The Cell Church

The New Structure
for the New Church
for the New Millennium

C. Peter Wagner’s original vision for hierarchical networks.[1]

By Sarah H. Leslie

Twenty years ago I began researching the networking hierarchical cell church structure that was beginning to emerge in the evangelical church. I gave two “Cell Church” talks. One presentation was in 1997 at a Discernment Ministries conference in Missisauga, Ontario, Canada, and a few years later an updated talk was given in 1999 at a Discernment Ministries conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The following audio comes from the later 1999 talk.

Listen to the audio:

This talk was graphic intensive, so the referenced exhibits are available from Discernment Ministries (“A. Cell Church Structure with transparencies”).

I had always intended to put the information in these talks into a written document. But personal life circumstances continually thwarted this plan. But by 2005 we had launched the Herescope blog, and a good deal of the research eventually ended up in articles. For the serious researcher Al Dager’s 1990 book Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion is foundational reading.

A later book by Dager, titled The World Christian Movement: A Great Delusion Leading to the Religio-Political State of the Anti-Christ, also contains material referenced in my talk. Much of its research on the global mission movement originated through the efforts of the late Nancy Flint. In the mid 1990s Nancy took a trip across the United States, visiting with discernment researchers to share her disturbing findings. (Both of Dager’s books are available from Discernment Ministries or

In 2007 a 10-part series of Herescope titled “The Doctrines of Dominionism” was based on Nancy Flint’s research. Here we described the new doctrines that were being concocted by evangelical leaders:

Al Dager developed a chart (page 171, Vengeance Is Ours, 1990) that diagrammed the esoteric historical roots and interconnecting movements that undergird historical Dominion teachings. These include a mixture of Gnosticism, Theosophy, British Israelism, Identity, and Anti-Semitism. Some of this racism has been simmering for decades, embedded within Reconstructionism, the Latter Rain Movement and the New Apostolic Reformation. The most disturbing aspect of this is the idea of pure “bloodlines” of “new breed” of “elect seed.” (Read “What Is Dominionism?” and “IHOP’s New Breed Leaders,” “Denying Dominionism,” e.g.) 

These cell church talks reference the early stages of the New Apostolic
Reformation which was being launched by C. Peter Wagner. His rapidly forming hierarchy was to be headed up by “self-anointed,
self-appointed” apostles (see graphic at the top of this post, and read more history HERE). Wagner and others claimed that these
new “apostles” would be infallible and would be able to
re-define doctrine. Positioning these “apostles” and “prophets” at the top was marketed to the church as necessary to
fulfilling the Great Commission. In the year 2007 a series of article were posted on Herescope that summarized these apostolic networking church structures and doctrines. It was titled “The Networking Church”:

The Cell Church Structure
The exhibit below is a cellular chart from page 195 of Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.’s book Where Do We Go From Here? A Guidebook for the Cell Group Church (Touch, 1990). Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the local church. This is also the structure of a city-wide church (ecumenical) as envisioned and described by the cell church architects. It is also the structure of the multi-site church of Leadership Network. It would become the model for C. Peter Wagner’s hierarchies — now called the 7 mountains (quite literally a pyramid marketing structure) for apostolic dominion.

This chart above can also serve as the structure for downline network marketing, which appears to be the intended purpose of the reconfiguration of the church. This structure makes it easy to disseminate a novel idea (new heresy) across peer-driven networks. Read our 8-part series “The Dopamine-Driven Church” in 2007 here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

The 1980 book Holonomy: A Human Systems Theory (Intersystems Publications) by Jeffrey Stamps is an authoritative summary of General Systems Theory applied to human evolution and behavior. This book is also a blueprint for how mankind’s evolution could be best achieved via cellular networking hierarchies. The exhibit below is one of the charts referenced from the book (page 37):

Below is the most offensive exhibit from the book (page 38), depicting the esoteric belief that there are people who are failing to properly evolve due to a reptilian brain stem. According to this paradigm, those who are mystical in thinking and
behavior are more evolutionary advanced than those who believe and act
in terms of traditional absolutes (i.e., Christians). Assessments of people based on signs of evolutionary progress (as ascertained by their adoption of the mystical ideas and practices of the New Age Movement) can become a method of discrimination. Those people who aren’t performing according to the new “systems” management of the government, church and corporate worlds will be subjected to penalties of various sorts.

The Role of Stanford Research Institute
In the late 1990s those of us researching this cell church structure in the church still didn’t have all of the pieces of the puzzle. Because the esoteric doctrines and systems described in Holonomy matched what we were reading about in the emerging “apostolic” cellular church, we suspected a common root. Our best guess, based on our unique backgrounds, experiences and training, was that it was probably the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). We asked: had the SRI influenced evangelical leaders, even trained them, in these new systems methods?

By 2003 we had researched Peter Drucker and Leadership Network and found interesting connections. But it wasn’t until 2005, when we stumbled onto the two Evangelical Consultations on the Future, when we discovered that SRI’s Willis Harman had made presentations to key evangelical leaders, that we realized that our worst suspicions had been confirmed. Read the following accounts about these Consultations on the Future:

Several years ago while writing a book review of Chuck Missler’s Alien Encounters we discovered even more linkages between evangelical leaders and
SRI. The following 6-part article series investigated the influence SRI may have had on Missler’s concoction of strange new eschatological doctrines regarding space aliens and adulterated human DNA: 

There are many other links that we could provide for further research.
Suffice it to say that for the past ten years the Herescope blog has
been the chief venue for documenting the preliminary findings discussed
in the key “Cell Church Talks” of the late 1990s. More will be written
on these topics in the days to come, Lord willing. For those who wish to read further on some of these topics, see the following background articles:

These talks are now 16 years old, and as such are a research “snapshot in time.” Some of the things I said have changed as discernment researchers have delved deeper into these topics. For example, we weren’t sure if we were looking at a multi-headed hydra or a one-headed octopus. The downline networks that were forming in Christendom seemed to be independent of one another, yet there was an ongoing call for unity. It seemed destined to culminate in a one-world church. (Read “Dominionism and the Rise of Christian Imperialism.”) For example, the false prophets of the NAR had been calling for a merging of streams into rivers for several decades.

It is now quite obvious that the downline networking model functions by stealth, superimposing its own structure on top of an existing model (such as denominations), until it sucks the old life out of it and ends up totally controlling it. Parachurch organizations such as Leadership Network, trained pastors and leaders across a global spectrum in this new model of church governance. The excessive evangelical fascination with leadership has given rise to cult-like status for its superstars and created lockstep blind followers. Read:

The future of this cell church structure will be seen in Tim Keller’s emerging “Center Church” for New York City — a collaborative “hub” model of church and state and corporate interests (i.e., Peter Drucker’s “3-legged stool”) that will transform the church into a webbed social welfare organization that oversees humans from cradle-to-grave, womb-to-tomb. See Leadership Network’s Eric Swanson diagram below, where the 7 mountains for dominion are referred to as 7 “domains” — i.e., networks. Compare this chart with the graphic at the top of this post.

Eric Swanson, To Transform A City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City (Zondervan, 2010),
Figure 2, Foreword, p. 11. This is a visual chart of the “7 domains of culture.”
The Church in this diagram is seen encompassing the other 6 secular “domains.”

1. *Exhibit 1: C. Peter Wagner, “A Letter From C. Peter Wagner,” Global Harvest Ministries, Monday, August 20, 2007. Original url was: Read more about this at and also
2. This diagram was referenced in my Cell Church Talks along with several other “hub” diagrams from education reform plans in various states across the country. Many of these concentric circle charts incorporated the church into the state. They envisioned the school as the center of the community, providing lifelong welfare services, job training, healthcare, etc., and linking each citizen to the state in intrusive ways.

Read the previous two posts related to this one: