Why cells? Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build My church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.” It is His responsibility to build the church and not ours. However, as we cooperate with Jesus, He will build a church that is victorious and blessed. The basic building block of the church is the cell group.
The concept of cell groups started many years before Jesus made this statement. In Exodus 18 we read about the advice that Jethro gave to Moses. When he saw Moses leading this huge group of people all by himself, he said, “The thing that you are doing is not good.” (Verse 17). He then gave Moses the following advice: He was to divide the people up into groups of ten and spread his responsibility among other leaders. Jethro’s parting advice in verse 23 was, “If you do this thing, and God so commands, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their place in peace.” He gave Moses three reasons for his advice:
1. “So that you can endure.” It will be much easier to lead these people.
2. “God so commands.” It is a God given principle of success. In fact we see this throughout the Book of Acts. (Acts 2:26, Acts 5:42, Acts 20:20, Romans 16:5). They met publicly and from house to house. It is not an option; it is the way that Jesus builds His church.
3. “The people will go to their place in peace.” A good cell structure will bring satisfaction to the people. Many people can now be involved in their calling and ministry.
The definition of a cell group: It is a small group of people belonging to the same local church that gathers together in a given location on a regular basis. It is usually led by a cell group leader and an assistant cell group leader.
The purpose of the cell is fourfold: (1) Caring, (2) fellowship, (3) spiritual growth and (4) evangelism.
The format of a cell meeting should generally be: (1) A time of fellowship, (2) worship, (3) sharing the word and encouraging one another. (4) Praying for one another. (5) The leader should share his vision with the cell. As the cell grows in numbers, it can divide into more cells or start other cells.
Advantages of having cell groups:
First of all it accelerates the growth of the church. Instead of growth being by addition, it is now by multiplication. The reason for the growth of most large churches in the world today is because of the importance they place on cells. The cell takes the church to the people. Jesus said, “Go into the world…” It is often easier to invite non-Christians to a cell meeting than a traditional church meeting.
Secondly, it meets the need of fellowship: Large meetings cannot meet the need for fellowship because it is very difficult to relate to more than a certain number of people. Jesus started the first New Testament cell with only twelve disciples. A small group is also able to care for personal needs much better than a big group. When Jesus chose His twelve disciples, it says “That they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” (Mark 3:14) The first reason why Jesus chose twelve disciples was because He needed twelve friends! Church is not just worshiping God, but also meeting with friends.
Thirdly, cell groups releases ministry and satisfies the need for ministry. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 we read, “When you come together, each of you has a psalm … a teaching … a tongue … a revelation…” This cannot take place in a large public meeting. Every one of us has a ministry and a calling, and this can be developed in a cell.
Fourthly, it is the way that we can make disciples. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 “Go into all the world and make disciples.” It is easy to train people and to grow spiritually in a small group because we can be accountable to one another.
Fifthly, cells are God’s unique way to protect the church in times of persecution. If persecution comes against the church and it is impossible to meet in public buildings, it can continue to meet unnoticed in cell groups. This happened in the early church during the Roman persecution and is happening in many parts of the world today.
Sixthly the cell system reduces transport costs and makes it easy for people to attend. Often, non-Christian will find it easier to go to the cell meeting than to travel across the city to a church meeting.
In order for cell to work in the local church, the church must have four important values:
First of all, the Church must have a vision for missions. Jesus said, “Go into all the world…” (Matthew 28:18). It is important that the church has a vision to reach the lost, not only in its particular city or town, but also further afield. Jesus said, “Go into all the world! Therefore, if missions is the heart of the church, it should also be the heart of each cell group. If the church has this passion, it will develop healthy cells.
Secondly, the importance of prayer. Jesus said, “My house will be a house of prayer (not a house of sermons)” (Matthew 21:13). Unless prayer is a high priority, the church and the cells will be weak. Everything that is blessed and effective in the kingdom of God is birthed in prayer. Prayer is the number one key to the success of the cell group. When they asked Yonnghi Cho from Korea the key to his successful cell driven church, he said “I have three keys, prayer, prayer and prayer!”
Thirdly meeting in small groups should be a high priority in the church: Paul says in Ephesians 4:16 that the church “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It does not grow by one big part doing everything, but by what every little part does. The cell church enables this to happen. Therefore, if the church does not place a high value on cells, then it will not have successful cells!
Fourthly, the church should consider the cell meeting just as important as the main Sunday meeting: When we go to a cell meeting, we in fact are going to church. The cell group is not just a part of the church. It is just as important as or maybe even more important than the large public meeting.
Finally, the cells do not always have to meet in a house! Some houses are not suitable because of neighbors and unsaved family members. They can meet in a restaurant or in a public place or meet at some church venue after the Sunday meeting.
Keys to a successful cell group.
– Everyone must be involved. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 we read that when we come together, everyone will have something to give. In Ephesians 4:16 it is written that the “body grows when each member functions.” The leaders must encourage everyone to participate. Therefore, it is important that the cell leader or one or two people do not dominate the meeting.
– The cell must have an evangelistic vision. Its primary goal is to bring sinners to Christ. It must be careful not to make fellowship a goal. If it is “too spiritual” it will drive the non-Christians away. Food is a good way to attract non-Christians. You can also use special events such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries etc. to attract non Christians.
– There must be a balance between teaching and sharing. The main teaching input should not be done in the cell but in the bigger public meeting of the local church. Teaching and sharing should be similar to what God is saying to the whole local church through the senior pastor and the church leadership. Each member should also be allowed to receive something personal from the Bible or the Holy Spirit. We have read before in 1 Corinthians 14:23, “Whenever you come together, each of you has a Psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
– Relationships and friendships are important. Everyone must be welcome and there should be no lonely people in the cell. Members should visit, pray and care for one another on a regular basis. From time to time the cell group should do things together, such as having a meal together, evangelism, going on a picnic, etc. Friendship is a key to a successful cell. In Mark 3:14 we read about the calling of the disciples. “Then He appointed twelve, [a]that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” The main reason why He chose them, was so that they could be His friends!
– Prayer is important: Leaders of the cell must pray for the members and encourage others to pray for one another. Prayer is the foundation of a successful cell group. Prayer releases the grace and the anointing to make the cell group successful. There should be public prayer for one another and for important needs. However, the prayers should be short so that everyone can have an opportunity to pray.
– Leaders should be well trained by the leadership of the church and should be diligent in preparing their lessons for the cell. Healthy leaders produce healthy followers.
–We should be open to, and desire the move of the Holy Spirit. We should have a high priority to pray for miracles and healings. We should encourage the gifts of the Holy Spirit to operate in the cells. We read before In 1 Corinthians 14:26 “When you come together have a tongue, an interpretation, a revelation etc.
-We should do things that create a relaxed and joyful atmosphere: If the cell meeting is too “heavy” people will not come back. It is not the place for deep heavy preaching. It is a place for encouragement. From time to time they should do some fun things together and do not be too super spiritual.
-It is important to have variety: It is important not just to do the same things every week. There should be variety or else the cell meeting will become boring. We can go on prayer walks, do evangelism together, visit people in need, have a meal together, play games, watch a good movie, etc.
Finally: Jesus said in John 20:21. “As the Father has sent Me, I send you.” He is our example. One of the most important things He did on earth was to disciple a small group of twelve people who then turned the world upside down. Therefore, we can not only influence our town or suburb for the Lord but we can influence the world through our cells. Amen