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Don't Get Sidetracked when Making the Transition

Summer 2008

by Joel Comiskey

I recently taught a cell seminar in Ponce (second largest city in Puerto Rico), and the main theme of my seminar was: how to transition to the cell church strategy. I wasn’t planning on talking about transitioning, yet, as I started learning about the host church, I realized that the topic of “how to transition” was exactly what the host church needed (and the other pastors present as well).

The host church had stalled in their transition to become a cell church. Unlike the Elim’s smooth transition, this church started in the cell church vision and then fizzled (at the time they had ten cell groups). They started as a G12 church about five years ago. They sent pastors to Bogota and “adopted” the G12 model. Yet, criticism against G12 in Puerto Rico was so strong, they decided to quit midstream. The church had started a bunch of discipleship groups but never really transitioned to the cell church vision.

The senior pastor was a man of integrity. He said in his opening remarks, “I need to learn how to do this. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I, like all of you, am here to learn.” I then reminded everyone that David Cho once said that you have to fail at least three times in the cell church strategy to get it right.

Like many churches trying to copy the G12 vision, this church had started a lot of discipleship groups in the church, but had missed the cell, the crown jewell of the cell church. I talked to those present about the need for pre-transition (instilling values, and the need to win the movers and shakers). I then stressed the importance of the transition–starting a prototype cell and eventually multiplying that pilot group before making announcements to the rest of the church. Only afterwards, could a church enter the post-transition–building the cell church infraestructure. This church had practically started with the post-transition phase (developing the coaching structure first).

You’ve all experienced those times when God showed up and moved supernaturally. This was one of those seminars.

Let’s follow the example of the senior pastor who was willing to say, “Lord, I need help. Teach me.”