by Joel Comiskey
Sometimes pastors fail. I heard about one church in the U.S. whose pastor committed adultery. The church was devastated. Large numbers left and many were deeply hurt and offended. The associate pastor told me that he observed an interesting phenomenon. Those who stayed and weathered the storm were those who faithfully attended a cell group. Why? Because those involved with a home cell group were already pastored, fed, and ministered to. They had a community of believers with whom they shared life, and they didn’t depend on the lead pastor to personally shepherd them.
Let’s face it, milling around and talking to people after the sermon simply does not provide deep fellowship that the N.T. talks about (koinonia). Going to a baseball game with a large group from the church doesn’t either. The reality is that those who only attend celebration are only experiencing half of the church. I’ve also noticed that Sunday-only people are normally the ones who hop to another church when they don’t agree with the pastor’s preaching, the type of worship service, or the lack of a favorite program.
Thus, a key goal in the cell church is to make sure those attending the larger gathering are also intimately involved in a cell group. So what can we do to connect these people to the cell? The lead pastor’s cell involvement and passion is critical in getting others involved. The pastor also needs to continually teach the biblical base for cell ministry so that the people know “why” they should be involved in a cell. We also mentioned last week that cell participation is critical among the key leaders of the church (e.g., elders, staff, those in ministry, etc.). So what else can be done?
The phrase that comes to my mind is “create a desire.” One of the best ways to create a desire is through cell testimonies on Sunday morning. I remember when Rachel gave a testimony on Sunday morning about how she had found true friendship through her Life Group and how that she was growing spiritually for the first time in her Christian life. Her passion winsomely reminded the non-cell people to join a group.
I always encourage churches to buy a large map of the city, place it on a professionally done backboard, and then pinpoint the church’s cell groups on the map. Place the map in a prominent place in the church so people can see where the cells meet and be reminded of cell life. Ask a passionate cell person to stand by the map, answer questions, and give guidance to those interested in attending a cell group.
Some key ideas to remember:
1. Testimonies from the cell group during the service. Some churches like to plan two such testimonies per month:
- ask a cell member who has been transformed through relational ministry—new friendships, special ministry times—to share what God has done
- hear the testimony of someone who has received healing within the cell group
- present a new multiplication leader to the entire church
2. Information about cells
Some churches don’t have a bulletin, but if there’s even an occasional handout, it’s a great time to give cell ministry its proper place. I coached one church that had 15 cells and 150 worshippers. The bulletin, a two-sided sheet of paper, listed all the cell groups each week on the front page. Each Sunday the statement was clearly made: “We’re pastoring our people through cell ministry.”
Some churches have book tables; larger ones even have bookstores. I encourage cell-based churches to have a cell information table where they can lay out relevant books on cell ministry, the weekly cell lesson, a box to place cell reports, and other pertinent information about cell ministry. I mentioned last week about placing a city map in the foyer with each cell group pinned on it.
3. Unleash the cell leaders and members
This might be the most overlooked way to connect people but perhaps the most effective. Remind the cell leaders and members to approach visitors and non-cell members with an invitation to join their groups. Wouldn’t it be great if various cell members/leaders (even from different groups) approached the same person? This demonstrates love, personal care, and reminds the visitor of the how important cells are in the church. It also helps cell leaders to find core people for their cell group.