Releasing Leaders for the Harvest

Cell Leadership Development

by Joel Comiskey

Fall 2007

Sometimes our training methods get in the way of spontaneous expansion. That is, we depend too much on education and ultimately don’t release people for ministry. We tend to think that a person must be 100% equipped, but often we equip the zeal and life out of them! Roland Allen critiques the education of his day: EAGLE

Christ trained His leaders in two or three years; these men have been training leaders for more than two or three generations. Christ trained his leaders by taking them with Him as he went about teaching and healing, doing the work which they, as missionaries, would do; we train in institutions. He trained a very few with whom He was in the closest personal relation; we train many who simply pass through our schools with a view to an examination and an appointment (Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: and the Causes which Hinder It. London: World Dominion Press, 1956. p. 27).

Only the Spirit of God can truly guide His church. And we need to be totally committed to the Spirit of God leading and guiding us. Only He can bear the fruit necessary for sustained growth. As a missionary for eleven years in Ecuador I can testify that often foreign missionaries don’t want to leave the field because they can’t fully trust the nationals to do the work. I have to admit that Ecuador didn’t need me! I needed Ecuador. I needed Ecuador to teach me about these wonderful movements. Allen writes:

They [the missionaries] imagine fondly that they are quite ready to retire when the leaders whom they train are ready to take their place and that the moment when the native leaders are ready will be so obvious that they will all agree that it has come, and that then there be no difficulty in handing over authority. The moment is never clear. Those who are seeking to gain authority never agree to wait until those who hold it think that they are sufficiently prepared. The moment arrives only when those who are seeking to gain authority are strong enough to drive those who hold it into concession, by threats of revolt (p. 33).

Would to God that we would give over our ministry to others at the right time so that God’s spontaneous movement might continue. Let’s only hold on to prayer and the Spirit of God–not to our OWN ministries.

Releasing leaders in a spontaneous movement also means giving up control. I was in one famous cell church that back in 1996 rejoiced in the fact that they couldn’t control what was happening in their midst. The Holy Spirit was moving so mightily that I was told that even if they attempted to write it down into a manual, the Holy Spirit would change things within weeks. I remembered the words of Dr. Paul Pierson, my professor of church history, who said, “revival is always messy.” But then this same church fell into the trap of trying to control everything in a systematic model that everyone had to follow. You can guess what happened to the church . . . . WORLD outreach

Roland Allen says about Paul’s ministry and the spontenous expansion of the church:

by spontaneous expansion I mean something which we cannot control. And if we cannot control it, we ought, as I think, to rejoice that we cannot control it. For if we cannot control it, it is because it is too great not because it is too small for us. The great things of God are beyond our control. Therein lies a vast hope. . . the moment that we think of ourselves as establishing self supporting, self governing Churches in the Biblical sense we are met by this fear, a terrible, deadly fear. Suppose they really were self-supporting, and depended no longer on our support, where should we be? (Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: and the Causes which Hinder It. London: World Dominion Press, 1956. p. 17).

Do we desire the messiness that comes from the work of the Spirit of God? Or do we prefer more of a controlled religion of rules and order. And ministry does get messy. We here at Wellspring have dealt with many problems in one particular couple. Yet the Holy Spirit is using this couple to reach more people for Jesus than all the rest of us put together. God likes to blow our minds! My prayer is that I would allow God to work in a powerful, spontaneous way.