One of the common phrases constantly repeated in cell churches is “cell ministry is the backbone of our church.” The vision passed down from the lead pastor to the leaders to members was that in order to receive pastoral care, one must belong to a cell group. Cells are the very life of the church. And the lead pastor is the key to making this happen.
The fact is that a church can’t do everything well. If cell ministry is simply one program in the midst of endless church activity, the church is bound to fail. George Barna says, “In speaking with pastors of declining churches, a common thread was their desire to do something for everybody. Despite their worthy intentions, they tried to be so helpful to everyone that they wound up being helpful to no one” (User Friendly Churches, p. 51).
How many times have I heard, “This program will strengthen our cell ministry by making better cell leaders…” Be careful about this type of argument. In one sense, every program on the market might have some long-term benefit for cell leaders. But in the meantime, these programs draw the leader away from their principal work. They require loads of extra time and normally only benefit the cell leader indirectly.
Don’t add programs with the hope that they might somehow benefit cell ministry in the long run. There are many good ideas that we want to attach to the cells to help them be successful. These attachments are simply not needed. In fact, they will eventually burden the cell groups so much that there will be an “overload” factor that will kill one cell group after another along with its leadership.
It’s like planting a new garden. You must give the seeds a chance to grow by rooting out the grass, which would destroy the new growth. You must water and provide sufficient sunlight. When you first plant the cell church philosophy, you protect your new philosophy from the grass of church programs and competing activities.
For many churches transitioning into the cell lifestyle, it’s wise to place a moratorium on new programs for a certain time. The lead pastor, along with the ministerial team, needs to help the church concentrate in order to establish the cell philosophy as a way of life in the church.
I’m convinced that learning to say NO is one of the most important principles in the cell church. There are one million good things that will come knocking—even pounding—on your church door. These are well-intentioned programs by well-intentioned people, but they will surely drown the cell ministry. NO is a blessed word in the cell church, and the lead pastor must set the example and say no to competing programs. If the church doesn’t learn to say NO, the cell church system will flounder. Concentrating on making disciples who make disciples through cell ministry, on the other hand, will bring lasting fruit and help build God’s eternal kingdom.
This article originally appeared here.