By Steven Mitchell (Power To Stand Ministries)
This article is merely a glancing glimpse into the standard teachings of the G12 church growth model currently making its rounds through many churches worldwide.
Ever wonder why we have so many diet plans that come along so frequently? Each subsequent “new and improved” dietary course or exercise routine claims to be a step above the previous. Some even claim to finally be the ultimate weight loss programs or the pinnacle of exercise machines or the last routine you will ever need to finally shed those unsightly pounds and begin your new life slim and trim. Accompanied by endless infomercials and slick marketing campaigns, these revelations are constantly emerging from so-called laboratories and testing facilities that claim to have finally reached the “Eureka!” level idea.
As the diet war goes, so goes the Church Growth Movement and here we are with the latest gimmick growth pattern to ensure that those seats get filled and your church gains massive attendance weight by finally having the multiplication theorem that will bring about “fat” cell groups and expand your local Body as well as the Body of Christ as a whole.
Enter the Government of 12 or G12 Movement. It’s the latest innovative way to “grow your church” and “take the nations for Christ”. It’s a cell church model advertised as being directly revealed from Jesus Himself received via special revelation beyond the Bible from a new “apostle” in the Church today. Hmmm!
We’ll look briefly at a popular promotional flyer that introduces the reader and eager pastor to the secret theorems of G12. Implement these in your church and buy into the proposed rhetoric and you might be able to have a mega-church and, well, as is implied, actually BEGIN to glorify God in your local congregation.
Please read the following statements from the flyer and the comments concerning the tenets introduced as the G12 movement. Test all things by the Word of God and ask yourselves as you read: “Do we really need this latest theory or is Christ building His Church and responsible for its growth?”
G12 Has Landed!
On Feb. 10-12th, 2003, The G12 conference was held in Mumbai, India and a standard flyer was handed out to attract churches and their pastors and lay-leaders to come out and be indoctrinated into the latest fad from the CGM (church growth movement). The flyer is not comprehensive but is extremely revealing.
In the flyer we read: “G-12, short for Government of 12, is a discipleship strategy pioneered by Cesar and Claudia Castellanos of Mission Charismatica Internationale in Bogotá, Colombia.”
First of all we see that this strategy, in the G12 format, appears to be man-centered as are most of the similar growth gimmicks in the church growth movement. It’s not hailed as from the Bible or something we could deduce from study of the Scriptures. We see that it is called “Government of 12” which definitely implies a sort of rulership or hierarchy among the discipler and disciple. Further study shows that it is indeed pyramidal in structure with the discipler emerging as the pinnacle of authority over his expanding base of twelve subordinates. But how important is this new strategy?
“It is based on a vision from the Lord about how to reach the world with the Good News.”
Obviously, God thought it necessary to grant this secret vision to Castellanos, who, incidentally is in league with the heretical and doctrinally unsound New Apostolic Reformation. I am always curious why God is alleged to be the revealer of extra biblical truths and strategies to groups or persons who have a demonstrable track-record for error and false prophecies. At the very least, one would think God would choose men and women who don’t have such extensive affiliations with false teachers, but among the churches that accept these new apostles and prophets, they carry great authority and are bolstered by the claims that God Himself is the author of their theories and ideas. It is clear that Castellanos believes that, although he pioneered the implementation of G12, God is the author of it.
If this is true, then G12 needs to be accepted and implemented without delay and without question. Look how it is tied into our very purpose as believers: “Every Christian has a purpose. That purpose is to win the lost for Jesus. If you don’t fulfill that purpose, then you will never be fulfilled. The purpose is best fulfilled within the G12 cellular vision. If you don’t fulfill your purpose today, you may never fulfill it at all.”
Apparently the G12 Movement holds the key to spiritual success and effective evangelism. Without it, we are being found to fight against God or, at the very least, we are doomed to the failure of substandard, non-effectual witnessing if we ignore the exhortation to do G12. Why do I say this? Because it is claimed to be a vision from the Lord. According to the flyer, the G12 model is “a cell group system that God gave Castellanos.”(Emphasis mine).
How God missed giving it to his disciples and the true apostles in Scripture is irrelevant to the Third Wave teachers because they believe that God is doing a “new thing” anyway, and that this privileged group of end time prophets are the revealers of His truth for the Church in this day and age. It is clearly implied that we better get on board with this new model and fast!
Combine this with their other teachings and one can see why the emphasis is on a “government” motif in this strategy because the new prophets/apostles are all about authority in the Church because they believe that God is only now instituting the proper governmental structure in the Church in this generation, and this new breed is on the top of it. Do I have to remind any of our readers that this notion is heretical?
G12 = Success?
The claims and pressure to accept G12 continue: “The model of ministry based on 12 is the most effective means of obeying the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to win disciples and of growing the Church.” Then we should expect to find Christ’s own disciples and the apostles in the Book of Acts practicing this theory in fullness. But wait, if the above statement is correct, then Christ actually in person commissioned them to reach the world for Christ but omitted the most effective way to do that. One thing is clear; we don’t see this model employed in the Book of Acts or anywhere else in the New Testament or church history, although similar schemes have come and gone.
It is frightfully clear then, that Jesus’ own personal disciples weren’t effective and it’s God’s fault for not telling them. That is, if the G12 model is essential. I hope you can see that I am trying to make my point.
But to the G12 crew, even this India conference is mandatory for any pastor or cell group leader who is serious about good ministry: “If you are a firm believer in Jesus and want to see His church grow and see our nation India be saved then this conference is for you.” So if I stay home, what happens? I miss out on a divinely revealed key to seeing India be saved. I will be unfulfilled and ineffective with merely the Word and the Holy Spirit as my guide. All other teachers that God has illumined in the past will also be no real help to me apart from the G12 model. It is “the most effective” way to see souls saved. These claims are manipulative and worse yet, misrepresentative of what Christ has said in Scripture (Matt. 16:18”…I will build My church…”). (See also Acts 2:47: “…And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”).
Could He do all this without the G12 theorem? Apparently so.
So how does it work and what are the leaders of G12 asking you to do? According to the “Lord”:
“The basics of the vision are that Christians can gather around themselves 12 disciples, and each of these in turn can gather 12 more. The potential for growth of the church is enormous.”
Sounds good except we need to ask should we be gathering disciples around ourselves anyway. Also, if the potential for church growth is enormous with 12, then doesn’t it logically follow that we should even set our sights higher? Why not 13? 22? 78 disciples? If this is a mere matter of exponential multiplication, then 12 is setting a low goal mathematically.
What’s the catch? Why the significance of the number 12? Well, here’s where the mystical eisogesis of the Third Wave mentality kicks in, and here’s the faulty claim that Castellanos offers in support of his “most effective means” based on 12: “The key to success in this model is found in leading groups of 12. Jesus taught us this lesson through His own example. He did not deal with people based on their obvious abilities, but according to the potential He knew they had within.”
Is this true? Did Jesus really lay out a mystically significant pattern for us to emulate and duplicate within the constructs of a church growth theorem? This premise is hardly likely.
I do not mean to downplay any significance that God Himself has for the number 12. As seen in Scripture, He sometimes chose this quantity for reasons of His own. In addition He also emphasized certain other numbers as well (3, 7, 70, etc.) but we are not given any such mandate to pour any such meaning into these numbers.
This is where I am really concerned about G12. Castellanos and other writers about this cell church model begin to spiritualize and distort meanings in texts that include numerical significance and then teach that there is some Gnostic-like interpretation to their usage. Then they package their belief and sell it to the churches through books and conferences using their large numbers and mega churches as the validation that their interpretations must be from God.
Far worse is the case of G12 where this “revelation” is alleged from God and it is proposed that because Christ chose 12, then we also ought to follow in His footsteps and then we will receive the numerical release or breakthrough that we haven’t had yet.. This causes us to trust in a formula rather than the Lord to build His church and worse it changes what Jesus actually said. He never told us anywhere in the Scriptures that there was something of a pattern of 12 to follow for disciple gathering. He never told His apostles to do this and neither do we see them surrounding themselves with 12 in the Book of Acts or the epistles.
These are considerations we must look at. Consider also that, if we insist that Jesus was giving us a special model based on the number 12, then we must also emulate His choices of disciples. Think about it. If we are to accurately use Christ’s selection as a guide for our ministry then every G12 pastor and cell leader should choose 11 faithful followers (actually Hebrews), several poor men, at least one with a scandalous profession (tax collector Matthew), and a devil.
Don’t forget that last one. Jesus said “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’” (John 6:70). Jesus actually selected a “devil” who we find out as the story unfolds for us, is His traitorous betrayer (Luke 6:16) and the son of perdition (John 17:12) who would have been better off had he not even been born (Matt. 26:24; Mark 14:21). And don’t forget, you yourself as the leader should be a messianic deliverer. That’s if we are to have a strict adherence to Christ’s discipleship ways. It’s clear that Christ’s ministry was unique in many ways and this is just one of them. There is no evidence biblically that we should pour secret meaning into His methodology. The significance of 12 or 70 or any number is known to God and, regardless of what Castellanos claims, is not revealed to us as any pattern for today.
G12 Big Business/Bad Company
Some final points to consider:
G12 is hailed as a leadership/discipleship structure that is designed to take place in a cell group where the ultimate goal is for one’s 12 disciples to get their own 12 and lead them through the “Ladder of Success.”
“Ladder of Success”? Was that in Castellanos’ God-given vision also? The similarity in this terminology to that of the workplace should not be overlooked. As with the Church growth/success theories of Peter Wagner, Bill Hybels, George Barna, and John Maxwell, G12, in the end, reads like a pyramidal multi-level marketing scheme and emerges as the latest in a long line of growth gimmicks that’s sure to continue.
Do we need G12 with its unbiblical claims and premises and its not-insignificant ties to the Third Wave and New Apostolic Reformation? At this year’s G12 conference in Singapore (2003, Khong’s church), Benny Hinn made an appearance on screen and was endorsed by the leaders present. In addition, typical Toronto-style manifestations were present and gross false teachings were delivered. Third Waver Dick Bernal was the keynote speaker, along with Castellanos, in India’s Feb. 2003 conference.
One of the final statements in the flyer is: “Something wonderful happens when God’s people are mobilized. The ‘super star syndrome’ disappears and the work is done by all. The real heroes in this vision are the members of the church not a handful of its super-anointed leaders.”
Note that the publishers of this flyer are not denying belief in the existence of “super-anointed’ church leaders”. That’s because the proponents and chief speakers at this conference and others are affiliated with those who truly believe in the 'Latter Rain' end times rising of new apostles and prophets who are super anointed above the rest of us. You can be sure that the devil uses ambition and pride wherever he can in the presence of super high mega church growth statistics and speakers who claim special revelations from God apart from the Bible. The very fact that many Third Wave leaders allow themselves to be billed as super-anointed prophets and apostolic figures is proof that the super star syndrome is nurtured in these circles.
All I’m saying is that G12 is not essential. It is not necessary for healthy church growth and it cannot be demonstrably proven as a strategy delivered from the God of the Bible. I think we as discerning members of the Body of Christ must test these emerging theories and minister boldly to the multitudes who are being deceived into thinking these are essentials for effective ministry. We do well to place our trust in Christ alone and the work of the Holy Spirit to draw men to God and we are but slaves who can share the gospel in varieties and means that God sanctions and allows. The roots of G12 as well as what ministries it is affiliated with proves its danger and we need to be wary.
A final exhortation: teach true sound doctrine from the Bible to as many as will listen and don’t get hung up on special numbers or info that comes from questionable sources like the G12 crew.
“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (Paul to Timothy; 2 Tim. 1:13).
Watch out! Assuredly G12 is coming to a church near you!
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