by Brian Kannel, lead pastor of York Alliance Church
Next year is my 20th high school reunion. (Insert here: All comments about how either young I am, or old I am, based on your perspective, followed by either a slightly patronizing smile or a slightly overconfident laugh.) I’m still trying to decide whether I should go. Here’s the thing: reunions can be great fun, and wonderful opportunities to reconnect with those from the past. However, within moments of arrival, there’s this strange sensation that comes from being with people who might know some things about you, but who don’t really know you. While they can be a blast, and even quite encouraging on some levels, there’s always a constant recognition that there are key aspects of who you are now that these people just don’t know.
For many cell pastors within denominational structures, our stories are somewhat like that. District or regional gatherings, denominational affiliations, and even local pastor’s groups can be fun and encouraging, and sometimes quite helpful. However, there’s often a disconnect in the background: they may know quite a bit about my church, but they don’t really know us. For instance, within my context, I’ve been blessed with a very encouraging and godly District Superintendent who has walked with me throughout my time as a Lead Pastor. He’s never discouraged our cell ministry in any way, and has been quite encouraging in many very helpful ways. However, when I met another man in leadership within our denomination who had worked and learned under Ralph Neighbor, there was a depth of knowledge of who we really are and the issues with which we’re struggling. That depth of understanding simply isn’t there with those who aren’t fully versed in the in’s and out’s of cell ministry.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that denomination affiliation is a barrier in any way for cell ministry. In today’s landscape, particularly in evangelicalism, there’s a great openness to a variety of forms, and some of the cell churches that are most thriving hail from within denominational structures. In the Christian & Missionary Alliance, of which I am a part, several of our largest and most successful churches in the U.S. are cell churches. However, as many of us know, cell churches are a unique breed. Our work and our struggles aren’t better or worse than other churches, but they are often different. That’s why it’s so vital for cell pastors and coaches to engage others who are also immersed in cell ministry, whether from the perspective of a cell ministry coach, a group of peers, or regular teaching on the subject through reading, conferences, and the like. It’s so easy for our focus to get just a little dilutedâ€”for us to move backwards or move off to the side instead of doing the often difficult work of pressing forward.
And I don’t know about you, but whether I end up going to the reunion or not, I definitely don’t want to go back to high school.
That’s my storyâ€”what’s yours?