I’m on my way back to California from an awesome cell ministry trip to Allen Memorial Baptist in Salisbury, Maryland. Bill Warren (senior pastor) and Michael Sove (cell champion) are doing a great job of transitioning a traditional Baptist church to the cell church strategy (about 600 worshippers and 28 cell groups). I’ve had the privilege of coaching this church for the last two years.
This church hasn’t arrived. They’ve struggled and are struggling–like all churches. Transitioning this church is especially difficult because it has a 50+ year-old history.
Here’s an important lesson I learned from my time with them: Go with those who are running with the vision. Another version is: “Find your Eddy.”
Not long after picking me up from the airport, Michael and Carrie Sove started telling me about Eddy. “He will soon be a pastor in our church,” Michael said. “He’s not only multiplying cells, but he’s positive, has excellent people skills, and is totally committed to the cell vision.”
Here’s an interesting fact: Eddy has only been running with Jesus for one year! God used the cell group and the Encounter Retreat to transform him (delivered from drugs and alcohol). He moved from associate to cell leader to multiplication leader. He’s now planning his second multiplication and has a vision for 50 future cell groups. Eddy is young enough in the Christian life to bypass the tradition that says he can’t do it.
Michael Sove is spending loads of time with Eddy, because he sees his potential. Michael knows that Eddy’s fruit will inspire confidence in others, showing them that they can do it too.
I’ve seen this same strategy used over and over in the growing cell churches around the world.
Find your Eddy and run with him (or her)!
14 thoughts on “Finding Your “Eddy””
After reading your entry I was just curious about two things:
1. Why would a pastor of a “traditional” Baptist Church switch “gears” to become a Cell Church rather than just plant a “cell” church in the area? It sounds like this may isolate the original “traditional” members.
2. Does the term “Finding your Eddy” imply ignoring the rest of the flock who might not want to transition from a 50-year old traditional model to a new Cell model?
GREAT, GREAT questions. I get the sense that you want to dig deeper into what’s happening at the church.
Please stay tuned for your answer. I feel like I should get MICHAEL SOVE, the cell champion and key architect of Allen’s cell strategy, to BEGIN answering your questions. I’ll chime in afterwards.
#1 In 1996, God called our Senior Pastor, Dr. William Warren, to lead Allen Memorial to become a cell church. A cell church is â€œa church that has placed evangelistic small groups at the core of its ministry.â€ Putting cell groups at the core of the churchâ€™s ministry means that the leaders and structures of the church are focused on launching, equipping, multiplying, and nurturing healthy cell groups. In a cell church there is equal emphasis on the large gathering (worship service/celebration) and the small group (the cell). Cells and celebration are the two wings of the cell church. They are both equally necessary if the church is going to soar. Cell groups are not just another program of the cell church; they are the basic unit and expression of the church. In short we are following the call of God on this church. God told him to transition to be a cell church nine years ago. At the same time God told him to relocate the church which has now been completed. Now we are putting our efforts into the first part of the call. That’s the reason the church hired me.
#2 He has been speaking of this calling for nine years now so what it comes down to is whether or not people are willing to follow their leaders and the clear call of God in their lives. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep wach over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their will be a joy not a burden, for that would be no advantage to you.” (Heb 13:17)
Very succinct and clear, Michael. Hey abundant, do you have additional questions?
The top leadership at Allen Memorial are 100% on board. NOT ALL the people are following the vision yet. And that’s why people like EDDY are so key. They stimulate others to believe IT CAN BE DONE. Normal, ordinary lay people can lead and multiply cell groups (they call their groups NEIGHBORHOOD LIFE GROUPS).
Thank you both so much for your timely responses! When the original post mentioned that the church as a whole was struggling to follow the “vision” of a cell model, I was just curious to see what was going on to illicit such a struggle. I thought that maybe switching from a traditional Baptist to a cell model would have some extreme difficulties.
I do have a slight concern when Michael Sove mentions Hebrews 13:17 that we are to obey our leaders in response to my second question. The reason this concerns me is because it makes me think that a) the leaders can have a slightly (or overtly) authoritative “my way or the highway”-type mentality and b) communication is solely from the leadership on down rather than from the inside out. It sounds like if there is just one or two “Eddys” maybe the congregation as a whole doesn’t believe in the vision that Dr. Warren had? Was there or is there accountability for decision making or was it based on this vision? Are those who don’t believe in the “vision” labeled or discarded? I would imagine that there would be quite a few in a traditional Baptist Church. Which leads a church…to struggle.
The Cell Model is a wonderful model! Is it “worth” the struggle to switch from an established church to a cell model or just plant a cell church? That is really my question. What are some practical and loving ways that you would prepare the congregation to switch? Thanks guys!
Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The reason I have led our church to become a cell church instead of planting a new church is because God clearly told me to do this. He did not lead me to plant a new church but rather to work with the one I had pastored already for twelve years. You see, a dozen years ago I asked God to give me a new vision for Allen or give me a new “address.” I told the Lord that I would pray daily and fast weekly about this matter until I was certain of His answer. After four months of praying daily and fasting weekly, I received God’s unmistakable call to lead Allen (1) to become a cell church and (2) to relocate. The relocation process took ten years and is now complete–by the hand of and to the glory of God. Now we are focusing diligently on the call to become a cell church. The God who called for the relocation and made it happen is the same God who called for the transition of Allen to become a cell church.
I have led this church in this direction because of a divine call on my life.
My final reply is that it is worth transitioning a church if God has told you to do it. Of course it’s easier to plant a church and that is the background I have come from. I have known many churches to sucessfully transition to the cell model over the last 12 years. This has nothing to do with denominations, or styles of worship but everything to do with strategy and the values of evangelism, community and discipleship with the goal of multiplication! Thank God for His calling and passion.
William Warren, I appreciate your response to my post. Can you specifically tell me how you prepared your congregation for the calling you received to switch to a cell church ten years ago? What was their collective response? Did other spiritually mature members (elders, etc.) confirm your calling? Sometimes I hear people state that they had a “vision” or received a “call” about something or another. It sounds like you prayerfully considered this call, so I am not implying that it was by anyway a “light” decision. Another question for you would be why did you have to relocate to switch to a cell model if there seems to be less emphasis on a building than a typical traditional model. Thank you for your time.
Hey abundant and all, just to say that I’m really impressed with the way Bill Warren models cell life. Even though he’s the senior pastor, he leads a cell group and is one of the best multipliers in the church! (he’s multiplied his cell several times). So Bill is living the life he wants others to follow. This makes a huge difference. People know that Bill’s heart is totally involved.
If you want more information about our transition the nuts and bolts of why and how, Pastor Bill can be reached at email@example.com or I would be willing to help anyway I can as Cell Champion at Allen. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If there was any struggle it was more in the early days. Things are going well now as we have over 400 people supporting the vision. God is doing great things in our ministry.
There are many Eddies here! I just met with a guy who accepted Christ on July 30th as a result of his involvement in our cell. He has been baptized and is now being discipled. We use Joel’s equipping track and I have mentored this new believer through Live; Encounter and we just started Grow today.
Everyone needs an Eddie! (someone to disciple) I have found that cells are the greatest vehicle for life change and the use of spiritual gifts. Cells allow the body to be the body and live out the “One Anothers” of Scripture. I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’m commited to the “Relational Way” of ministry.
Hey, abundant, Mike and Bill have taken time to share what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Please share what you’re doing. Are you planting a church? Where? Transitioning a church? How’s it going? thanks,
Hey Abundant, it’s important to be mindful of all church members when trying to change the way to do things. But you have to look at why you are trying to change things. Usually you change things in a church because you want to improve how the church operates (my take on it is that you would want to improve the way in which you DO church). In fact our churches should be improving the way we do things all the time.
I don’t think that going ‘cell church’ is a calling. It’s just improving the way we do things. However some churches don’t go that way and God warns them not too… it might be that in those cases the change to a better way of doing things might not be supported by the church members, and in such a case trying to get them to change might damage the church. In those cases plant a new church would be the best way to go.
If you haven’t guessed by now I can be a bit fundamentalist as far as principles behind how to do church goes…. But I am quite open to how the fundamental principles are applied… (eg there are many models, but they aren’t so much for adopting as to adapting to your situation, models are just something for us to learn from…) Have a great day 🙂
Thank you Iain, I understand what you are saying. I hope that we will all “do” church the way Jesus Christ has intended us to and not for our own gains or glory…but to show Christ’s love to every person, feeding and nurturing each lamb (John 21:16-18). Thanks.