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Integrating Cells as the Base of the Church
Celyce and I recently ministered in Ministerio Sabaoth, a vibrant cell church in Milan Italy. This 1000 member church has planted 50 cell churches throughout Europe. The church uses dance, drama, and the media to reach out, knowing that the arts have been an important part of Italian culture for centuries. But this church is also a pure cell church and wants everyone to first be intimately involved in the life of the cell. They don'tt want some involved with the arts while others only participating in cell ministry.
Ministerio Sabaoth asks all those involved with their varied ministries to first become cell leaders. Their level of integration is above and beyond what most cell churches require. The majority of cell churches ask those involved in church ministries (e.g., usher, worship team) to first be actively participating in a cell group.
Cell integration is one of the key disinguishing features between a cell church and a church with cells.
A "church with cells" promotes cells as one ministry among a variety of possibilities. Some members participate with cells, if they have time. Others choose to serve in the varied ministries of the church. Many only come to the Sunday celebration.
Some churches, on the other hand, practice what I call faulty integration. That is, they don't clearly define their cell groups and call everything a small group (e.g., prison ministry, worship team, elders). Some do this because they want to report rapid growth in their small group ministry.
Cell churches, on the other hand, start with a holistic cell definition because it's the base of the church and the primary place where disciples are made and sent forth. They realize that ministries and programs don't make disciples like cell groups. They realize that the transition to becoming a cell church is a slow process and complete cell integration is one of the last steps. The lead pastor's direction and involvement in cell ministry is critical in making this happen. As the cells grow and multiply, the church can expect cell attendance as a prerequisite for ministry involvement.
Why is integration important? Because people have limited time and can only do a few things well. Cell churches have chosen to prioritize cell involvement, knowing that disciples are formed in the cell and spiritual gifts are also best discovered in the small group atmosphere. Cell churches concentrate on the small and large group (celebration), citing the New Testament as their guide.
In the month of September we'll talk more about integration. Cell church pastors will write 20 blogs on this important topic throughout the month of September. If you would like to receive those daily blogs in your email, please press here. We'll cover:
- September 03-09. Why should holistic small groups become the base of the church? We'll cover the biblical base for cell ministry and that's it's not another program but the life of the church and equal to celebration.
- September 10-16. Why it's not asking too much for people to be involved in a cell as a prerequisite for involvement in other ministries. The reality is that in the New Testament, people discovered their gifts within the small house churches. The small group as also Christ's strategy to make disciples. Ministries have their place in the church, but they are not designed for discipleship to occur.
- September 17-23. The importance of the definition. Without a clear definition, cells become another program, another ministry. Many churches have a tough time growing and maintaining their cells. To give the appearance of more growth, they count all groups that are small and a group (ushers, worship team, elders, etc.). I advice churches not to do this. Start with a holistic definition.
- September 24-September 30. Patience and grace in transition. Asking everyone to first participate in a cell before ministry involvement is part of the transition process. In fact, it's the last stage. It's best to wooo people into cell ministry, rather than to pressure them. In a church plant, this can be an immediate requirement.
Where are you in the process of cell integration. Feel free to share your experiences here.
Joel Comiskey and Jim Egli's 2018 book, Groups that Thrive: 7 Surprising Discoveries about Life-Giving Small Groups will be available in March 2018.
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2018 JCG Event in Reseda, California
We will have our annual JCG event in the Elim Reseda Church, on March 9-11, 2018 (notice the extended schedule). Mario Vega and Joel Comiskey will be ministering in Spanish and simultaneous English translation will be available. There will be additional speakers on Friday night and Saturday night.
2018 JCG Event in Falls Church, Virginia
- We will be holding our third JCG conference in Virgina/Washington D.C. area at the Elim Church Virginia area on September 01, 2018. You can register here.
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