Gifts and the Cell Church
By Joel Comiskey
What isn’t clear, however, is how a church must structure its ministry
to allow spiritual gifts to flourish. Unleashing
the Church, a popular book written in 1982 by Frank Tillapaugh, recommended that each member of the church
create his or her own ministry based on spiritual gifting. The pastor’s role
was to help create and oversee the ministry structures that naturally came into
Several well-known seeker sensitive churches have modified Tillapaugh’s
approach and try to direct church members to particular established ministries
within the church according spiritual gifting. Several of these seeker-sensitive
churches promote ministry fairs after
Sunday worship, so that members can pick and choose their particular ministry.
Gifts and the
How does all this look in the cell church? Should a cell church try to
design church ministries and programs so that members—or seekers—can use
their spiritual gifts? Wouldn’t this create multiple programs in the church
that would lead us back to the PBD church? Wouldn’t we be setting up
ministries that would eventually develop a life of their own and compete with
First, I believe that each believer should know and deploy his or her
spiritual gift (s). The key question is NOT whether we should know and exercise
our gifts. The main point is how and where we are to primarily exercise our
Remember that the early church met in houses for the first couple
centuries. The entire New Testament, in fact, was written to these house
churches. The first discovery of a Christian church building dates to the
year 150 AD and by that the time the church possessed the entire NEW TESTAMENT.
Without a building of their own, the
early church continued to exercise spiritual gifts in an unprecedented fashion
(Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians). Paul wrote the gift passages, in fact,
to members of house churches.
Where to Use Your Spiritual Gift
The first place to exercise
spiritual gift (s) is in the cell. Taking the early church as our example, I believe the small group
environment is the perfect place for a person to exercise his or her spiritual
gifts. The person with the gift of teaching, for example, might give clarity to
a difficult passage. The person with the gift of mercy might propose taking an
offering or visiting a hurting cell member in the hospital. The believer with
the gift of evangelism might feel compelled to invite friends and relatives. You
get the picture.
Effective cell leaders depend
on the giftedness of everyone in the group. They mobilize everyone to use his or
her gift so the body might be edified and non-Christians might be won to Christ.
Cell churches also develop excellent training that train cell members in
how to discover their spiritual gift (s) with the goal of using those gifts
within and outside of the cell group.
The second place to exercise
spiritual gifts is in the work place. Many overlook this, but a key place to exercise spiritual gifts is on the
job--whether showing mercy, offering hospitality, leading a share group,
practicing friendship evangelism, or praying for miracles to happen. For some
reason, we’ve connected spiritual gifts with the church building, which in my
opinion is the least effective place for believers to use their gifts.
The THIRD place is in the
celebration wing of the cell church. The reason I said least effective is
because only a few believers can actually exercise their gifts in a large group
atmosphere. How many can lead worship? How many can preach? How many can usher?
In reality, ministries involved with the celebration wing of the church are
Broaden Your Spiritual Gift Horizons
Sadly, the programmed church today has made the celebration wing of the
church the MAIN PLACE TO EXERCISE SPIRITUAL GIFTS. They’re created a multitude
of ministries and programs to SUIT the gifts of everyone in the congregation. I
believe that over-emphasizing the use of the gifts on the celebration level will
bog down the implementation of cell church and ultimately cause well-meaning
pastors to lose direction. Remember the words of George Barna:
speaking with pastors of declining churches, a common thread was their desire to
do something for everybody. They had fallen into the strategic black hole of
creating a ministry that looked great on paper, but had not ability to perform
up to standards. Despite their worthy intentions, they tried to be so helpful to
everyone that they wound up being helpful to no one.
Don’t fall into the strategic black hole of creating something for
everyone—only later to realize you’ve drained the precious time resources of
your people. Sadly, a lot of excellent material about discovering your spiritual
gifts suggests that you first must design multiple ministries (programs) within
your church before you can teach the people about spiritual gifts.
My advice is to concentrate on the first two places to exercise spiritual
gifts (the cell and the workplace)
and only establish church ministries as the need arises—concentrating on those
ministries that feed and benefit the cell or celebration.