Worldwide Cell Churches

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Resistance Toward the Cell Church in the Western World

by Joel Comiskey

Winter, 2009

I wrote the book The Church that Multiplies to focus on the cell church in North America. In this book I highlight key principles that are essential for cell church to work in North America and the western world. We all know that cell church is exploding in the majority world, but what about the West? I attempt to answer that question in CTM.

Just yesterday, someone who read the book wrote me saying:

I’ve been reading your book “The Church That Multiplies” and have found it very inspiring and informative as I research the cell and house church movements. My goal is to plant a network of house based churches in the near future, starting with one in my own neighborhood. I did find one thing somewhat interesting in your book, and wanted to get your perspective on it. In the final chapter you list about 40 churches who have successfully embraced and implemented the cell church strategy. I decided to check out the websites of some of the churches, and was startled to find no mention of “Cell” church on the very first two sites I visited! Seems like some of these former “Cell” focused churches are now going the way of focusing on growing the big church through programs and ministries, and have lost their vision for making the cells the primary focus. Seems like some of these former “Cell” focused churches are now going the way of focusing on growing the big church through programs and ministries, and have lost their vision for making the cells the primary focus. My question is – is this indicative of a trend in the USA? If so, any idea why? Is it becoming too “hard” to do real cell church ministry? Or, perhaps some leaders are now being drawn to a more conventional “grow the big church with lots of programs” model?

I wrote him back saying,

Great insight and thanks for this probing. I’m always open to remove and add churches that no longer fit and will check out the ones you mentioned. However, I don’t have the impression that pastors are streaming to one programmatic model or another, like I did several years ago. Yet, I also know that ministry is very, very hard in the Western world. Church attendance is going way down. Pastors are attracted to gimmicks to boost the numbers. Cell ministry requires down-to-earth discipleship and some churches start with this vision in mind, but then grow weary when people move away and church members continue to resist cell ministry. So much boils down to the passion and vision of the pastor. One of the churches you mentioned truly had a great cell vision, but then became consumed with the building program and soon afterwards the lead pastor retired. Thanks again. You’ve jogged my thinking. . . .

Randall Neighbour's excellent book, The Naked Truth about Small Group Ministry, exposes a lot of the recent faulty thinking toward holistic small group ministry in North America. If you'd like to comment on why cell church is resisted in the western world, press here.