Cell Church Ministry Fine-Tuned by G12 Principles

  From my last two blogs, you might get the impression that I’m negative toward G12. I’m not. I actually love G12 principles. I even refer to myself as a cell church person fine-tuned by G12 principles. All my seminars and teaching are loaded with G12 principles. Yet, I think it’s best to stay in the cell church camp, while being refined by those principles. Why? Because the cell church movement is broader, allows for more options, and connects a pastor to an exciting worldwide family. So I’m actually excited about the possibilty of people like César Fajardo and Lucho Salas reminding and refreshing us with core G12 principles.

Here are some of the excellent adjustments that the G12 movement has contributed to the cell church:

-viewing everyone as a potential cell leader
-asking the leader of the mother cell to care for/coach the leader of the daughter cell
-developing a clear, dynamic equipping training track that prepared everyone for ministry
-emphasizing encounter-with-God retreats to ensure freedom from sinful strongholds, believing that holiness brings fruit
-prioritizing prayer and spirituality as keys to future growth

Sadly, ICM, began to promote the G12 model as the new revelation of God, asking people to follow it precisely—to adopt it and not adapt it.

My advice is to take these great G12 principles and use them to fine-tune your cell church ministry.

p.s.: I know that I said on Wednesday’s blog that I’d talk about “the temptation to follow models” today. However, I decided to wait until Monday to cover that topic.



What works…now?

 By Steve Cordle

For years now, Joel Comiskey has been sounding the call to be principle-centered rather than model-centered. This is very healthy and freeing! One of the reasons we need to hear that is the strong attraction of “formula” ministry.

Many pastors go from conference to conference, book to book, looking for the procedure or formula that they can use in their churches to make them grow. But deep down we all know that a program will not cause revival to break out. A formula will not change the fundamental spiritual dynamics of our people and churches. Indeed, it can be idolatry to look to a formula, because then we are really saying that it is the program, not God, that “works”.

Some might say that God revealed the formula/program (whether G-12 or any other) to them and therefore it should be followed. But so often, what God the way God says to minister at one time won’t apply to the next time. Jesus healed people in many ways: using spit, mud, touch, etc. Each time he was led by the Father. But each time the procedure was different.

Lesson: as leaders we need to stay on our knees and listen for fresh instructions from the Father. He is glorified most when his people lean into him in trusting obedience.

At the beginning our church used the 5 x 5 coaching model. Eventaully we found it hard for leaders to connect naturally with their assigned coaches when they did not personally know them previously. So we switched to a modifed G-12;. When a group birthed, their cell leader became their coach. This made the coaching a lot stronger and more natural. But now our generational lines are too far removed from Network pastors, and the coaching is becoming uneven once again. Some coaches do well, others very poorly. So it is time for us to look once again at modifying our approach. What worked one time is not now. We are not going to look to the model, but rather to the Lord for his creative solution.

Is your ministry “working” today? Praise God! Keep listening for what may need to change. Is what you are doing not working? Don’t be a slave to the model, listen for the latest instructions from the Father!

Original G12 Disciples Who Have Left the International Charismatic Mission

On Monday’s blog I was talking about the G-12 model, and specifically how César Fajardo, the key architect of the G12 strategy in Bogota, Colombia has now left the church. Fajardo has started a new church called Sin Muros (without walls), and I heard it has grown rapidly. Sadly, Castellanos now forbids all G12 churches under his apostleship to have any association with Fajardo.

Fajardo has maintained a humble attitude and is now holding his own conferences. Rather than asking people to buy only his material, Fajardo encourages churches to use the material they already have. I’m looking forward to hearing in the future about Fajardo’s balanced approach to cell church ministry.

Another pastor who has left ICM is Luis (Lucho) Salas. Salas is a good friend of mine, and was the only person back in 1996 who could clealy explain the G12 model to me. Salas grew his network of cells to 600+ back in 1998, and is now planting his own church in Colombia called En Tu Presencia (In Your Presence). The church has already grown to 1500 people. Interestingly enough, he’s not using the G12 model anymore. Rather, he’s using Cho’s model (5×5) because he believes that the G12 model has too many weaknesses.

Even through I’m saddened by many of the recent occurences in the G12 model, I am happy that those like Fajardo and Salas are following cell church principles and seeking to unite the body of Christ. On Friday’s blog, I’ll talk more about the temptation to follow models.


Let Those W’s Flex!

by Rob Campbell

A good portion of cell churches around the world use some type of format or outline during the actual cell gathering.  My church family utilizes the ever so popular 4 W’s.  This cell gathering format really works for us.  I have found that cell leaders appreciate a basic framework as they lead their cell week end and week out.

As a reminder, the 4 W’s are as follows:  WELCOME (A time to connect person to person using an icebreaker question or two), WORSHIP (A time for group members to connect to God; Welcome the presence of Christ in their midst through singing, reading of a Psalm/scripture, prayer), WORD (A time to dialogue and reflect on God’s Word seeking deeper reflection, insight and application), and WORKS (A time to cast vision concerning multiplication, spiritual formation, missions; “Because of what God has done in our lives this week, here’s how we choose to spread the vision of this cell and church family.”)

Some cell churches have switched the order of the 4 W’s mentioned above and that is surely understandable.  Other cell churches follow the basic content of the 4 W’s, but use other words in formatting their outlines.  It’s all good!

This post’s purpose is quite simple.  May I offer up a fresh call for us to allow the 4 W’s to FLEX?  I believe that the underlying purpose for attending a cell gathering is to be in the presence of the resurrected Christ.  Further, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  Therefore, let’s allow the 4 W’s to be our guide, but not our master.

Specifically, a cell leader should not:  Read verbatim the cell outline, Feel like he/she must cover every question and/or idea, Lead every section of the outline by himself/herself,  Cover all the W’s every gathering.  Conversely, a cell leader who does not adhere at all to the 4 W’s can risk leading a gathering that “is all over the map” lacking focus and effectiveness.

My original experience underscoring this need for flexibility occured in 1993.  My wife and I were hosting a cell in our home, but not leading this specific cell.  During the WELCOME time, one woman began to share some rather deep things in the presence of a good number of children.  I desperately wanted the cell leader to call a “timeout” and usher the children to another room for their time of teaching.  It did not happen.  I maintained my “wallflower” posture knowing in my mind the leader was making a significant mistake.

As I was about to speak up (you know- and lend some “guidance”), the cell leader said, “Children, I want to you to gather around this woman [using her name] and pray for her.”  Again, I thought– this is not going to be good.  I mean, the lady had shared some very deep emotions, pain and hurt.  Well, needless to say– I was wrong concerning the leader’s act.  I will not soon forget the prayers offered to God by those children.  They were prayers of hope, love, comfort….even direction!  Indeed, we had experienced the resurrected Christ in our midst and the Spirit of God was freely working.  By the way, I don’t remember what happened during the WORD and WORKS time.  I hope you will forgive me! 

A final thought:  God is not confined to a 4 W box!  He’s out of the box and isn’t it great?



Adopting Models Versus Adapting Principles

During my recent trip to Argentina, I came face to face with questions about Groups of Twelve. As I met with the city pastors of Cordoba, Argentina, the most controversial question was about César Castellanos and Groups of Twelve. I discovered that several large churches in Argentina have adopted the G12 model and are under the control of Castellanos. The vast majority of pastors, however, chafed at the idea of adopting the G12 model and coming under Castellano’s apostleship. Many churches were divided over the issue.

It became quite clear that Castellanos expects all churches that come under his apostleship to ADOPT the G12 model 100%. These churches must only follow his vision. According to Castellanos it is wrong to ADAPT cell church principles. He expects churches to follow his G12 model in its entirty.

The sad part is that many of Castellanos original disciples from his church in Bogota have now left the International Charistmatic Mission. The three most notable who have left are: César Fajardo, Luis Salas, and Diego and Claudia Montilla.

Some of you might remember from my book, Groups of Twelve, that César Fajardo, the youth pastor at ICM, was the one who led the first pilot G12 groups among the youth back in 1990. I really respect César Fajardo and consider him a friend. I’ve eaten several meals with him and his wife Claudia (the sister of César Castellanos) and have grown to appreciate his godliness and balance in the Christian life. Fajardo was the one who invented the Encounter retreats, system of follow-up, training track and many other key features of the G12 movement. It was through Fajardo’s youth group at ICM that the explosive growth occurred. The adults in the church simply followed what the youth were doing through groups of twelve.

P.S.: I’m trying to limit each blog to 200 words. I’ll continue my blog on this topic on Wednesday.


Relationship Building in the Cell and Multiplication

We’ve been talking a lot about evangelism, but what about community? We all know that community and relationships are a key part of what cell ministry is all about. It’s hard to hide in a cell. Everyone is encouraged to share. And the cell is often just the launching pad for cell members to develop deep relationships with each other outside of the cell meeting.

A key question is whether building community helps or hinders cell multiplication?

In my the questionnaire of 700 cell leaders, I asked the leaders how often their group met outside of the regular cell group for social gatherings. According to the data, there was a positive correlation between frequency of social meetings outside the regular cell meeting and group multiplication. Thus, building relationships among group members really does help in the multiplication process.

During social gathering outside of the cell meeting, close connections are created between group members that will participate in the leadership team of the new daughter cell. And giving birth to a new group doesn’t mean that members of the mother and daughter cell won’t see each other anymore. Cell Churches don’t just emphasize cell ministry. Rather, celebrating together and meeting in other venues is part of the cell church experience.

Relational building in the group is an essential part of the DNA of cell ministry, but we also must see relational building as a positive step in the process of group multiplication.



COME and GO Evangelism

If you lead cells, I suspect that you have discovered the same thing I have: it is a lot easier for group members to show care for each other than to reach out to the lost. Groups seem to be natural at fellowship, but most of the time evangelism is less automatic.

One of the main ways group members think about evangelism is inviting people to the cell. This is great! When we find a spiritually open person who is open to attending the cell meeting, that is a huge win! As a leader, I love to see people inviting others to the meeting.

However, I have found that only a small percentage of unreached people will be immediately open to an invitation to COME. That is why we also need to encourage our members to GO. That is, to “go” get involved in the lives of unreached folks. (Long-time Christians sometimes find all the people they know are already Christians).

Instead of immediately inviting that new neighbor to the cell meeting, instead, invite that person to dinner. Then help him to remulch his flower bed, and go to the art exhibit his daughter entered. In other words, go get involved in his life. Along the way there will be opportunities to share faith, and eventually, to invite him to the group. He will be more open to the invitation after that relationship is built.

Instead of making cell outreach only invitational (though that’s still good!), also make it incarnational! Jesus said “GO into all the world…”


Evangelism and Multiplication is a Group Effort

In the last few blogs I’ve been focusing on how cells and missions stimulate each other and can provide a one-two punch. But we also must remember that the missionary vision starts next door! Some churches are great at focusing on overseas misisons, but they do very litttle to reach out around them.

Cells and cell churches should have an outward focus to reach people wherever they are. And effective cell leaders excel in stimulating their entire group to reach out, rather than doing it all themselves. One way to become extremely burdened as a cell leader is to think that evangelism solely depends on the leader’s effort.

One of the questions on my survey of 700 cell leaders was how often the cell leader asked group members to get involved in the evangelism process of inviting friends and contacts to the cell. On this particular quesiton, I gave the cell leader several choices, ranging from weekly exhortation to invite friends to never asking them. The survey showed that cell leaders who weekly encourage members to invite visitors double their capacity to multiply their groups—as opposed to those leaders who do so only occasionally or not at all.

The good news about evangelism and cell ministy is that it’s a group effort. It doesn’t depend on one person. Let’s remember to include everyone in the evangelism process.


P.S.: If you’re interested in seeing the 29-question handout that was given to 700 cell leaders (as well as the general summaries), click here. If you’d like to see all the statistical details,click here

What I Learned About Missions at a Korean Hospital

by Rob Campbell

Joel’s posts have been highlighting the powerful connection between the cell and missions.  In simple terms, the ministry initiatives of a cell church flow through the cells.  This is true for missions as well. 

Today, I experienced something I’ve never experienced before.  Let me explain.  In July 2003, my church family sent six individuals to begin a cell church in Suji, South Korea (a suburb of Seoul with about 600,000 people).  We were asked by a ministry in Korea to begin an English speaking church and so Cypress Creek Church, Korea was birthed (www.cypresscreekchurchkorea.com). 

Back to my first time experience.  My family and I waited with Pastor Donnie Tyson (Pastor of CCCK) while his wife, Shannon, was having brain surgery.  This is her second brain surgery in less than two months.  She has also had back surgery whilel here in Korea.  Thankfully, today’s surgery was successful and she is in recovery.  We are praying and hoping for complete healing.

Have you ever heard the phrase “God uses ordinary people for his extraordinary purposes?”  Of course you have.  Let me tell you– the Tyson’s are a beautiful picture of this reality.  When I invited individuals to consider going to Korea to start a church, God definitely “called” the Tyson’s.  I will not soon forget watching them sell everything…and I mean everything at a garage sale at their house.  They left their nice, cozy life in Wimberley Texas and came to Korea with just a few suitcases.

As I sat with Donnie today, my wife spent some time with Shannon post-surgery.  While Shannon was in ICU, she was receiving visitors from their church family.  She was asking them specific questions about how they were doing…if life was going well for them…yes, ministering to THEM.  She had just gone through brain surgery!  My wife stated, “The attending nurses were warmly greeted by Shannon and she smiled and talked with them as they were helping.”

I am most captivated by the Tyson’s bravery, courage and determination to make a difference for Christ in this country.  The top two reasons that people leave foreign ministry fields and return home are family problems and health concerns.  This couple has persevered through these trevails in an incredible manner.  I have watched them being carried by the hand of God.

In closing, let me mention three things that I learned about missions at the Seoul National University Hospital in Bundang, South Korea.

First, I was reminded of the value of relationships.  My family and I “connect” with the Tyson’s.  Our love for each other is mutual.  We have great respect for each other and believe in each other.

Next, I so appreciate sacrifice that you can see with your own eyes.  The Tyson’s don’t have to be here.  They could choose to go home!  One lady from the Tyson’s church family was present for many hours today attending to Shannon and Donnie.  She said to me, “I must be here.  Shannon is my spiritual mother.  Now, it’s my time to give back to her.”  You see, others have seen their unselfish sacrifice.

Finally, their life in South Korea began in a cell in Wimberley, Texas.  Once, they were simply two members in a really good cell group.  They heard stories of God’s activity around the world.  They became curious about what life might be like a different country.  Eventually, they began to lead a cell and were exposed to more and more life changing stories from around the world.  The time came for them to leave it “all” behind and come to South Korea.  Their multiplication did not, however, occur within city limits.  It was an international multiplication.

Your prayers are appreciated for Shannon and Donnie during her recovery. 

Remember, the launching pad for missions around the world begins in the cell.




Tips to Connect Cell and Mission

During the cell/missions conference in Argentina, I was reminded about different ways to connect cell and mission. One cell church, for example, took up missionary offerings in the cell group. That is, the sole purpose for the cell offering was to give to missions. This particular church had 300+ cell groups, so the money raised through the cell groups for missions was significant.

Other cell churches reflect on missions during the WITNESS time in the cell. When I visited a cell group at Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, Louisiana in 1996, the cell leader passsed out a pamphlet on a particular unreached people group during the WITNESS time. We prayed for that particular group, asking God to raise up missionaries among them. This is a great way to remind cell members that Christ is concerned for all peoples of the earth.

Some of the cell groups at York Alliance Church in York, PA, go on short-term mission trips. I heard exciting testimonies of cell groups ministering in El Salvador, Macedonia, and Germany. The cell groups plan the trip and go as a group. They then report back to the church what God has done.

I know that I was encouraged from my recent trip to Argentina to remember the intimate link between cells and missions. I hope you are as well!