The Good and the Best: Online Cells Versus Cells in Person

By Joel Comiskey, Living in Victory (coming on July 15, 2020), Check it out.

I’m surprised and saddened when pastors tell me that they’re not using Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or some other online service for their cell groups and leadership coaching. I tell them, “You really need to encourage and teach your people how to use one of these services, so they can have their regular cell meetings online.” Yes, it might require paying $9.95 for a monthly zoom account, although Google Meet is free and offers similar services.

Meeting on Zoom has been essential for my own local church and cell group. All our cells, except for one extended family group, are meeting on Zoom. And the members are growing and benefiting greatly. My own cell has been meeting weekly on Zoom for almost two months. Our cell team, consisting of six members, rotates with the Icebreaker, worship, Word, and witness. Newcomers and members are ministered to and come back each week.

Beyond the weekly cell group, leadership coaching happens on Zoom. The cell leaders are encouraged as they hear about what the other cells are experiencing. We also have weekly preaching and teaching online. I thank God for the Internet.

But is the online church the best? God has blessed his church with the Internet, but I hope we do not become too comfortable online! Online cells are easy. My wife and I don’t  have to get into our car, change clothes, get too close to people, and then take the long journey home. We are immediately at home after the cell ends.

But my online cell group lacks the personal warmth and touch that a face to face cell experiences. We do not eat together. We cannot lay hands on people who need prayer. Worship isn’t the same online as it is in person. In my Zoom cell, I’m on the other side of the screen with only the songs and PowerPoints before me. I miss the voices and gestures of worshipping when others are physically present. Even the Word time isn’t the same. I don’t fully capture the nuances , emotions, and feedback from others when I respond to the questions. And what about physical interaction? No hugs or handshakes on Zoom.

You get the point. God has made us emotional, physical, social, and intellectual. While online groups are great, they are not the best. They are good and a God-given substitute for this present time. But the best is personal, face-to-face interaction.

Granted, some things, like communicating information, might work just as well online. Why? Because it’s mainly centered on the mind, that is, transmitting a set of facts to another person’s intellect. The transmission of information or knowledge is all that’s needed. But the cell group is not a Bible study. It is the church! 

God has blessed us with online tools during the Covid-19 crisis. And these tools are here to stay. I hope and pray that you’re taking advantage of them. I equally hope, however, that you’re preparing to transition back to meeting together personally, both in cell and celebration.