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Denominations and Change

By Joel Comiskey

Winter 2012

by Joel Comiskey

Denominations are like giant ocean freight ships. They take a long time to turn. Think of the Titanic. The Titanic’s size didn’t allow it to avoid the iceberg. A speed boat could have easily avoided the iceberg but not a large ship.

Peter Wagner’s Churchquake likens denominations to large ships that turn very slowly. Wagner skillfully demonstrates how denominations start with the founder’s vision and over time promote administrators rather than visionary leaders. The rules and regulations created by councils and assemblies begin to dictate how denominations function. Rules, rather than vision, guide most denominations. A person skilled in administration is normally elevated to the position of president, while the true visionary risk-taker is bypassed. Because denominations follow procedures and rules–rather than visionary leadership–new ideas are slowly implemented.

Most present day denominations have existed for 75-500 years. The modern day cell church movement, on the other hand, is a recent phenomenon. Pastor Cho and the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Korea became prominent in the 1970s and modern day cell churches have proliferated from that point (read Jim Egli’s article on the history of the cell church movement). So for present denominations, cell church is a recent phenomenon and they have little experience with it.

What can you do as a pastor to promote cell church within your denomination? I would suggest a few ideas:

  • gather together like-minded cell church pastors: Usually a denomination has a number of pastors who are implementing cell church ministry to varying degrees. Gather the names of those pastors and begin to network with them. Some ideas: collect the emails and encourage each other through blogs or an email group like yahoo groups, occasional conference calls, special gatherings during the denominational councils, etc.
  • ask for coaching: More and more denominations are aware of the importance of coaching. If you are a cell church pastor, request a coach who has a cell church vision. You might have to go outside the normal coaching pool, but it will be worth it in the long run.
  • suggest cell church seminars within the denomination: Denominations are eager to equip pastors for greater fruitfulness. Suggest inviting a cell church speaker to talk about the cell vision. I recently spoke at a Church of God (conservative wing) gathering. I was invited by a group of pastors who were interested in the cell church model. Some leaders resisted my coming, so I had to be very sensitive to stay balanced and promote the biblical base for cell ministry. I was able to help this denominations take an important step in their journey.

Denominations take a long time to make changes. Yet once changes are made, they stay around for a long time. Because the cell church strategy is biblical, it deserves a central place in denominational strategies. You as a cell church pastor can help in the process, but you will need to be persistent and patient.

Korean article (click here)

Portuguese article (click here)