Back to the Basics: The Cell is the Church

By Joel Comiskey, Biblical Foundations for the Cell-based Church

Most churches have small groups. Those groups might be necessary, but in their minds, the true church is the larger Sunday celebration gathering. They might offer a buffet of small group options, but the motivation is to close the back door so people will come on Sunday, where the offerings are received, the Lord’s Supper is administered, and baptisms take place.

Is Sunday celebration important? Yes. Do we want people to come back on Sunday? Yes! However, when the New Testament writers talk about going to church, they refer equally to the church in the house as the larger gathering. Paul talks about the church in the house (ekklesia) of Philemon, Aquilla/ Priscilla, among many other examples. The word Ekklesia also refers to churches in the city, such as Corinth or Rome.

To say that the small group is the church takes the cell group to another level of commitment and understanding. Practically, it lifts the leader to the role of shepherd. One of Ralph Neighbour’s best-selling books, The Shepherd’s Guidebook (offered free of charge), prepares the leader to pastor the group. What about taking the Lord’s Supper in the small group? Offerings? Baptisms? I’ve known some churches that close down their celebration services occasionally and only meet in the homes to highlight that the cell is the church.

We in the cell church movement believe that the weekend celebration service is equally the Ekklesia, but we can easily forget that the cell is the church and needs to be esteemed and promoted as the church. 

Last month, we discussed the cell definition and the goal of making disciples. For April, let’s explore how understanding the cell as the church elevates the leader’s role (and the leadership team). What about offerings in the cell, the Lord’s supper, and baptism—or at least ensuring the leaders participate in the baptisms? Click here if you’d like to receive these blogs in your email inbox. For April, we will write twenty blogs about:  

  • April 07-13: The cell is the church. How do the Ekklesia and the church in the house connect? What are the dangers of making the celebration more important than the cell?
  • April 14-20: Cell leaders (and team) as under-shepherds. What are the leaders’ shepherding roles? The best, most intimate care often comes from the cell leadership team (e.g., hospital visitation).
  • April 21-27: Church functions in the cell. What about taking offerings in the cell? Or at least special needs offerings. What about baptism through the cell or at least participating in the baptism when it happens?   
  • April 28 to May 04: The Lord’s Supper in cell ministry. We know that the early church practiced the Lord’s Supper as a meal at a cell level. What is your experience? Benefits? Dangers?