by Joel Comiskey
The cell church movement has experienced significant pitfalls in the last 30 years: castle building, numerology, model sicknesss, cell church legalism, and many other dangers. Some churches have abandoned the cell vision due to following questionable leaders, unrealistic expectations, and not starting with a firm theological foundation for cell church ministry.
On the positive side, God has allowed many churches to avoid the pitfalls and grow into healthy examples. This past week, I’ve witnessed some of these churches up close here in Brazil. These healthy Portuguese speaking cell churches owe a large part of their success to the resource ministry of Ministerio Igrega em CÃ©lulas, led by Robert Lay. Bill Beckham and I (along with Brazilian pastors) spoke at the 9th annual cell church conference of Ministerio Igrega em CÃ©lula near Sao Paulo, Brazil. 1400 pastors and leaders registered for this event, and the number has been growing each year.
Since the initial seminar in 2001, Ministerio Igrega em CÃ©lulas has trained over 14,000 pastors and leaders in cell church principles and values. The goal of this ministry is to resource pastors and leaders to then apply those cell church ideas in their own denominations and contexts. Throughout the year they teach four different modules on how to transition to the cell chruch model. They now do two national conferences and five regional conferences per year. They’ve also translated over sixty cell church books into Portuguese.
The results? After nine years of consistently teaching the values and principles, there are now large, healthy cell churches from many, many denominations in Brazil. Yesterday, I sat on a panel to answer questions with three national pastors (one Presbyterian and two Baptists). These pastors had all gone through the transitioning process, intimately understood cell church principles, now had 100s of cell groups, and were able to give keen insights to the hundreds of pastors who came to the question/answer time. Those listening certainly didn’t need Joel Comiskey to answer their questions. They had their own Brazilian experts who had worked through the principles in real-life church ministry.
I’ve been reminded afresh that cell church ministry requires consistency, faithfulness, and persistence. It also helps to have resource ministries like Ministerio Igrega em CÃ©lulas to help avoid the pitfalls along the way.