From “everyone a leader” to “everyone a disciple-maker”

Cell Leadership Development

by Joel Comiskey

Spring 2006

While I was teaching students in Korea last month, I found myself changing my PowerPoint slides in the middle of the class. Instead of promoting the goal of making everyone a cell leader, I found myself saying that the main goal is to make everyone a disciple who makes other disciples.

One of the reasons for this change of thinking was my weariness of continually redefining the word leader. For many people, the word leader holds connotations of position and power. In some cultures a leader is a person who controls and dominates. Others imagine that a Christian leader must hold an official position in the church.

Because of these misperceptions, church members are too quick to say, “I’m not a leader, and thus, I will never be a cell leader.

For years, I tried to redefine the word leader to mean facilitator, influencer, or servant, and these definitions are all good. The problem was that after the seminar, people would quickly revert back to how they normally defined a leader.

Then I began to notice another problem. Some would reject my use of leader as unbiblical. “Where in the Bible does it say that everyone should be a cell leader?” they would say. I also found that pastors had difficulty convincing their lay leaders (i.e., board, elders, key leaders, etc.) to follow the cell church strategy unless those same leaders understood cell ministry from an entirely Biblical perspective.

God showed me how to resolve this difficulty while consulting with Jim Corley, lead pastor at CrossPoint Community Church. The mission statement at CCC states that the goal is to make disciples who make disciples. Because I’m involved in coaching this church, we wrestled together with questions about the definition of discipleship. Corley and his key leaders were uncomfortable with replacing their mission statement with a new one that proclaimed that the goal of the church was to make “everyone a cell leader.”

God gave us wisdom to break down how a disciple could be defined in the cell church paradigm. I recommended that the church define a disciple in the following way:

  • D-1 disciple (member of a cell and the equipping track). The first step is that a person is in a cell and the training track. It’s in this process that the person is baptized and taught to obey all the things that Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:18–20). Key steps in the training process include doctrinal teaching, holiness, baptism, evangelism, and preparation to minister to others.
  • D-2 disciple (part of the team leadership). The next step is that the disciple lives out in practice what he or she is learning. The term D-2 disciple defines a person who is in a cell, taking the next step in the training track, and actually helping in the cell group. Such a person is playing a significant role in the cell group and is consciously preparing to facilitate his or her own cell group or to be part of the next team that launches a cell.
  • D-3 disciple (cell leader or part of a cell leadership team). The next step is gathering people together and leading a cell group either individually or as part of a team. The disciple has gathered friends and family and is facilitating the cell group or is one of the leaders on a cell planting team. He or she has graduated from the training track.
  • D-4 disciple (multiplication leader). This is when the cell leader has developed another disciple who has multiplied out and is leading his or her own cell group or part of a cell leadership team (has gone through the D-1 to D-3 process). I would call a multiplication leader a D-4 disciple.

While acknowledging that the primary goal of “discipleship” is to become like Jesus, it’s essential to define this in practical terms within the church framework. The D-1 to D-4 understanding of discipleship helps guide a believer through a clearly defined equipping process.

Increasingly in this secular post-Christian culture, we find “Christians” hopping from church to church to find the latest and greatest attraction model. It’s time we view succes differently and concentrate on making disciples who make disciples. The goal that everyone can be a disciple that makes other disciples is a worthy, Biblical goal. And I believe that the cell church strategy does the best job of making disciples who make other disciples.