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Church Development

Lesson XI Characteristic 6: Holistic Small Groups

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people."
Acts 3:46-47

Growing churches have developed a system of small groups where individuals can find intimate community, practical help and intensive spiritual interaction. These are the elements of the biblical concept of holism. In these groups, people not only discuss Bible texts but apply biblical insights to every day activities. The participants become friends and interact socially. By integrating people into self-reliant cell groups of up to twelve members, there is little danger of anonymity.

Research by Ralph Neighbour demonstrates that assimilation of the Unchurched occurs through the side door. That is, through involvement in a church's small group activities. The Unchurched come most often because a friend, neighbor or relative who is already a member of the group, invites them. These small group activities may be regular Bible study but more often are special short-term seminars. This contrasts with assimilation through the front door—the public worship service.

The Biblical Basis for Cell Groups
Small group activities or cell groups have a strong biblical basis. The biblical function of a healthy congregation is described in the following passages:
Acts 2:42-47. (Read) Functions: teaching, fellowship, communion, prayer, miracles, commonality, pooled resources, meeting needs, spending time together, praise, evangelism, assimilation.

Romans 12:10 (Read) Functions: Commitment to fellow Christians, affirming and caring for them.

Ephesians 4:2, 32 (Read) Functions: Being transparent, opportunity to exercise patience and bear with others in love, exercising kindness and compassion, forgiving others.

Galatians 6:2 (Read) Functions: Listening to and sharing the problems of one another.

Ephesians 5:21 (Read) Functions: Mutual submission to other's care.

Colossians 3:16 (Read) Functions: Teach, admonish, personal life application, praising God together.

I Thessalonians 5:11 Functions: Encouragement, edification

Hebrews: 10:24, 25 Functions: Exhortation, personal life application, meeting together, instilling hope.

James 5:16 Functions: Confession, prayer, healing

Most churches today are centralized rather than decentralized. The entire organization is dependent upon the flow of ministry through each organizational unit. The bulk of ministry revolves around the pastor and staff. However, small group activities are essential for church growth. The beauty of the cell group structure is that everyone will receive "one on one" attention.

Small groups are not merely home Bible studies, social gatherings, discussion groups, or prayer groups. These titles reflect one aspect of
what a healthy cell group should incorporate. Healthy cell groups must fulfill at least seven key functions as found in
Acts 2: 42-47:

Teaching: learning and applying God's word.
Fellowship: Building supportive, mutually accountable relationships
Worship: Praising God for who He is and what He has done.
Prayer: Listening to and sharing intimately with God; interceding on behalf of others and God's work in the world.
Power: Experiencing the filling and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Ministry: Using spiritual gifts and loving each other in practical ways to meet needs.
Evangelism: Impacting our society and sharing the Good News so that people become Christ's disciples.

The name by which we call our groups should reflect the importance of the group. They have been called, care groups, Shepherd groups, Renewal groups, Kinship Groups. The primary function of the group is to allow a small group of believers to exercise intensive biblical love, care, and compassion upon one another.

To be effective, cell-group leaders must be as committed to their group as effective pastors are to their churches. In reality, the cell group is the church in microcosm. Cell group leaders should be given as many pastoral ministry responsibilities as your theology allows.