The Cell within the Cell

by Joel Comiskey, Summer 2019

Most of you reading this newsletter know that I believe the cell should be the base of the church and that everyone should attend small and large group gatherings (cell and celebration). And you also know that I believe that the small group is the best place to practice community and live out the gospel message. But can a cell group properly care for each member? 

I was in Brazil recently and I remember that the host church pastor said something like, “Joel, I just want to make sure everyone in the cell group is properly cared for. Sadly, we haven’t done a very good job of this in the past, and I want to change.”  

Many pastors and leaders turn to the cell strategy because they want everyone in the church to be cared for. Is the cell sufficient to do this? Yes and no. Of course, the cell in itself won’t care for anyone. Rather, the leader or shepherd must proactively care for the members through visitation, phone calls, prayer and so forth. But often volunteer cell leaders don’t do an adequate job of caring for each member.  

It helps a lot if the leader has developed a team to help in the care process. Jesus had a team of three in his own group of twelve. A team can help carry the load of the cell leader in the process of shepherding everyone in the group.  

Some cell churches have honed into cell member care and spiritual growth even further and developed the cell within the cell. One of the greatest cell church examples was the 18th century Methodist movement. Everyone was required to belong to a life-giving small group. But the Methodist also encouraged the cell members to belong to an optional smaller band of 4-5 people (Rob Campbell blogs tomorrow about the structure of those bands). 

The Elim Church has given us a modern day example of the cell within the cell through their weekly “planning meetings.” At the Elim Church, the nucleus of the cell (those who feel the urging) meets during the week to pray, read Scripture, and plan for the upcoming Saturday cell group. The planning meeting offers more in-depth care and community for cell members. 

Additionally, Ralph Neighbour and others promote dividing the cell into triads (groups of three) composed of stronger and weaker believers. For example, a new believer would be assigned to a triad with mature believers who would also walk the new believer through the church-wide equipping.  

The cell church has always encouraged individual members of the cell to meet together during the week to build relationships, prayer for one another, and grow together as Christ’s body. 

The goal of the cell within the cell, just like the goal of the entire church strategy, is to make disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ. That is, to help each person become like Jesus and to grow in his likeness.  

What do your cell groups do to make sure every member is properly cared for and maturing in their relationship with Jesus Christ? During the month of August we will be discussing the “cell within the cell.” Experienced pastors and leaders will write 20 blogs on this topic. If you’d like to receive these blogs in your emails inbox, please click here. We’ll be discussing: 

  • August 04 to 10: The importance of caring for each member on a deeper level, remembering that the cell leader doesn’t need to do all the caring but should encourage members to minister to each other. 
  • August 11 to 17: How to create a cell within the cell. Cell church has always encouraged cell members to get together personally with other members or in smaller groups. In other words, the burden of relational discipleship should be distributed among cell members, rather than the leader. Some, like Elim, have weekly nucleus meetings. Neighbour promotes triads.
  • August 18 to 24: Practical suggestions to create personal care for each member. What can the leader do? Cell members? Church?
  • August 25 to 31: How to overcome the obstacles of busyness. Many members find it hard to even attend the cell meeting, let alone additional meetings. Many churches link the equipping with member involvement. Could a more mature member take spiritually weaker member through the first steps of the equipping? How might spiritual giftedness connect members?

Feel free to share your experiences here.