Homogeneous Cell Groups

joelby Joel Comiskey

According to the dictionary, a FAD is: “something that is embraced very enthusiastically for a short time, especially by many people.”

Since Cho initiated the modern day cell church movement in 1965, the cell church has passed through many fads. Those who start a fad are often motivated with a pure desire to jump-start the cell system to produce more rapid growth. The motivation might be good and right, but the problem occurs when the promoter starts declaring that the “jump-start” is now God’s new revelation (the only right way) for doing cell ministry.

Homogenous cells suffered this fate when a famous church in Latin America began promoting them as the “right way” to do cell ministry. Granted, the church grew more rapidly when they divided their cells into the categories of men, women, youth, and children. This famous church asked all their worldwide network churches to follow these strict homogeneous categories.

I remember speaking in several cell churches who had adopted this new homogeneous way of doing cells. They tried to convince me of the superiority of doing away with family cells and focusing only on cells of men, women, youth, and children.

“Shouldn’t the cell be reaching the family unit, rather than just the individual parts?” I asked. “What about intergenerational cells that have children involved.? Didn’t the early church meeting together as families from house to house?”

They replied, “But breaking up into these homogeneous categories causes rapid church growth. The men will share more intimately, and you won’t have to worry about children in the cells.”

I reminded them that both Cho’s church and the Elim Church primarily have family cells, and many believe that these two churches are the number one and two largest churches in the world.They obviously were doing quite well without the new categories.

Well, those conversations took place seven years ago. Like all fads, the hype has now died down and the fad has faded. I rarely hear anyone talking about the superiority of strict homogeneous cells.

I’m not against homogenous cells. My wife leads a women’s cell and I’m just about to open a men’s cell group. I simply believe that homogeneity should flow naturally from a clear definition of a cell group. I also believe that since the family is the foundation of society (or should be), cell churches should always emphasize family cells, along with other diverse types of cell groups.

Again, my counsel is to start with a clear definition and then allow homogeneity to flow naturally as the need arises.

What are your thoughts?

Joel

18 thoughts on “Homogeneous Cell Groups

  • I agree whole heartedly with you. The minute we try and put the Holy Spirit into a box we run into trouble. He will spring the box! I came to Denmark and tried to multiply cells every 6 months, because that was the way we did it in South Africa. It was a total disaster. It has taken us nearly 4 years to multiple ONE cell, having started over with training our leaders and laying solid foundations. We were told by Werner Kniesel to take things slow but do them well. Never ever impose one way of doing cells no matter how successful on another country. it just wont work. Holy Spirit guidance is what we need.

  • Couldn’t agree more, Joel. Prescribing how people should meet to achieve the mission of the church will limit what people can do for and with God.

    The questions isn’t homogeneous or intergenerational… that’s an “either or” proposition. It should always be a “both and” if the mission can be better accomplished by it while strengthening the family.

    So much of this conversation has to do with culture though. In highly relational, familial cultures such as those found in South America (extended family living in the same household or next door by choice) homogeneous groups can be very effective and not hurt the family unit. In America, I don’t see it working nearly as well.

  • BOTH OF YOUR COMMENTS WERE PROFOUND. Debby, you’re fortunate to have a trainer/pastor like Werner Kniesel. I respect few people as much as I do Werner. Randall, you hit on a very insightful point about the family values of the Latinos allowing them to focus more on homogeneous groups. Great food for thought!

  • Hello Joel,

    I like your newsletter. We have both men cells, youth cells, and women cells. We also have just cell groups for the family and anyone who wants to come.
    Our goal is to win the lost and help make disciples. Thanks for coming and conducting our first Cell Conference. On July 30th, we are bringing all the cell groups together for a night of celebration. Again, I thank the Lord for all you are doing for the kingdom of God.
    Pastor Norman

  • A personal reflection: I belong to a fellowship (in the US) that years ago embraced homogeneous cell groups for all of the reasons you cited. My wife and I initially committed to join gender-specific groups and tried our best to participate with enthusiasm. Sadly, our pre-teen children sorely missed the family group we’d left. Through the years, they grieved that loss and the fact that they no longer belonged to a cell group at all (they break up into cells for prayer in children’s church on Sundays, but that isn’t a similar experience for the kids). My wife and I also felt somehow disconnected from our homogeneous cell groups. Eventually we recognized that we feel called as a family to serve, worship, and reach out as a family. Through the years, a few family cell groups continued to meet. When we joined one of these family-based group last year, we experienced a renewed joy. It was right for us.

    Looking around our fellowship, I see fewer functioning cell groups and camparatively little energy or excitement about the cell as the basic unit of Body life. It makes me wonder if our conversion to homogeneous groups, among other factors, sapped the life from what was a more diverse and dynamic network of relationships. We pray for the day when the Lord revives the vision for cell-based “edification and evangelism” in our fellowship again.

  • Joel,

    We currently have men’s cells, women’s cells, and family cells. I’d say we have about an equal number of all. We have generally left it to the leader to develop their specific vision, with help from their coach.

    The cell meeting is one thing, but the relationship of intimate pastoral care is quite another. When it comes to true pastoral care/mentoring, I still fall on the side that (generally speaking) men make the best mentors for men, and women make the best mentors for women. For this reason, we encourage our family cells to have a time, usually after the formal meeting during fellowship, when the women tend to gravitate to one part of the house, and the men to another. This has tended to take discussions deeper and encourage relationships where real disciple-making happens.

    With our family cells, both the husband and wife have been through our training track and are considered cellpastors.

    I recall the discussions you and I had on this issue early on. While we certainly have distinct men’s and women’s networks at Central, we have worked to keep family cells a significant part of the vision.

    The vision is rolling on, and we have seen many souls won since you were last with us. While like most churches we have our occasional cell issues, we have been blessed to see many unchurched coming to Christ in recent years and will never look back to doing church the old way.

    Jon Hamilton

  • Joel: (and anyone else)

    I have interacted some before with you in the past about our church and cell groups. We are an ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood church.
    My question is a little off topic…

    We have about 60% of our adults in small groups (cell groups). We are struggling to increase that percentage and really become an all out cell church. Any advice on making this transition and casting the vision? Personally, I would like to call the cell groups, “house churches”. My sense is that this change in terms may really help our people understand that the groups are not just a program of the church, but they are foundational to our body-life/evangelism/discipleship. Any thoughts?

    Adam

  • About adams comments. I would have thought that a working definition for the groups was more important then what you called them.

  • First, in response to your newsletter I believe motivation and the purity of heart is central to the work of God and the Holy Spirit. When we (humanity) proscribe our desires upon those things that God has already determined we mess it up every time. What works for one group or one area does not always work the same way for another group or area. God knows what will work for any given situation. It is up to us to seek His will and His way for the place and the people He has called us to. Our motivation and desire to please and obey God will yield a far greater harvest than we (humanity) could ever imagine or concieve.
    Secondly, I am interested in the discussion on house churches and cells. My limited understanding of them both reveals some differences that may or not be real or true. First, I thought cells were for a group of believers who were fellowshipping together to foster the one another principles of the Bible. As we all know this is very difficult in large churches and the church loses some of its identity if love and concern for one another is not practiced and exemplified. In doing this the world around us get see the witness of the church and the cell becomes another evangelistic tool to reach those who have yet to commit to the Savior.
    House churches are being established for those who choose not to come to the buildings and programs that we have established as church but are for those willing to learn the life and love of Jesus and commit to following Him and serving Him in a place where others like themselves can see the witness, transformation and incarnation of Jesus in their daily lives.
    In summary the cells are for the belivevers to grow in Christ and the house church is for the pre believer to know and grow in Christ.
    Help me to define and differentiate more clearly.

    Barbara

  • Yes, I agree with Iain here. The working definition is more important that the actual term. I also like the name house churches but one of the problems with that term is when a particular group DOESN’T MEET IN A HOUSE but rather on a university campus, workplace, etc. Adam, check out my article here: http://joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/basics/NAMEcell.html and like Iain says, the main issue is the definition. I think it will really help you to establish that definition with your people.

    I like what you said, Jon, about breaking up in men’s and women’s prayer/accountability groups at the end of the family cell. . .

  • Ken, I think what you said here is very important. I also have felt that the HOMOGENEOUS strictness in some cell churches have hindered the flow of cell ministry and actually made it more programmatic–especially with regard to children. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Greetings in Jesus Name Joes Comisky Group
    I am based in Kenya ,running a recently started School of Ministry and I am so greatful for the Vision of Cell Minitry in fact thats one of the courses enlisted on our courses for the Church Workers /Pastors on our school,please is there possibility of us working together and your mministry having an agency in Kenya ,since this is what is going to save the church in Africa but we have to empower,equip the resourse persons first in order to realize an Impact and Results.
    Hoping to hear soon from you
    Pastor Vincent Oduong
    Director
    Busia -Kenya

  • I totally agree, Joel. Churches want to see healthy families they also need to embrace family and create an environment where family can express the life of their homes within community. I used to wonder how God could give His Son to parents who lost Him for three days returning from Jerusalem. It seemed rather neglectful to me 🙂 until I saw that it actaully revealed a strength of Joseph and Marys upbringing. They raised Him in a community that travelled together. The times we lose our chuldren is so often when we are out with others and everyone thinks they are with another person. If the Son of God’s childhood included community – then so do our children.
    Many young mothers struggle today as the older women have relinquished responsibility for supporting them. Young men long for father figures to whom they can turn.

    Malachi 4 5 and 6 promises that in the last days this generational relational flow will be restored.

    I believe that mulit generational or family cells can be part of that restoration.

    I totally agree too about homogenous cells flowing naturally and bringing the life of Jesus to others.

    Daphne Kirk

  • Hey, Daphne, thanks for sharing on this point. Your life and books have done more than anyone or anything I know to promote holistic intergenerational cells and my prayer is that more and more people would catch the vision that you have! Keep on sharing!

  • Greetings Joel
    I am moved by the Lords Grace on what plans He is doing using you as a tool in His hand,please just to ask can you make it to come to Kenya,Since one of the core subjects for my School of Ministry is Cell Multiplication,so your in put would be a great boost to us here.

  • Sir,
    I have this delimma about homogenous, I have group of cell with 1 ex gay and 4 female. But before that I started a cellgroup with 3 gays. But the two didnt make it only 1 left and now he’s growing not only because we were having our bible study but also he has a church who is teaching him. Im just helping him in campus ministry that I have. And because most gays have girls friends he invited his girl friends and that is what happen why i have girls in my cell.
    Then after about seven months my pastor told me to let them transfer to another cell w/c their leader is girl.And of course I have to submit though it is painful because I am the one who pray and sow the seed. 🙁 But still I have to submit. Then I ask this girls about it if it is okay with them to transfer to another group and the sad thing they dont want to transfer. We have this bond already. Now this is my delimma, my submition to my pastor and letting them go. I have this question in my mind. Im okay to let them go, but what if they rather not having bible studies than changing cell leader. what is more important our rule or the soul?

    I hope you can help, Please email xramex@yahoo.com

  • There are places for various kinds of small groups. The benefit of this model is that it allows for diversity. In Ethiopia, where we primarily work, small groups are almost of necessity geographical because of problems in transportation, particularly in the evening. We have had experience with family groups, although we have often found it best for there to be time within such groups for the children to be separated out (with supervision) so that the adults could talk more freely about family situations that needed prayer. One phase of our leadership development involved a limited period (6 months to a year) of single-sex, intense groups that dealt with highly personal issues that were probably best aired and dealt with in that environment. But that’s the point. We found that there’s no one model that meets all the needs. Taylor your environment to fit what is appropriate. And it doesn’t have to be the same forever either.

    • Good point. We need to be flexible while making sure that the flexibility doesn’t take away from the quality or the group’s ability to make disciples who make disciples. But your point is well-taken and a great reminder! Thanks Ronald.

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