by Joel Comiskey, spring 2022

Have you ever felt lost in a crowd? Lonely even though people are all around you? This happens to me when I’m in a crowd of people I’m “supposed to know” but don’t have anyone specifically to communicate with.

Many people feel like this on Sunday morning in our churches. In fact, many don’t come to church because of the loneliness they feel in a crowd. And friendly, handshaking greeters can’t overcome the angst that people feel. Nor can free donuts and coffee. Church growth experts have tried for years to construct a way to make first-timers feel welcomed, but those techniques don’t satisfy the need for intimate friendship and a sense of belonging. What really helps is to have intimate friends in the church with whom you can count on.

When I first started visiting cell-based churches around the world to discover how they worked, I noticed that cell members would often sit together in the worship services with members from their cell. Cell members had become friends in the process of sharing their lives and experiences in the cell. They genuinely liked to hang out with each other.  

In the cell, members get to know each other because they are sharing life, confessing their sins, and opening their hearts. In other words, the members grow in intimacy and then naturally gravitate toward these “friends” within the larger church framework. I believe we should encourage these relationships and even make sure they take place.

The leader must not think they have to make all the relationships happen. Rather, the leaders simply encourage the members to care for one another. Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).