by Joel Comiskey
In the organic cell church system, the cell is the crown jewel. It’s not just a small group or a means to bring more church growth. The cell is the church!
People often ask me what kind of homogeneous grouping is better: Men’s cells? Women’s cells? Family cells? Youth cell meetings? I always respond, “they are all good.” “The main thing,” I tell them, “is to start with a holistic definition that truly describes the cell as the church.” I promote this definition: a group of 3-15 that meets weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and spiritual growth with the goal of making disciples who make disciples that results in multiplication.
Jesus lives in the cell and he makes disciples through it. Don’t lower the bar and cheapen your definition to accommodate people. The cell is the crown jewel and must remain pure.
So what about the larger gathering in the organic cell church system? We must remember that the early church primarily met in house churches, but those house churches were not independent entities. At times the house churches gathered regularly together for larger meetings, as we can see in both Jerusalem and Corinth. At other times those gatherings were less frequent.
Organic cell churches see the celebration as the gathering of the cells together to worship the living God, receive God’s Word, and get marching orders for the following week. Mario Vega, the lead pastor of Elim, writes, "We only keep statistics for what takes place in cell gatherings and don’t keep track of how many attend the celebration services. For Elim members, the cells are the church. The celebration is to celebrate together and enjoy the oneness of the body of Christ."
Elim considers the cell meetings as the primary place of ministry, while not neglecting the importance of gathering those house groups to hear God’s Word and worship the Creator.
Preaching focuses on expounding God’s inerrant Word to make sure the leaders and members are well grounded in biblical truth. Then the teaching and preaching is reinforced in the house church setting through lessons that correlate with the preaching. For many this will prove to be a radical shift. Some might even think of it as diminishing the value of the large church services. I actually argue that this approach elevates the celebration service as people will attend not as spectators and spiritual consumers but as worshiper and participants.
This has practical implications on areas like announcements and vision casting. Announcements should focus on how your church is reaching people through the cell groups and to give members a vision about what the church is doing to reach new areas through house-to-house ministry. Vision casting in these celebration meetings should be geared around existing cells and envisioning new groups. If there are visitors in the larger gatherings, try to connect them to cell members who will welcome them into a new family.