Clearly Defined Cells Make More and Better Disciples

Cell Basics

by Joel Comiskey


By Joel Comiskey, check out coaching

Some people think I’m too fanatical about cells. I surprise them when I tell them I’m not passionate about cells in and of themselves. Rather, my focus is on making disciples who make disciples (helping people become more like Jesus). God’s purpose is to make disciples, and he chose to do this in a small group (Matthew 28:18-20).

The cell has all the elements necessary to raise up ministers. Effective cell leaders pastor, evangelize, train, counsel, encourage, listen, and challenge Christ followers. Those who lead cells do what pastors do.

Some churches broaden their cell definition to include Sunday school classes, the choir, elders, committees, women’s circles, and so forth. In the desire not to offend anyone, they call everything a cell group. The problem with this mentality is that discipleship suffers. A cell group, unlike many small groups, includes evangelism, leadership development, and multiplication.

Churches are tempted to label everything a small group because it’s a way to quickly adapt a church to small-group ministry, but in the end, few disciples are formed. It’s what I call faulty integration.

Discipleship also suffers when churches lower the bar and encourage their groups to meet every 15 days, break for three months in the summer, and two months in the winter. The motivation is to give busy people more time. The reality is that disciples are rarely formed in such infrequent meetings and people lose interest.

To make sure that disciples are formed, it’s important to start with a quality, holistic definition of a cell group. Here’s the one I advocate and noticed in the worldwide cell churches: Groups of three to fifteen people who meet weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and spiritual growth with the goal of making disciples who make disciples, which results in the multiplication of the cell.

Multiplication simply gives the context for a disciple to minister. Big Bear Christian Center defines their cell groups in a similar way but with a different emphasis: At the core of Big Bear Christian Center are life groups of three to fifteen people that meet weekly throughout Big Bear Bear Valley. Empowered by the Holy Spirit through prayer, their purpose is to make disciples through spiritual growth, community, and evangelism, resulting in group multiplication.

Cells have a lot of liberty with regard to where they will meet, the lesson they will follow, their homogeneity, level of participation, and what they call themselves. However, since the cell is the church and where disciples are formed, it is essential that cells maintain a high level of quality.

Cells must maintain a fine balance between quality (e.g., clear definition) and flexibility (e.g., location, name, homogeneity, lesson, participation, etc.). Like the early house churches, modern day cell churches believe the cell is the church and deserves a quality definition. Cell churches prioritize the definition of the cell because they believe it’s the best way to make disciples.