Often misunderstood, the cell church movement is alive and well in Northern America. We hear about explosive growth of cell churches in Colombia and Korea, but where are the dynamic North American cell churches? This book shows how the cell church concept is working in North America and dedicates an entire chapter to examining North American churches successfully using the cell strategy for growth. The Church That Multiplies gives practical examples and instructions to implement cell church strategy. This book provides the latest statistical research about the North American church and provides solutions for pastors and lay leaders to implement these concepts for cell-based ministry.
Why is the cell church so attractive in the 21st century?
More and more leaders around the world are attracted to a simple form of church life, one that doesn’t require huge budgets and super-talented preachers but follows the pattern of the New Testament church. I now find myself desiring a simple, reproducible, New Testament model. And I believe North America needs the same thing.
Tomorrow’s cell church won’t depend on large buildings or technology to make it work. It will go back to the New Testament rhythm of meeting in celebration and cell.
One reason the mega churches appear so complicated is that they are. One influential mega church in the suburbs of Los Angeles, for example, is embarking on a ten-year expansion project with a 4000-seat worship center, an artificial lake, food court, coffee house, and recreational attractions including a rock-climbing wall and jumbo video screens. The list of activities sounds like the offerings at a Club Med or a small liberal arts college: poetry workshops, creative writing, singles groups, job fairs, vocational training, musical lessons, and even auto repair clinics.
The beauty of a simple cell church is that it’s reproducible.
What are the first steps in starting a cell church?
Cell church plants come in different varieties: mother-daughter cell church plants, satellite cell church plants, or just starting a cell from scratch.
The simplicity of cell church planting makes it exciting. Even without a supporting mother church, a church planter can simply open the first cell in a home and begin reaching non-Christians. The cell at this stage is more like a house church. The goal is to see non-Christians come to Christ, be trained through the training track, and then be sent out to lead their own cell groups.
I recommend, however, that the church planter seek to find a team of core members. Each core member should be prepared to eventually start a cell group (or perhaps start one in partnership with another core team member). Where will these core members come from? A few possibilities are the mother church, the denomination, a plea for “missionaries,” or help from another church.
The core group meets together in a pilot cell for six months to one year. During that period, the pilot cell of core members practice cell life, using the four Ws as the guide for the cell (welcome, worship, Word, witness). Each core member is encouraged to get to know non-Christians in the neighborhood.
During this same time, the church planter teaches the training track to the core team members apart from the cell itself (see Chapter 10). In our church plant, we found it effective to set apart a Saturday or Sunday for concentrated training.
What is a cell church?
by Joel Comiskey
Cell church in its simplest form is a strategic approach that emphasizes both cell and celebration on an equal basis.
In the cell church, cell is the church and celebration is the church. Every worshipper is encouraged to attend both the weekly cell group and the weekly celebration service.
Most people know what the Sunday church celebration looks like. Worshippers gather to hear the Word preached, worship the living God, and participate in the sacraments (e.g., the Lord ‘s Supper and baptism).
But what about the cell? The most common definition of a cell (and the one followed in this book) is this: a group of three to fifteen people who meet weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and discipleship with the goal of multiplication.
Implicit in this definition is the overarching goal of glorifying God and achieving spiritual growth in Christ.
All small groups are not cell groups. One of the major differences between cell groups and generic small groups is the cell’s emphasis on evangelism, leadership development, and multiplication in each cell.
Cell churches also have other types of ministries (e.g., ushering, worship, prayer, missions, and training). These ministries, however, are not called cell groups, even though the particular ministry might be small and a group.The ministries in a cell church, rather, support the cell and celebration. Everyone participating in a church ministry is also actively involved in a cell group, if not leading one (this is especially true of elder and board leadership).
In the cell church, the cell group is the backbone, or center, of church ministry. Cell ministry replaces the need for many traditional programs.
I like to use the phrase “the cell-driven church” because church-growth success is primarily measured through infrastructure growth as the church grows from the core to the crowd.
Some churches have cell groups as one of the programs in the church. In this scenario, the senior pastor, while overseeing all the programs, delegates the small-group ministry to another person. In the cell church, however, the senior pastor is personally involved in cell ministry and is considered the point person and cell visionary.
Joel Comiskey (Ph.D. Fuller Seminary) is an internationally recognized church consultant and speaker. He has served as a missionary with the C&MA in Quito, Ecuador and is now founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California. Joel’s books have sold 130,000 copies in North American and an additional 200,000 copies worldwide. His titles include: Home Cell Group Explosion (Touch Publications, 1998), How to Lead a Great Cell Group Meeting (Touch Publications, 2001), and An Appointment with the King (Chosen Books,2002). Joel teaches as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries. Joel and his wife, Celyce, have three daughters and live in Moreno Valley,California.
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