May 14

Cell Church at Tabernacle

Back in 2003, whilst I was still the associate pastor at Tabs, the senior pastor, John James, asked me to go to a conference about small groups. I describe the experience of attending that conference, and what followed in the Introduction to this series of small group studies. After I reported back on the conference John carried on his own reading and exploration of small group principles and he became so convinced by the value of a cell church structure that he transitioned our church small groups to a cell model, and went on to write a book about ‘Healthy Churches’ based on his studies and thinking.

One of the leaders of the Cell Church Movement at the time was a man called Lawrence Singlehurst. Lawrence uses a phrase to describe the natural tendency of churches to revert back to older ways of doing things which are comfortable and safe. He says that “In church, everything swerves to rot.” What he means is that over time, any new thing we do in church can lose focus and direction, and become less than it was intended to be.

Over the 13 years since we first started talking about Cell Church at Tabernacle, we have seen our small groups slowly revert back to being just ‘Bible Study Groups’ or ‘Fellowship Groups’, so I thought it was a good time to remind ourselves of the Cell Church principles behind our small groups and look again at the studies we used 13 years ago to launch our new small groups.

The distinctive feature of a Fellowship group is that it meets primarily for fellowship. The distinctive feature of a Bible study group is that it meets primarily for Bible study. However, the distinctive feature of a cell group is that it functions as a cell: like a biological cell it is designed to grow, divide and multiply whilst at the same time carrying the DNA of the larger organism. A cell which doesn’t grow and replicate is unhealthy; we call a cell which doesn’t carry the DNA of the larger body cancerous. In a church, small groups or cell groups should have a mission focus aimed at growing the church whilst sharing the values and characteristics of the wider body.
You can download our latest Cell Group Book by clicking here.

The studies used in this series are adapted from Moving to Cells by Laurence Singlehurst (2002)

Written by Roger Grafton.