How the Larger Gathering Fits into the Discipleship Process

Church Leadership

By Joel Comiskey

Summer 2013

by Joel Comiskey

Many don’t like the word cell. They equate it with a prison cell or secret communistic ”cell” gathering. I welcome churches to change the word to something more palatable, like Life groups (although I tell churches to avoid changing the cell definition). With so many negative connotations, why do many churches still use the word cell?

One of the main reasons is because of the comparison with the human body. Biological cells are not independent entities that function on their own. They depend on the ecosystem of the rest of the body and the health of the entire body draws from each individual cell. In the cell church, cells are part of a larger body that connects through worship gatherings, discipleship equipping, and coaching. How do the larger worship gatherings help in the discipleship process?

Higher Level Teaching

In the cell, the purpose is to apply God’s Word to each person. On the other hand, one of the key ways discipleship takes place in the larger gathering is via the teaching of God’s inerrant Word (just like the “apostle’s teaching in the early church-Acts 2:42). The pastor or staff can tackle some of the more difficult, hard to understand passage of Scripture and fill in the doctrinal gaps. Pastors can also apply God’s Word to the particular needs within the congregation because they know the sheep.


Worship in the cell group can be an intimate experience. Every believer can ask for prayer, share areas of thanksgiving, read Scripture, share needs, and apply God’s Word to their daily lives. I’ve noticed, however, that cell groups often have more difficulty entering into worship through singing. And this is where worship in the larger group can be a transforming experience. Cell members come together and soak in the presence of God under the guidance of anointed worship leaders.

Extended family gatherings

Discipleship takes place in cell groups as each person is able to share deep needs and get to know other family members in an intimate way. Separating from those close relationships when multiplication happens can be a painful process. But in the larger gatherings, close friends who were at one time in the same cell group can see each other, relive old times, and renew friendships before or after the service.

Vision casting

Cell members receive vision and direction from their cell leaders to use their gifts, evangelize as a group, practice the one-anothers, and even receive discipleship equipping. During the larger gatherings, the pastor of a cell church has the opportunity to cast the cell vision, give direction, and offer encouragement to keep pressing on. Wise cell church pastors use the preaching, the announcements, testimonies and other means to remind leaders of their eternal rewards, the great things God is doing, and the need for persistence.

Bill Beckham coined the term “two-winged church” to describe the cell church. Both wings help the bird fly. A church with two wings is better equipped to make disciples who make disciples than a church that emphasizes one or the other exclusively.