Freddy Noble pastors a Baptist Church in Manhattan, New York. Freddy is passionate about cell ministry, leads his own home group, and will soon have 100 cell groups in his church. I asked him recently about challenges in cell ministry, and he said, “Staying on track is the greatest test. Some members–especially new ones, want our church to be like the one down the street. They start promoting new programs, but I have to remind them that we are a cell church and that are focus is cell ministry. I frequently have to say NO.”
Freddy asks each person to be in a cell group as a requirement for being in a ministry. He admitted that this is challenging because there are some very talented people who would prefer just to work in a ministry without participating in a cell group. “But this is not an option,” Freddy told me. “I need to keep our church focused on cells as the base of our church. The cell groups are the backbone of our ministry.” Freddy has learned the blessed truth of saying NO. He’s learned that if he tries to do too many things, people’s attention becomes scattered and the church loses its effectiveness.
People are limited in time and energy and when the pastor focuses on too many things, quality control suffers. Did you know why lion trainers use stools? It’s because the lion tries to focus on all four legs at once. In the attempt to focus on all four, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal, and it becomes tame, weak, and disabled because its attention is fragmented. George Barna said, “In speaking with pastors of declining churches, a common thread was their desire to do something for everybody. They had fallen into the strategic black hole of creating a ministry that looked great on paper, but had not ability to perform up to standards. Despite their worthy intentions, they tried to be so helpful to everyone that they wound up being helpful to no one” (User Friendly Churches, p. 51).
The battle is ongoing and subtle. New programs or ministries might appear to be a perfect fit and influential people will justify adding them because the church down the street experienced amazing growth because of such ministries. Wise cell pastors, however, realize that the new ministry will also sap valuable time from busy cell leaders and members. The so-called solution will eventually become the problem when over-burdened members can no longer concentrate on the main things: cell, celebration, equipping, coaching, and prayer.
I’ve been involved full time in cell ministry for the last twenty-seven years. I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside fruitful cell pastors and leaders. But I’ve also witnessed many fall by the wayside and often the reason is because they became distracted and stopped concentrating. They failed to say NO.