I, Joel Comiskey, am excited to present Jim Wall, our guest blogger. Dr. Wall pastors a growing cell church in Chesapeake, VA. Jim is not only a friend, but I’ve had the privilege of visiting/consulting with this church on two different occassions. He will share the next three “Thursday” blogs.
by Jim Wall
I sat in the seminar knowing God was saying something profound to me. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew I’d never be the same. The speaker talked about the problem of having a generation of Americans, who still believed in God, but had given up on the church. He said it was going to get worse. That was 1979. By 1989, that experience grew into a vision for a church designed to do something about it. Western Branch Community Church in Chesapeake, Virginia was born.
The first seven years were amazing. I knew there were thousands of unchurched people within a short drive of our new rented facilities. I had no idea how many would respond to this new church. By 1996, the church had well over 1,000 people attending services regularly with 60% of them reporting they were unchurched before coming.
As exciting as that was, we had another problem. We had managed to get them into church and even to lead them to make a profession of faith in Christ. We weren’t see much life-changed. I had to acknowledge we were an immature body at best. I also came to realize during that period that we had just as many people going out the back door as we had coming in the front! Clearly, something had to be done.
To address those problems, I formed a team of seven mature couples. I told them our task was to learn how to help our members mature in Christ without losing our evangelistic effectiveness. I told them, “We’ve got to keep reaching lost people. At the same time, we have to close our back door and help these baby Christians grow.” After months of praying, visiting effective churches, reading books and attending seminars we agreed; God was calling us to become a cell-based church.
That team became the prototype cell. One year later, I began to preach the value of authentic Christian community to the congregation and to call them to join a cell group. The transition to the cell-based model was underway. The next four years were filled with spiritual warfare. Many battles were won and some were lost. Most of our members embraced the cell-church vision. Some left the church. They were some of the brightest days and the darkest days in the history of our young church.
Today, we are a cell-based church approaching 100 cells and 2,500 regular weekend worshipers. The majority of our growth continues to come from the unchurched people around us. We’ve seen life-transformation happen among our membersâ€”including a depth of worship and spiritual maturity that has brought healing to their lives and (I pray) glory to the name of Christ.
Next week, I’ll write a bit about the process we’ve developed to help our members mature. For now, I’d love to hear about your stories of struggle and success as you help your congregation connect with one another and mature in Christ.