Joel Comiskey's Ph.D. Dissertation

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ABSTRACT

Comiskey, Joel Thomas

1997

“Cell-Based Ministry as a Positive Factor for Church Growth in Latin America.” Fuller Theological Seminary, School of World Mission. Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies. 297 pp.

Many are aware that the largest church in the history of Christianity is comprised of tens of thousands of small groups, and David Yonggi Cho has demonstrated that a church can continue to grow rapidly without losing the quality care of its members. Several churches in Latin America have already experienced rapid growth through a cell-based ministry. These churches, while learning principles from Korea, have contextualized the cell-based model for Latin America.

The purpose of this dissertation will be to examine key variables of cell-based ministry in selected growing churches in Latin America and to compare those variables in order to describe the ways in which cell-based ministry contributes to church growth. I will examine the patterns of growth in these churches, the organizational structure of the cell-based ministry, patterns of effective cell leadership, and factors connected with cell multiplication.

Along with the interviews and participant observation in these case study churches, I prepared a questionnaire consisting of twenty-nine questions to determine which factors were significant in helping a leader multiply his or her cell group. The dependent variables were four questions related to cell multiplication. The rest of the questions were constructed as independent variables to determine what affect they might have on cell multiplication. These findings, along with the patterns and differences among the cell churches, are presented in Chapters 6 through 10.

Chapter 1 deals with the theology of the church as it relates to cell-based ministry. Chapter 2 covers the history of small groups from the Old Testament to Methodism. Chapter 3 looks at cell group strategies today, including the Pure Cell model and the Meta model. Chapter 4 focuses on Latin American cultural patterns, while Chapter 5 specifically deals with Latin American leadership patterns.

After laying the foundation for cell-based ministry in Chapters 1 through 5, Chapter 6 describes the five churches, Chapter 7 analyzes the organizational aspects of their cell ministry, Chapter 8 explores the leadership patterns of cell-based ministry in these churches, Chapter 9 examines the process of cell group multiplication in the case study churches and Chapter 10 offers a final summary and recommendations based on the research.

Mentor: C. Peter Wagner 356 words

Dedication to my wife Celyce, my faithful partner and best friend

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

If it were not for certain people, this Ph.D. would not be possible. I especially want to thank my wonderful wife, Celyce Comiskey, who provided untiring support and encouragement during these intense months of study. She was not only a great mother, picking up the slack with our children and our home, but was also an invaluable sounding board for my ideas and provided needed editing for my dissertation. My three children Sarah, Nicole, and Chelsea, also deserve special attention for their patience with Daddy during these months of study. If it were not for my parents, Tom and Phyllis Comiskey, I would not be getting this esteemed degree. They have been a constant encouragement to me and have modeled to me the importance of education since childhood.

I want to thank Peter Wagner, my mentor, who was also my model and constant inspiration. It was a great joy to work under someone who I respect so greatly and whose example I want to follow. Paul Pierson also formed part of my doctoral committee. I want to especially thank him for the personal time that he spent with me, offering valuable advice and corrections. I must also thank Pablo Deiros for being the third person on my doctoral guidance committee and for his valuable help in preparing my questionnaire in the Spanish language.

Fred Smith offered patient advice and encouragement to me, especially when I was preparing to enter the Ph.D. program. Richard Gorsuch also helped immensely in the area of statistics and the formation of my questionnaire.

There are two students who deserve special thanks. Kate Leung, a Ph.D. student in the School of Psychology, spent many hours of her busy schedule instructing me concerning the quantitative aspects of my research. She urged me to continue when I was at the point of giving up, and I am very grateful for it. Aivars Ozolins also spent many extra hours of his time offering help in the early stages of my Ph.D. proposal.

I also want to thank Alan McMahan, Mike Crow, and Ian Prescott, fellow SWM doctoral students, who in addition to their encouragement, gave me many valuable insights during our weekly lunch discussions. They also gave me many suggestions concerning my field research.Above all I give thanks to the Lord for His abundant grace, empowering, and insight. I can testify that these words of the apostle Paul are true in my own life, “For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge” (1 Co. 1:5).

Table of contents

ABSTRACT

dedication

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Table of contents

list of tables

list of figures

list of abbreviations

  • INTRODUCTION
  • CHAPTER 1 THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF CELL-BASED MINISTRY
    • The Church: What It Is
      • Description from the Biblical Text
      • Biblical Imagery of the Church
    • Marks of the Church
    • The Church: What It Does
      • Engagement in Discipleship
      • Participation in Social Activity
      • Testimony to the Kingdom of God
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 2 HISTORY OF THE CELL MOVEMENT
    • Small Groups in Biblical Perspective
    • Small Groups in the Old Testament
    • Small Groups in the New Testament
    • Small Groups in Early Christian History
    • Changes that Affected the Small Group Movement Negatively
    • Small Groups among the Clergy
    • Small Groups and Monasticism
      • From Isolation to Community
      • Evangelistic Bands in Monasticism
    • Small Groups of the Pre-Reformation Period
      • Yearning for Change
      • Brethren of the Common Life
    • Small Groups During the Time of the Reformation
      • Anabaptist Movement
      • Luther and Small Groups
      • Martin Bucer
    • Small Groups after the Reformation
      • Pietism
      • The Moravians
      • The Methodists and Small Groups
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 3 STRATEGIES OF CELL BASED MINISTRY TODAY
    • Pure Cell Model
      • The Influence of David Yonggi Cho
      • Cells Form Part of the Local Church Structure
      • Emphasis on Components or Characteristics of the Cell
      • Similarity among the Cell Groups
      • Partnership in Evangelism
      • Focus on Multiplication of Cell Group
      • Uniformity of Lesson Material
      • Strong Administrative Control
      • Required Cell Leader Training
      • The Rapid Releasing of Leadership
      • Very Few Programs Apart from Cells
      • Commitment of Head Pastor to Cell Ministry
      • Goal of One Hundred Percent Participation in Cell Groups
    • The Meta Model
      • Influences on George
      • Original Version of the Meta Model
      • Latest Version of the Meta Model
      • Characteristics of the Meta Model Adopted by Other Churches
      • Comparison of the Meta Model and the Pure Cell Model
    • Other Small Group Movements in the United States
      • The Serendipity Model
      • The Covenant Model
      • The Small Group Resurgence
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 4 LATIN AMERICAN CULTURE AND CELL-BASED MINISTRY
    • General Cultural Traits
      • Event Orientation
      • Time Flexibility
      • Priority of People
    • The Latin Family
      • The Importance of Family
      • The Extended Family
      • Kinship System
    • The Machismo-Hembrismo Dualism
      • Machismo
      • Hembrismo
    • Worldview of Latin America
    • Catholicism
    • Evangelicalism
    • Cultural Factors that Affect Cell Ministry
      • People Orientation
      • Priority of Family
      • Openness to the Gospel
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 5: ISSUES OF LEADERSHIP AND CELL BASED MINISTRY
    • Distinctiveness of Latin American Leadership
      • Authoritarianism
      • Assigned Status
      • Group Orientation
      • Resistance to Change
    • Additional Latin Leadership Patterns
    • Latin Leadership Factors that Affect Cell Ministry
      • Authoritarianism
      • Assigned Status
      • Resistance to Change
      • Group Consciousness
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 6 DESCRIPTION OF THE CASE STUDY CHURCHES
    • La Misión Carismática Internacional
      • Context
      • History of the Church (MCI)
      • Growth of the Church (MCI)
      • General Characteristics
      • Areas of Strength in the Church
    • Christian Community Agua Viva
      • Context
      • History of the Church
      • Growth of the Church
      • General Characteristics
      • Key Areas of Strength in the Church
    • La Misión Cristiana Elim
      • Context
      • History of the Church
      • Growth of the Church
      • General Characteristics
      • Areas of Strength in the Church
    • El Centro Cristiano de Guayaquil
      • Context
      • History of the Church
      • Growth of the Church
      • Denominational Affiliation
      • Areas of Strength in the Church
    • El Amor Viviente
      • Context
      • History of the Church
      • Growth of the Church
      • General Characteristics
      • Areas of Strength in the Church
    • Summary of the Five Churches
    • General Patterns among the Case Study Churches
    • General Differences among the Case Study Churches
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 7 CELL-BASED ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
    • La Misión Carismática Internacional
      • Development of the Cell System
      • Cell Administration
      • Similarities to the Pure Cell Model
      • Unique Characteristics of the Cell System
      • Strengths and Weaknesses of the Cell System
    • Christian Community Agua Viva
      • Early Development of the Cell Structure
      • Transition From a Pure Cell Model to the MCI Model
      • Principal Features of the New Organization
      • Follow-Up through the Cell Ministry
      • Cell Groups
    • La Misión Cristiana Elim
      • Development of the Cell Structure
      • Cell Administration
      • Unique Characteristics of the Cell System
      • Cell Group Structure
      • Strengths and Weaknesses of the Cell System
    • El Centro Cristiano de Guayaquil
      • Development of the Cell Structure
      • Cell Administration
      • Various Characteristics of the Organizational Structure
      • Unique Aspects of CCG Cell Organization
      • Cell Group Meeting
      • Strengths and Weaknesses of the Cell System
    • El Amor Viviente
      • Development of the Cell Structure
      • Cell Administration
      • Common Pure Cell Features
      • Unique Characteristics of Organizational Structure
      • Cell-Based Church or Church with Cells?
      • Cell Groups
      • Follow-up
      • Strengths and Weaknesses of the Cell System
    • Summary of the Five Churches
    • Cell Organizational Patterns
    • Organizational Differences among the Case Study Churches
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 8 LEADERSHIP PATTERNS
    • La Misión Carismática Internacional
      • Leadership Requirements
      • Leadership Training
      • Leadership Trainers
      • Training through the Twelve
    • Christian Community Agua Viva
      • Leadership Requirements
      • Leadership Training
      • Leadership Emergence
    • La Misión Cristiana Elim
      • Leadership Requirements
      • Leadership Training
      • Leadership Functions
    • El Centro Cristiano de Guayaquil
      • Leadership Requirements
      • Leadership Training
      • Leadership Functions
    • El Amor Viviente
    • Leadership Requirements
    • Leadership Training
    • Leadership Functions
    • Summary of the Five Churches
    • Similar Cell Leadership Patterns
    • Cell Leadership Differences
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 9 CELL GROUP MULTIPLICATION
    • La Misión Carismática Internacional
      • Everyone is a Potential Cell Leader
      • Leadership Rewards for Multiplication
      • Examples of Successful Cell Leadership
      • Successful Leaders are Able to Teach
      • The Key to Cell Multiplication: Leadership
      • Encouragement to Lead Several Groups
    • Christian Community Agua Viva
      • Struggles with Multiplication
      • Emphasis on Planting New Cells
      • Emphasis on Lower Level Supervision
    • La Misión Cristiana Elim
      • Mother-Daughter Multiplication and New Plants
      • Unique Aspects of Cell Multiplication
      • Reasons for Success
    • El Centro Cristiano de Guayaquil
      • Starting New Groups Versus Multiplication
      • Lack of Cell Leaders
      • Reasons for Rapid Spread of Cell Groups
    • El Amor Viviente
      • Unique Aspects of Cell Multiplication
      • The Multiplication Process
      • Elevation in Ministry
    • Summary of the Five Churches
    • Similar Cell Multiplication Patterns
    • Differences in the Cell Multiplication Process
    • Questionnaire: Cell Multiplication Factors
      • Administration of the Questionnaire
      • Limitations of the Questionnaire
      • Description of the Questionnaire Respondents
      • Results of the Questionnaire
    • Conclusion
  • CHAPTER 10 SUMMARY, RECOMMENDATIONS and CONCLUSIONS
    • Summary
    • Recommendations
    • Conclusion
  • APPENDIX A QUESTIONNAIRE: ENGLISH AND SPANISH
  • APPENDIX B CHURCH SELECTION AND METHODOLOGY
    • Selection of Case Study Churches
    • Methodology
    • Delimitations
    • references cited
    • Index
    • VITA