Churches are the Healthiest Churches
by Joel Comiskey
by Joel Comiskey
Does cell church really work in the
If you’re asking these questions, you need to take a hard
look at a recent Natural Church Development study that compared cell churches with non-cell churches. The
study discovered that the healthiest
churches are cell
churches. Here’s what the
A study comparing the NCD scores of cell churches and
non-cell churches showed that cell churches overall scored significantly higher
in all areas than non-cell churches. Combined cell churches' scores averaged 59
while combined non-cell churches' scores averaged 45. Not surprisingly,
Inspiring Worship showed the smallest difference (8 points higher for cell
churches) and Holistic Small Groups showed the most difference (25 points higher
for cell churches). Significantly, even churches that say they would focus on
small groups over large group worship still had better scores for large group
worship. This finding indicates that cells don't detract from corporate
worship-- they add to it. Additionally, the rate of church planting-- in spite
of the fact that the cell church movement has seemed to focus on getting larger
rather than on planting more churches-- would seem to indicate that
multiplication is in fact in the genetic code. Cell churches averaged 2.5
churches planted compared to 1.9 churches planted for non-cell churches.
Finally, the study showed that cell churches demonstrated an average growth rate
almost double that of non-cell churches.[ii]
I’m assuming you’re somewhat familiar with the
excellent church growth study by Christian
Schwarz and Christoph Schalk, compiled in the book
Granted, most of us already knew this, with or without the statistical backing. You probably figured that any church declaring that the small group experience is just as important as the large group one is a healthier church.
Most likely you’ve also noted that the cell church message rubs busy westerners the wrong way, and that the common reaction is simply to ignore the cell church or treat it as a passing fad.
But we in the cell church movement persist because we have a hard time promoting church growth that caters to North American busyness by offering painless Christianity—in and out quickly and complete anonymity guarded. We in the cell church movement wrestle with whether we should even call this church growth.
We believe that Jesus has more for HIS church. We like the idea, in fact, that a church should be driven or administered through its small group system, and that the members of the small groups simply come together each week to celebrate and hear God’s Word. We’re enthralled with a church that promotes small group involvement just as zealously as large group participation.
The good news is that now we have the statistics to prove our convictions. Cell church is the healthiest type of church.
The NCD study should be a warning to those churches that judge their success by how many people attend the Sunday celebration. Such churches should begin to view church growth from the stand point of both cell and celebration.
My prayer is that these statistics will stir churches to stop and listen, to ask whether it’s healthy to organize around task driven programs (normally taking place within the church building) and to begin focusing more on developing holistic small groups that evangelize and multiply, thus needing a fresh infusion of lay leadership. Such a vision might require the reorganization of staff from managing church tasks and programs to pastoring networks of small group leaders.
God is revealing a new definition of church to His body. It’s a definition that views success in terms of both cell and celebration. One without the other just doesn’t suffice. Yes, the cell church is costly. But it’s God-honoring and healthy. This new study gives empirical evidence for this claim.
The sad reality of the
- 75% of churches today are dying or declining
George Barna adds, ”The United States has so
many unchurched people that the nation has become one of the primary
missions targets of Christians who live in other countries around the
world." (George Barna in