By Joel Comiskey, Summer 2020, check out Joel’s latest book, Living in Victory
When I first started studying cell ministry, I became enamored with its potential for church growth, but I didn’t prioritize the theological side of cell ministry as much as the pragmatic aspect.
My first book, Home Cell Group Explosion, focused on the rapid multiplication and evangelism of cells, and then my second book, Reap the Harvest, emphasized the growth of cell churches based on common principles. At that time, I was a missionary in Ecuador, and our cell church was seeing amazing church growth. I believed certain leaders in the cell movement were not pragmatic enough. I wanted to show the world that cell church had to work for it to have relevance.
In June 1998, I toured five major U.S. cities for Touch Publications, my book publisher. My seminar topic was cell church. Most of the pastors who attended were struggling. They simply were not experiencing the rapid church growth I highlighted in my books. Most of them talked about their long, long transition and the difficulties of cell ministry.
I moved to North America in 2001 from Ecuador. I jumped right into the battle , coaching pastors, doing seminars, and even planted a cell church with another pastor. I intended to find the keys that would unlock a cell church explosion in the United States and the Western world.
Church growth was much slower in the West. I could “grow a church” more quickly by not emphasizing cell ministry! Some people told us they were looking for a church in which they wouldn’t be known. One Christian said to me, “I need a church where I don’t have to do much.” Very few were interested in the additional commitments of cell ministry. Some churches were “growing” by not requiring much of their members and allowing them to remain anonymous.
Over a long period of time, I began to see cell ministry as much more than a technique of church growth. I realized that my former church growth theology was deficient. I came to understand that biblical truth is the final judge of church growth or any other philosophy of ministry.
Theology gives wings to cell ministry because it provides the basis for implementation in both receptive and non-receptive areas. Following the cell church strategy does not result in instant church growth. It takes time to change traditional thinking, develop the lay people to do the work of the ministry, and engage in relational evangelism. Some churches might even lose members in early stages of the process.
Cell church principles and practices must be built on a biblical foundation if churches are to become healthier and make more and better disciples. It’s not a quick growth strategy, but rather, a biblical one. Cell groups provide the environment to form disciples. No matter where the church is established, in areas of rapid growth or slow growth, cell ministry must depend on biblical truth rather than outward results.