by Joel Comiskey
You can’t be around the cell church movement very long before hearing about the priority of community. I’ve heard various cell gurus say that “community” is the main reason for doing cell ministry.
I certainly did not believe this for a long, long time. Yet, I’ve finally understood how important community is to God and how much He wants His people to live in love, unity, and practice the one-anothers of Scripture.
But why is this so important to God? I think the main reason is God’s nature. God lives in perfect unity with the other members of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus demonstrated that unity while on earth, never doing anything that wasn’t perfectly pleasing to the Father and Spirit (John 5:19-30). He then told His disciples to walk in that same unity, saying that their best witness to an unbelieving world would be the love they showed one to another (John 17: 6-19).
The early church was born in the upper room of a house while the disciples were in one-accord (Acts 1:13). After the Spirit descended, the disciples broke bread from house to house and came together to hear the apostle’s teaching (Acts 2:42-46).
Unity, oneness, and the one-anothers. This is the focus of the New Testament. Granted, this emphasis goes against the grain of individualism, which says, “I want to do it my way, and I demand my rights.” I believe individualistic cultures need cell ministry more than group-oriented cultures (e.g., Latin America, Asia, etc.), but it does take more work to make it happen in the western world.
Why do you believe community is so essential and necessary (especially for individualistic cultures)?
9 thoughts on “Why Community is Important to God”
Having been in cell ministry for over 10 years now. There are several things that strike me as I read your message. First is the fact that for Christ, His community was His essence. It is what sustained Him. Second that He established and utilized His earthly community as His vehicle to spread the Good News. In the New Testament, much of the work is done at some type of gathering or event or it involves going to the heart of an issue on a deeply personal level with individuals. I am convinced by my own life experience that you canâ€™t make disciples for Christ without first building relationships. True, deep, loving community in which accountability is inherent is where I have found the spiritual synergy that seems most natural and productive. Pastor Gainey is adamant that as a body, if nothing else, we MUST do community well. I agree. How else will they know that we are followers of Jesus if we donâ€™t live in a way that is Christlike?
I see the problem here in America as pride. True community is counter-cultural. How can I be the â€œrugged individualâ€ if I have to share my heart and be vulnerable? I canâ€™t, and my pride wonâ€™t let me. Much like the rich man who asked Jesus, â€œâ€¦what do I have to do to enter the Kingdom..?â€ He didnâ€™t like the answer it any better than most with material wealth because they havenâ€™t yet experienced the value that community offers. The void is filled with â€œstuffâ€ and it works for a time. Itâ€™s just enough to keep them from becoming desperate for Jesus.
I believe that through this modeling of authentic community that people get a glimpse of what it offers, and eventually, God willing; they will recognize and seek what it is that they so desperately lack.
I agree with Joel, except I would not discount the importance of individulism. We are personally responsible for our relationship with Christ inspite of the social status quo. We must take care of our own house before we can care for others and as a spiritually strong organelle God can shape us with the gifts of His Spirit to function in a cell for the purpose of carrying out the great commission. One of the characteristics of a cell group multiply by teaching others to lead. Leaders tend to be individualists. I am on board with Joel, but also encourage self-responsibility.
This message, Joel, is almost a mirror of a message I presented to our congregation last Sunday. Hallelujah!
Your point about community “going against the grain of individualism” resonates with me; individualism has become a subliminal idol in our culture, including its effect in the church. Through Godly community we are able to confront and evict the idol, and truly live in a way that others can see enough (positive) difference to want to be part of this wonderful experience we call “the church”.
In recognition of what Mike has added here, I submit that there’s a kind of symbiotic experience that flows out of authentic, relational community: where we submit our individualism to others’ authority, and find that the others affirm our individual gifts and calling… to the effect that the whole Body is strengthened, with each part making its own contribution to the whole… and God is glorified.
Great point, Ian, and yes, I also agree that each individual must receive Christ, grow in the Lord, etc. Thus, when I talk about individualism, I’m referring to a prioritizing of the individual over the group. I don’t see this in Scripture. And I’m growing in my conviction that we in North America have to submit this trait to God and biblical guidance. I know I do!
John, thanks for sharing your heart! Wow, powerful stuff.
you hit the nail on the head. too many lone rangers. i pastor a hispanic church and have trouble to get the church in cell group ministry.
Amen and Amen again to your comments in your newsletter. If this is just another church growth strategy (heaven knows, we’ve had enough of them!) then I want out now! I know that in my life and in my church this has been a difficult but glorious journey into the heart of the New Testament Church. If it were anything else I would have left Church planting long ago. It is still only a structure and it can be filled with just as much self-centered individualism as the traditional church but, praise God, it at least gives us a place to start and with intense relational prayer, a willingness to be led by God’s Spirit and an agressive evangelism strategy, it can change the heart of Western Christianity.
Ken, I think you summed it up perfectly. If cell church is simply another church growth technique, we’re in trouble. Sadly, many pastors approach it this way and abandon ship when problems occur (dealing with someone like this right now)
My first responsive thought concerning cell groups relative to culture and or scripture is this: The people of God prior to Jesus’ setting up His church and kingdom appear to have been geared toward attending the synagogues where they sang, prayed, taught, and worshiped. They also offered sacrifices until that was discontinued. This is not to say that small grouping did not occur for spiritual purposes, but gatherings in mass at a particular location on the Sabbath seem to have been very important. I am by no means a church historian, and therefore have more questions than answers. i.e. Did the early church meet in small groups by design or by necessity? Did they meet in small groups simply because they were small in numbers and therefore were so dictated, or were they directed by The Holy Spirit to meet that way? Persecution caused them to scatter, and they went everywhere preaching the Word. Are we looking for Biblical patterns, Biblical principles, Techniques for Reformation, Restoration, and Revival? Are we looking for tools to help the church grow both spiritually and numerically? Perhaps much of God’s dealings is about “Timing”, but I have nothing that indicates to me that God is dictated or influenced by “Culture”.
This is very interesting.