by Joel Comiskey
How long does it take to multiply a cell group? I’ve heard this question repeated over and over. And I always answer it the same way: It depends on the soil.
Some countries are experiencing revival and multitidues are coming to know Jesus Christ. In these countries, cells readily reap the harvest, train new leaders, and multiply quickly–perhaps in six months. Other places are hard and difficult. It takes a long time to see conversions and even longer to prepare new leaders. Werner Kniessel the pastor emeritus of a well-known cell chuch in Switzerland told me it took at least two years to multiply cell groups in his church. In some unreached areas of the world it takes longer. While multiplication should guide the cell forward, I don’t believe the multiplication date should be pushed in a canned time frame: “all cells must multiply in nine months, etc.”
What if the cell doesn’t multiply in a certain amount of time?” I talked to one pastor who said, “Everything that has life has a cycle. As you study the cell, it must give life. If you keep a cell that is not multiplying, it will die. The choice is life and death.” This particular pastor gave their cells one year to multiply. If it didn’t multiply in that time period, the church would shut down the cell.
I don’t believe in shutting down cells for failure to multiply. When a cell group, however, becomes cancerous and dysfunctional, closure is the best policy. But such decisions should stay within the upper circles of cell leadership. It’s unwise to teach or promote cell closure (“multiply or close”) to cell leaders and interns, because this places undo pressure on the cell leader and cell group. It’s hard enough for a lay person to multiply a cell without the added burden of “possible failure.” While some can handle this kind of pressure, others will avoid cell leadership because of it, thus preventing future leaders from volunteering. For example, cells in one church I visited were stagnating and failing to attract new leadership, and several cell leaders attributed this pattern to the possibility of cell closure. While closure may be necessary at times, this should not be the norm. And certainly no cell should be closed before every possible avenue to multiply the group has been exhausted.