A Purified Church

By Joel Comiskey, check out: Living in Victory, Spring 2020

Jesus started his movement in a small group of twelve. He then sent them into the homes to make more disciples (Luke 9 & 10).  When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, his nimble church spread throughout the Empire, adapting and expanding as it went (Acts 2 ff). Each new wave of persecution extended the Christian mission until Jesus’ followers were found in every part of the Roman world (Romans 15:19).  

But then this glorious movement began to slow down. The church increasingly became weighed down with hierarchy, buildings, and schisms. Instead of a lean-meaning-fighting machine (as Bill Beckham coined the early cell movement), the church became slow and cumbersome. Instead of changing the world, it became part of it.

But Jesus loves his church and has used persecution throughout the ages to purify it. As I wrote the book 2000 Years of Small Groups, I was amazed to see how Jesus always maintained a purified church with the traditional, hierarchical one. His remnant was often on the run from the hierarchical church.

And I believe that God has a purpose in Covid-19 to perfect his church even further. Last month, I was talking to Freddy Noble, lead pastor at First Baptist Church of Manhattan. Freddy has about 100 cell groups. Their building is in the heart of Manhattan, where Covid-19 has taken a huge toll.

We talked excitedly about how Covid-19 is helping their church to streamline their leadership coaching and equipping.  Since the leaders can’t meet in person, their church has  held regular coaching meetings online. He has also continued his church-wide equipping online. Even before Covid-19, it was very difficult for leaders to meet in the middle of downtown Manhattan, so Covid-19 has helped the leadership explore new ways to coach and equip leaders. I’m convinced that online leadership coaching and equipping will help the cell church of the future better fulfill its mission.

During Covid-19, the First Baptist Church of Manhattan, like most cell churches, have also been streaming their services online as well as meeting in online cell groups. The big question is what will be the takeaways for Christ’s church after the Covid-19 crisis passes? What will the fire purify and what will it burn completely? What is Jesus doing to once again make his church more nimble and effective as it comes out of the Covid-19 crisis? Next week, we’ll come back to this theme and explore more in-depth what Christ’s purified church will look like once it comes out of the Covid-19 crisis.