by Joel Comiskey
I see two major hindrances to cell church planting.
The first one is not believing that the cell is the church.
In the cell church strategy, the first cell group is officially the church. Many have a hard time with this. I mentored one doctoral student who wrote his dissertation about planting a simple church among his denomination. His challenge was to convince the denomination that the cell was the church. He had to overcome the denominational rules that stated, “A minister of the word serving as pastor of a congregation shall preach the word, administer the sacraments, conduct public worship services, catechize the youth, and train members for Christian service.” Notice the words “conduct public worship services.” The denomination believed that a true church needed a pulpit and public gathering to call it a church.
This particular doctoral student wanted to start with a single cell, multiply the cell, and eventually start celebration services. He wanted funding from this denomination, so his doctoral dissertation was very practical to him. He did an admirable job of describing point- by-point how the first small group would participate in the word of God, baptize new believers, partake in the Lord’s supper, and even exercise Christian discipline. This student eventually started a cell church, beginning with a single cell.
The second hindrance is the priority of growing one church larger and larger.
Many pastors don’t realize that church planting is the most effective way to make more and better disciples for Jesus Christ. Rather, they focus on growing one church larger and larger. The reality is that church planting is far healthier than growing one church.
Christian Schwarz in Natural Church Development reveals that church plants are more effective in every area (leading people to become Christ-followers, baptizing members, and ministering to needs). He writes:
If instead of a single church with 2,856 in worship we had 56 churches, each with 51 worshippers, these churches would, statistically win 1,792 new people within five years—16 times the number the megachurch would win. Thus we can conclude that the evangelistic effectiveness of minichurches is statistically 1,600 percent greater than that of megachurches! (Natural Church Development, pp. 46-48).
I am more and more convinced that we in the cell church world have not focused sufficiently on raising up pastors to multiply new churches. As I travel around the world, I passionately plead with larger cell churches to hear God’s call for church planting. I would love to see leaders who have multiplied cells and now supervise cells to consider becoming missionary church planters all over the world. Some of these multiplication pastors will plant nearby in the same city, state, or country. Others will become cross-cultural missionaries to plant cell churches on distant shores.
Senior pastors are the key to releasing such people. Lead pastors are the gatekeepers and must be willing to release church planters into the harvest.