Joel Comiskey’s Ph.D. Dissertation
This final chapter will bring to a conclusion the various factors that have been examined in this study. My goal is to offer concrete recommendations for those attempting cell-based ministry in Latin America.
In this dissertation, we have looked at a number of key factors in cell-based ministry. First, we examined the theology of the church and analyzed how cell-based ministry relates to Christ’s church, both in what it is as well as in what it does. Studying the history of cell-based ministry also helped trace patterns of small group ministry in a wide variety of contextual settings. Although small groups in various forms have been part of the church’s life from its inception, it was not until after the reformation, and more specifically during the Pietistic, the Moravian, and the Methodist movements that small group ministry became the powerful tool for evangelism, discipleship, and ultimately church growth that it had been in the early church.
David Cho has given new meaning to the effectiveness of cell-based ministry today. With the largest church in the history of Christianity, he has set the standard for the rest to follow. Many cell churches are springing up around the world, which are able to both effectively evangelize as well as pastor each individual member. We also noticed several small group models that are having an impact, in a more limited way, in North America.
As a missionary to Latin America, my special interest has been cell-based ministry from a Latin perspective. With this in mind, a whole chapter was dedicated to Latin culture and worldview. We analyzed important principles and patterns that might help us to understand how to more effectively implement cell-based ministry in a Latin setting. Again focused on Latin America, I looked at leadership patterns that are specific to Latin Americans and how those patterns might be utilized in cell-based ministry and leadership.
The first five chapters served as a backdrop to more effectively understand and evaluate the five case study churches. These churches were chosen because of their prominence and success in implementing a cell-based philosophy. As I spent time in these churches, I noticed various patterns of similarity in the descriptive make-up of these churches. The most prominent descriptive aspects were that all of these churches were influenced greatly by David Yonggi Cho, that they are committed to evangelizing the entire city for God, that they had a strong, visionary head pastor, and that they were totally dependent on the Spirit of God (highly charismatic).
Many other important patterns of cell-based ministry emerged during my analysis of their cell-based structure, leadership patterns, and multiplication factors. The patterns of similarity are significant in that, first, these patterns were present in each of the five case study churches; second, these churches are the most prominent cell churches in Latin America; and third, these churches represent various streams of cell church philosophies. In other words, their differences are great enough to make their similarities significant.
Following is a summary of the seventeen patterns that I discovered in these churches, and my recommendation would be that any church in Latin American doing cell-based ministry should incorporate these principles into their cell structure.
- The primary motivation for cell ministry should be evangelism and church growth (as opposed to edification of the saints, or even pastoral care).
- Reproduction (multiplication) should be the major goal of each cell group.
- There should be a clear emphasis on quantifiable church growth through the cell ministry. Quantifiable goals should be made for every aspect of cell ministry and clearly proclaimed to the entire church.
- Cell ministry should be promoted as the backbone of the church.
- Cell attendance should be expected of everyone attending the church.
- The head pastor should give strong, visionary leadership to the cell ministry.
- There should be clearly established leadership requirements for those entering cell ministry.
- A cell leadership training course should be required for all potential cell leaders.
- Cell leadership should be raised up from within the church itself, at all levels.
- A “Jethro model” care structure for each level of leadership should be developed.
- Cell leadership should be promoted to higher leadership positions based on past success.
- It is essential to understand that effective cell ministry demands a high time commitment on behalf of all cell leadership, and the church should prepare accordingly.
- Cell groups should meet in the home (at least outside the church).
- The follow-up system of visitors and new converts should be administered through the cell groups.
- Cell lessons should be based on the pastor’s sermon to promote continuity between cell and celebration.
- Offerings should be taken within each cell meeting.
The questionnaires suggested some consistent correlations between cell group multiplication and leadership activity. According to the data, a cell leader should be more successful in multiplying his cell group if he incorporates:
- Make sure that there is a cell team in place;
- Receive as much training as possible;
- Have a consistent devotional life;
- Spend sufficient time preparing the cell lesson;
- Visit the members of the cell group regularly;
- Meet with the group outside the normal cell meeting;
- Visit the new people that come to the group;
- Exhort others in the group to invite their friends;
- Seek to constantly have new people in the group;
- Know when the group is going to multiply.
It should be remembered that those who practiced the above principles in increasing measures, were able to multiply their groups more rapidly. If a cell leader wants to see significant improvement in his cell group, these activities should be done simultaneously. One area should not be overemphasized to the exclusion of another equally important area. Cell leaders who want to be more effective in multiplying their group should practice as many of the above principles as possible.
In conclusion, we are reminded that Latin America, at this time in history is ripe for the harvest. The church of Latin America needs culturally relevant tools to assist it in reaching the masses of its ever growing urban centers with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have seen that cell-based ministry is, in fact, producing exciting results throughout various parts of Latin America. This study has sought to analyze cell-based methodology with the hope of placing in the hands of Christian workers important tools and information for the furtherance and growth of Christ’s church, especially His church in Latin America.
In the years following the above 1996 recommendations, I’ve since changed the order and added additional clarity to them: The first four are the most important, in my opinion.
- Dependence on Jesus Christ through prayer.
- Senior pastor and leadership team giving strong, visionary leadership to the cell ministry.
- Cell ministry promoted as the backbone of the church.
- Clear definition of a cell group (weekly, outside the church building, evangelistic, pastoral care/discipleship, clear goal of multiplication).
- The passion behind cell ministry is evangelism and church growth.
- Reproduction (multiplication) is the major goal of each cell group.
- Cell and celebration attendance expected of everyone attending the church.
- Clearly established leadership requirements for those entering cell ministry.
- Required cell leadership training for all potential cell group leaders.
- Cell leadership developed from within the church itself, at all levels.
- A supervisory care structure for each level of leadership (G-12 or 5×5).
- Follow-up system of visitors and new converts administered through cell groups.
- Cell lessons based on pastor’s teaching to promote continuity between cell and celebration (although flexibility might be given to meet the needs of specific homogeneous groups)
 I tried to choose those principles which were most directly related to cell ministry. Therefore, I did not include such factors as prayer, dynamic worship, or a city-wide focus, even though these principles were present in all of the case study churches.