by Joel Comiskey
Most people consider David Cho to be the founder of the modern day cell church movement. Not only did his cell church grow into the largest church in the history of Christianity, but his landmark book, Successful Home Cell Groups, told everyone how it happened. In this book, Cho makes it clear that cell groups should emphasize both evangelism and community. Chapter 5 (The Security of Cell Groups) highlights cell community and chapter 6 (Home Cell Groups: a Key to Evangelism) emphasizes the evangelistic thrust. Even to this day, each cell at Yoido Full Gospel Church has the annual goal of winning two people to Jesus.
For the most part, worldwide cell churches follow Cho’s example in positioning cells to both evangelize and promote intimate community. But it’s a tough balance to maintain.
I’ve noticed a tendency in some cell churches to over-emphasize cell evangelism to the exclusion of community (a tendency in some majority world churches). Others over-emphasize community to the exclusion of active cell evangelism (a tendency in some western churches).
Last week several pastors came to to my house for our regular coaching time. One of them asked the question about how to maintain the emphasis on both evangelism and community in the cell. “How hard should I push for evangelism and multiplication,” he said.
I answered: “In our cell church in Ecuador, most understood the purpose of evangelism and multiplication in the cell. On the other hand, I’ve had to confront cell members in North America who outright told me that they weren’t interested in evangelism and were especially against multiplication. In such cases, I’ve had to work behind the scenes with such people to help them to understand the purpose of the cell. You cannot back down from emphasizing evangelism and multiplication. True community demands reaching out to a hurt and dying world.”
Traditional church people often have a harder time balancing the dual emphasis. I coached a pastor in Delaware last week who excitedly told me that two of his cells were ready to multiply. “I’ve discovered,” he told me, “that the new believers quickly catch the vision for both evangelism and community. Those who have been in the church a long time have a tougher time understanding the need to reach out and multiply.” I told him that it’s best to run with those who are running with the hope that their excitement will rub off on the rest of the church.
Whether you’re dealing with long-term church members, new converts, a church in transition, or a brand new church plant, it’s essential to emphasize both evangelism and community in the cell.