by Joel Comiskey
One of the best kept secrets is that the pastor grows more than those sitting in the church. The pastor has to depend on Jesus to effectively minister. The pastor draws close to God in the preparation of the sermon, when visiting the sick, or providing leadership vision. The recipients of the pastor’s ministry are often passive. They receive teaching, prayer, and ministry. They give tithes for the minister to keep ministering. 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 clap.
In North America, this system seemed to work well. Innovative church growth techniques seemed to hide the cracks and even solve the problems. But we are now in a major cultural shift. Or as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, famously said, “We are Not in Kansas Anymore.” According to Josh Packard, many church members are fed-up. They are done. They realize that the status quo is no longer working for them. Passive hearing and receiving just doesn’t fulfill them anymore. Packard concludes that the dones will no longer return.
Is there a way to prevent the dones from leaving in the first place? I believe so. Cell ministry stands against the idea that the official pastor or minister does the work, while the laity sits and listen—and perhaps engage in a few programs. Participation is at the core of the cell. No one sits in the back seat. Chairs are not arranged in rows. As people share their stories, ask for prayer, and minister to one another, they are transformed in the process. They become the ministers and grow as Christ’s disciples. The best cell leaders are facilitators. The word facilitate means to make easy, and the best facilitators make it easy for others to participate. They unwrap the gifts and talents of those in the group. The best facilitators only talk thirty percent of the time and encourage those in the group to speak the remaining seventy percent. 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.
Each person actively practices the priesthood of all believers. The lead pastor, in fact, is the main cell coach who mobilizes the members to do the work of the ministry through multiplying cell groups (Ephesians 4). Through cell ministry, all members grow in determining their spiritual gifting. They prepare to become part of a discipleship team that is preparing to give birth and start a new group. Some members will become leaders, supervisors, pastors, andchurch planters. In other words, the sit and listen mentality is totally contrary to the philosophy of cell church ministry. I believe there is hope that the donescan be won back and even prevented from leaving in the first place.