by Joel Comiskey
Excerpts from “Youth in Cell Ministry.”
I began following Jesus in September 1973 when I was seventeen years old. A few months later, I was in a small group that met on the Millikan High School campus in Long Beach, California. I learned to pray out loud in the group, and there was freedom to ask questions. God’s Word became alive to me as I interacted with others. I had a place to go when I was discouraged and a team to help me live the Christian life on the Millikan campus.
When I was nineteen, I started leading a cell group of predominantly seventeen to twenty-three years olds who met in my parents’ house. We grew together, experienced trials, debated theology, discerned false teaching, and most of all developed deep, lasting friendships. We learned to overcome conflict, love one another in practical ways, and allowed God’s Spirit to work among us. This was our group, among our own peers, and we felt like God was speaking to our generation each week in the cell group.
Bob Burtch was the co-leader who also led worship. Because we were good friends, I accepted his critiques of my Bible messages, although they were hard to take. I didn’t know much about God’s Word, but I shared what I knew, and God poured more into me. Often my teaching was shallow, but the cell group was more than my Bible teaching. We shared life together and grew spiritually as we challenged each other.
One evening we invited Ginger Powers, a missionary smuggling Bibles into East Germany, to speak to us. Her words and vision impacted all of us. Through her words, God lit a fire in my heart for missions. As a nineteen year old, I was ready to go with her to Germany, but God had other plans. I didn’t realize that a career in missions might require more preparation than simply packing my bags and leaving North America. I eventually did leave our cell group to participate in a short-term Youth With A Mission trip, which led to Bible college, and eventually career missions. Although the group sent me off, we gathered together for fellowship during my Bible school breaks, and even to this day, I maintain contact with some of those original group members.
Jesus himself chose the small group atmosphere to prepare his disciples. He spent time with his young followers, interacted with them, and taught them to love one another. He then said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). The disciples knew exactly what to do. They started home group ministries that multiplied and changed the Roman world. And home cell groups are just as essential for disciple-making today.