Cell Leadership Development
by Joel Comiskey
God’s plan is to reach a lost world and he does it through the local church. He is the head of the church and calls it his body. Paul says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22).
I’ve had the privilege of planting three local churches and served as the lead pastor in two of the church plants. One of my primary roles today is to coach pastors. In other words, I’m 100% committed to the local church and to the role of the pastor. The Greek word for pastor is “poimen” which means “feeder of the sheep.” Pastors, in other words, are called to feed Christ’s sheep.
Many pastors, however, take the feeding, nurturing, and caring of the sheep upon themselves only. They become solo pastors, and the church ends up being one big cell group dependent on the lead pastor. This type of pastor sends the subtle or not so-subtle message to the congregation that the church revolves around him or her. Yes, the sheep need to be fed. But that doesn’t mean that the lead pastor needs to do it.
According to Ephesians 4:12, the pastor is called to equip God’s people to do the work of the ministry. The pastor is not called to do the ministry but to equip the lay people to do it. Jethro told Moses something similar in Exodus 18:18, “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Jethro told Moses to equip leaders of 10s, 50s, and 100s so that the people “will go home satisfied” (Exodus 18:23). The implication is that the people will not be satisfied or “fed” when one person assumes responsibility to do it. The need according to Jethro is to meet the people’s primary needs in groups of 10s.
Wise pastors see themselves as coaches of the pastors who are actually feeding the sheep. Yes, they do feed the sheep, but they primarily do it through leaders of groups of 10s. They focus on coaching or caring for the cell leaders who care for the sheep. As the church grows, they step back even farther and primarily care for the supervisors (leaders of 50s) who in turn care for the cell leaders.
Pastor, how do you primarily see yourself? How much time do you spend coaching the leaders who are pastoring the sheep? How dependent is your congregation on you alone? Some pastors tell the congregation to call or visit them anytime or at any hour. It’s the open-door policy. But like Moses, the majority go away unsatisfied because one person can only truly minister to a small group of people. Effective pastors take seriously the advice of Paul to Timothy, “entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others”(2 Timothy 2:2). They pastor the church by developing shepherds who can care for the sheep in smaller cells. Some have called this the “rancher versus the shepherd” (see: https://joelcomiskeygroup.com/2015/10/04/pastoring-the-pastors/ )