By James Smith
Home Friendship Groups (Cell ministry), are gaining greater and greater interest as we hear the success stories from those who have ventured into this ministry. The largest and fastest growing churches in the world are churches with HFG’s.
10 years ago, the Lord began to speak to me about a model of ministry that to my knowledge, no one was doing at that time. (little did I know) Often, I would look over the congregation and notice people who were faithful to church services, but because of a lack of available positions in the church or their inability to find their own personal ministry, they weren’t doing much for the Lord. I also noticed that many visitors and new converts were coming into the church and going right back out since they had no one to befriend or disciple them. As much as these churches had great evangelistic efforts, there was no clear cut program or ministry that was designed for the purpose of retaining new converts.
A short time later, my wife and I began a new church in Chesterton, IN. Within a year, I became very frustrated. I was attempting to model this young church’s government and ministry after the larger well established, management driven churches I had been a part of. About that time, I began to hear about Cell ministry. I even found some books which told of the tremendous success of Yonggi Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea and Rick Warren’s church in Saddleback, CA, as well as several others.
It wasn’t long before the Lord directed me to Pastor Anthony Tamel’s church in Oak Creek WI. I attended their New Wineskins seminar and wept as they showed me that God was changing my paradigm for church evangelism and discipleship.
With their help and training, we soon brought HFG’s to our small church in Chesterton and watched as the Lord transformed peoples lives to both disciple and become discipled through HFG’s. After 6 years of pastoring the church in Chesterton, I began to feel the Lord direct me to turn the church over to the man who assisted me. With that, I heard God tell me to not take another church right away. I felt that the Lord was directing me to make myself available to help teach and train other churches, in the area of Home Friendship Groups.
After discussing this burden with two area Pastors of larger churches, they both asked me to come there and help them train their leaders and raise up HFG’s in their church. Both churches now have young, successful HFG ministries.
I have spoken at several churches on the subject of HFG’s and have worked very closely with other pastors who have or are in the process of raising up HFG’s in their local church. Home Friendship Groups are very much like early Apostolic evangelism. It’s entirely more reflective of true Apostolic ministry than most of today’s church structure that is management driven at best.
Consider that 1/3 of the churches in America don’t grow over 50. Another 1/3 don’t exceed 150. And 25% will stop growing at 350. Ask yourself, "Why is that?" Consider that the average church in America only has 80 members. Can I suggest that 80 is all one man or woman can effectively minister to. What would happen if we could turn every member into a minister? No, I did not say Pastor, I said minister. We are all called to minister, but in our current way of doing things, the ministering is left to one man – the Pastor! I’m sure you know that there are a few folks in your church that could (if asked to) help with many lesser areas of ministry that become burdensome to the Pastor. Hey, one person can only do so much!
A study was done on 50 people who were assimilated into a church and 50 who were not. 90% of those who remained had 6 or more people who they considered their friends in that church. 98% of the people who left had less than 6 friends. Of those who had 8 or more friends, all stayed and if their closest friends were in the church, they were more active (ministry) in the church. That’s amazing to me. For years, I thought it had to do with how good a preacher I was. Or how nice the building looked. If this study is reflective of most churches, it is showing that relationships are by far the most important part of the evangelism process.
If a person does not find 7 close friends in the church within the first 7 weeks, that person will soon leave. Think about that for a moment.
Aren’t you tired of counting baptisms all year, only to realize that few of these new converts are still in the Church the following year? Folks, God is not for abortion. Physical or spiritual. He does not entrust us with a great soul harvest simply because we are not capable of retaining it when it comes. Would you? Think about it – is your church currently capable of mentoring and discipleing 100 new people should the Lord give them to the Church this week?
What if the state came and shut your church doors. If Anti-Christ got a head start in America and was able to close down the churches, where would your saints worship? What if your church membership doubled this month? Would there be room for exponential growth? Probably not. In fact those people would leave as fast as they came, since there would be no room for them. With a HFG ministry, a congregation would immediately have a network of support and places to worship should the central church building not be available for any reason.
Home Friendship Group ministry makes immediate room for the new convert, giving them 6-12 new friends in the church who work together to mentor and disciple this person thus ensuring his/her success and effectiveness in the church.