by Joel Comiskey
I’ve spent the last week in Cusco, Perú, doing a cell church conference at La Vid (the Vine). La Vid is a fully indigenous Spanish speaking church, but they are also part of the network of churches called “La Vinha” (the Vine in Portuguese) that originated in Goiânia, Brazil. I was so impressed throughout the conference with the deep cell church commitment that exists within La Vinha network of churches. “They really get it,” I thought to myself many times during the conference. No one can become a pastor or church planter at La Vid (and La Vinha) unless they begin as a cell member, then cell leader, cell supervisor, cell worker, and so forth. La Vinha movement breathes cells. I was talking to Marcelo, one of the two founders of the “La Vinha” while at the conference, and he told me that La Vinha was birthed with the deep Biblical conviction that the true New Testament Church must be cell-based. In other words, deeply embedded into the value system of “La Vinha” is the why of New Testament Christianity. La Vinha believes that cell ministry is the New Testament way to make disciples who make disciples. They get the why. Sadly, many pastors and leaders don’t catch this.
Many pastors “try” to become a cell church in the hope of church growth because of cells. The vast majority of churches who test cell ministry to become larger are disappointed when the growth simply doesn’t happen quickly. And the reality is that only Jesus can bring qualitative, lasting growth. When a leader doesn’t understand the biblical purpose behind cell ministry, it’s easy to fall into the trap of emphasis on outward results, which normally produces disappointment and disillusionment.
Others leaders fall into the trap of following a particular model, rather than being motivated by the biblical reasons for doing cell ministry. Those who follow one model will inevitably run into problems, such as:
- Transferability problems. What works in one place rarely transfers to another place.
- Lack of creativity. Following someone else’s model thwarts the pastor from depending on God’s innovative guidance.
- Lack of motivation. Following someone else’s model simply doesn’t motivate people long term.
- Becoming a slave of someone else: Those following a model are asking what the model’s founder is doing, rather than looking to Jesus
I believe that cell ministry is primarily about making disciples who are molded, shaped, and transformed through the cell system. It’s the biblical model of group discipleship that Jesus and the early church used. As leaders understand this process, a new, purer motivation develops that compels the pastor forward because of a new understanding of the why of cell ministry.