by Joel Comiskey, Winter, 2019
Not long after the Twin Tower “9-11” tragedy, architects started drawing up plans for a new World Trade Center. When I visited the site five years after 9-11, I noticed that construction workers were still working on the foundation of the new structure. They had not yet begun construction on the actual buildings. The foundation was so critical to the new structure; it took years to complete. The workers did finally start building the new World Trade Center-only after the foundation was laid.
Jesus, the master builder, told His disciples how to build a sturdy foundation. The key, according to Jesus, was building the foundation on bedrock, rather than sand. The bedrock is obedience to God’s Words. The sand is human reasoning and logic (Matthew 7:24-27).
In the early years of my cell church research, I became enamored with the cell church concept because of its potential for church growth. I noticed that the largest churches in the world were cell churches, and I visited many of them to discover patterns and principles. The rapid growth of these cell churches and my own church growth philosophy were like a match to gasoline. Church growth ignited my soul with a deep passion for cell ministry.
But then I began to realize that in many places around the world (like the West) cell church transforms the church through a purification process. Church growth is slow but cell church helps Christ’s church go deeper.The more I travel on my cell church journey, the more I see that the cell church strategy doesn’t automatically produce rapid growth. God reserves growth for himself. He wants to receive the glory for all church growth. By his grace, he doesn’t allow man to glory in himself. God wants to get all the glory.
Cell church is not the latest, greatest church growth strategy. If it were, it would simply be a passing fad until the next hotter, more relevant strategy comes along.
If you want to continue over the long haul, your cell group methodology must rest upon a sure theological foundation. No one understands this better than the primary pioneer of cell church thinking, Ralph Neighbour. He has an entire section in his book Where Do We Go From Here entitled “Theology Breeds Methodology.” He would always start his cell conferences with a talk on this topic. And Ralph has seen his share of resistance to his core cell convictions. But to this day, even into his late eighties, he is still traveling the globe helping to establish cell churches.
Theology is the sure foundation on which to build a cell church ministry. Some of the key verses in the Bible are:
- Acts 20:20: You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house-to-house.
- Acts 2:46: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
- Acts 12:12: When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.
- Romans 16:3-5: Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. . . . Greet also the church that meets at their house.
- 1 Corinthians 16:19: The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.
- Colossians 4:15: Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
- Philemon 2: to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home.
All the New Testament letters were written to first century house churches.
We know the Bible is the basis and motivation for cell ministry. My book Biblical Foundations for the Cell-Based Church explores the biblical base for the cell church.