Coaching: Stay close to Jesus

I overworked one spring to the point of exhaustion. I didn’t faithfully keep my day off, didn’t take care of my body, and eventually caught bronchitis. Yet I had a commitment to do a small group seminar in Greece during this same time period. While in Greece, I did my best to teach and consult each day, but I barely had enough strength to keep going. And each night I suffered long hours of wheezing and coughing. Has something similar happened to you?

I’ve learned the hard way that I need to pace myself to succeed over time. Coaching is helping a leader stay focused and balanced in life. If you’re going to help someone else, you first need to help yourself.

And the first place to help yourself is by receive coaching from the King of Kings. As He enriches you, you can pour out what you receive to others. Romans 15:5 says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As the God of endurance and encouragement fills your heart, you can then effectively minister to others.

I’m convinced that the most important book I’ve ever written is called An Appointment with the King. I believe in Appointment with the King so much because it focuses on how to have a daily quiet time with God, getting know His person, His Word, and His presence. In the quiet time, we worship the King of Kings, listen to His voice, and receive direction for our day. I’m convinced that the most important discipline of the Christian life is spending daily quality time in His presence.


Counsel about Making a Transition to Cell Ministry

If you read last Wednesday’s blog, you’ll noitice that I talked about a new hunger for the radical middle. I illustrated this hunger by a particular church that realized they needed to get back on track after reading Cell Church Solutions. Since I’ll be coaching this church for the next six months, I met with the senior pastor and board to decide on the next course of action.

One of the board members was so hungry for change, he just wanted to go for it immediately. I appreciated his zeal because I have a similar personality. Yet, I also have learned, as many of you have, that it’s super easy to start small groups–even 100s of them. Yet, it’s much more difficult to establish a long-term cell group system. Unless the senior pastor and staff are modeling it, cell ministry usually falters over time. .

I suggested that the senior pastor lead the staff in a prototype for at least two months. I then suggested that each staff person lead a turbo type pilot group for four months that consisted of key lay people who were willing to lead an open cell. After the four months, these key lay people would pair off two by two to open their own cells. The senior pastor and staff could start leading a normal open cell (3-15 that meets weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and discipleship with the goal of multiplication) at that time.

I recommended that then, and only then, the church make an announcement about the new cell church vision.

I was very impressed with the urgency/passion level among the key leadership. They really wanted to become a cell church. I’m seeing this same passion more and more, not just in majority/third-world chruches, but also in the western world.

According to Jim Egli’s research, coaching is even more important than training to assure long term success. I’ll be covering the topic of coaching in my next few blogs.

Just a reminder that we at JCG do offer coaching for those who are transitioning to the cell church strategy or planting cell churhces. We would count it a privilege to serve you.



Helping Leaders be Disciplers

Steve Cordle 

In his excellent post this week, Rob Campbell prompted us to think through the way we develop leaders.

In that vein, how do your group leaders see themselves? Do they view themselves as facilitators of a meeting? As care-givers for group members? As representatives of the church?

This question is important, because leaders act according to the way they see themselves. For example, if they see themselves only as facilitators of meetings, they probably won’t be doing a lot of evangelism or connecting with members between meetings. The result will be a weak group.

In the the healthiest groups the leaders see themselves as disciple-makers, and they usually have a plan. They know who they want to encourage through the Equipping Track, and they know who they are developing as an apprentice. If they have no plan, they are probably just leading meetings.

Here are a couple of ways to help leaders see themselves as disciple-makers:

1.Speak about disicple-making in coaching times. Share from the scripture and your own experience. Help them see disciple-making is a commission from God and not just a requirement of the church.

2. Encourage the leaders to personally disciple their apprentice. Give them a format to do this (Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Groups are a great vehicle for this).


New Hunger for the Radical Middle

I sense a new hunger for the Radical Middle. Churches are looking for solutions, not rhetoric. They’ve had enough talk about how cell church is the only way that God is working on earth and how the rest of the church is “off the wall,” etc., etc. Pastors and leaders are tired of the theory and negative language. Yet, these same churches long for the New Testament heartbeat of a church dedicated to house to house ministry–not a watered down version of cells. These same pastors and leaders long for a return to simplicity that would make pastoral ministry meaningful. They’ve long-ago lost the zeal for the programmed based church, but they really don’t know what to do. 

My book Cell Church Solutions was not the miracle best well seller I longed for (of course, I was hoping it would sell more copies than the Purpose Driven Life book!). Yet the book is making a huge impact on churches that have read it and graped the message of the Radical Middle.

For example, I had one church call a few weeks ago, earnestly wanting to meet with me. The pastor, staff, and board had all read the CCS book. This church actually started ten years ago with a vision for cell church and attended some dynamic cell church conferences at the time (including one by Neighbour and one by Laurence Khong). Their mission statment still read: Empowered by the Holy Spirit, as one new people, God’s holy people,we envision _[name of their church]_______by the year 2020
Advancing into a multicultural cell church of 1000 joyfully transformed members.

What happened? Well, as the years passed, they slowly, subtely watered down the cell vision with meta type groups (you know, the idea that anything could be called a small group). They found themselves with a hodgpodge of groups that were scattered and inconsistent. The groups were more like a program than the heartbeat of the church.

But they now wanted to get back on track. When I met with them, I felt the passion coming from the senior pastor and board. They all wanted to move ahead and retake their original vision.

On Friday’s blog, I’ll share with you some things we talked about.



Basepath to Maturity

The book of James was written by the half-brother of Jesus.  James was not a believer in Christ during Christ’s earthly ministry.  When the resurrected Christ appeared to James, he became a believer and a leader.  As a matter of fact, he became the key leader in the Jerusalem church.  Paul calls James “a pillar of the church” (Galatians 2:9).  Tradition teaches us that his nickname was “camel’s knees” because of the enormous amount of time he spent on his knees in prayer.  He literally had calluses on his knees!

The book of James has been called the “Proverbs of the New Testament.”  I have heard this book’s main theme referred to as “Christianity in Overalls.”  It’s hard-hitting and practical.  Key words include “works” and “faith.”  In James, these words are not contradictory, but complementary.  James is not just writing about faith and works, but a faith that works.  He mentions the word “maturity” at least five times.  This word can also be translated as “complete” or “perfect.”  Here are the marks of the mature:

A person who is positive under pressure (James 1:2-4, 12)

A person who is sensitive to others (James 2:1-8, 14-16)

A person who has mastered the mouth (James 3:2-11)

A person who is a peacemaker, not a troublemaker (James 4:1-12)

A person who is patient and prayerful (James 5:7, 11, 16)

The reason I mention these marks of maturity warrants an explanation.  Most healthy cell churches have an equipping track or a “basepath to maturity.”  How a cell church implements this basepath to maturity varies throughout the world.  My hunch is that the specific ingredients of such an equipping track is not near as important as the relationship developed between mentor and protege (discipler and disciple) as they journey down this basepath.  In other words, the cell church wants to emphasize relational discipleship.  Here’s why I mention this to you.

Certainly, there are myriads of other marks of maturity in the scriptures.  But, you would have to admit– the five marks of maturity cited above sure do sound, feel and look like …. JESUS.  As of late, I’m giving some thought to how I might make these five marks of maturity foundational in my church family’s equipping track.  What cell church pastor would not want his/her cell leaders to be “marked” accordingly? 

A few questions that should stimulate some discussion within this blogging community:

How would you describe your church family’s basepath to maturity?

Do you change it occasionally?

Are you satisfied with the intended outcome?

Love to hear from you.

In closing, be careful not to use the marks of maturity as a template for others.  That will certainly lead you down the road of judgment.  Consider them through the lens of personal introspection.

Blog on!

When Multiplication Hurts

Have you ever found youself in a situation when you didn’t want to multiply your cell group?

My first and best-selling book thus far is Home Cell Group Explosion. This book talked about the cell churches around the world that are breaking records in multiplication. And I still believe that multiplication is the guiding start of cell mnistry.

Since starting the first cell in my home in this church plant, we’ve multiplied several times. Yet, right now I’m struggling with multiplication. I’m learning practically why multiplication can be so gut-wrenchingly difficult at times. Let me explain.

We have a couple in our cell who we love very dearly. They are great friends–the type that we just like to hang out with. They were unchurched people when they joined our cell, and they still need a lot of spiritual growth. Two other families also attend our cell regularly. My wife and I have held off mentioning multiplication because the situation has been tender, since this couple has been hurt in the past.

Yet, I wrote the book on multiplication! (do you get my drift). And I truly believe that each cell needs to be guided by the DNA of multiplicaiton. Yet in my flesh, this will be a more difficult multiplication. 

So I need to tell this couple and the entire cell that we will be multiplying in one year’s time (next May). But you know something, it’s hard. I was planning on telling this couple last week before the cell (we’re going through the training track together), but the wife of this particular couple was going through some major life struggles. So it will have to wait until next month.

I’m more convinced than ever that multiplication must be the guiding star of the cell group. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to multiply. It can even be downright painful. . . .



Switching around the Word and Witness Time

At least two threads have appeared on the blog this week: community and evangelism. I spoke about the fact that often people don’t want to leave the cell because the community is so so rich (how to set boundaries on departure times). Rob spoke about transparency and honesty in the cell. Steve reminded us that we need “new dogs.” Fellowship and community can grow stagnant and we need to be reaching out.

As I’ve led cells over the years, I’ve been so blessed by the transparency and community that takes place. Yet, if we don’t actively reach out, that same community and transparency can grow stagnant. But how do we promote evangelism in the cells? Last Sunday night, for example, I fully intended to use the fourth W (Witness or Works) to ask each person who they were developing relationships with in their oikos network. Yet, I over-extended the WORD portion of the cell and basically “slid” into the 4th W, with barely enough time for it. And I think I can generalize by saying “many” cells don’t sufficiently emphasize the 4th W (I can say that this is very true at Wellspring).

Then on Wednesday in our pastoral meeting at Wellspring we were talking about how to emphasize evangelism. Justin Mulder, the associate pastor, made a brilliant suggestion. He said, “why don’t we change the order of the 4th W for the next several months. Let’s do the WITNESS time before the WORD time to make sure we have enough time for evangelism.” I thought Justin’s comment was excellent. Why not change the 4th W to the 3rd W for a while. In this way, the cell can concentrate on evangelism more, without negelecting the WORD. So we’re going to do this for the next several months. If you’d like to download our last cell lesson as an example of what we do at Wellspring, click here. If you’re not sure about what the fourth W looks like, I include a lot of suggestions in:

Share: Make Christ Real to Others


How to Lead a Great Cell Group.



New Dogs

One of our group leaders was beaming: “My group is fantastic!”, she said. “There is so much life and energy when we gather, it is so different than my old group.”

What a contrast! Six months before this same leader had disbanded her group, and was not sure she wanted to continue leading. She was even unsure the cell idea “worked”.

As we talked together, she said that her former group had grown old and stagnant. People showed up in body, but were more interested in talking about their kids’ school programs or selling their house than how Christ was at work in their lives. They weren’t pagans, just complacent and distracted.

The leader tried a lot: fasting and praying for them, getting the members physcially on their knees during the meeting and spending the meeting in prayer, sharing her own experience with Christ…nothing changed. There was no life change happening, no energy. No one went on to the Encounter Retreat, no one progressed to the Equipping Track, no one invited anyone to group. The group members showed up sporadically, and the leader started to dread group meeting night.

Finally, she told the group she wasn’t going to be leading any more, and ended the group.

She found one other spiritually-searching woman and started doing one-on-one discipleship with her. It was a breath of fresh air for her to be working with someone who wanted to grow. After a few months, another woman joined them.

Then she decided to launch a new group by inviting several new worship attendees to join the three of them. Ignition! After only a month, three of those group members have attended the Encounter Retreat, and the group is alive. They share about their growth in Christ, they want to reach out, they want to move ahead, they are healthy! And the leader is glowing.

Our learning: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Sometimes you just need to get some new dogs.”

Some long-standing groups need to die, and the group leaders need “permission” to end a group without guilt.


True Confessions

I appreciated all your comments from Monday’s blog on how to gracefully set boundaries about closing time. To be honest, this is more of an internal struggle for me. That is, my wife and kids would love for everyone to stay as LONG as possible.

A little background: We have a normal family cell on Sunday night at 6 p.m. My daugher, Nicole (12 years old) is present with other kids during the Word and Worship time, but then she leads the kid’s in a separate cell for the Word and Witness time. My youngest daughter, Chelsea, is part of that, as are various friends of the church (we look at Nicole as a cell leader because she’s been trained and been coached like all the rest of the cell leaders, and thus we call it a children’s cell).

Because her friends hang out with the adults after the cell, she wants them to stay as long as possible! The other reality is that my wife, Celyce, gets high when people are around. She genuinely loves hanging out. Thus, as far as my family is concerned, I’m the ONLY one favoring strict GOOD-BYE boundaries. Poor Joel Comiskey! I guess I’ll have to reassert my male authoirty in the home, aye? Granted,  the vast majority of the time, everyone is gone from our cell 1.5 hours after the cell ends, but I personally would prefer if everyone was gone one hour after the normal cell ended.

This issue is a very real one for me, and I have appreciated all your advice and comments. Jim Egli mentioned the ideal of having a different host home, and I do love it when we host the cell in other homes because then I can leave when I want–which is normally one hour after the normal cell ends. 



Transparency and Your Cell


Have you ever received an email from a friend or associate that you knew to be bogus?  Maybe it was a nice story or an illustration that really stirred you.  Obviously, it meant something to your friend or he wouldn’t have forwarded it to you.  However, you had an inner hunch that it wasn’t true… it was fiction.  Because you’re a good friend, you check out the story or illustration on  Indeed, you were right.  It’s bogus.  It’s fiction.  Your friend has been duped.  Bless his poor soul! Trying your best not to be smug or to come across as a “know it all,” you forward the link to him from the website previously cited.  You feel good about setting the record straight and saving your friend any future embarassment. 

I wonder…. have you ever been duped?  It’s not a great feeling!  In my post last week, I cited a story about Sir Fleming and Sir Winston Churchill (and their respective sons).  The story was excellent.  Contextually, it encouraged the reader to be involved in good works– thus, the title of my post:  The Cell:  A Wellspring of Good Works.  The only problem….yep, you guessed it!  The story was bogus.  One kind soul notified me of my error in a very appropriate way.  If the story stirred you, then great.  But, take it out of your sermon illustration file immediately!  I apologize for the error.

This error on my part led me to be transparent with you.  I think that’s important– not only in leadership, but also in cell life.  Transparency opens the door for meaningful dialogue and the deepening of relationship.  Don’t misunderstand.  I didn’t purposely pitch you a bogus story last week so that I could set you up for a post on transparency.  I’m not that clever!  But, since we’re here… let me share a few ideas concerning transparency and your cell.

Transparency says, “Here’s what’s true about me.”  It is rooted in humility.  “Nothing in all creation can hide from him [God].  Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes.  This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done”  (Hebrews 4:13).

The cell leader/pastor is the key for transparency to flow openly and freely.  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”  (James 5:16).  If your cell members don’t know your pain/shortcomings/growth spots, then they probably don’t know you very well.

Understand the difference between transparency and vulnerability.  Again, transparency says, “Here’s what’s true about me.”  Vulnerability says, “Here’s what’s true about me and would you come alongside me?”  Vulnerability is asking for help.  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  Transparency may lead to vulnerability, but it is quite rare.  Vulverability requires immense trust.

Confidentiality is key for transparency to exist in your cell.  What is shared in the cell gathering goes no further than the cell gathering.

Prayer and intercession prepare the way for your cell members to embrace transparency.  Let us pray accordingly.

Speaking of prayer, please take a moment right now and ask God’s healing presence…His care and comfort…His strength to rest upon the Virginia Tech administration, faculty, students, and families.

Watch out for those bogus stories and may we be a part of a TRANSPARENT cell church community.

I know you have much to share on this topic.  Please do so.