by Joel Comiskey
I sense a new hunger for the Radical Middle. Churches are looking for solutions, not rhetoric. They’ve had enough talk about how cell church is the only way that God is working on earth and how the rest of the church is “off the wall,” etc., etc. Pastors and leaders are tired of the theory and negative language. Yet, these same churches long for the New Testament heartbeat of a church dedicated to house to house ministry–not a watered down version of cells. These same pastors and leaders long for a return to simplicity that would make pastoral ministry meaningful. They’ve long-ago lost the zeal for the programmed based church, but they really don’t know what to do.
My book Cell Church Solutions was not the miracle best well seller I longed for (of course, I was hoping it would sell more copies than the Purpose Driven Life book!). Yet the book is making a huge impact on churches that have read it and graped the message of the Radical Middle. http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/churchLeaders/RadicalMiddle.htm
For example, I had one church call a few weeks ago, earnestly wanting to meet with me. The pastor, staff, and board had all read the CCS book. This church actually started ten years ago with a vision for cell church and attended some dynamic cell church conferences at the time (including one by Neighbour and one by Laurence Khong). Their mission statment still read: Empowered by the Holy Spirit, as one new people, God’s holy people,we envision _[name of their church]_______by the year 2020
Advancing into a multicultural cell church of 1000 joyfully transformed members.
What happened? Well, as the years passed, they slowly, subtely watered down the cell vision with meta type groups (you know, the idea that anything could be called a small group). They found themselves with a hodgpodge of groups that were scattered and inconsistent. The groups were more like a program than the heartbeat of the church.
But they now wanted to get back on track. When I met with them, I felt the passion coming from the senior pastor and board. They all wanted to move ahead and retake their original vision.
One of the board members was so hungry for change, he just wanted to go for it immediately. I appreciated his zeal because I have a similar personality. Yet, I also have learned, as many of you have, that it’s super easy to start small groups–even 100s of them. Yet, it’s much more difficult to establish a long-term cell group system. Unless the senior pastor and staff are modeling it, cell ministry usually falters over time. .
I suggested that the senior pastor lead the staff in a prototype for at least two months. I then suggested that each staff person lead a turbo type pilot group for four months that consisted of key lay people who were willing to lead an open cell. After the four months, these key lay people would pair off two by two to open their own cells. The senior pastor and staff could start leading a normal open cell (3-15 that meets weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and discipleship with the goal of multiplication) at that time.
I recommended that then, and only then, the church make an announcement about the new cell church vision.
I was very impressed with the urgency/passion level among the key leadership. They really wanted to become a cell church. I’m seeing this same passion more and more, not just in majority/third-world chruches, but also in the western world.
According to Jim Egli’s research, coaching is even more important than training to assure long term success. We at JCG do offer coaching for those who are transitioning to the cell church strategy or planting cell churhces. We would count it a privilege to serve you.