A System that Korean Church Used to Grow So Rapidly


            The homecell is the main evangelistic method of the Yoido Full Gospel Central Church that’s why it is grown to million. Rev. Dr. David (Paul) Yonggi Cho, the senior pastor, introduced this method and implemented by ladies! In Korea, women are considered low class and second only to man. However, the associate pastor of Dr. Cho still introduced this method without hesitation. At first, the men were antagonizing and very reluctant to join with the group of women, but the Holy Spirit still used the women to evangelize their city and the Yoido Full Gospel Church grew so rapidly!Korean Church

Historical Background

            John Wesley started class meetings at Oxford University aimed “for religious satisfaction by the strict observance of the rules of the religion and the ordinances of the church.”[1] When he received the lordship of Christ and shared his salvific experience to others, he converted a lot of people to Christ, so he gathered them in groups, in classes, and in societies. Afterwards, he appointed leaders. The time came when these groups formed the Methodist Church–although it was not the original intention.

The Methodist missionaries brought the Wesley Class Meeting to Korea and it became a strong factor in the growth of the Korean Methodist Church. “The Presbyterian Church also adopted this practice, referring to it as an area prayer meeting.”[2] Actually many denominations in Korea have adopted this kind of meeting, including the Yoido Full Gospel Central Church, the largest Church in the whole world. Its senior pastor, Dr. Cho testifies that the cell groups have contributed a lot in the growth of his church. Indeed, the cell group is the very method he is using why his church grows so rapidly. In his statement it reveals the importance of home cell system in evangelism and church growth.  As of 1993, the Yoido Church has 22 district leaders and 12 regional chapel leaders, 425 sub-district leaders, 6,740 regional leaders, 50,000 home cell unit leaders, and 50,000 assistant home cell unit leaders for 750,000 members. Further, the Yoido Church has 214 ordained pastors, 77 licensed male  pastors, 401 licensed female pastors, 15 male intern pastors, and 37 female intern pastors with the total of  744 pastors.[3]

Scriptural Foundation

            In Exodus 18:13-27, we can see a kind of biblical leadership as Jethro advised his son-in-law, Moses, to established “rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (v.21). This was done so that: (1) Moses would be able to endure (v.23); (2) Moses would be free to be “God ward” (v. 19); and (3) the people could regain peace and harmony (v. 23). This principle was carried on in the New Testament Church. In response to certain needs, deacons were formally appointed (Acts 6: 1-7). Lay leadership continued to be a standard in the New Testament, with specific qualifications given in I Timothy 3:8-13. According to Cho:

The original intent of the appointment of lay leadership was not to establish an office (Acts 6: 1-7). It was to designate specific men to meet specific needs, assisting the Apostles in order that the Twelve give themselves “continually to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6: 2). Lay leaders were delegated both the authority that allowed them to perform their tasks, and the ministry that gave their appointment substance. They were selected because they had already proven their worth as servers.[4]

In the New Testament (Mt. 13: 36-52; 17: 25-27; Mk. 9: 33-50; 10: 10-12; Lk. 7: 36-50) we see the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ was taken place at homes. In  Acts, there are references that believers worshipped and taught at homes. Concerning Christians in Jerusalem, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2: 46, italics supplied).

The Significance of Cell Group

Cell System

            (1) The primary objective of cell group is evangelism. Perhaps, cell group might become nurturing, caring and loving community, but they are only supporting factors for evangelism. A local church in the United States had put up  homecells in its community, but they failed later on since the homecells were designed merely for nurturing the members rather than a means of evangelistic mission.[5] Dr. Cho referred to homecell groups as the main key to evangelism:

Our Church… carries out evangelism primarily through the homecell groups system. Each group becomes a nucleus of revival in its neighborhood because the cell group is where real life is to be found in that neighborhood. When a homecell meeting is full of life, and when the Lord had done in their lives, other people are drawn to them. Unbelievers become curious.[6]

Homecell groups basically attract individuals through example or “life-style evangelism.” If the small group is functioning correctly, the transforming experience of genuine koinonia is the life of  believers spills over into neighborhood and work place. New persons are evangelized by what they observe and experience when brought by friends to the meeting.

One advantage of small homecell groups is that they offer a structure in which personal communication of the gospel is made. Howard Snyder says:

Christian communication suffers from impersonality. Often its too slick, too professional, and therefore, too impersonal. But in a small group, person meets person; communication  takes place at the personal level. This is why, contradictory as it may seen, a small group may really reach more people than mass communication media the mass media may reach millions superficially but few profoundly…. The evangelism which will be most effective in the city will use small groups as its basic methodology. It will find the small group provides the best environment in which sinners can hear the convicting, winning voice of the Holy Spirit and come alive spiritually through faith. It will find that faith is contagious when fellowship is genuine.[7]

(2) Homecell groups are designed to train all believers to be lay ministers and function in their fullest capacity within the body of Christ. Each person is expected to discover and develop his or her spiritual gifts, and use them in service to strengthen the body.

(3) Homecell groups provide the interpersonal context in which a person can become a “doer” of the Word and not a “hearer” only. What is learned must be applied  in relationships.

(4) Homecell groups help communicate the church’s total life and goals. Cell groups help keep everyone involved in the church’s life and purpose.

(5) Cell groups provide a way for Christians to learn to serve one another in practical way, and helping each other.

(6) Cell groups provide a place for individuals to share their burdens and pray for each other.

(7) Cell groups allow a church to grow large while at the same time preserving personal care and a sense of belonging.

(8) Cell groups provide an environment where new believers can receive love and care. Also, there is a high percentage of inactive members in most churches, so through home cell they would be influenced to go back into the life of the church.

 Some Points to Organize Homecells

            (1) The administrative pastor should study well the mechanics of the homecell system.

(2) The administrative pastor should motivate the church leaders to participate and cooperate in the program. He should actively promote the cell groups to his church. Those who delegate that responsibility to his associate or assistant will possibly fail.

(3) The pastor should encourage members to devise and plan with him in putting up cell groups. “The church must feel ownership of the idea…. The church will not feel ownership if they do not have input into the design and implementation of cell groups.”[8]

(4) “Be deliberate and not be rushed into a hasty construction of a cell group program.”[9] The church should study comprehensively on how the home cells will be implemented in the community.

(5) The pastor should start with the nucleus of  dedicated members. He should select them as the Holy Spirit leads him, and disciple them. This nucleus might become a model for the entire church to observe.[10]

(6) The pastor should choose qualified or potential cell leaders and train them. Each of the cell groups of Hoffmantown Baptist Church (Albuquerque) called “Neighborhood Groups” is assigned a cell leader and the standards for cell leaders are high. Cell leaders have to be members of the local church and are required to complete a twelve-week training course called Basic Life-Style Ministry before they can be approved by a nominating committee. They are expected to tithe and to demonstrate a willingness to work under the spiritual authority of the administrative pastor.[11]

(7) “The church’s community should be divided into geographic divisions, with cells established in neighborhoods. Geographic divisions are difficult in the beginning, but are healthiest for continued growth of the cells.”[12]

(8) The cell groups may be classified according to age, sex, or occupation, but the cell leaders must be accountable to their pastor, to church and to God.

(9) The cell groups may meet in a different home every week or in the same house for convenience, and the cell members are free to decide which day and time they want to meet, provided that their schedule does not conflict with the local church’s schedule. Most women in Korea are housewives, so they prefer to meet for home cell when their children are in school and their husbands at work. Usually men meet on Fridays or Saturdays since they work five  and a half days a week. Children go to school five and one half days a week, so they convene their home cells in the afternoon of Saturday.

(10) The cell leader is responsible for convening the meeting, follow up or discipling the cell members, overseeing the needs of the cell members and the neighborhood, inviting non-members, of course, the cell members should also be responsible. He should also attend in the weekly Bible studies of cell leaders so that he knows what to teach next meeting. He should also report the recent or concluded meeting to the pastor.

(11) The cell leader should introduce and encourage the members to have a “body-body system” or “brother’s keeper.” Jesus sent out His twelve disciples two by two (Mk. 6: 7-13), and also the 72 disciples (Lk. 10: 1-12). The primary aims of “body- body system” are to find the needs of one another, and try to help one another, and to be prayer partners.

(12) Dr. Cho says, “If cell groups are to succeed, the pastor must become so convinced of their necessity in the church that he will see them as the key to the life or death of his church.”[13]The pastor needs to commit his energy and leadership to lay the ground work. And even after the program is rolling, he needs to remain the obvious leader, training the cell leaders and motivating them to reach the goals that have been established for each group.

If the people are not convinced, one of three things would occur: a) Cell will meet for “fellowship” only, and there will be no real spiritual growth and no evangelism. Eventually they will fizzle out; b) The groups will come under the influence of personalities. In this way the home cells eventually becomes something useless and harmful; c) The cell system will become a cancer on the local body if the cell leaders are not required to report regularly to their superiors, or to the administrative pastor.[14]

Yoido ChurchFurther Guidelines[15]

            (1) Homecell leaders are to be designated by the administrative pastor who will keep the homecells alive and active. (2) Assistant homecell leaders are to be appointed by the pastor who will keep a record of attendance, place of meeting, absences, reasons of absences, visitors if any. Their religion or church affiliation; are they adult women, adult men, young adult, youth, or children? Further, he or she should note also the following: texts, time started, time ended, where to be held the homecell next week, date and time, who gave the special song or hymn, who gave the personal testimony, how many received Christ today, and how many revived?

(3) The group should be limited to 12 people only and must be volitional on the part of each member. There can be no compulsion except the compulsion of Christ’s love in one’s heart and one’s love for others.

(4) Homecell members and visitors take upon themselves a vow of strict confidentiality. Any individual uses the homecell as an opportunity to gather gossips has no right and no place in the homecells.

(5) Although an hour of session is ideal, there would be instances when an extension of time is inevitable since we do not want to “grieve” the Holy Spirit. Neither must the meeting drag along with boredom settling in.

(6) The administrative pastor should regularly meet the homecell leaders and their assistants to receive reports regarding the homecells, to evaluate the homecells, and to see where his or her pastoral counsel is necessary and whether there are people in need of special care or visitation. He, too, is sworn into the confidentiality of each homecell.

A Suggested Liturgy of the Homecell Meeting

            The homecell members and the host should create a welcome atmosphere, particularly to the newcomers. May be by saying to the guests that they are most welcome, and maybe the cell leader may ask what is the expectation of the text through responsive reading. Remember that even in the small group nobody should be spectators. Everybody should cooperate.

(6) The cell leader should give the message using the guided lesson prepared by the church or by the pastor. Usually the leaders learn the lesson from the weekly meetings for cell leaders.

(7) Voluntary offering. The cell group may sing a hymn while doing the offering. The offering will be recorded by the cell financial secretary and keep by cell treasurer. Afterwards, the cell treasurer will turn the week’s offering to the local church treasurer. The cell financial secretary will report the week’s offering to the church financial secretary for recording. The cell group offering can not be used for any other purpose. If the cell groups want to help a member or a needy, the cell members may chip in after the cell meeting. The offering is intended specifically for evangelism and church ministry. (8) The prayer for the offering. Dedicate the offering and the givers to the Lord. (9) one or two testimonies of participants on how is God working in his or her life. Testimony should be short. (10) Special prayer of the cell leader for the needs of the group members, healing, infilling of the Holy Spirit, etc. (11) Refreshment (optional) and informal fellowship or chatting.

The cell meeting should not be more than one hour and the refreshment should be limited to simple snacks–if the host wants to have refreshment, but it should be discouraged since it might become a hindrance for others not to invite the homecell meeting in their house since they do not have something to serve after the meeting.

                [1]The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (Tennessee: The United Methodist Pub. House, 1988), pp. 7-8.

[2]Marlin L. Nelson, Principles of Church Growth (Korea: Seoul Bible College Press, 1991), p. 29.

[3]Official Statistics of the Yoido Full Gospel Central Church published in 1993.

[4] Paul Yonggi Cho, “Home Cells,” in Church Growth, Autumn 1991, p.4.

[5]C. Kirk Hadaway, Francis M. Dubose and Stuart A. Wright, Home Cell Groups and House Churches (Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1987), pp. 129-140.

[6]Paul Yonggi Cho, Successful Home Cell Group (Seoul, Korea: Church Growth International, 1981), p. 58.

[7]Howard Snyder, The Problem of Wine Skins: Church Structure in a Technological Age (Downer Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), pp. 141-142.

[8]Hadaway, et al., p. 139.

[9]Ibid., p.140.

[10]Paul Yonggi Cho, “On Home Cell Groups, “ in World of Faith, Summer/Fall 1980, p. 15.

[11]Hadaway, et al., p. 137.

[12]John Hurston, “Church growth and Home Groups: A Panel Report,” in World of Faith, p. 17.

[13]Cho, Successful Home Cell Groups, p. 109.

[14]Ibid., p. 110.

[15]Adapted from Bishop  Paul Locke Granadosin’s lecture “The Wesley Class Meeting” Dec. 14, 1982, p.7.

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