Key Role of Lead Pastor in Cell Ministry

joelby Joel Comiskey

Many churches have small groups. Some churches even have great small group programs. I was in such a church in Philadelphia two weeks ago. The cell champion of this church had taken Touch’s training, been to a seminar by Larry Stockstill, and had spearheaded small groups in his large mega church. Even though I usually only do seminars and coaching in cell churches, I accepted this invitation, had a great time of ministry, and received a royal reception.

There was a key problem. I never met/talked to the lead pastor, and he didn’t come to the seminar (nor did two out of the three associates or the elders of the church). The small group leaders loved the seminar and learned a lot, but I went away with a gnawing sadness in my heart because I knew the cell leaders would not receive the necessary attention, coaching, and would eventually feel marginalized in their cell ministry. Why? Because of the lack of involvement of the senior leadership. Cells were one of the many programs.

I’m writing now from Queens, New York. Victor Tiburcio, the lead pastor at Aliento de Vida, met me at the airport, and we talked excitedly about cell ministry. He’s passionate about home groups, gives direction to the entire cell vision, and recently even started a new cell group for businessmen. His wife, Hatty, is totally sold on the vision. The cell leaders and network coaches feel like their ministry is at the heart of the church, and they serve enthusiastically. His church plant in Queens has grown to seventy-five cell groups and 800 people [as a side note: every service is translated into English and Spanish, and it feels like preaching to the United Nations. I gave the seminar in Spanish and preached in English, with nearly a simultaneous translation in Spanish].

As you can tell, one of the key differences between a cell church and a church with cells is the lead pastor’s vision. Other leaders can help a lot, and I believe in the key role of cell champions. Yet the vision and overall leadership belong to the lead pastor.Dale Galloway, one of the pioneer cell church pastors in North America and author of many cell books, writes, “No matter who introduces small-group ministry into a church, that ministry will only go as far as the Senior Pastor’s vision for it. The people will watch the Senior Pastor to see if small-group ministry is important” (The Small Group Book, p. 21).

Key members can influence the senior pastor to catch the vision, yet ultimately cell church ministry succeeds or fails by whether senior leadership is promoting and living it. The bottom line is that sheep follow the shepherd. Actions speak much louder than words, and this is especially true in cell-based ministry. As David Cho once said, “The [senior] pastor must be the key person involved.  Without the pastor, the system will not hold together.  It is a system, and a system must have a control point.  The controlling factor in home cell groups is the pastor” (Successful Home Cell Groups, p. 107).



7 thoughts on “Key Role of Lead Pastor in Cell Ministry

  • Hi, Joel! I’m mother to seven children–each one is different and has his/her own strengths and weaknesses. As they were growing up, I dealt with each child as an individual, not as part of a group. What worked with one may not have worked with another. All are grown now and each still has his/her own strengths and weaknesses, and they each have his/her own path that they are following. And, I love them equally and do not use any of them as a standard for the others.

    I believe God realizes the many differences His children have. What works with one set of “kids” may not work with another. As God has given you the ministry of developing cell groups, be faithful in what you do, but don’t worry about everyone else. There are multitudes of ways to fellowship in Christ and not every group will do it the same way. Be led of God and be blessed!

  • Hi Patricia, thanks for your word about flexibility and creativity. So true. And God is so much greater than strategies, like cell church. it’s HIS CHURCH. God in HIS sovereignty has placed me to study and promote cell church, however, and what key aspect of cell church is that the senior pastor is at the helm and promoting it. Cells function much better as a result. . .

  • Hi Joel,
    My pastor is awesome! He has the vision and his wife and they even in the busyness of having several churches and sservices they still meet with their cell groups every week. They love the vision and their sheep. They set the perfect example of shephards. Whats awesome they are always imparting the vision in to th sheep. I absolutely agree with your blog,The pastor is key to the visions succesws. The anointing flowws from the head down, but if the pastor is not pushing the vision, the sheep will not push the vision

  • I understand patriciazell’s viewpoint. I just think that it is wrong. We all have to give account for our lives one day. That’s why I prefer to do cell church…..
    Of course we should only do cell church if we think it is a better option (my old bible college buddy said, if we do things the same way as we used to and expect different results then we are crazy!) For me it is a better option. If others can do church other ways and have fruitful ministries good luck to them, however please note what my old bible college buddy said… I definitely think cell driven church is a better option. And it won’t work if the Senior Pastor doesn’t lead the way. I was in a church that tried to transition to a G12 structure however the Senior pastor didn’t lead a cell. Of course it didn’t fly. He was a bit naive. I wish I knew back then what I know now (which Joel has re-stated for our benefit in his blog entry). I might have been able to help my Senior Pastor… The church got taken over by a bigger church in the end….

  • We are doing G-12 in our church and have been for about 6 years. My man and woman of God are the main cheerleaders for the vision. It is just a tool that God have given us to fulfill the Vision that God has given him. It has been such a blessing for our church. The goal is everyone being mentored and every one mentoring. Of course not everyone is participating yet but for all those who take the assigment their lives have changed because they are now instruments that God can use. Now miracles, signs and wonders are happening in our communites, in our workplaces, in the libraries our church has become a church without walls and we all have an opportunity to be dispensers of Gods glory here on earth. People need help, and the pastor will not be able to keep up with the demand of the peoples needs, but thats why God has given tools such as this to help pastor the sheep. There are so many powerful testimonies that I have had personally once i started running with the vision. This one I will briefly share is one of my cell group ladies urgently call me and was short of breath and had chest pain and she called and told me she was on the way to the hospital. I texted all of our g-12 ladies and two of them went strait to the hospital and was able to be right there with her and her teenage daughter, pray for her before she went into major cardiac surgery. The comfort and peach she felt to have someone there to go through this with her. She did not realize the severity of her condition, but my team was right there as she came out of surgery and remained on a ventilator for the next 4 days we were right there with her, her family flew in a couple days later. My pastor has 11,000 members and he was out of town, but because we have been trained to look after one another, this woman will never forget the love of christ that was shown through her sisters as she fought for her life. We stood in faith at the hospital and many miracles happened like not needing dialysis, not needing a trach to breath because her lungs were malfunctioning. It was an awesome experience for my team and they all moved outsidee of themselves in order to be a miracle in someone elses life What ever tool that works is great! The bottom line is that we must finish the work that Jesus started while he was on earth and that is to go and compel them to come.

  • Joel, your post is RIGHT ON! And Iain, I remember some of the debates you and I had on the cellchurch forum that existed back in the mid ’90’s. Your comment served as a breath of fresh air. RIGHT ON BROTHERS! RIGHT ON!

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • Thanks for your comments here. I’ve been in New York with daughter and the Internet stopped working at the hotel. All of you have affirmed that the lead pastor AND TEAM must capture the vision, practice the vision, etc. If the cells are going to make a long-term impact. The fact is that IT’S HARD ENOUGH to do cell church when the lead pastor is sold on the vision, but IT’S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to do it when he’s not fully involved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *