By Joel Comiskey, check out Joel’s latest book, Living in Victory
“If you can successfully transition your pastoral team to cell church ministry, the rest is easy,” I often say to pastors. Or if the church has already made the cell church transition, I say, “Make your pastoral team your top priority and you will have a healthy cell system.”
Why is this important? Because vision flows from leaders. Scripture tells us that Christ has placed pastor/teachers in his body to build up his church (Ephesians 4:11-12). Pastors are the key visionaries in cell church ministry and guide the cell church vision. But there is a problem, especially for those in the U.S. The lone-ranger pastor is simply not biblical. Leadership in the New Testament is always plural!
The New Testament writers avoid the idea of one, single leader. The norm for the early churches was to have a team of pastors rather than only one. In addition to overseers and/or elders, two churches are mentioned as having deacons (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 12). Whatever their functions may have been, their services were also provided on the basis of shared leadership since they are always mentioned in the plural.
The essence of the cell church is to provide care for the entire church through multiple leaders. But this means that the pastor has a team, a lot like Jesus with this team of James, John, and Peter.
So who should be part of this pastoral team? Those who are committed to Jesus, walking in integrity, and 100% committed to cell church ministry. In the early stages, this means those who are leading cells. As the church grows, those who participate on the pastoral team should be those who have multiplied their cells. The New Testament elders were leaders of house churches, so asking that those on the team lead a cell group is very biblical.
The pastor ministers to the team who in turn minister to those leaders under their care. Team ministry involves praying together, sharing from God’s Word, and then envisioning the needs of the cell leaders. A key reason for the leadership team is to care for those who are ministering to the flock. Has each group been meeting? Are all the leaders on the same page? What are the victories? The dangers?
I’m more and more convinced, in fact, that up-to-date statistics are essential to know what’s happening in the groups. The team needs to analyze these statistics and make the necessary adjustments according to what they see.
I’m convinced that team leadership is essential for fruitful small group ministry. In fact, I’m sensing a renewed emphasis in this area and a tiredness with lone-ranger leadership. Yes, there’s a price to pay with shared leadership and most likely conflict will occur. However, the rewards and fruitfulness of team leadership far outweighs the difficulties along the way. As Solomon once said long ago, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”(Ecclesiastes 4:12).