What is the core concept in the cell church? Community? Evangelism? Church growth? Steve Irvin and I debated this idea over dinner one night in my home. We batted around a few commonly held assumptions about the main theme of the cell church. Then I sprang on Steve a growing conviction of my own heart. “I believe that the essence of the cell church is preparing leaders who are sent out to reap the harvest. The cell church is a leadership strategy,” I told him.
As I’ve studied, practiced, and reflected on the cell church over the last few years, I’ve concluded that the cell church is all about developing and releasing leaders to reap the harvest. The perfect environment for leaders to begin and thrive is the cell group.
The Leader-Driven Church
Rick Warren’s best selling book The Purpose Driven Church provides important principles for the church at large. I’d like someone to write a book for the cell church called The Leadership Driven Church. Raising up a continual flow of healthy multiplying cell leaders is the heart of the cell church. Cells are leader breeders. Cells breed new leaders. If you catch the awesome power of raising up an army of leaders through the cell strategy, you’ll succeed.
One cell church will do better than another in producing and sustaining the leadership flow in their churches. Some transitioning cell churches start out well, but as soon as the already prepared saints are taken, their cell church begins to sink. Such churches fail to understand how to develop and supervise new leaders. It’s a leadership strategy.
Biblical principles of leadership in the cell church
Christ’s Choice of the Twelve
It’s surprising that Jesus did not choose key, prominent men to form part of His twelve. None of Christ’s disciples occupied important positions in the synagogue, nor did any of them belong to the Levitical priesthood. Rather, they were common laboring men, having no professional training, no academic degrees, and no source of inherited wealth. Most were raised in the poor part of the country. They were impulsive, temperamental, and easily offended. Jesus broke through the barriers that separated the clean and unclean, the obedient and sinful. He summoned the fisherman as well as the tax collector and zealot. Jesus saw hidden potential in them. He detected a teachable spirit, honesty, and a willingness to learn. They possessed a hunger for God, a sincerity to look beyond the religious hypocrisy of their day, and they were looking for someone to lead them to salvation. In calling the despised to Himself, in sitting down to a meal with publicans, in initiating the restoration of a Samaritan woman, Jesus demonstrated that even these people were welcomed into the kingdom of God.
Look at the Heart
Most of the leadership problems can be solved if you are willing to develop the lay people within your own congregation. True, this will require that you open your heart to a broader spectrum of lay people in your church.
A study of three hundred highly successful people such as Franklin Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, Mahatma Gandhi, and Albert Einstein, revealed that one-fourth had handicaps, such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs. Three-fourths had either been born in poverty, come from broken homes, or from exceedingly tense or disturbed situations.
Sometimes we fail to see emerging leadership because we are looking for the wrong things. We often look for those who mesh with our personality but pass over those who follow a different drummer.
Samuel misjudged the Lord’s choice for the second king of Israel because he focused on height and stature: “Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:6-7).