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Two Extremes in Cell Multiplication
by Joel Comiskey
I’ve noticed two extremes in cell multiplication. One extreme is rapidly multiplying weak cell groups that eventually die or anemically limp to a quiet closure. I’ve learned about this extreme the hard way. I’ve multiplied groups that were too weak to continue over time. Their untimely deaths often happened because of an unprepared, uncommitted leader or not having a team in place. I’ve learned through experience that cell health is a key factor in new multiplication. Over the years I’ve also coached churches that at one time could point to 100s of small groups that dwindled down to a handful. It’s been in vogue, for example, in the last few years to open up dozens of small groups without properly trained leaders. Most of these groups close after a few weeks or months. Some say that opening a new group only requires people and a DVD player. Yet, such techniques fail at producing small group leadership to sustain the cell system over the long-haul.
On the other extreme are fellowship/care groups that don’t have a DNA for multiplication. I can detect this defect by various phrases:
- We are just focusing on community. When the community is strong enough, we will multiply naturally.
- When God wants to multiply my cell group, it will just happen.
- When such a such a person is totally free from problems, he/she will lead the next group
The error of this extreme is thinking that multiplication just naturally happens. Just the opposite actually occurs. What happens naturally is fellowship that turns inward instead of outward. It sounds spiritual to say, when God wants to multiply my cell He’ll do it. I like to interject the phrase, God wants to! He desires to multiply your cell group!
So where is the balance?
First, it’s a new year. Mend your nets and move on. 2007 offers a new opportunity to attempt great things for God and expect great things from God. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve made mistakes in 2006 that you’d like to forget. Move on. It’s a new year!
Second, look at the health of your cell ministry. Do you have a training track? If you don’t have a clear process to take a person from immaturity all the way to cell leadership, make it your goal to put that in place in 2007. All cell churches that I studied had a clear-cut training process that could take a non-believer all the way to leading a cell group and beyond. Once you have an equipping system, the next question is, “Who is in it?” and “Who needs to be in it?”
Third, set a goal for cell multiplication based on the health of your cell groups and who is in the training track.
If you’ve multiplied a lot of cells in 2006, give the groups time to recuperate and grow spiritually. Big Bear Christian Center, for example, went from 19 cells to 31 cells in 2005. Since I’m coaching this church, I counseled them NOT TO MAKE A MULTIPLICATION GOAL for 2006. Rather, I encouraged them to build the cells internally and to prepare for a 2007 goal of 45 cells (which translates into 45 leaders). Big Bear Christian Center fulfilled their internal goals for 2006 and are now ready for the 2007 thrust of 45 cell groups.
In my own church plant, Wellspring, we went from six cells to ten cells in 2006. What is our goal for 2007? Twelve cells—not twenty. During our weekly pastoral team meetings, we identified two couples who are candidates for the two new cells. Our job this year is to make sure they are properly trained and prepared. We have other potential leaders who could multiply a cell group, but we’re not going to count on them for 2007 (2008 is more realistic).
Goal setting for multiplication is never an end in itself. Glorifying Jesus and doing His will is. Yet cell multiplication gets right to the heart of what the cell movement is all about—making disciples who make disciples. And the first week of the first month of 2007 is the best time to plan to make that happen.