From Spectator to Participant


by Joel Comiskey

Sadly in today’s church, the official pastor or minister does most of the work while the laity sit and listen—and perhaps engage in specific programs. The situation is a lot like inactive fans at a football game who are cheering for the sweating players on the field. The players are doing all the work while the fans just observe and cheer. Elton Trueblood once said: “All of us suffer from a terrible sickness in our churches. It is called Spectatoritis. We speak of the congregation as the audience. We are not the audience; we are the actors. . . . If we sincerely believe the Gospel, we have to believe that God has a vocation for each of us. The secret is participation, participation, participation.”

I often tell those in my seminars that the best kept secret of ministry is that the pastor grows more than those in the congregation. Why? Because the pastor grows through dependence on God to preach, counsel, visit the sick, etc. Something happens in the process of ministry that matures the pastor, and it’s this very same involvement that cell ministry attempts to recapture.

This is one main reason why Jesus chose the small group atmosphere to impart knowledge to his own disciples. In other words, Christ wanted the information to be disseminated into the lives of his disciples. So as Christ journeyed with them each day for three years, he taught and then asked them to act out his teaching. Jesus not only practiced this participation with his disciples, but those same disciples formed house churches that continued the process of group participation. Effective cells and cell leaders make disciples in the same way Jesus made them. They expected everyone to get involved. The cell is small enough to mobilize each person and allow face to face involvement of each person.

Those same dynamics that mature pastors should be present in each cell group. Every member ministry requires it. The priesthood of all believers demands that we take the ministry from a select few and place it squarely in the hands of the lay people. And this should be the goal of each cell group. I often say that the best cell leaders are facilitators. They facilitate the participation of others. They unwrap the gifts and talents of those in the group. Facilitators don’t do all the talking or all of the ministry. In fact, the best facilitators only talk 30% of the time and encourage those in the group to talk the remaining 70%. Talking, of course, is only one aspect of cell life. Participation is far broader and involves active engagement in each part of the cell group.



“A Day with Joel Comiskey and Mario Vega” in Richardson, Texas (greater Dallas area), is this Saturday, May 18, 2013.  Please visit our registration page by clicking here. Or paste this address into your browser –  I would very much like to meet you there.

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De espectador a participante

Por Joel Comiskey

Lamentablemente, en la iglesia de hoy, el pastor o ministro oficial hace casi todo el trabajo, mientras que los laicos se sientan y escuchan, y tal vez participan en programas especficos. La situación se parece mucho a los fanáticos inactivos en un partido de fútbol, los cuales animan a los jugadores en el campo. Los jugadores están haciendo todo el trabajo, mientras que los aficionados simplemente observan y animan. Elton Trueblood dijo una vez: “Todos nosotros sufrimos de una terrible enfermedad en nuestras iglesias. Se llama Espectadores. Hablamos de la congregación como el público. No somos el público, somos los actores. . . . Si creemos sinceramente el Evangelio, tenemos que creer que Dios tiene una vocación para cada uno de nosotros. El secreto es la participación, participación, participación.”

A menudo digo esto en mis seminarios que el secreto mejor guardado del ministerio es que el pastor crece más que la congregación. ¿Por qué? Debido a que el pastor crece a través de la dependencia de Dios al predicar, aconsejar, visitar a los enfermos, etc. Algo sucede en el proceso ministerial que madura al pastor, y es la misma participación que el ministerio celular intenta recuperar.

Esta es una razón principal por la que Jesús escogió el ambiente del grupo pequeño para impartir conocimientos a sus propios discpulos. En otras palabras, Cristo quera que la información fuera difundida en la vida de sus discpulos. As como Cristo viajaba con ellos todos los das durante tres años, fue profesor y luego les pidió que representaran su enseñanza. Jesús no sólo practicaba esta participación con sus discpulos, pero esos mismos discpulos formaron iglesias en casas que seguan el proceso de participación en grupo. Células y lderes celulares eficaces hacen discpulos de la misma manera en que Jesús los hizo. Se espera la participación de todos. La célula es lo suficientemente pequeña para movilizar a cada persona y permitir una implicación cara a cara en cada persona.

Esas mismas dinámicas que madura los pastores debera estar presente en cada grupo celular. Cada miembro del ministerio lo requiere. El sacerdocio de todos los creyentes exige que tomemos el ministerio de unos pocos elegidos y lo coloque directamente en manos de los laicos. Y este debe ser la meta de cada grupo celular. A menudo digo que los mejores lderes celulares son los facilitadores. Ellos facilitan la participación a los demás. Ellos desenvuelven los dones y talentos de las personas en el grupo. Los facilitadores no hacen todo el hablar o la totalidad del ministerio. De hecho, los mejores facilitadores sólo hablan el 30% del tiempo y anima al 70% restante a hablar. Hablar, por supuesto, es sólo un aspecto de la vida celular. La participación es mucho más amplia e implica la participación activa en cada parte del grupo celular.

¿Que opinas?


“Un da con Joel Comiskey y Mario Vega”, en Richardson, Texas (área metropolitana de Dallas), es este Sábado, 18 de mayo 2013. Por favor visite nuestra página de registro haciendo clic aqu. O pegue esta dirección en su navegador – # Me gustara conocerte all.

4 thoughts on “From Spectator to Participant

  • Joel-

    You nailed it! There is no better way to live out the Great Commission than to ignore what our church culture has said over the decades and begin to meet the discipleship imperative our Lord has given us than in the relationships forged in the house church. Your article lifts up that point as well as nails it!

    Keep up the good work. Couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer. Had to bless you for the good work you are doing on behalf of the Kingdom!


  • I agree Joel, you bring up an excellent point and make a strong argument for mobilizing all gifts so that all people can do all the ministry. I would also add that the priesthood of believers, in a classic sense, tends to emphasize certain equipping gifts over other gifts (pastoring and teaching) at the expense of other gifts (apostle, prophet and evangelist). In a missional paradigm, no need should go unnoticed if the equipping gifts are operating (Ephesians 4:11-12).

  • In America I think we’ve under-sold the concept of discipleship. We’ve made discipleship to mean that a new believer needs to learn how to consistently attend church, read their Bible and pray everyday, tithe, serve somewhere and invite a friend to church. While I agree with all of those attributes I have stated with my leaders that it is not a comprehensive view of discipleship. The journey of discipleship should cause us to eventually reproduce more disciples. This is where small group ministry becomes a powerful vehicle for small group leaders to live out the Great Commission.

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