by Joel Comiskey
“You must submit to me,” said the pastor. “Why?” said the leader. “Because I’m over you and you are under me.” Or worse yet, “You need to submit to me because you’re my disciple.” Sad.
The U.S. “shepherding movement” in the 1970s practiced forced “discipleship” submission and hurt a lot of people in the process. Leaders of this movement eventually repented of their errors and the movement dissolved. The cell church witnessed a resurgence of this erring submission mentality in the 1990s through the G12 model.
We are not called to make our own disciples, only disciples of Christ. Jesus never asked us to get people to obey us in the discipleship process. Rather, we’re called to make obedient followers of Jesus.
Jesus spoke against forced submission when he said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Mathew 20:25). And if words were not enough, Jesus “. . . got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4).
If you have to tell someone to submit, you’re probably not worthy of submission. Or if you have to print name cards telling people you’re an apostle, most likely you’re not. In other words, submission is a response to a reality that is unspoken. That’s why after telling wives to submit to their husbands, Paul told husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). And Paul begins the narrative by telling both husbands and wives to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21).
I do believe in submission! It’s biblical and mutual. Lately, I’ve had the privilege of ministering in two exemplary apostolic cell church networks where I’ve seen loving apostles in action. Dozens and dozens of excited, eager pastors willingly submitting to these apostles. I noticed a mutual submission and loving atmosphere.
Submission is biblical and should be practiced in a loving way. The writer of Hebrew says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Hebrews 13:17). Every believer needs to part of a local church and submissive to leadership. Cell leaders must be accountable to coaches and coaches to those above them.
Submission in the cell church is especially important since pastoral care is delegated. A pastor needs to have confidence in those who are helping in the shepherding process.
So what does submission look like and how do churches instill a spirit of submission in coaches and leaders. For the month of April, we’ll examine the theme of submission. If you’d like to receive these blogs daily in your email inbox, click here. We’ll cover:
- April 07-13: The biblical base for submission.
- April 14-20: Building submission into the cell church culture (e.g., equipping track, coaching, and general requirements)
- April 21-27: How a coach helps a leader to submit. Servanthood is key. Friendship with a purpose guides coaching and mutual submission. Clear guidelines are essential.
- April 28-May 04: The responsibility of the leader and member to submit. I’m referring here to submission as a discipline and part of the Christian walk.
Feel free to share your experiences here.