By Joel Comiskey
Last month I, Joel Comiskey, attended the Group Life Conference in Pomona, California, hosted by Mosaic Pomona where Nathan Neighbour is the lead pastor. During one of the workshops, Abba Love, a church in Chino Hills, California, held an actual cell group to demonstrate what they do in their cells. Christian Leo, son of Eddy Leo, lead pastor of Abba Love in Jakarta, started by saying, “We are here to encourage each other. God is going to use each of you to bless others.” As worship played in the background, Michael Obajda, lead pastor of Abba Love, showed us how to teach and admonish one another through psalms and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16). Then the team demonstrated transparency and how to strengthen, encourage, and comfort one another through New Testament prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:3). Jesus showed up and touched people deeply. All of us participated, prayed for each other, and went away encouraged.
What we experienced in the workshop was close to what happened in the early house churches. We don’t see a rigid agenda. Rather, the meetings were a time to minister to one another and meet needs. The writer of Hebrews tells the house church members to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23-25). The members enjoyed each other’s presence, laughed together, and experienced rich fellowship. Robert Banks writes, “We find no suggestion that these meetings were conducted with the kind of solemnity and formality that surrounds most weekly Christian gatherings today” (The Church Comes Home, p. 36). Paul placed a high emphasis on participation because each person had a contribution to make. Paul assumed that they would energetically minister to each other. His concern was that “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
I invited Mark Speeter, pastor and founder of Antioch Community Church Fullerton, to the conference in Pomona. My daughters attend his church, and they often share about the dynamic ministry that takes place in the Antioch life groups. Mark explained, “Often college students are hesitant to open up in a life group, but when God uses someone else to speak into their lives, they go away excited and want to come back.” My 22-year old daughter Nicole started a high school cell at Antioch Fullerton. She describes her experience:
Each youth that walked through the door at the life group was in tears during worship as we prayed over them, spoke prophetic words over their lives, and listened to their hearts. One student’s head was healed, another girl decided to give her life to the Lord fully for the first time, and all were deeply touched by Jesus. At the end of the night, one of the students began weeping and declaring that, “Surely, this was the start of a youth movement!” The weeks that followed were just as supernatural as the students began to minister to each other. We walked away each week more amazed at the beauty and power of God.
Ralph Neighbour also spoke at the Group Life conference and he talked about ministering to the needs of the members through New Testament prophesy, like what happened in 1 Corinthians 14: 24-25 where the house church members prophesied to each other, and the unbelievers were so touched they fell down and worshipped saying, “God is really among you!”
Here are a few questions: Are you encouraging your cell members to hear God’s voice and minister to others in the group? Is your group dry and boring or exciting and dynamic? Somewhere in between?
 Carl George, How to Break Growth Barriers, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993), p. 136.
 Normally, ONE speaker preaches ONE sermon per Sunday. I was surprised—and initially offended–after I preached a 50-minute translated sermon in a large church in Russia last Sunday and another pastor stood up to preach a second sermon! There are always exceptions but you understand my point.