The Church in Many Houses by Steve Cordle – a review

This book by Steve Cordle was very well organized and followed a very logical progression of reasoning. In part one, he dealt with the emerging cell movement. The author discussed the signs of hope which are emerging from the cell-based movement around the world. The examples of cell-based churches which are thriving around the world helps to support some of the statements and conclusions the author proposes in the rest of the book. Cordle discusses the problems that many of us see all around us in the American church. He made the statement that in the U.S. the growth which is occurring appears to be, “a mile wide and an inch deep.” This is something that I appreciate over and over in the cell-based materials which I have read (which is not extensive). The focus is biblically-based disciplemaking. The proponents want to see the lost converted and then trained to be disciplemakers. The author provides some foundational definitions in the opening chapter. He discusses what is a cell church and what is a cell. This helps to lay the foundation for understanding everything else that he discusses in the book. It is apparent to the author that there are many fads swirling around in the church-world. He addresses this issue directly by pointing out the N.T. model (which appears very similar to cell-based ministry) and the strategy which John Wesley implemented during his ministry. Cordle proposes that cell-based ministry is far from being a fad and is an extremely biblical approach to ministry.

Chapter two was an interesting one for me. The content revolved around providing a real-life example of a woman who entered the cell group as an unbeliever and then moved all the way through the process to the point of becoming a cell coach. One thing that is still eating at me is the lack of a clear conversion to Christ in the life of Martha, who is the chapter’s example for cell-based ministry. This may just be a lack of clarity on the part of the author but it still is a concern for me. It is not proper to have an unbeliever leading a group or coaching a group. She would need to repent of her sin and believe the gospel. Aside from this issue I did feel that Cordle’s picture of the different facets and levels of cell-life was helpful. It made it as though you were observing group life in a cell-based church ministry. The author’s description disciplemaking strategy of a cell-based church was also helpful. The four stages: Reach, Connect, Equip, and Send provided a solid map for those who may be entering the cell-based ministry. One thing I am unsure of again is what Cordle means by reach. It appears from his writing that he is referring to an individual merely attending a cell or celebration. I do not want to sound picky but I think that the word reach is not helpful for such a step. I would prefer to have the step defined as reach refer to someone being born again, rather than referring to attendance. I am certain that my apprehension stems from the lack of clarity in regard to Martha’s conversion (or lack thereof).

I thought the chapter entitled Thinking Differently was very useful. Cordle does not try to paint a perfect and painless transition to cell-based ministry. He acknowledges that each person has a picture of church ministry. The reality is that not all of these pictures is biblical nor proper. Yet, he instructs that transitioning to cell-based ministry will fail if the only change is in structure. The author makes it very clear that the leadership must teach for a change in understanding and values. He proposes that once this changed in understanding and values occurs, those in the church will view a transition to cell-based ministry as the only possible solution. I thought that this chapter was one of the most beneficial in the entire book and it solidified the validity of his earlier statement that cell-based ministry is not a fad. So much today is more fad than unchanging. This has resulted in many in ministry leadership bouncing from fad to fad looking for the “silver bullet” which will lead them to the promised land of ministry success. Cordle declares that the process of transitioning to cell-based ministry by educating and transforming people’s understanding and values will take time. He admits that it took him about two years to understand and accept cell-based ministry as the right approach to ministry. Therefore, it led him to be patient with those he was leading. This is great advice for those who are involved in any area of ministry leadership.

The following chapters which expand on the five areas in which a transition in understanding and philosophy were helpful. They really clarified what Cordle was proposing in chapter four. The five areas are: moving from growing deeper to reaching outward; moving from member to disciplemaker; moving from educating to equipping; moving from programs to relationships; and moving from church with cells to church that is cells. Each one of these areas make sense as being essential to the process of transitioning from how one traditionally views church to how the cell-based church approaches ministry. Cordle is right, it is entirely different. He compares transitioning to the cell-based church from a program-based church as someone losing his equilibrium and having to regain his footing. The cell-based ministry is so different from what “we have always done.” Interestingly enough, Cordle appears to have taken us as readers through the same process which he advises everyone considering the change to employ. He has slowly brought us into the transitional process. There are things in the book that are a bit uncomfortable with me mainly because I am uncertain of his standards or definitions when it comes to salvation and spiritual maturity. Yet, I think that his part two of the book which deals with laying the foundations is an excellent blue-print in transitioning to a cell-based church ministry. It seems as though someone could employ these same steps in teaching his own church as a means to transitioning from a program-based church to a cell-based church.

I would say that one way I would use the principles provided in this book would be fine-tune the material found in parts one and two of the book. I really liked how Cordle transitioned the thinking of his readers to understand cell-based ministry and its apparent beneficial aspects of disciplemaking. I would want to find use the material (making my own) to describe cell-based ministry and then to provide a personal example of someone whose life was changed through cell ministry. This personal example becomes so powerful when it encompasses each phase of the cell-based ministry process. I completely agreed with Cordle’s identification of the five areas which must change for a program-based church to properly transition to a cell-based ministry. I think I would take these five areas and define them myself for the purpose of teaching a program-based church with the goal of transitioning them to become a cell-based church.

I thought that overall the book was beneficial. Again, I thought that the structure of the book was one of the most beneficial things.

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