Do you use the name CELL?

joelAllow me to divert a little from the theme of DIVINE APPOINTMENTS (covered on Monday) to the topic of the word CELL.

Do you like the word CELL? Do you use it in your church? Do you use CELL CHURCH to describe what your church does? name

Let me say from the outset, I’m not married to the word CELL. I am committed, however, to the DEFINITION of a cell/small group/life group, etc.

By now, you know my conviction that a cell/small group/life group is a group of 3-15 that meets weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, spiritual growth with the goal of multiplication. Some have made adjustments to this definition, while keeping the core of the meaning–and I applaud this!

But what about the name/word CELL? Someone recently told me that the phrase HOLISTIC SMALL GROUP is far better and doesn’t turn people off because of the negative publicity of terror cells, etc. Others love the term LIFE GROUPS. I know that Rob Campbell, part of the JCG team, uses HEART GROUPS at Cypress Creek Community Church.

As I travel worldwide, however, it’s hard to escape the influence of David Cho, the modern day founder of the cell church movement. He coined the term cell to describe his groups back in the 70s and the worldwide cell church movement still uses this title.

What do you think? What is your opinion?


An Unusual Thought

There’s an unusual thought contained in Rusaw and Swanson’s The Externally Focused Church that I liked.  This thought might give you a glimpse into my jaded humor.  Nonetheless, let me establish the context of said thought.

The authors are writing about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey.  The crowds are cheering, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!”  There’s a great celebration in the city.

Now, let me quote from the authors.  “For a moment the donkey thought it was all about him.  After all, he was doing all the work that morning.  But it wasn’t about him.  It had nothing to do with him.  He was simply carrying the Message.”

“The externally focused church is a good donkey that takes Jesus into places where he hasn’t always been welcome.  The serving church is just the donkey.  It’s still all about Jesus.”

Did Campbell just call me a donkey???  No, I’m simply sharing an unusual thought with you.  In essence, this is not about us, but his work and message through us.


by Rob Campbell 

Finding the “Person of Peace”

joelGod is the One who opens hearts and converts souls. One of our key roles as cell leaders, pastors, or church planters is to find that person or persons in whom God is working. These Divine appointment are often called persons of peace. divine

The reason for this name comes from Luke 10:5-7 when Jesus sent out His disciples to ministers, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.” (Luke 10:5-7).

What’s this all about? It basically means that God is the One going ahead of us and He prepares people to listen to the gospel message. Our job is to look for those who are open to the message. And after finding that person, we need to have the right atmosphere to invite the person to.

The principle is well illustrated by the Conversion of Lydia. The Lord simply opened her heart. In Acts 16:13ff we read, “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.  When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.”

It’s easy to get frustrated when leading a cell group or pastoring a church because of the lack of fruit. One of the key questions we need to be asking is “where is God already working?” Who are the “persons of peace” who God is calling. Then we need to be willing to go with God. I’ll talk more about this concept on Wednesday.



Ministry in Quito, Ecuador

joelI just returned from a seven day trip to Quito, Ecuador. My oldest daughter, Sarah, accompanied me on this trip. Sarah was born in Ecuador and lived quitothere until she was ten years old. Now as a sixteen year old she loves the familiar sounds, friends, and sites of Ecuador.

I spoke at the La Luz Church, a model CMA cell church in Quito. David Jaramillo, senior pastor of La Luz, sat in on our pastoral meetings at the Republic Church for one entire year (I was the co-founder at the Republic Church). He not only caught our cell church vision but perfected it. Now, when I go back to Ecuador, I go back to the La Luz church instead of the Republic Chruch. Jaramillo is a testimony to the senior pastor’s key role in guiding the cell church vision.

The conference was great. 211 people registered. The overall theme was the Holy Spirit in cell ministry. Two CMA cell church pastors from Guayaquil, a coastal city in Ecuador also spoke. I was exhausted after speaking seven times in Spanish! I preached three times Sunday morning and was thrilled to witness about fifteen people commit their lives to Jesus Christ.

David Jaramillo is a shining example of clarity in vision and singlemindedness. Other pastors in Quito–who started on the cell church journey–have since lost their way, becoming muddled with programs and lack of clarity. Not David Jaramillo. He understands the principles behind cell ministry and is in it for the long haul. The 530 people that attend the 59 cells at La Luz are growing in Christ and reaching out to their neighbors. La Luz has also planted various churches and has a long-term vision for the country.

Sarah and I spent a lot of time before and after the conference visiting Ecuadorian friends and North American missionaries. We were refreshed by God’s special work in Quito, Ecuador.



Inspect what you Expect


by Steve Cordle


 As important as it is to think through how we train future leaders, it is just as important to be intentional about how we lead those who are currently in mnistry.

When we develop a leadership training process, we generally start with the question “What do I expect these emerging leaders to do and to be?”, then we develop people in those spiritual and in minstry areas.

Once people become leaders, we also need to ask how we nurture and develop those same areas. An old management maxim is that we need to inspect what we expect.

So if you have some expectations of your leaders’ spiritual life, how do you “inspect” that? It is not wise to just assume they are growing spiritually and staying close and clean.

Assuming you have specific expectations of the leader when it comes to ministry tasks and roles, how do you “inspect” their fulfillment of those without coming across as overbearing?

After all, what does it say to leaders if we never ask them about how they are living out what we taught them to do and be?

How do you go about this matter of ‘inspecting” what you “expect”? What process do you use? Share with us your ideas!




Building Leaders

joelI finish chapter three of Leadership Explosion with the following three paragraphs: HOMEgroup

A number of cell disciplines contribute to cell multiplication, but I believe the primary one is leadership development. Successful cell churches understand that without new leadership, multiplication will not happen. The principal job of the cell leader is to train the next cell leader—not to fill the house with guests.

Your primary objective in small group ministry is not to build groups. Rather, we develop small groups so we can build leaders, because leaders build groups. Remember, a small group is never an end in itself.

Empowering and releasing people to lead is the goal. Non-Christians must be converted into members and then developed into leaders. George says, “But small groups are not the solution to what the church needs most desperately. Rather, churches rise and fall on the availability of trained, talented, and Spirit-gifted leadership. And the best possible context anyone has ever discovered for developing leadership occurs because of a small group.”


Carl George wrote the above quote back in eighteen years ago. And he’s still right!

What do you think?



A Lesson from the Hubble on Focus

                      In light of Joel’s post yesterday on FOCUS, let me borrow a story from a book entitled The Externally Focused Church by Rusaw and Swanson.  This book, by the way, is a great (no- excellent) read!

The Hubble space telescope was launched from the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.  Expectations were high from the beginning, as astronomers anticipated new discoveries and verification of their hypotheses and theories.  At launch time the Hubble project had cost over $1.5 billion to create what would be the world’s most powerful and accurate telescope.

The primary mirror, nearly eight feet across and weighing nearly a ton, was ground as close to perfection as humanly possible.  Perched 353 miles above the Earth, the Hubble had an unobstructed view and could peer light years into space to observe previously undiscovered galaxies.  But there was a problem.  Soon after the Hubble was set in orbit, engineers discovered that the main mirror was flawed.  Objects that were supposed to be clear were fuzzy.  The problem was not power or size.  THE PROBLEM WAS FOCUS.

The Hubble had to be repaired.  So in December 1993, astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavor fitted the mirror with corrective optics.  The mission was a complete success.  The repairs corrected Hubble’s previously blurry vision and allowed the telescope to explore the universe with unprecedented precision and clarity.  Only when the Hubble was FOCUSED, could it carry out the mission for which it was created. 

Size is important.  Power is important.  But FOCUS is everything.

by Rob Campbell

Focused Training

joelIn chapter three (Cell Reproduction: The Guiding Start of Leadership Development) of Leadership Explosion, I talk about multiplication. In the following two paragraphs I connect training to mutliplication: FOCUSED

If cell multiplication is the principal goal of each cell leader, then leadership training must fulfill that purpose. This focus will dispose of a lot of fuzziness and fog from the first day of training. It will hone the leader in those areas that will make cell multiplication a reality. It will transform generalized training program into specialized training. Instead of training a standing army, it will prepare a lightning task force that concentrates on the one thing, the most important task of cell leadership.

A clear focus on cell multiplication will help potential leadership gain confidence and clarity. It will also help the leader to pastor the members and train new ones. Why? So that the group will reproduce itself.


Now let me be clear. The principal goal of all of life is to glorify Jesus Christ. Amen. I’m inferring this in the above paragraphs. I also want to clarify that other aspects of the cell are exceedingly important also–evangelism, community, etc. I am saying, however, that when a church has a clear focus on developing new leaders that multiply cell groups, the training becomes focused. Rather, than just generalized Christian education, the equipping turns into preparing the laity for the battle.




Grasping the Bigger Picture

joelIn chapter three Leadership Explosion, I explore the subject of cell multiplication. As you can tell from the following quotes, I’ve been on a journey: cell

The desired end is that each cell grows and multiplies. When you are crystal clear on this point, leadership training becomes focused. I didn’t always believe in cell multiplication as the guiding star for cell ministry. In my first cell manual (1992) I wrote, “The focus of the cells is evangelism and discipleship.” On the same page I also said, “The principal objective of our system is that the members of each cell experience true fellowship with each other.” At that time, I didn’t try to connect evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship. As I look back, I readily admit that I was confused about the central focus of cell ministry. I had read some articles and books, and afterwards tried to pull it all together. Maybe you’ve done the same thing.

Try to grasp the bigger picture that cell multiplication draws. To multiply a group, a leader must pray daily for cell members, prepare himself spiritually before God, visit the members regularly, make numerous phone calls to invite newcomers, prepare the cell lesson, make any other arrangements, and above all, train new leadership to lead the new cells. It’s a total package. If the cell leader only focuses on evangelism, many will slip out the back door. If he only centers his attention on discipleship, the group will grow inward and probably stagnate. If the leader solely concentrates on small group dynamics, leadership development will suffer. Effective cell leaders possess a clear aim for the group and gently lead the group to fulfill the goal of multiplication.

The cell leader should delegate responsibility as much as possible. He must stimulate others in the group to visit, make phone calls, and participate in the cell. The cell leader simply makes sure these disciplines take place.


Some have criticized me for emphasizing multiplicaiton too much. And yes, it’s possible to mutliply weak cells! To multiply a healthy cell is hard work and involves many factors. I wholeheartedly complement those who can make it happen.




Your group’s shelf-life


by Steve Cordle


Joel’s post yesterday about releasing leaders and the core value of multiplication is so vital for us to hear.

A while ago a pastor of a large, growing church said to me “Here’s why I don’t go for the cell idea: why should I create a system in which constantly breaks up groups? The people are just starting to gel together and then they have to split.”

This pastor was correct in that multiplication is a core value of cell minsitry. There are several reasons why this is so.

First, each group has a shelf-life. As marvelous as fellowship is, and as exciting as it can be to experience God together, that sense of spiritual community won’t last unless it is given away. Groups have a “shelf-life”After about 2 years, groups which have not had new people join will spoil and begin to die (even if they still meet, the flame wil have gone out and they just won’t realize it.)

Just as God fed the people of Israel with manna but told them not to try to store it, so the Jesus feeds us with community, but tells us not to try to horde it. We must extend it to others.

Some say, “We’re going to close our group so we can really focus on discipleship together”. I would have to ask what kind of disciples are we making when we create an environment which mitigates against the outreach? In Luke 15 Jesus taught that the heart of the Father is for those far from him. Groups need to foster that in their goals and structure.

As Joel mentioned, it is easy to get comfortable among those we know and love. But we are commissioned not to comfort, but to extend the life we receive from the Lord.