By Joel Comiskey
I remember visiting el Centro Cristiano in Guayaquil, Ecuador and talking with lead pastor Jerry Smith. He pointed at one volunteer network supervisor who was doing a great job and said, “I can envision José on fulltime staff in nine months. All he has to do is multiply his current network to some thirty cells, and there will be enough finances to place him on fulltime staff.” Jerry Smith’s church, like all other cell churches in my research in Latin America, took offerings in the cells, so pastor Jerry could calculate what kind of multipliction (resulting in financial increase) would need to take place for José to become a fulltime staff person. I’m sure this possibility motivated José to work hard and multiply cell groups.
José had also fulfilled all the other pastoral requirements. He participated as part of a cell, led a cell, multiplied it, coached leaders, and participated in the church’s training. Pastor Jerry noticed José godly character and envisioned him as a potential pastor.
The church at large has traditionally raised up new pastors based on educational achievement, ability to preach, and other talent. The requirement of a future pastor proven him or herself through raising up new leadership through multiplying cells has not been a high priority.
Cell churches take a different stance. They expect future pastors to be fruitfulful in making disciples who make other disciples through cell multiplication before asking them to become a pastor. Without this requirment, how could a future pastor expect those under him or her to also multiply cells?
I’ve been referring to raising up pastoral staff within one church, but these principles apply equally to church planters. Bob Roberts doesn’t consider a person ready to plant a church until he has led and multiplied a small group. Roberts says in The Multiplying Church
The church planting interns start small groups in our church, so they are part of our normal, ongoing community. They get to “take with them” anyone they reach in their small group, keeping in mind that the majority of their people are going to come from outside Northwood. If they can’t start a small group, why should they think they can start a church? If all they do is gather existing church members for their small group, they haven’t indicated their ability to plant a church. When they gather people from outside Northwood, we start getting excited (p. 66).
Whether planting or developing staff in the same church, a salaried position should be based on cell fruit, along with character and additional training. Didn’t Jesus tell the church to make disciples who make disciples?