Observing Neil Cole and Ed Young Jr. is a study in contrasts. The soft-spoken Cole quietly entered the vacant sanctuary where we were meeting. He lingered in the back for a while before anyone realized he had arrived. By contrast, Young burst into the room with a shout—every head turned. The sanctuary was immediately electrified.
Their contrasting personalities are paired with very different approaches to ministry. Ed Young Jr. is senior pastor of Fellowship Church, a seeker-driven congregation that began in Dallas in 1990. After surpassing 20,000 in weekly attendance, Fellowship Church is still growing with a highly structured multi-site model that uses video broadcasts of Young's sermons. The megachurch now has four locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and recently launched its fifth campus in Miami, Florida.
Neil Cole is a pastor and the director of Church Multiplication Associates (CMA), a "growing family of organic church networks." Cole advocates a decentralized, micro-church strategy to reach the growing number of people who will never be attracted to a worship service. CMA began in 1990, the same year as Young's Fellowship Church. In that time, Cole's network has launched hundreds of churches in homes and coffeeshops across forty states and thirty countries.
The contrasts between Young and Cole are striking: extrovert and introvert, megachurch and microchurch, centralized and decentralized. But what's surprising is what these two leaders share in common. Beyond a passion for reaching the lost, both men played basketball in college and both majored in art. Both cut their pastoral teeth at megachurches, and both followed their fathers professionally—Young is a second-generation pastor; Cole is a sixth-generation lifeguard. These commonalities only make their divergent ministry strategies that much more intriguing.
Leadership editors Skye Jethani and Brandon O'Brien met with Young and Cole at Fellowship Church's Miami campus to discuss their different ...