By Joel Comiskey, check out: Living in Victory, Spring 2020
I encourage pastors (lead and staff pastors) to be intimately involved in cell ministry, whether as a team member in a cell or leading a cell group. The most important reason is to stay close to the fire and maintainpractical experience in winning others to Jesus. This also prevents the pastor from losing touch with cell group leaders.
There are many arguments that would seemingly contradict a pastor leading an open cell group. “After all,” someone might say, “Shouldn’t he or she delegate as much as possible? Shouldn’t he rotate among various groups instead of concentrating on one?” Such an argument has its merits, but in my opinion, it falls short. The benefits of leading a cell group far outweigh the shortcomings.
Dale Galloway, former pastor and cell expert, told me that every pastor and staff person led a cell group—even when the church had 6,000 members and 600 cell groups. Galloway insisted that it is foolish to expect others to follow what the senior pastor fails to model. Notice the benefits of leading or being part of a cell team:
- A deeper cell church vision.
- Pastoral burden for cell leaders.
- Personal interaction with non-Christians.
- Illustrations for teaching material gleaned from experience.
- Insight into which cell lessons work and which ones do not.
Above all, it declares in numerous ways that cell ministry is so important that even the pastor is willing to lead or be part of a cell group team.
The long-term success of cell ministry depends on adjusting cell church principles to each church’s reality. The best laboratory is personal involvement. When a pastor leads a cell group (or part of a cell team), he or she captures the weekly benefits of cell ministry and can relate to fellow cell leaders in the church. As Clarence Day once said, “Information’s pretty thin stuff, unless mixed with experience” (Writer to Writer, p. 58)
Cell involvement, whether attending or leader, allows the pastor to experience the need to invite non-Christians, train new leaders, prepare the study time, and shepherd those in need. It also gives the pastor the chance to determine if his own cell lesson (based on his Sunday morning message) edifies the saints and speaks to non-Christians.
Granted, there might be periods of time when the pastor no longer leads an open cell group. Many pastors of the world’s largest cell churches do not personally lead a cell group. These churches have reached another level: most likely, the pastor already has an intense passion for cell ministry and thus might not need to lead a cell to keep him connected. The norm always has its exceptions and there are probably times when this rule can be broken safely.
While we should avoid legalism, the pastor’s direct involvement in cell ministry is critical to ongoing vitality and fruitfulness.