in Bogota, Colombia has generated a great deal of excitement because of the simple yet powerful strategy God gave them. If and when this excitement moves a church to respond, that church typically follows one of two paths.

Follow the entire G-12 model.
Current examples of this approach are Harvest Assembly in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Christian Center in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Kensington Temple Church in England, and Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, Louisiana. These churches follow the G-12 model in its entirety, exactly like ICM does.

Apply the guiding G-12 principles.
Examples abound of churches that have chosen to follow G-12 principles, rather than to adopt the entire model. In my book Groups of 12, I dedicated two chapters to highlighting twelve case-study churches. Of those twelve, ten adapted the G-12 strategy to their particular situations, applying the underlying principles rather than the entire model. Two examples I did not include in my previous book are Cypress Creek Church in Wimberley, Texas and Liverpool Christian Life Centre in Liverpool, Australia.

The Model Approach
Some churches have chosen to follow the entire ICM model. Bethany World Prayer Center has felt the Lord's leading to align themselves with ICM and follow its exact configuration, training track, emphasis on twelve as God's chosen number, and care structure. God is blessing Bethany in an amazing way and helping them to reap the harvest like never before.

Harvest Assembly in Virginia Beach, Virginia is another church that has followed the G-12 model in its entirety. One of the staff members said, "We understand that we must accept the whole package, that we cannot pick and choose." Mike Osborn, the youth pastor, has made over thirteen trips to ICM, vacationed personally with Pastor Castellanos, and received step-by-step counsel on how to proceed. Harvest Assembly uses the exact same Encounter Retreats, School of Leadership, and follow-up system as ICM.

Those churches who choose to follow this approach usually:

  • Establish a covenant relationship with ICM to follow the G-12 system in its entirety. More recently, ICM has asked people to sign a written agreement to follow ICM's system exactly. This written agreement allows churches to use ICM's material.
  • Follow the exact same training track, which includes-
    • Pre-encounter
    • Encounter Retreat
    • Post-encounter
    • School of Leaders
  • Promote the number twelve as God's special number.
  • Become part of the ICM network of churches, which normally requires multiple trips to Bogota each year.

Some churches will follow the ICM model in its entirety and do it successfully. These churches are sold on the G-12 vision, and believe that God has anointed ICM in a special way and thus willingly submit to ICM's covering.

If you choose to follow this path, you may want to visit an ICM-model G-12 church and read the literature that promotes this approach (e.g., Rocky Malloy's The Jesus System: Groups of Twelve, Pastor César Castellanos' books Leadership of Success through the Group of 12 and The Ladder of Success, and the first six chapters of my book Groups of Twelve.)

The Principle-Oriented Approach
I teach cell seminars around the world and impart G-12 principles under the cell church strategy. My ongoing burden is to find cell church principles that apply in any culture, so I am eager to accept the best G-12 principles within the cell church strategy. The whole cell church philosophy has united the body of Christ across different cultures and denominations. We have been able to network with one another, encourage one another, and learn from one another.

Most cell churches that admire the G-12 model take the best G-12 principles and apply them to their individual settings. Those churches following G-12 principles-as opposed to the entire model-are too numerous to name. They have each discovered fresh ways to fine-tune their cell-based churches by using G-12 principles and values. Churches that follow the principle-oriented approach are primarily concerned with becoming better cell churches and are excited about how certain principles or values of the G-12 approach can make this work.

The dictionary describes a principle as "an important underlying law or assumption required in a system of thought." The cell church movement, for example, believes the principle that the cell is just as important as the celebration and that both of them must be equally emphasized. This principle comes from the New Testament church. The early church celebrated together in large temple gatherings and then met from house to house (Acts 2:42-46; 5:42; 20:20). Later, due to persecution, this pattern became nearly impossible and the house church movement became the standard (Acts 12:12; Romans 16: 3-5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2). Although we do not have many specific details about how the New Testament cell approach looked, the principle of cell-celebration guides our thinking.

We must humbly admit that none of the current cell church models are perfect. I would not state that Pastor Cho (Seoul, Korea), Pastor Neighbour (Houston, TX), Pastor Vega (San Salvador, El Salvador), Pastor Stockstill (Baker, LA), Pastor Robert (Abidjan, Ivory Coast), Pastor Daugherty (Tulsa, OK), or Pastor Castellanos (Bogota, Colombia) uses the only true, biblical cell church model. The pattern, or principle, is cell-celebration. The application of the cell church for today is varied and changes from culture to culture and church to church.

You are reading this article because you want to know how to do cell church better. My advice is to follow the common patterns or principles of the major cell churches. In my book Reap the Harvest, I catalogued common principles and patterns found in all of the fastest growing worldwide cell churches.

These principles include:

  • Dependence on Jesus Christ through prayer.
  • Senior pastor giving strong, visionary leadership to the cell ministry.
  • Cell ministry promoted as the backbone of the church.
  • A clear definition of a cell group (weekly, outside the church building, evangelistic, pastoral care/discipleship, clear goal of multiplication.)
  • The passion behind cell ministry is evangelism and church growth.
  • Reproduction (multiplication) is the major goal of each cell group.
  • Cell and celebration attendance expected of everyone attending the church.
  • Clearly established leadership requirements for those entering cell ministry.
  • Required cell leadership training for all potential cell group leaders.
  • Cell leadership developed from within the church itself, at all levels.
  • A supervisory care structure for each level of leadership (G-12, 5x5, or something else.)
  • Cell leadership promoted to higher leadership positions based on past success.
  • Follow-up system of visitors and new converts administered through cell groups.
  • Cell lessons based on pastor's teaching to promote continuity between cell and celebration (although flexibility might be given to meet specific homogeneous groups.)

Crucial G-12 principles include:

  • Everyone can become a cell leader.
  • Every leader can disciple and supervise other leaders.
  • People need to be set free (liberated from strongholds) in order to serve as harvest workers.
  • A clear training track must immediately follow the Encounter Retreat.
  • There must be fervent prayer and total commitment to Jesus Christ.

It is upon these principles that I base the G-12.3 structure. The key is not found in the specific structure that a church adopts, but in the principles that drive that structure. Without a clear understanding of basic cell church principles, the structure will only be a lifeless skeleton. The cell church strategy will constantly need refinement and adaptation to improve its overall quality and effectiveness. G-12 principles help us refine the cell church strategy-not replace it.

My book Groups of 12 not only provides information on how the International Charismatic Mission does the G-12 structure, but it also identifies and explains the principles beneath this structure. In my book From 12 to 3, I show how the G-12.3 structure is built upon G-12 principles and provide details about how it works.

** This article is an abbreviated version of Chapter 1 of Joel Comiskey's book From 12 to 3.