I told a senior pastor recently not to begin cell ministry until he was convinced of the cell vision—until he had a burning desire in his heart telling him that this was the direction for the church over the long haul. He needed to be willing to “die on this hill” as one cell pastor so aptly described his commitment to cell ministry. Without such commitment and passion, it’s just too easy to become distracted with other things.
As I researched cell churches around the world, one thing became crystal clear: All of the growing cell churches had one cell director—the senior pastor. The cell system flowed from the senior leader’s authority and the people willingly followed his lead.
Probably the main difference between a cell church and a church with cells is the commitment of the lead pastor and leadership team to the cell vision. I use the term “lead pastor” because some churches don’t believe in the senior pastor role but prefer to focus on a plurality of elders. Yet, even in this arrangement, a lead elder almost always leads the group.
In the growing worldwide cell churches, all staff are organized around cell ministry. Cell pastors serve under the lead pastor and leadership team, and they all have the same focus—cells. Rarely is one pastor over cell ministry. All pastoral staff are over cell ministry under the senior leader. In this arrangement, the lead pastor must fulfill the role of cell minister.
Now I agree with the concept of the “cell champion.” I’m referring to a distinct person who is not the lead pastor but feeds the lead pastor with resources and keeps the cell administrative ball rolling. Yet, I’ve noticed over and over that the “cell champion” simply cannot keep the cell vision focused unless the lead pastor is actively involved in cell ministry. So how can a lead pastor stay active in cell ministry?
Here are some suggestions for senior leaders to keep the cell fire burning:
- lead a cell group to stay in the battle
- continually read books on cell ministry
- visit cell groups and cell churches to stay fresh
- take a cell course (check out below the one I’m doing in Nyack, New York in May 2007)
- join a network of cell pastors, etc.
Most of the lead pastors that I coach are leading a cell to stay in the battle and to have something fresh to share with those under them.
I led a city-wide cell seminar in which I didn’t meet one lead pastor. I quickly realized that the seminar was directed by staff that were appointed to make small groups work in their churches. I noticed frustration among some participants because they realized that cell ministry wasn’t really supported at the top. So what do you do if you’re in a church in which the senior leader is not involved or passionate about cell ministry? Here are a few suggestions:
- pray hard
- feed the lead pastor and pastoral team with good cell literature. And pray hard
- Invite the senior leader to visit a vibrant cell church or go to an excellent cell seminar. And pray hard.
- Invite the senior leader to visit your own group, while praying diligently that he will catch the excitement and vision.
Cell church ministry requires total commitment, and thus, to make it work effectively, it must flow from the main visionaries of the church.
Note 1: David Cho, Successful Home Cell Groups, (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1981), p. 107.