Cell Church Legalism

I remember visiting a cell church with a group of pastors a few years ago. Because I was coaching these pastors, I had been encouraging them to lead their own cell group in addition to their main role as senior leaders in their churches. And in fact, all of them were leading their own cell groups. As we visited this cell church, one pastor noticed that the senior leader of this particular church was not leading a cell. During a meeting he pointed this out to the pastor saying, “How come you’re not leading your own cell group?’ The pastor graciously responded saying, “I have led a cell for years and even now I’m involved in cell ministry in a very practical way. However, I believe we have to be careful to avoid cell church legalism (e.g, all senior pastors in cell churches must lead their own cells or they are not really cell church pastors)

That was the first time I heard this particular phrase used. I respected this senior pastor both as a leader and a cell church minister. The phrase “cell church legalism” challenged me not to load heavy burdens on people’s shoulders.

I’ve been involved in cell ministry long enough to know that it’s easy to become inflexible and rigid in specific areas of cell ministry and turn off others in the process. Take the area of a senior pastor leading a cell group. I personally believe that it’s a great idea for a senior pastor to actually lead a cell group or be part of a cell leadershp team while continuing the normal work of pastoring the church. I personally lead a cell group and believe it helps me to stay sharp. Yet, I must NOT impose this as a strict cell church rule that ALL must follow. No where does the Bible say that a pastor must lead a cell group. And some pastors are doing a great job of leading dynamic cell churches while not leading their own cell group.

God wants us to grow in our convictions about what is the best way to do cell ministry. Yet, there’s a fine line between having convictions and imposing those convitions as legalistic rules. And I’m still in the process of learning the difference! It’s difficult to maintain deep convictions in the major areas of cell church ministry (e.g., senior pastor and team leading the cell church vision, clear definition of a cell group, and cells becoming the base of the church) while allowing flexibility and freedom in the minor areas.

What have you learned on this topic? Everyone on this list would appreciate hearing about your personal experience on this topic!


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