by Joel Comiskey
For three weeks in May I traveled to eleven states in Brazil with the Foursquare Church and spoke to 19,000 pastors and leaders. The top leadership is encouraging the entire denomination of 20,000 churches to transition to the cell church model. Their goal is 300,000 cell groups by 2021. It’s very exciting to witness what God is doing!
The reality, however, is that most churches are either in the pre-transitioning stage or are just starting their transition. One of my main teachings to these Foursquare pastors was how to transition to the cell church strategy. I highlighted the biblical foundations for cell ministry and how cell church is a group disciple-making strategy. I wanted to make sure these pastors and churches captured the values and the Biblical base for cell ministry, rather than viewing it as a “church growth” method.
Those who view cell church as a technique or program for church growth rarely successfully make the transition. In fact, most of us know churches who began well but didn’t stick with cell ministry for the long-term. One of the key reasons for not continuing is because the pastor didn’t view cell church as a biblical way of life that would continue until Jesus comes again.
Many of these Foursquare pastors already knew the exciting stories of growing cell churches, and the temptation would be to give cell church a “test run,” to see if this new method would bring quick growth, while always keeping their options open for another, more productive method. To make a successful transition, however, they needed to count the cost before transitioning in order to give themselves enough time to actually make it work–knowing it often takes five years to make the cell church transition.
It takes time to change attitudes and values. Nor is it easy for pastors and congregations to prepare lay people to do the work of the ministry and then to coach them to make sure those lay people fulfill their pastoral ministry. Cell church demands more training and coaching than traditional ministry. Future leaders do better when they are trained and coached.