Personal Mistakes in Cell Ministry

Cell Basics

By Joel Comiskey

Spring 2015

by Joel Comiskey

I’ve made my share of mistakes in cell ministry. In fact, most of the important values and principles along the way have come from mistakes and errors.

I remember back in 1984 when I first heard David Cho speak at Fuller Seminary. I bought all the tapes and listened to them over and over. I devoured his new book, Successful Home Cell Groups, and taught it to the leaders of my new church plant in Long Beach, CA. We even opened a few cell groups, although I had little knowledge about what to do in the cell or how to coach the new leaders. But then an influential member urged me to start the Sunday celebration immediately. I launched the Sunday celebration before having prepared leaders, groups, or members. For the next four years I became a Sunday celebration focused pastor, trying desperately to get people to come back each week to sit, listen to my sermons, and come back again!! I’ve learned since then that it’s much better to wait to start weekly Sunday celebration services until there are enough cells, leaders, and people in those cells (for more information on this, go here).

In 1993, I was part of a pastoral team in Quito, Ecuador, helping to guide a 500 member programmed based church called El Batán. Someone suggested starting small groups, so we commissioned five people to start these cells. We then promptly forgot about them. After all, they were just one of the many programs that existed in the church at the time. Each of the groups eventually fizzled out and at one of them even became a bastion of gossip and rebellion. We learned that if we were going to start and maintain healthy cell groups, we needed to equip future leaders, diligently coach them, and prioritize cells as the base of our church–not just as another program.

My last mistake has been more subtle. For a long time, I viewed multiplication as the main purpose or goal of cell ministry. I’ve gradually come to realize that making disciples needs to be the main focus, the why of cell ministry. This error has driven me in the past to multiply cell groups for the sake of multiplying groups–as if this was the main reason to do cell ministry. In my zeal to open new groups in order to “reach the goal,” I’ve often had to backtrack and close the groups that lacked a quality team leadership. I’ve since learned to focus on discipleship and only open groups when there is a team of prepared disciple-makers who are ready to lead the new group. I’ve had to clarify and fine tune my cell definition to highlight making disciples: “cells are groups of 3-15 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 that results in multiplication. I’ve learned that multiplication should always be the result rather than the goal of cell ministry.”