By Joel Comiskey
One pastor in the U.S. concluded that cell ministry didn’t work. When I probed further, I discovered that this pastor had wrongly interpreted the cell church strategy. He thought that cell church consisted only of cells with no children’s program or any other ministry. He believed that the cell groups performed all the other ministries in the church, like ushers, missions, children’s church, etc.
Much of the resistance toward the cell group model comes from wrong interpretations. “Cell group churches are against everything except cells,” some imagine. The reality is that it’s okay to have additional ministries in the cell church. The goal, however, is that all those participating in ministries are fully integrated into the cell system.
So what does integration actually mean? Integration means that those in a ministry are already involved in a cell group. They are also participating in the larger gathering. Will this happen immediately? No. If a church is transitioning to cell church ministry, full integration will take place over time. If a church is newly planted, integration can start from day one.
Cell churches believe that the cell is the base of the church. It’s the best place for a person to discover and use his or her spiritual gift and it’s where people become disciples. The larger gathering prepares those same disciples through the preaching of God’s Word and extended family time. In other words, the first priority is to be actively involved in a cell group and the larger gathering. Beyond this, some will have the time and energy to also participate in additional ministries.
For example, when a church has fully transitioned to the cell church strategy, those on the worship team are also regularly attending a cell group and in fact, it’s a requirement (and often those on the worship team were first using their musical talents in a cell group). In a “church with cells,” some are in cells and some in other ministries–cell groups are one ministry among many. In the cell church, the cell is the base of the church and the place where people grow as disciples.
So integration is not the absence of ministries. Rather, it’s making cells the base of the church by asking all those participating in church ministries to first become regularly involved in both cell and celebration. Will everyone be involved in a ministry? No. But in the cell church, everyone is expected to be fully involved in cell and celebration.
Integration also involves those who are in a cell but have not yet connected to the larger gathering (the reverse is also true. Some will first be involved in the larger gathering and need to join a cell group). Note: It’s very important that cell groups don’t try to invite and integrate evangelicals from other churches into their cell groups. This is called sheep stealing and is unethical!!