By Joel Comiskey, free teaching videos on leading small groups
Many people join the cell church movement because they’ve heard about Yoido Full Gospel church, the Elim church, or one of the other growing cell churches around the world.
They jump into the cell church strategy due to a promise—stated or unstated—of church growth. The underlying assumption is that if I become a cell church, my church will grow.
I confess that I gave this impression in my early days of cell ministry. If a pastor or church did cell church correctly, their church would grow. I’ve since become acutely aware of how easy it is to fall into this technique-driven methodology.
Here’s the truth: only Jesus can give true organic growth
I’ll never forget walking at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in February 2008. At that moment while walking on the sand, I envisioned the cell church as a giant kite. The kite just sat there on the sand, and it couldn’t move without the wind picking it up. People could walk by and admire the kite, but it couldn’t fly into the air without the power of wind.
I realized that many cell churches are like that beautiful kite. They are well polished and beautifully constructed. The system is carefully laid out. Yet, the church won’t soar by itself. It will just sit there. A pastor can’t force the kite to take off. Unless the wind of the Spirit breathes into the structure and causes it to fly, nothing is going to happen. Apart from the Holy Spirit, church growth won’t happen. In fact, it should not happen. The only growth glorifying to God is the type that he initiates.
Jesus said, “. . . on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Jesus Christ is the head of the church. All authority has been given to him (Matthew 28:18). He will build his church, and he is the only one who can sustain that growth.
The senior pastor cannot grow the church. Cells cannot grow the church. Programs cannot grow the church. Because it is Christ’s church, he must grow it. The only type of growth worthy of Christ’s church is the supernatural, God-inspired growth.
We can plant and we can water, but ultimately God must give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). We should not want to be part of a church that grew because of the senior pastor’s skill or personality. Can you imagine the pressure on such a pastor to keep the church growing? (Many of the major pastoral scandals were caused by this human pressure to perform.) As soon as church growth becomes a man-made “I did it” strategy, we should flee.
The bottom line is that Jesus won’t be manipulated to give church growth to a church, no matter how desperate. The good news is that Jesus oversees the church, and he wants us to come to the point of looking to him for growth, so that we can point to the miracle of his growth rather than a slick set of programs that were implemented to make it humanly happen.