by Joel Comiskey
Jesus had three within his group of twelve. This group of three was Christ’s inner circle or micro cell (Luke 9:28). The Elim church in El Salvador practices something similar by asking each cell to form a core planning group (the nucleus from within the cell). This core meets weekly to pray, plan for the Saturday night cell group, distribute cell responsibilities to each member, and envision futuremultiplication.
Ralph Neighbour, key guru and strategist of the cell church, has always emphasized one-on-one mentoring relationships within the cell as the first step in the discipleship equipping process. These micro groups within the cell strengthen the quality of relationships.
One of the fastest growing cell churches in the world is located in northern Brazil and called Igreja de Paz (pastor Abe Huber). This church asks each cell member to form micro “one-on-one” groups that meet weekly and statistically report on their micro meetings. This church’s strategy is called MDA, and it stands for Micro Discipleship Accountability groups.
So how much priority should we give these micro groups within the cell? Should we highlight them on the same level as the cell group? We in thecell church movement have always prioritized cell and celebration (small groups and larger gatherings). Discipleship equipping (i.e., training track) and coaching (i.e., supervision) are also indispensable principles that all cell churches practice. So should we now add micro relationships as a requirement? Or should we simply encourage those in the cell to form these intimate, more in-depth relationships?
I’m convinced from Scripture that Jesus chose the group method to disciple people. He told his group of disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) to make new groups of disciples. They did so by starting house churches. I believe that discipleship in the New Testament happened in a group context, and that this is the best way to make disciples today. Is there a place for micro relationships within the cell group? Certainly. But should they be a requirement on the same level as the cell? No.
As I prepare for my next book on the history of cell ministry, I’m reminded of Wesley’s class (cell) meetings. All Methodists were required to attend a cell to be members of the Methodist movement but only encouraged to belong to a smaller band from within the cell. Cell churches follow a similar pattern. While we should encourage micro discipleship relationships within the cell, we should not require them.