The Myth of the Two-Winged Church

by Joel Comiskey

Not all two-winged birds fly. In fact, there are more than sixty species of birds that don’t fly, including Penguins, Ostriches, and Kiwis. 

But what about the two-winged church? Does it always fly? Bill Beckham invented the “two-winged church” imagery a long time ago when describing a cell church. One wing is the cell and the other celebration. It’s a great illustration, and I’ve used it many times. It usually works.  But now always. The reason? 

Not all two-winged churches fly. 

I was in one church in which the pastor kept on talking about the two-winged church. He had delegated the celebration ministry to one pastor and the cell ministry to another. He was trying to balance both wings by delegating cell and celebration. The senior pastor tried to convince me that he was simply focusing on both wings. I noticed a total lack of integration among cells, celebration, and ministries.

In this particular church, the cell pastor was supposed to do the cell work and the celebration pastor was supposed to do the celebration work. The senior pastor simply tried to oversee both of them, hoping that the two-winged bird wouldn’t nosedive into the ground. The bird wasn’t flying. 

Another church plant had become weighed down in a high intensity Sunday service that drained the churches energies and labor. They had started home groups, but those groups were a separate ministry with very little connection between cell and celebration. I noticed a value clash between key staff members about whether or not to priority cell or celebration. One of most influential elders asked during a question-answer time whether they should be spending so much time on their high-production Sunday celebration, which was draining the energies of many. I mentioned to those present that I believed in the cell-driven church, a term I coined more than ten years ago. 

While both cell and celebration are essential in the two-winged church, the phrase cell driven helps clarify focus and priority. The cell-driven church, in contrast to the Sunday-oriented model, focuses on the cell infrastructure. The cell-driven church concentrates on growing the church from the inside out. The goal is to turn members into disciples-makers through multiplying cell groups. But how does this work? 

Each week in June, we’ll talk about how the cell driven church guides the church and helps integrate everything, so that the church will fly smoothly. A flying bird is more than just two wings. Its head and body must direct it. If you’d like to receive these blogs daily in your email, click here. We’ll cover: 

  • Week 1: June 2-8:  New Testament precedence. We don’t see in the New Testament a top-heavy celebration service as a means to grow the church. Rather, God organized his church in house church networks or cell-celebration gatherings. Francis Chan’s book, “Letters to the Church” captures this New Testament reality. 
  • Week 2: June 09-15: Pastoral team direction. Cell driven pastoral teams start with the well-being of the cells when they meet with the key leaders. They ask how the cells are doing and how can they be strengthened. It’s so easy to start with the immediate celebration problems but because the cells are out of sight, it’s important the pastoral team knows what’s going on and even starts with them.
  • Week 3: June 16-22: Practicing the one-anothers. There are some 100 one-anothers in the New Testament and mainly directed to house to house ministry. The smaller group is the best place to practice these one-anothers. And of course, the gifts of the Spirit are directed to the house church structure as well.
  • Week 4: June 23-29: Cells as the base. The goal of the cell church is that everyone is involved in a cell before being involved in another ministry. This is a key difference between a church with cells and cell church. The  gifts of the Spirit, as well as personal talents should first be practiced in a smaller setting before being moved up to higher involvement.
  • Week 5: June 30 to July 06: Celebrating the victories. The celebration service should truly be celebratory, rather than a show. We celebrate through the Word, Worship, and Witness. It should be a time of encouragement, while also reaping the harvest. 

Feel free to share your experiences here.