By Joel Comiskey
Earlier on in my cell ministry, a person tried to convince me of the need to add additional programs, so that people could find and exercise their spiritual gifts. “But in the small groups they’ll have a chance to exercise their gifts,” I countered. “Those with the gift of mercy will have the opportunity to reach the poor and needy. The person with the gift of teaching can clarify a passage of Scripture. Those with the gifts of service or helps will have plenty of chances to use their gifts in the cell atmosphere.” Our conversation that night ended in a stalemate. We both had strong opinions. But the conversation was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to revisit the issue of spiritual gifts and cell groups. The conversation stirred me to go back to Scripture for answers.
I reread the book of Acts where we learn the believers met from house to house and in the public gatherings (Acts 2:46; 5:12, 20, 25, 42). Persecution soon made large group gatherings very difficult, and the preferred meeting place became the houses of the individual believers. These simple house churches became the primary type of church in the New Testament period. The writers of Scripture commonly referred to the “church in the house of” an individual’s name (see, for example, Acts 12:12; Romans 16:3–5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15 and Philemon 2). In fact, all of the New Testament books were completed by the year 90 AD, but the first time the early church had a building of their own was in the 150 AD. The New Testament was written to house churches in which the exercise of individual gifts was possible.
When Paul wrote about the gift passages, he was writing to believers meeting in home groups (Ephesians 4; Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12–14). In all three passages about the gifts, he connects giftedness with the body of Christ. The only way to know where a person fits in the body of Christ is to discover his or her giftedness. The home atmosphere of the early church gave each person ample opportunity to test, prove and discover their own spiritual giftedness and place in the body of Christ.
Today, more than ever, we need to get back to the small group as the primary place to exercise spiritual gifts. It is the most natural context for worship and prayer together. It is the best place to find encouragement and accountability as we grow in our relationship with Christ. It is also the most spontaneous and biblical place for the discovery of our spiritual gifts