The Calling to Plant

By Joel Comiskey, Planting Churches that Reproduce, Spring 2022

Can anyone plant a cell church? I talked to one famous cell church pastor in Brazil who said to me, “Joel, I believe that everyone is called to plant a church.”

Those who believe that church planting is starting an individual cell/house church might agree with this Brazilian pastor. My limited understanding of the DMM movement (Discipleship Making Movement) is that anyone can start a simple church, which is basically a cell group. God is doing wonderful things through DMM in places like Iran and other parts of the world.

My understanding of New Testament church planting, however, was that Paul connected his house churches and that cell churches or house church networks were the norm in New Testament church planting (see Biblical Foundation for the Cell-based Church).

Planting a cell church, in other words, means that the lead pastor will coach the new cell leaders and gather them together in a network to assure quality control. And to do this well, the planter must be called. How does a person know if they are called? Here are a few guideposts:

  1. Confirmation from God through prayer. Peter said, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10). God is more than willing to speak to us and impress his will upon us. 
  2. The witness of others. I don’t believe in lone-ranger planters (those doing their own thing). Fruitful planters are coached from the mother cell church or church network.  This means that others have been able to observe godly character and maturity in relationships (marriage, family, etc.). 1 Samuel 15:23 tells us that  rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft. Fruitful, long-term church planters first receive the blessing from overseers and then receive coaching in the process.
  3. Fruitfulness before church planting. I often say in my seminars that cell churches are like university classrooms. They provide an excellent atmosphere for cell church planters to naturally emerge—those who have multiplied cells and coached the new leaders. After all, cell church planting is simple and mainly involves making disciples who make disciples through multiplying small groups. Weekly celebration services only happen after a solid base of small groups have been established.

The best church planters are those who have multiplied cell groups and supervised the new leaders. They possess the vital, needed experience to plant a church.

As I travel around the world, I passionately plead with larger cell churches to hear God’s call for missions. I would love to see leaders who have multiplied cells and now supervise cells to consider becoming missionary church planters all over the world. Senior pastors are the key to releasing such people. Some of these multiplication pastors will plant nearby in the same city, state, or country. Others will become cross-cultural missionaries to plant cell churches on distant shores.