An officer colleague recently observed that many of the new trends in church life were present in The Salvation Army from it's early days. For example, the principles of Cell Church are similar to the old Ward System. I was reminded of this statement again this evening when we ran the first session of Blowing Your Cover (a personal evangelism course – see www.blowingyoucover.com)
One of the messages to the delegates was the importance of following through with someone after they are saved. Discipleship is a long-term relational process. I heard recently that new converts from Sunday evening Salvation meetings were allocated an experienced Soldier to walk them to work on Monday. Each of them would also be placed in a Ward under a Ward Sergeant, who had a responsibility for the spiritual welfare of those in his care. Regular meetings encouraged Soldiers to pray for each other and give practical support, as well as offering Bible teaching and accountability – much as modern cells aim to do.
Surely this is the model Jesus used. He didn't sit his disciples down and go over the basics of the gospel and check thir acceptance of essential doctrines before letting them in. He just said, "Follow me." the rest they learned as they watched and listened to him. I know they were not Christians as we understand it, but the principle of a discipleship journey is familir to us. We were reminded again in BYC that the verb "go" in the Great Commission is in a continuous tense with the meaning "as you go [about your daily business] make disciples." I'm not convinced that Jesus was into relational evangelism, but he operated a kind of relational discipleship that would not look out of place in modern cell churches.
As a wise man once said, "there is nothing new under the sun!"