The three C’s of church

April 22nd, 2012

A Pastor friend of mine shared this in his weekly newsletter. I thought it was really good how it described church in three of its forms…

“Our focus in Merredin this morning is the “church”. What is the church? And if the church is the people of God, why do we say we are going “to church”? Well, actually the church IS the people and it exists whenever “two or three” are gathered in the Lord’s Name. We tend to think of church as only being “the congregation” but there are two other forms as well. These could be termed as the 3 “C”’s – Cell, Congregation and Celebration.

The Cell is the small group where a group of people meet to pray and encourage each other in their Christian Walk. It is fairly intimate and things can be shared and taught there amongst a committed group which might not happen in other groups. Ideally this is the place for sharing Holy Communion and exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is a highly relational group.

The Congregation, for us, would be the gathering for Sunday worship. It tends to be quite organised both in its structure and its arrangements. The format follows a pretty routine order with some singing, some sharing, some teaching and some prayers. People can be as involved as they want to be. Mostly people sit in the same place time after time. It is a comfortable group offering a fair degree of anonymity. It is a necessary part of the church’s structure but it is unfortunate that it is often seen as the only form of meeting together. The early church would almost certainly have met in Cell-type structures with the cells coming together in a town from time to time as a Congregation. The Congregation offers only limited opportunity for relationship building.

The Celebration is a much larger gathering (several hundreds or thousands) which is very highly organised and allows those gathered to participate with complete freedom as they follow the leader(s). It usually has a lot of singing and worship and excellent, well-prepared focussed teaching. Prayer tends to be limited, though there might be opportunity for people to venture up front for specific prayer ministry. There is virtually no relationship building and almost no contact outside of the Celebration. Think of Mighty Men’s Conferences, Gatherings in St Peter’s Square in Rome and so on.

It must be understood that each of these, while distinct events in their own right, do tend to blur into one another. However, the dynamics will always be different – you cannot expect the dynamic worship of a Celebration to exist in a Cell group; and the Cell Groups intimacy will never be achieved at a Celebration event. The Congregation structure is a compromise between the two but it was never intended to replace the other two forms. The Bible does however give us a strong foundation for all three forms.”