What does the Cell Champion Do?

By Alan Corrick, The LightHouse 

Like Moses, a senior pastor is the Lord’s agent for shepherding His people. Regardless of church government or framework, the pastoral leader is responsible for delivering the Word, overseeing all activity, and otherwise defining and directing the church’s life. None of this responsibility goes away because you decide to transition to a cell-based church. Until people’s expectations change, until the church structure changes, these basic needs must be met as always.

Moses was expected to make each decision, deal with any crisis, and set every direction. He could only handle these old responsibilities while ushering in the new because he had help—and Joshua was his most significant helper.

During Moses’ lifetime, Joshua’s primary relationship with him was as his servant (Numbers 11:28). From spying out the land, to commanding the army, to giving counsel, whatever Moses needed done, Joshua did. A senior pastor leading a transition is also taking God’s people on a journey, from what they have been, to what they are becoming. The issues of redefining identity, equipping people to be ministers, acquiring a new perspective, and people adopting and adapting at different paces are all there,  just as they were in Exodus.

The senior pastor must give his limited time and energy to those core areas where his influence matters the most. Having someone else to carry out other important, even critical, assignments releases the top leader to the greatest effectiveness.

When Door of Hope transitioned to cell-based life, it was a successful program-based church of a thousand people. Moreover, it had been created less than a year earlier by a merger of two churches that had gone through some recent traumatic events. As a result, even Ralph Neighbour and Bill Beckham were concerned for our welfare.

Our senior pastor, however, discerned unique issues that needed to be addressed in our journey into cell group life. One of the most significant was his recognition that he was responsible for seeing as many of our people complete the journey as possible. Therefore, he concentrated on making sure the ship stayed on course while minimizing those who jumped—or felt pushed—overboard. At the same time, he had to be the inspirational leader, sowing the values and vision for a cell group church body. He quickly realized that he needed someone to implement the changes he was calling for, a leader who could cultivate what he was sowing into the church.

Two important things must be recognized in structuring the role (to which I was appointed). First, though this role was titled “cell ministry pastor,” the senior pastor remained the leader and point person for cells and cell-based church life. As discussed repeatedly in cell group church training and literature, the highest authority must lead the transition or it won’t be taken seriously. Second, though the title referenced cells, the actual commission was to serve as the church’s agent for transition. By making the task one of “change” rather than simply “cells,” I was permitted to address ALL of the issues involved in EVERY area of church life and how they impacted our transition to the new vision. This designation allowed me to serve the senior shepherd wherever and however needed.

The working relationship between this transition leader and the head pastor must be as symbiotic as that of Moses and Joshua. The best way to illustrate this relationship is this: the senior pastor is the driver of a 60-passenger bus trying to stay on the road as the transition leader (cell champion) tries to successively change all the tires while cruising down the highway at speed! Moses and Joshua led the nation of Israel forward while hundreds of thousands were fed, educated, and cared for daily.

The senior pastor serves as God’s messenger and motivator to His people. The values and vision are delivered by the teaching and preaching of the Word and are then ignited by Spirit-led example and Spirit-fueled passion.

The change champion can reiterate and reinforce this work, but it is the top leader’s place to be God’s vessel. The cell change champion primarily serves the senior pastor as a mobilizer and manager, stimulating people to embrace the vision and practices of cell group life and structures. The quote from the Ten Commandments states that Joshua was used to bring “order and purpose.” The narrator reads these words in the movie while the film depicts Joshua organizing midwife wagons, directing fire bearers, and overseeing the logistics on Moses’ behalf. This teamwork between God’s messenger and motivator leader and the mobilizer and manager servant is perfectly illustrated.