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The Transforming Church (Part Four)
by Tricia Tillin


Other Early Influences and Personalities

Some say the move towards the more pragmatic, numbers-oriented seeker-sensitive approach to church growth began at the turn of the century with the Student Volunteer movement which spawned the idealistic vision of reaching the world for Christ by the year 2000. Their motto was "The Evangelization of the World in this Generation". Begun in Massachusetts in 1886, with a home bible study group, it blossomed under the leadership of A. T. Pierson who told the students that "all should go, and go to all". Pierson believed the world could be won within one generation with enough manpower and enthusiasm, but it was not to be.

There are other candidates. Sarah Leslie writes:

"The earliest book we could locate on the modern home church movement is vintage mid-50s, entitled "Creating Christian Cells". This book is a series of articles about the positive spiritual successes of the new-style church that was being developed, mostly in conjunction with the Marble Collegiate Church in New York (Norman Vincent Peale's church)."

Norman Vincent Peale, in 1984 on the Phil Donahue program, announced, "It’s not necessary to be born-again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine . . . I’ve been to Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere."

Leslie continues:
"The book provides the earliest working definition of cell church, one which is nearly identical with definitions provided by cell church leaders decades later:

The Christian Church began AS A SINGLE, SMALL GROUP FELLOWSHIP. As it grew and divided, many such groups ("churches" or "parishes") were formed. The process resembled MITOSIS, or cell-division, in the biological world; hence, the term "cell." [foreword from "Creating Christian Cells"]"

Both Peale and his close friend and disciple Robert Schuller, author of "Your Church Has Real Possibilities" espouse heretical "New Thought" Christian-Science doctrines that they have christianised into "positive thinking" and a self-esteem gospel that targets "the unchurched".

MASONIC: You can judge for yourself the "christianity" of Peale by going to this site, where he is proudly portrayed as a 33-degree Mason and Honored as "Supreme Temple Architect 1991" with his "Portrait Donated by The Scottish Rite Masons of The Southern Jurisdiction."

OFFSITE LINK: "Norman Vincent Peale: An Man who Made up his Mind"


Schuller says, "We’re trying to impress non-Christians and non-churched people. We are trying to make a big, beautiful impression upon the affluent nonreligious American who is riding by on this busy freeway." But Schuller doesn't intend to offend them by suggesting they are acting contrary to the laws and commandments of God. For Schuller "Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem." (Schuller, "Self-Esteem: The New Reformation", p 14)

In a long letter published in the October 5, 1984 issue of 'Christianity Today', he wrote:

"I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition."

In 1992, Robert Schuller launched a new organization called Churches United in Global Mission (CUGM), "to share positively the message of Jesus Christ ...[in] a spirit of unity that is truly Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, evangelical and charismatic."

He backed up his ecumenical statement by sharing his church growth principles at the headquarters of Unity Church, Lees Summit, Missouri and dedicating a new Unity Temple in Warren, Michigan. Unity is a cult that denies the deity of Jesus and teaches reincarnation! [from Lion and Lamb Ministries]

Despite all this, Schuller stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Wagner and other leaders in the Church Growth camp. He joined David Yonggi Cho in Sicily for the country's first Church Growth Conference in March 1998, visiting Pope John Paul II en route to the conference. He also led the First American Convocation on Church Growth in Garden Grove. In 1997 when more than eighty gay and lesbian pastors and lay leaders from the Metropolitan Community Churches participated in Robert Schuller's 'Institute for Successful Church Leadership' at his Crystal Cathedral, the speakers included cell-church big names Bill Hybels, John Maxwell and Rick Warren.

'Christianity Today' for September 8, 1989 had a picture of Schuller at the Crystal Cathedra with C. Peter Wagner and Bill Hybels. It seems that the philosophy of self-esteem is such a major crowd-puller that heresy can be overlooked in the name of "expanding the church and converting the world."

Wagner has in fact paid tribute to Robert Schuller, who in turn is indebted to Norman Vincent Peale. Wagner states:

"Possibility thinking boils down basically to a synonym of what the Bible calls “faith.” Schuller’s definition of possibility thinking is “the maximum utilization of the God-given powers of imagination exercised in dreaming up possible ways by which a desired objective can be attained.” He is convinced that “the greatest power in the world is the power of positive thinking.” [C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1976), p. 58.]

OFFSITE LINK: See "The Gospel According to Schuller"


In looking at one early book on the cell concept, "Cells For Life" by Rod Trudinger published in 1979, I was struck by how many of today's ideas were already present decades earlier. For example:

  • Mitosis, or cell division, as a model for the church (page 22)
  • The City Church (page15) together with
  • The Discipling group in the home (page 19)
  • Jethro's counsel to Moses (page26)
  • Groups of Twelve (pages 27 and 33)
  • Felt-Needs Servant Evangelism (pages 88/89)

Trudinger speaks of his introduction to the cell concept as early as 1964 with a lecture by Bishop A. Jack Dain of the Anglican Church in Sydney, Australia, who in his turn attributed his interest to South American church growth in the 50's and 60's. [In Mexico City 1975, Bishop Dain chaired the Lausanne Continuation Committee. In an interview prior to the first International Congress on World Evangelization, Bishop Dain, who served as Executive Chairman of ICOWE, stated: "Lausanne is a Congress on evangelization, not a Congress on evangelism.]

Trudinger also mentions the concept of Groups of 12 as being a teaching of Howard Snyder - one of the key speakers in the 1974 International Congress on Evangelism in Luasanne.

Cell churches had already influenced the UK restoration movement as early as the 1970's when Barney Coombs wrote about them in the magazine "Renewal". Like Snyder he called the new structures "new wineskins" - but this oft-repeated phrase comes straight out of dominion teaching and has been avidly adopted by the revival in promoting a totally new order of Church for the 21st century. (This is in keeping with the "Second Reformation" concept of Wagner and others. William Beckham's book on 'reshaping the church for the 21st century' is called "The Second Reformation".) See "The Net" for a further explanation of this concept.

Trudinger states that beyond the renewal of the system lies an even greater concept - RESTORATION. "Renewal is the basis for something far greater: Restoration!" Cells For Life, page 11. Today his views have been adopted by almost every major ministry on the planet!


Howard Snyder, a Free Methodist (United Theological Seminary/Asbury Seminary) seems an unlikely proponent of house churches yet his books have been extremely influential, especially his 1975 book "The Problem of Wineskins" (InterVarsity Press) which he wrote after six years of missionary service in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Snyder's original landmark book and the update of that book from 1996, "Radical Renewal: The Problem of Wineskins Today" have become textbooks for instructing missionaries and cell-church leaders.

Snyder, a major speaker at the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, is part of the "Christian Spirituality" circle which proposes largely Catholic mystical forms of spiritual renewal, and is on the Board of the Center for the Renewal of the Churches. He is a liberal, a ecumenist, an environmentalist and I would class him as "Christian-New-Age" His book "Earth Currents" (Abingdon Press) examines from a global perspective eight cultural trends that he believes will occur between 1990-2030. Chapters Five and Twelve are on the Environment.

Snyder's 1977s book "Community of the King" is no longer available, (although some of the same thoughts are given in his web essay "An Evangelistic Lifestyle in the Church") where he says:

"We need to recover the classical doctrine that "outside the church there is no salvation" - but understood biblically. Augustine was right to emphasize the close, inseparable relationship of head and body in the church. He was right to say the history of the church parallels the history of Christ, the head. The problem with the classical view of "no salvation outside the church" is that this came to be understood institutionally and sacramentally rather than in terms of vital, visible participation in the community of God's people..."

Snyder's teaching on the Church, and his insistence that "salvation by faith must always be connected to true Christian community and real discipleship." show signs of having been drawn from Catholic theologians looking to reestablish the preeminence of the visible church on earth as the one great mother of all spiritual communities, but it is also an a-millennial quest to "work for the progressive manifestation of the kingdom of God" worldwide as represented by the "community of God" - one united "holy, catholic and apostolic Church".

To Snyder, growing the Church is a vital step towards "healing the earth" and reconciling all things in God. Therefore, there is a lot at stake. If churches remain numerically small and without a global impact, the "cosmic plan of God" which "even includes the redemption of the physical universe from the effects of sin" cannot take place, for this, Snyder asserts, is the mission of the Church as the agent of God on earth.

"As God has called his Church to make disciples of all peoples throughout all lands, this implies numerical growth. Disciples are countable." (p. 118 Community of the King.)

In the light of this, it can be seen that the conventional understanding of the Church: "a matter of individual soul culture rather than the building of the community of the Spirit" fails to do the job.

"Growth comes from the multiplication of congregations of believers....If the church can grow only as fast as buildings are built or pastors are academically trained, or budgets are expanded, the growth is limited to the resources available for these purposes." (p. 123 Ibid.)

Therefore the institution of the Church must be altered into a global community. "To do justice to the biblical understanding of the Church we must say that the goal of evangelism is the formation of the Christian community" (p.104 Ibid). But "what kind of structures can and should be created to further the oneness of the true Church and the effective proclamation of the gospel?" he asks.

It will be no surprise to readers to learn that Snyder proposed, in this book written in 1977, just the very organisations we are seeing all around the world today. He proposed the City Church, regular large-scale city-wide celebrations (to include all denominations including Catholic and orthodox) and some monitoring and communications networks that have since come to fruition.

He also proposed "Seven Steps Towards Renewal" in his final chapter, steps 4-7 having to do with cell-church structures and church-planting.

The emphasis on the global community being created by such means is underlined when we read:

"The time may be ripe around the world for the emergence of a thoroughly biblical evangelical movement that includes Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish Christians. Arthur Glasser notes that evangelical Protestants are beginning to encounter evangelical Catholics and are discovering that some loyal Catholics know and love Jesus Christ with in intimacy and devotion surpassing their own. The biblical and charismatic emphases within Roman Catholcism in the wake of Vatican II are rapidly invalidating many traditional Protestant criticisms of the Roman Church." (P. 181 Ibid)


Ortiz was for many years the pastor of a large Pentecostal congregation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He became internationally known through the 1974 Congress on World Evangelism in Lausanne, and the publication of his first book, "Disciple" in 1975.

He is often credited with sparking the "shepherding/covering" movement by introducing the five Fort Lauderdale leaders to his discipleship and authority teachings.

Like Snyder and many other cell-church proponents, Ortiz believed that the Church must reform its structures and rebuild into flexible "new wineskin", in order to do the job of forming a united world community of believers:

"God is going to have a new community. Things are starting to happen in the Church. The world generally doesn't know it yet, but it's coming. We are going to be like a city on a mountain, an example of a community that loves one another... once it starts with the pastors, it will spread quickly to the other parts of the Body of Christ in our cities. When Jesus looks at your city, he sees his shepherds and sheep as all one unity. If we are in Jesus, we will see the same thing. Not all of us have the "right" doctrine, but that doesn't seem to stop Jesus from loving us anyway. Neither should it stop Jesus' servants." (Pp 55, 59, "Disciple")

Sarah Leslie writes:

"An early reference to the concept of cell churches is found in this statement by Juan Carlos Ortiz, who presented his views on the new church structure to a conference of pastors meeting at Montreat, North Carolina, home of Billy Graham, in the early 70s.

"His message, "the basic principles for restoring the Kingdom of God here on earth through the unity of the body", was published and widely circulated. Ortiz began his experiment with the formation of cell churches in Argentina in the 1950s and his model has been widely replicated across the globe.

"'Cell' is a transitory name we used for a meeting of five or more persons for certain purposes. I say it is a transitory name because we don't see the word "cell" in the Bible. The proper name should be 'church in the home.' But the name 'church in the home' brings to mind the type of church we used to have. So we use the word 'cell' to show it is not a common meeting where they go to a home, open the Bible, read and discuss it, sing a chorus, then pray and go home. That's no advantage ­ that's the same as we always did. Therefore we called our new meetings 'cells' because they were a completely different concept" [p. 103 Call to Discipleship, 1975]

"Like McGravan and his mentors, Ortiz placed the emphasis on evangelism (numbers), not discipleship:

"The early church knew nothing about Sunday schools. They knew the best way for believers to grow and multiply is not through Bible lectures, but through living cells. This means small groups of four or five persons who meet in homes under a leader so their lives may be shaped so they may mobilize and multiply themselves in other cells." [p. 29, Call to Discipleship]"

NOTE: Juan Carlos Ortiz is now Pastor of the Hispanic Ministry at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA., and Professor, Fuqua School of Communications, Campus of the Crystal Cathedral - The Crystal Cathedral is pastored by Robert Schuller as we saw above.


Chairman, World Assemblies of God Fellowship

ChoThe most influential leader of the cell church movement is Dr. David Yonggi Cho, senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, reputedly the largest church in the world, located in Seoul, Korea. The congregation numbered over 750,000 in 1997, with more than 25,000 home cell groups. Cho has authored many books including "Successful Home Cell groups", published in 1981.

As a teenager, Dr. Cho converted from Buddhism to Christianity, and in 1958, he began conducting church services on the outskirts of Seoul. In 1967, when the cell system was introduced, it consisted of 7,750 individuals of 2,267 families organized into 125 cells. When the church membership reached 10,000, the church relocated to Yoido. The first worship service at the now YFGC was held on August 19th, 1973.

In 1976, Dr. Cho founded Church Growth International (CGI) as a forum for sharing his principles of church growth. In September of 1992, Pastor Cho Yonggi was elected as the chairman of the Executive Committee of the World Pentecostal Assemblies of God Fellowship now known as the World Assemblies of God Fellowship which has a membership of 30,000,000 members among 60 nations of the world.

Like the other participants in the CGM, Cho's emphasis was multiplication (numbers):

"Our church has become a living organism. The home cell groups are living cells, and they function much like the cells in the human body. In a living organism, the cells grow and divide. Where once there was one cell, there become two. Then there are four, then eight, then sixteen, and so forth. Cells are not simply added to the body; they are multiplied by geometric progression." [P.65 Successful Home Cell Groups]

A researcher writes:

"Cho teaches that positive thinking, positive speaking, and positive visualization are the keys to success, and that anyone can literally "incubate" and give birth to physical reality by creating a vivid image in his or her mind and focusing upon it.

Cho claims that if there is no visualization, there will be no church growth. He insists that every minister needs to have visualization, the process in a person's mind through which pictures in visions or dreams bring about miracles and powers. This method, however, is not only unbiblical, it is the most powerful occult technique known, having been practiced by shamans and witchdoctors for thousands of years". From Biblical Discernment Ministries.

The important thing to know about the Korean church, for the purposes of this article, is that it is and remains one single church, with a pastor, a hierarchical leadership and a weekly church service, at which attendance is required, with traditional hymns, choir and orchestra. It is NOT a network of "house churches" but a single church divided into cells.

The church hosts many organisations and ministries, and Cho has by no means eliminated "programs" in order to create a "pure cell" structure. His church fits more into the meta-church pattern of Carl George than Ralph Neighbour's model, but the distinctions are hard to make and the church welcomes and participates in all kinds of Church Growth programs. For example, Cho holds annual church growth conferences as opposed to a cell-based ministry conference. At the 1997 annual church growth conference, Rick Warren and Bill Hybels were the featured speakers (Meta model) along with Larry Stockstill and Billy Joe Daughtery (Pure Cell model).

OFFSITE LINK: "David Yonggi Cho: General Teaching & Activities"


Dr. Galloway is a "pioneer in developing need-meeting ministries led by laypeople". Pastors from all over the world have come to his Church Growth Institute to learn how to create and sustain effective cell-group ministries. He founded New Hope Community Church located just outside of Portland, Oregon in 1972 which has more than six thousand members in small groups. He is now Dean of Asbury Theological Seminary's Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership.

The book 20/20 VISION was written by Pastor Dale E. Galloway in 1986 and describes the method Galloway uses for successful church growth. There he tells us who are his mentors and friends:

"20/20 VISION' is written for pastors and church leaders who do not want to stop. They want to charge ahead in building God's church on this earth.... Church growth has been a burning desire of my heart for as long as I can remember. ... I'm indebted to men like my father, Dr. Harvey S. Galloway, who was church administrator for thirty years. To Dr. Robert Schuller who has been a source of inspiration and motivation and personal friend to me for the past fourteen years as I have pursued the big dream. To Dr. Paul Cho [sic] whose vision and ministry has challenged me to expand my horizons beyond anything I ever thought possible. [20/20 VISION p. 7-8]

Galloway, a graduate of Nazarene Theological Seminary is a very influential man with audiences ready to hear his views on how to change the church and "transition it" into the new paradigm. With more than one million copies in print of his 18 books, Galloway is in a position to alter the thinking of a large section of the Church, but with mentors like the self-esteem guru Schuller and fourth-dimension mystic Paul/David Cho we have to be concerned about what these eager disciples of Galloway will be taught.

continue  Part Five: Home Groups and House Churches

© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website:  This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.