Making Disciples that Result in Multiplication

by Joel Comiskey

In February 2010, I had an “aha moment.” I spoke at a cell conference in Dallas, Texas, with Mario Vega, the Elim Church lead pastor in San Salvador. I sat down, and it was Mario’s turn to speak. Mario’s theme was the biblical basis for cell ministry, and during his talk, he said, “Multiplication is the result of the health of the cell.” Mario explained that multiplication is not the goal. Instead, the goal is to make disciples who make new disciples. As those disciples are formed and developed in a caring, loving environment, multiplication results.

Knowing that Mario was the lead pastor of one of the fastest-growing churches in the world, I listened intently to what he had to say about cell multiplication. As I think back, I probably heard those words many times previously, but I wasn’t ready to hear them until that moment. It had become increasingly clear that multiplication could not be the primary goal — as I had previously thought in 1997.

It would take many more years and living in a different context to understand that multiplication is not the goal. Rather it’s the result of a focus on making disciples who make disciples. In other words, a healthy disciple is formed and shaped in a life-giving cell.

We should desire to make as many healthy disciples as possible. Still, it’s equally important to understand that multiplying a cell group isn’t the same as making a healthy disciple. It’s possible to reproduce a cell group and not even have a leader, as some cell churches have done. These churches have multiplied cell groups by asking one leader to facilitate more than one group. Yet having many groups is not the purpose of cell ministry, and such activity can have harmful side effects, like burnout and discouragement. The mission is to make disciples who make disciples—just like Jesus taught.

Small group-based churches define their cells in this way: Groups of 3-15 people who meet weekly outside the church building for evangelism, community, and spiritual growth with the goal of making disciples who make disciples that result in multiplication. Notice that the goal is to make disciples that make disciples.

When I saw that healthy cells multiply because disciples are prepared and ready to start new groups, I focused on making disciples. I stopped worrying about how long it took to reproduce the group. Until then, I was more concerned about multiplying the group within a specific period or on a planned multiplication date—even if healthy disciples were absent. It was a mechanical, knee-jerk reaction, and I placed the cart before the horse.

Let’s multiply healthy disciples that make new disciples and fulfill Christ’s great commission, “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).