Simple Cell Church Planting

Untitled DocumentjoelI’m excited that my new book on church planting comes out in two weeks! I’ve been ruminating on this book for ten years. I remember one of my early church planting cell seminars in Uruguay in 1998. Some Southern Baptist missionaries came up to me during the seminar saying, “Your studies about the world’s largest cell churches are great, but how do you plant a cell church from scratch? We’re here in Uruguay starting from nothing. What should we do?” Their questions–and my lack of answers–stirred me to begin compiling research on cell church planting. And in two weeks I present to you, Planting Churches that Reproduce. Here is an excerpt from chapter two:
I spoke at a seminar in Florida a few years ago. The host church asked me to speak to the staff, and one of the pastors inquired about his network of small groups. He wanted to know what he should do when his network reached the third generation of small group multiplication. He hoped to tap into my knowledge of small group coaching structures in mega churches. My mind raced through the different case studies and variables, but my answer was less than convincing—and I was supposed to be the expert on the topic! It suddenly dawned on me that the church needed to simplify. The members had become too bulky and complicated in their quest for mega church status. I boldly declared:

Your church has become too complicated because you’ve grown too large. The fact that we’re talking about multiple layers of generational multiplication says to me that you need to simplify the process. You need to plant new churches. Give away some of those layers of multiplication to a new church plant. Don’t try to figure out how to keep them all under the same roof. God wants you to become a church planting movement—rather than growing your own church larger and larger.

I surprised myself by that answer. For many years I promoted complicated coaching structures in mega cell churches and wrote books that helped people figure them out. Yet I began to realize that very few churches were large enough to understand what I was writing about. It also dawned on me that smaller church plants had the added benefit of being far less complicated!


I rejoice in the world’s largest cell churches. However, I believe the VAST majority of cell churches will never reach that point. Most will focus on simple church planting movements. What do you think?

Joel Comiskey

4 thoughts on “Simple Cell Church Planting

  • I agree wholeheartedly. This is our experience and i think this is much more biblical. The NT church was simple, a local church with many house churches linked together like a cell-church and planting churches all over the place. Reproducing in all levels : family, discipleship, house church leaders, elders, and full time workers. We are experiencing it in a small level here in Quebec (french), Canada. From a cell church of 200 people, 4 churches have been planted. It is small but we should not despise small beginnings. In a human body it takes one cell with cancer that reproduces. In the same way, the body is itsef a cell that reproduced millions of times. Let’s reproduce disciples, leaders, cells, elders, full times leaders, cell churches…all over the place.

  • I also agree. This is part of the vision we’ve had for several years, and it is my heart’s desire to see this occur naturally, as groups of cells within the network form critical mass, with a complement of spiritual gifts and leadership, so that multiplication can occur seamlessly, while retaining strong relational connection to the parent church.

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