The Cell As The Church
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in cell ministry. One of them was my early belief that the cell was simply a tool of the Sunday church, a way to get people to come and stay in the larger gathering. I believed that the true church was the gathered, large-group event that normally took place on Sunday. At that time, cell groups were simply a means to an end, a way to grow the Sunday morning church. In fact, I remember reacting to those who talked about the cell as the church. “Aren’t they forgetting about the Sunday celebration,” I thought. But I kept on hearing the phrase “the cell is the church.”
My view has clearly changed, and now I can say with boldness “the cell is the church.” So why have those in the cell church movement always taught this?
First, because it’s biblical. The New Testament writers use ecclesia when referring to Christ’s church–whether a local church or universal church. Paul used the word ecclesia to refer to the church in private homes (e.g., Romans 16; Philemon 2). In fact, Paul normally used ecclesia to refer to the church in the home. Paul does not indicate that there is any fundamental difference between the smallest house church and the whole church of God. God is equally present in his fullness in both scenarios.
Second, understanding that the cell is the church gives new meaning to the larger gathering. Ideally, the celebration service should be the compilation of house churches meeting together. This reality should stir the lead pastor to take advantage of encouraging the under-shepherds to do the work of ministry and pastor the flock, like Jethro’s advice to Moses (Exodus 18). The larger gathering is a time of refreshment, worship, and preparation for ministry during the week. Paul also uses ecclesia to refer to the gathered church, the sum total of house churches meeting together. This is why in the cell church movement has always talked about the two-winged church.
Third, viewing the cell as the church enhances the role of the cell leader. When viewing the small group as less than the church, the role of the leader is minimized. In the early church those who assumed the roles of bishop, pastor, and elder were house church leaders or overseers of various house churches. While I like to use the word facilitator to describe how the leader empowers others during the lesson time, the term facilitator doesn’t do justice to the leadership role of a cell leader or the leadership team. In reality, the cell leader (s) is the shepherd of the group.
Fourth, a high view of the cell breeds church planting and missions. Paul planted house churches throughout the Roman world, developed leadership from his converts, and then mentored the new leaders as Christianity continued to spread (Acts 15:36, 41). If a person can lead a cell group, multiply it, and then coach the new leader, he or she will be prepared for God’s call to do the same thing in a church plant or even as a missionary somewhere in the world.
In the month of January, we’ll be exploring the topic of the cell as the church. Cell church pastors and leaders will blog on this important topic throughout the month of January. If you’d like to receive these blogs in your email inbox each day, please sign up HERE. Here are some of the topics we will cover:
- Week 1 (January 10-16). The biblical base for the cell as the church (ecclesia is used for the church in the home). We’ll be discussing why the cell is the church and why this is hard for traditional churches to grasp.
- Week 2 (January 17-23). The two-wing church (ecclesia is also use for the larger gathering). Seeing the larger gathering as the gathering of the house churches gives new vision and purpose to the lead pastor to teach, train, and cast vision. Traditionally, the western church has viewed Sunday celebration as the church and all other ministries as extensions of Sunday celebration.
- Week 3 (January 24-30). The cell leader as pastor. The terms shepherd, bishop, and elder were used in the early church to refer to those leading house churches or over house churches. While I like the idea behind cell facilitator because it refers to empowering the members, in reality, the cell leader is the pastor of the church.
- Week 4 (January 31-February 06). Missions and church planting. The more we view the cell as the church, the more we can encourage church planters and missionaries. Why? Because if a person can lead a cell group, multiply it, and then coach the new leader, he or she will be prepared for God’s call to do the same thing in a church plant or even as a missionary somewhere in the world.
Do you view the cell as the church? Why or why not? Please feel free to comment here.
New book: Children in Cell Ministry now available
Major 2016 JCG Event
We will have our annual JCG event in the Elim Reseda Church, on February 27, 2016. Mario Vega and Joel Comiskey will be ministering in Spanish and simultaneous English translation will be available. Place it on your calendar.
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New: 27 videos on cell church from Joel Comiskey
There are 27 videos on all aspects of cell church (with downloadable resources) on Ministry Grid. Check it out.
Free Ebook by Joel Comiskey and small group health assessment
Free Ebook from Joel Comiskey (Making Disciples in the 21st Century Church). Joel’s book is available at the end of the Thriving Small Groups Assessment. There is no catch to this. We are not asking for your contact information or trying to up-sell anything. At the end of the assessment, you will also discover the health of your small groups. I think you’ll find both of this free resources extremely helpful.
Joel Comiskey’s new book: 2000 Years of Small Groups
Ebook: 2000 Years of Small Groups