by Joel Comiskey
One of the principal motivations for doing cell ministry is to establish God’s family here on the earth. 1 Timothy 3:15, “if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” The picture of God’s family came straight from the house church environment of the New Testament. I agree with Robert Banks, a New Testament theologian, who said, “The comparison of the Christian community with a “family” must be regarded as the most significant metaphorical usage of all. For that reason it has pride of place in this discussion. More than any of the other images utilized by Paul, it reveals the essence of this thinking about community” (Paul’s Idea of Community, p. 49)
Several months ago, I was talking to a group of leaders about my convictions that the main image of the church in the New Testament is the family of God. I shared with them how Jesus came to establish God’s family and used the houses to get his point across (Luke 9 & 10). I shared that the family imagery will help motivate cell leaders to reach out to the lonely and spiritually “homeless.” One of the leaders said, “The family image will never work in our country. We have a bad image of family, and we have to make the church more relevant to our modern society.” He, like many, was trying to figure how to make the church acceptable to the post-Christian mindset.
Many church leaders, in fact, embrace a modern business model for cell groups. They envision the church as a business and pastors like CEOs who are hired to create church goods and services. The cell group is one those goods. However, when we adopt a business model, attendees hop from church to church because they see the church as a business, and they figure they should get the best “deal” by looking for the best worship service in town. Even within one local church, they hop from cell group to cell group because they are looking for what serves them best.
Promoting the family nature of the church to the congregation will help people understand why they congregate and how the church should function. The family imagery will also critique the idea of individual salvation that is separated from the church.
As you help motivate your cells to focus on the family imagery, the home group members will be more transparent—being willing to go to each other, rather than gossiping. It will help them to welcome those who are different—racially, economically, socially, and at different levels spiritually. You will also have more passion to reach the lonely and hurting. Is your cell group and church acting like a family? What are some of the ways you can improve in this area?