By Joel Comiskey, check out Joel’s book Reap the Harvest
Last week, I talked to a seasoned urban pastor who was desperate for change. He said, “Joel, I’ve been a pastor for many years, but I’m now convinced I need to start cell ministry. My program-based strategies are no longer working. The Pandemic has made this crystal clear. Where do I start?”
As founder of JCG, I hear this type of story all the time—and the siren sound is only getting louder. Angel Gutierrez, a cell church pastor in Spain, blogged last week on JCG, “The pandemic has given us a lot of positive results that we are seeing in 2022. It is preparing the church for the greatest and most powerful revival in history.”
I’m not sure about the “most powerful revival in history,” but I do know that God is using Covid-19 to purify his church. Jesus is calling pastors and churches to become more organic and decentralized. After all, didn’t Christianity grow the most during the first few centuries under persecution as a house-to-house movement? And haven’t we been seeing something similar take place in China today?
I told the pastor who called last week that a transition to cell-based ministry involved three phases:
- Pre-transition: preaching Biblical values and meeting with key leaders to share the vision.
- Transition: starting with a pilot group that the lead pastor facilitates
- Post-transition: building the components (coaching, equipping, connecting cell with the celebration) and continuation of lead pastor involvement
Although some start their transition with more than one pilot cell group, I told the pastor that it’s essential that future leaders can see and experience a model small group before they start their own.
In reality, it’s quite easy to start small groups but much harder to develop a cell system that will support those groups over the long haul.
Maybe God is stirring you, like this pastor, to take the first transitional steps in small group ministry.
For the month of February, experienced pastors and leaders will write twenty blogs on how to transition to cell-based ministry. If you’d like to receive these blogs in your email inbox, please click here. We’ll cover:
- February 06-12: Covid-19 has shown Christ’s church the need to decentralize and take house-to-house ministry seriously. We’ll talk about the need to embrace cell-based values and to prepare key leaders to take the first steps. Pastors and leaders need to take sufficient time to embody cell ministry in their own lives and to teach those values to others. “It’s not enough to have a cell vision; the vision must have you.”
- February 13-19: Modeling through a pilot group in which the lead pastor is involved. The first cell groups need to see and experience what is expected in the future. Unless the lead pastor is willing to model and lead by example, cells rarely become the base of the church.
- February 20-26: Coaching those who have multiplied. Many pastors fail because they don’t look beyond the first pilot group. After the first group multiplies, those new leaders must be coached.
- February 27 to March 05: Post-transition involves building the key cell components which include: equipping, connecting the cell to the celebration, concentration, lead pastor involvement, and quality control. Some researchers say that it takes an average of 5 years for a church to fully transition.