In seeking to become a cell church, we must keep reminding ourselves that we are in a process that starts where we are right now, and takes us to where we want to go. This "change process" is concerned with:
Having heard something about the cell ideaperhaps read a book, or been to a conference on itthe temptation is to think, "Yes, I like this", and jump straight into it. This inevitably means that we violate the change process and end up implementing a new structure. We take our existing small group leaders, we train them in the dynamics of being a cell leader, we try to describe the vision to them, we introduce the idea to the church and we tell them that now all our small groups are cells. This is called the big bang process.
In one or two churches this method has worked well. But for many others, it has left them with a mixed bag. Some of the trained leaders have understood what is happening and are leading cells. However, many remain as small groups with a new name, and retain a lot of the old weaknesses. Inevitably, some of the leaders, and congregation, feel rushed into the process of becoming a cell church, so when the new vision does not appear to be fulfilling what has been promised, they become disillusioned.
So we want to encourage a slower process which involves two levels of prototype cells, and a period of teaching and preaching to the wider church on the values and visions. The Oxford English Dictionary describes a prototype as "a trial model, preliminary version". This trial or preliminary version allows a safe environment to work through and grasp the issues to be faced in the final version. This, of course applies to any area where a prototype is usedall car manufacturers spend huge amounts of time working with several prototypes before putting their new vehicle on the production line. They know that time invested at the prototype stage saves hours of recall once a model is on sale. The prototype is tested through all the conditions it will face in the real world. It would spell disaster for a car manufacturer to take the designer's drawings and go straight into production.
Our purpose in establishing prototype cells is to train leaders, not just giving them head knowledge, but showing them how to initiate some of the changes in values that need to take place for cell life to become effective. Jesus' strategy was the same; it was focused not on the crowds, but on a small core of leaders.
In Moving to Cells you will find practical help with the transitioning process. The first part of the booklet contains useful teaching on principles. The second part includes sample cell outlines that can be used with the two phases of prototype cell over a three month period to explore the church's values rather than its structures. Order it!