Why Cell Multiplication is Necessary

joelby Joel Comiskey

When John Wesley died in 1791, he left behind a church of 10,000 cell groups and 100,000 members. Cell groups were so important to the Methodist Church that a person could not enter the celebration service unless he or she showed a ticket that proved he or she was in a cell group during the week. God transformed people through Wesley’s structure of cell, bands, and celebration. Many believe that God used Wesley and the Methodist movement to save England from spiritual, moral, and even physical destruction.

Yet, the emphasis on cell and celebration died out 100 years after Wesley’s death. Why? A Ph.D. students explored this question and determined that the main reason the Methodist cell structure died was by allowing the cells to become too large. Instead of maintaining the intimate size of approximately ten people, the cells grew to 30, 40, or more and eventually became Methodist churches. The cell/celebration strategy disappeared because the cells grew too large.

Transformation takes place in a small group atmosphere. Even timid people can share in a group of 3-15 people. When the group grows larger, only extroverts are confident enough to express themselves. At the same time, cells must evangelize and reach out to unbelievers and unchurched people. So how can a cell grow larger while maintaining intimacy? The only way is through multiplication. Cell groups must multiply to stay faithful to the mission of intimacy and growth through outreach.

When you think of cell multiplication, do positive or negative thoughts come to your mind? Why do you think it’s important for a cell to multiply?


4 thoughts on “Why Cell Multiplication is Necessary

  • I think it’s important to keep group size small for the sake of intimacy and to help the group remain manageable to do a good job fulfilling the Great Commandment/Commission. It also gives potential leaders vision for being far more than just a member of a group. I’m pro multiplication* (but with an asterisk at the end for an important clarification):

    However, I truly believe the message about the importance of multiplication has been very negatively interpreted by the western church. The way the concept has been re-explained by local pastors to their congregations (after reading it in a book or hearing it at a conference) has made multiplication smell and feel like a controlling measure to keep a new man-made church structure growing, which makes it far more religious than spiritual to those who are hearing about it or experiencing it for the first time. Moreover, the concept (or rather mandate to even be involved in cell life) really leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the typical consumer Christian who has been pacified by an attractional model for the last three decades when he or she first hears about this “new strategy that will transform the way we think about and do church.”

    In my first days as a presenter for TOUCH, I used to teach group leaders to make two lists of members and assign them to stay with the intern or leave with the leader to multiply a group, then visit with each person to see if the lists created was guided by the Holy Spirit or not.

    I now confess this to be a serious mistake and have repented of it. This is strategic, unfeeling divorce in my opinion. It’s controlling, and it cares far more for the church structure than the persons within the group … and those persons feel it right away and reel from it. And they should! It may have their best interest at heart, but it doesn’t feel that way. And in this case, feelings are important and people will protest it and kill a church’s transition to cells if it’s introduced in this way.

    Group multiplication will happen naturally when the group members have taken personal responsibility for their spiritual growth, are reaching friends for Christ, and discipling them. When these things are happening, introducing the idea of launching a new group to a spiritually growing member who has two or three followers (disciples) and he or she will jump on the idea like free chocolate cake! Why? Because it’s the next natural step in their spiritual development.

    In closing, one must never have the group multiplication discussion without FIRST having a must more important discussion: Are we multiplying groups because they’ve grown too large and intimacy or mission is waning, or are we multiplying groups because we’ve successfully helped people become fully devoted followers of Christ who are ready and even anxious to move out of their current spiritual household to lead a new one?

    If a church has not developed the right DNA within the members of their first cell groups to be self-feeders and disciplemakers, multiplication will always be re-enterpreted within a millisecond of hearing the word into “forced divorce.”

  • As I re-read my response, I do believe the two closing questions could be “both/and” instead of “either/or”… meaning that a group should be approached about multiplying when it’s grown large AND the members are living missional lives and see the value or power behind making their single group into two or even three new groups for the sake of improved ministry and mission.

  • I don”t think cell group is entirely christian in origin.. Several Japanese religious groups are also organised under cell group principle. So the cell group concept is not entirely christian in origin as most churches would like to claim.The growth in a cell group may or may not be the work of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by the growth of the Japanese religious groups in Japan as well as in South East Asia.

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the significance of cell groups in the Methodist Church and the challenges they faced in maintaining their effectiveness over time. I agree that cell groups provide a powerful context for transformation and spiritual growth, allowing individuals to connect in a more intimate setting where they can share, support, and encourage one another.

    The issue you raised regarding the size of cell groups is an important one. While larger groups may provide opportunities for evangelism and reaching out to the unchurched, they can sometimes compromise the intimacy and depth of personal connection that smaller groups offer. As you mentioned, when groups become too large, it may only be the extroverts who feel comfortable expressing themselves, leaving the more reserved individuals less inclined to participate fully.

    To address this challenge, the concept of multiplication becomes crucial. By multiplying cell groups, intimacy and relational depth can be preserved while allowing for outreach and evangelism. When a cell group reaches a certain size, it can become two smaller groups, each with its own leader, and continue the cycle of growth and multiplication. This way, the benefits of a small group dynamic can be maintained, while also expanding the reach and impact of the ministry.

    Cell multiplication should be viewed as a positive and necessary step in the life of a cell group. It allows for continued growth, enables more people to experience the benefits of small group community, and creates space for new leaders to emerge and be developed. Multiplication aligns with the mission of intimacy and growth through outreach, ensuring that size limitations do not hinder the transformational power of small groups.

    In conclusion, while cell groups may face challenges when they grow too large, multiplication provides a solution to maintain the intimacy and effectiveness of small group dynamics. By embracing cell multiplication as an essential part of the cell group journey, we can ensure that more people experience the transformative power of authentic community while reaching out to others with the love and message of JESUS.

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