by Joel Comiskey, Winter 2019
This month we’re sharing key verses and passages that talk about small group ministry. I’m glad we’re doing this because the Bible, unlike tradition, is the foundation for our faith and life. But I also think Scripture must inform our ministry philosophy. In my book Biblical Foundations for the Cell-based Church I talk a lot about biblical truths that should guide ministry. But do all hold equal weight? I don’t think so.
My personal conviction is that the essence of cell ministry comes from Matthew 28:18-20: Make disciples.
In Matthew 28, Jesus is telling his own group of disciples to develop another group of disciples. Jesus expected his disciples to follow his pattern of exemplifying his power and love through practical teaching and examples. Jesus developed his own group of twelve and hung out with them for three years. In the atmosphere of the group, these disciples were molded, shaped, trained, and then sent forth. The same disciples became the key leaders of the early Church. Christ’s purpose in molding them in the small group had a greater purpose.
A critical part of becoming a disciple is relating with other believers in a group setting. Granted, becoming a disciple of Jesus also involves growth in the spiritual disciplines, hearing God’s Word regularly preached, and other activities. But small group involvement is at the heart of the great commission to make disciples. And we can see how the disciples fulfilled Christ’s great commission through the early church house churches. The early Church followed Christ’s pattern and changed the world house by house. Those house churches celebrated together.
Cell ministry isn’t primarily about the cell but making disciples who are molded, shaped, and transformed through the cell system. 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. Understanding that the cell strategy is primarily about making disciples places cell ministry within the biblical framework and encourages pastors to stop focusing on outward models and to prioritize a secure biblical anchor for ministry.
We become disciples as we learn to love one another and allow others to hold us accountable. This was the type of discipleship Jesus had in mind when he commanded his disciples to continue his own strategy for disciple-making in the group environment. Let’s make disciples through cell church ministry.