Summary: The local church grows most effectively when it divides into cells to increase discipleship and increase pastoral care.
“Growing Deeper by Going Smaller”
They go by different names— cell groups, small groups, care groups, discipleship, groups, grace groups, breakout groups. Whatever they are called, the basic idea is the same: a small gathering of people interested in spiritual growth.
Have you heard it said that good things come in small packages? That statement has some biblical backing. God has done some powerful things through people and things that the world considered small.
There seems to be some contradiction between the words “powerful” and “small.” The reason for that is because we are conditioned to believe that the bigger things are the more powerful they are. But that’s always so with God.
My mind immediately goes to the story of David and Goliath: the giant against the young Israelite who was only half the size of his opponent. God worked powerfully through David.
I think of Bethlehem – that rural town south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the big city. God instead chose the small town just down the road to bring his Son into the world. God worked powerfully through Bethlehem.
I think of a time in Jesus’ ministry when large crowds were following him. It gets late in the day and this big group of people are all hungry with no restaurants or grocery stores close by. What did Jesus use to feed the big crowd? Five small loaves of bread and 2 small fish.
The idea of church has become corrupted since its inception. Although there are congregations that are becoming more biblical in their mode of operation, there is a prevalent idea of church as being led by a holy man and as meeting in a holy building. The pastor or pastors and the building become the focus.
(Church = cell groups graphic) That concept of the church is far from being biblical. Matt. 18:20 – “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Jesus was not talking about a pastor and a building. He wanted us to understand that when a small group of people come together in the name of Jesus that he is in the midst of them.
Church is not somewhere we go. It is who we are. We are the church and when we meet in His name church can happen.
Cell groups are important because it teaches us this principle. Church
can happen in someone’s living room or around a kitchen table. Church can happen in a park. Church can happen at a coffee shop. Church happens when a group of believers gets together in the name of Jesus. Church happens when a group of believers serve others in the name of Jesus.
Why Cell Groups?
There are three important reasons that we should host and participate in cell groups. They all have biblical precedent. The first one is the most important. Jesus led a small group.
Mark 3:13-14 – Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach .
Second, the early church practiced small groups. Acts 2:46 – Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 5:42 – Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
Third, Paul taught small groups. Acts 20:20 – You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.
What Happens in a Cell Group?
Number one, you learn that you are not alone. When you spend time with other people you're able to see their finer points. You're also able to see their flaws.
Here’s something to remember: everybody is normal until you get to know them. It's good to know we're not alone in our flaws. Only Jesus is perfect, and it's unfair to expect perfection from anyone else—or yourself. While thinking about our flaws might be depressing, there's good news: Once we see each other as we truly are, in need of someone to redeem and save us, we can move closer to one another in life-changing community.
Most people who have been a part of a group say the greatest benefit is the close relationships and friendships that develop. They will frequently phone or text each other during the week to share an urgent prayer request or an exciting answer. You´ll discover that your needs and problems are not unique ~ we´re all in the same boat. It helps to know that others are facing the same difficulties, or have lived through them and learned spiritual principles in the process.