Leadership thrives on a working model (What I learned from G12 part. 1) L059

G12 is a type of cell church that originated in Bogota Columbia. In it everyone is discipled in the context of a single sex cell by their cell leader. They are also trained and supported to open their own cell and so disciple others.

After 4 visits to Bogota is was impossible not to be impressed by the arenas and stadiums full of people passionately worshipping God and eagerly going out to bring others to Christ. It seemed unstoppable. The model seemed very attractive, in fact the model was not the heart of it; the heart of it was the heart of it. It was much more about a vision for intentionally raising each man, woman and young person up to be a dedicated follower of Christ, and in so doing equip them to be passionate about reaching the lost. This heart that pervaded everything they did was very convicting to us as we considered our sloppy, consumerist and casual approach to being disciples. It still is.

But it was the model that grabbed our attention. It was visible. It worked. There were ways of running cell meetings, ways of integrating new believers, ways of training believers to be leaders etc. And it was reproducible – or so we thought.

In the end after 7 years of working the vision and the model, it proved to be too much for our cultural context. Despite the fact that many had come to Christ and the church had grown from 350 to 1000, it was too demanding on people with hectic jobs and / or young families. It was leading to burn-out for the more responsible ones. It worked best with younger single folk for whom their cells were their friendship group, for whom church was their leisure activity, and for whom life still held considerable disposable time. The principles were still good, but the model was not viable long-term for everyone.

However it made me realise that a working model is massively important in leadership. If we can see a model of what we want working somewhere, that is a huge help in persuading others to buy into the vision. We just need to make sure that the conditions that enable the model to work in the other situation also apply in our own.

I wonder if Jesus took his model of raising 12 disciples, from the leadership of the nation of Israel through 12 tribes and tribal leaders. The early house churches of the 1st century took their model from the pre-existing ‘oikos’ or household structure of extended families. These would have included a main household with wider family, servants, employees and immediate neighbours leading to functional social units of up to 30 people. A ready-made model for starting churches wherever the apostolic teams went preaching the gospel.

The cell system of church popularised in between the 1970’s and 1990’s drew not only on this model, but also the model of John Wesley’s class system in which converts reported weekly to their mid-week small group to give an account for their progress in following Christ. We are creatures who need to ‘see before we believe’. ‘Does it work?’ is the question of our more pragmatic less principled age.

Modelling is of course also the basis of our discipleship. We learn to follow Christ, but we do that in a very real way by copying what we see modelled by others. In fact this aspect was positively encouraged through G12, and is a soundly biblical model itself. The apostle Paul on one occasion said ‘imitate Christ’, but on another said ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ’. When the disciples first followed Jesus from the shoreline and villages of Galilee, they were observing the model of Jesus life. They learnt to heal the sick and cast out demons by copying what Jesus did.

So models are powerful. Lets make full use of them, whether they be models for church structures, running businesses, building neighbourhoods, or making disciples. But beware the pitfalls too.

This entry was posted by nic on Friday, February 17th, 2012 at 4:59 pm and is filed under Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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