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Cell Church Seminars by Bill Beckham
William A. Beckham (Sept. 1997) Bromley Town Church, Sevenoaks
For me, the main value in this series is that Bill Beckham is not presenting a pragmatic how-to of church growth, but presenting the fundamental principles of how a church should operate. Its not primarily about a structure, but about the nature of God.
He begins with the suggestion that Just about every problem of the church, apart from sin, can be traced back to the 4th century. Some people would like to blame the problems we have in the church today on the leaders. Others would blame the people. Bill Beckham says the root problems are systemic. He says,
He argues that the principles he is teaching are not grounded in pragmatic ideas of what works, but in the nature of God himself. Poor practice results from poor theology. E.g. the building of great cathedrals results from an overemphasis of the transcendence of God.
Systemic problems in the church have throughout history resulted in parachurch organizations stepping in to fill the gap. Examples are the monastic movement, missionary societies and organizations to promote evangelism. Having presented his critique of where we are, Bill is ready to introduce a more biblical model for the church.
The Cell System
This section is the big picture of cells and how they relate to the life of the church.
How a Cell operatesOverview
The idea of using the picture of the hand is so that you will all take it home with you when you leave. It works well as a picture, especially the thumb which enables all the other fingers to function, and the 1st finger that points the way. I found it a helpful way of remembering the system.
Cell Life Part 1: Abiding in Christ
This is not some little how-to message on cell churchthis guy is on fire! The thesis of this message is that: Small groups are not going to change the world, it is the presence of Christ that will. He introduces a statement that is going to be fundamental to the whole system:
I believe that he is absolutely correct in placing this teaching at the core of the system. In cessationist circles, they tend to place Bible study or prayer at the centre, and of course these are important, but nothing should come before a real sense of Christs presence and a manifestation of it by means of the Holy Spirit. This will be objective (exercise of gifts) and subjective (e.g. love poured out in our hearts Rom 5:5, cry of Abba Father 8:15-16). Another quote that I found very interesting:
In one of the question times a lady told the story of how whenever she was in a group that was beginning to flag, they had a social to revive it. This always had the opposite effect and things went downhill from then on.
Cell Life Part 2: Accountability
There were some interesting questions at the end. I wish this section had been a bit longer because I can see some practical problems.
Cell Life Part 3: Leadership
Part 5b deals with an interesting development in the cell church movementleaders are giving up their successful secular jobs because of how they are being encouraged in their kingdom work. There are lots of ideas here and I probably have to listen to it again as our church grows.
Cell Life Part 4: Equipping
I found this a very helpful session, especially the idea that we dont need to try and squeeze all our teaching into our weekly meetings. It is hard to do this effectively, and it ends up not being done well at all. It is much more effective to use both:
I also liked the emphasis on first training new believers to feed themselves from the Bible. (Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for life...) Bill concludes by giving some recommendations for training material.
Cell Life Part 5: Evangelism
Bill begins by talking about different forms of evangelism and how they can best fit in with a cell model. I really liked his idea that Biblical fishing is not an individual task, but a group activity. In the same way he suggests we should see cells as fishing teams.
This is one of the most practical talks I have heard on cell-based evangelism. It would have been nice to hear more on this subject because it is so important.
Children and Youth
Transitioning into a cell church
I found these two sessions very helpful. One of the things he warns of is the tendency to rush the transition. Instead he presents a plan in which a model cell is developed by the leadership of the church and this is extended to the church in several stages. I must admit that my immediate response to the series up to this point was to want to implement cell church right away. I was quite surprised by the process he recommended, but I can see the wisdom in it.