mission shaped church
A story: Harvest, Margate
Harvest was planted out from Holy Trinity Margate in
September 1998. This was five years after a previous church
was planted (St Philip's, Northdown Park) in the classic mode,
which had a new building and a geographical area to serve.
Harvest had neither, but was conceived as a network, cell
based, Alpha style plant.
Careful brokering was needed. The idea was new. No one
knew how it would quite work and relate to neighbouring
geographical parishes. Fifty two adults formed the planting
core. They met together in six cell groups across the Deanery
of Thanet. The cells meet together as congregation on Sunday
mornings in a primary school.
Alpha remains the key entry point for Harvest. Members are
encouraged to build friendships that enable exploration of the
journey to faith. Cells hold regular social events, in homes,
pubs or wherever. Seventy one people have joined since the
start of Harvest. Forty six have moved away. Every cell has
multiplied. Some have closed. Harvest is still learning!
can leaders be reproduced?
Cells, and especially those in areas of social deprivation, have to face the
challenge of growing the next generation of leaders. Apprentice training
can release gifts in people so that they can lead small groups with the
support of a clear structure. The reproduction of quality leadership is a
potential Achilles heel for cell. There is, however, the possibility that a very
different style of leader may evolve from this process. Too often the Church
cannot find leaders because it will only accept leaders who work in a
narrowly defined (middle class, articulate) way.
One of the claims worldwide is that the outward agenda of cells, together
with a high internal level of intentional discipleship, is what enables cell
based churches to keep growing. By multiplying members and even more
importantly creating more leaders through apprenticeship patterns, they
claim the ability to avoid hitting a numerical plateau.
A few cell churches
in Asia have become the largest churches in the world. In the Church of
England, perhaps the largest self styled cell church, led by Clive Collier in
Hazlemere, is 800 strong. Some of the largest Church of England churches,
though not fully developed cell churches, are vigorously committed to small
groups for both discipleship and making new contacts.