Failing Forward

JOELLast Friday evening I was doing the electronic scoreboard for my daughter’s basketball game (Nicole, 13, and Chelsea, 12 are both on the same failingteam). It was the first time I was in charge of the scoreboard, and I didn’t know what I was doing. At times I would forget to turn the clock on while the kids were playing. The referee corrected me several times. On another occasion the referee told me to turn back the clock eight seconds because I didn’t stop it on time. On account of me, the game stopped for additional seconds while I tried to figure out how to do it. I was embarrassed! Another time, one of the coaches asked me to change to the next period, and I pressed a wrong button that again stopped everything.

I tried to brush off my bad experience afterwards, but I felt like an imbecile who couldn’t even work a simple scoreboard. It didn’t help when after the game my daughter came up to me saying, “Daddy, what happened? Our coach was rolling her eyes when you took so much time with the scoreboard.”

That night my mind drifted to illustrations of failing forward. I thought specifically of a time when Thomas Edison was performing a very important experiment. His brand new aide dropped a vile on the floor, which splattered the precious substance and ruined the entire experiment. Yet, instead of firing the aide, Edison requested that the same aide carry the vile the next day to complete the experiment. Edison knew his helper needed to overcome his fears and doubts.

The next day (Saturday) my girls played for the championship. Their coach, bless her heart, asked me to do the electronic scoreboard again! I could have said “no way.” But I knew that I needed to prove myself. I was nervous. It was a totally different electronic scoreboard, and a lot of people were in the stands. I was on my own. One of the referees from the night before was very patient with me. When I was struggling to figure out how to place more time on the clock, he said to the other ref., “let him figure it out, that’s the only way he’s going to learn.” I felt like a champion when the game ended. Not only had my daughter’s team won the game, but I overcame my own fears and did a decent job with minimal errors.

How are we doing as cell coaches in allowing others to learn through their failures? Are we encouraging them to step out? (like the referee who knew that I’d never learn unless I made mistakes). Are we giving people a second chance? (like the coach who asked me to do it again). Let’s face it, we primarily learn through our mistakes. When we fail—and we all will—let’s remember to fail forward.

And let’s remind people that although they are NOT FAILURES, they will fail–it’s part of life. When people do fail, let’s encourage them to press on, give them needed counsel, and ask them to perform the same task again. That’s how they will learn, grow, and be useful in God’s service.

How does this apply to you and your ministry?


Joel Comiskey

The Passion Spreads

marioBy Mario Vega

With a very modest knowledge of the cellular model, the new cells began to work. Soon the enthusiasm spread and the results began to be evident. PASSIONIt was not difficult to find host number ten that we needed.

The dynamics of multiplication was so strong that we found ourselves needing to train new leaders. I invited all of the deacons and deaconess of the church to join in the effort. Soon we reached twenty cells and in a short period of time there were thirty.

I personally trained each new group of leaders. We would always start these trainings with “The “Vision” theme. It was a motivational type of topic. After imparting this first theme we would always pray.

One day, while we were praying at the end of the impartment of the first theme, I started to pray putting my hands on each one of the new leadership candidates. At the end of the prayer, a young man came with his face covered with tears and told me that during that prayer he’d had a vision. In it, he saw that the streets around the church were filled with buses from which a large numbers of people were coming out to enter the church building.

It was obvious that he’d had an experience with God, but what he saw in his vision was too extraordinary that it was very hard for me to believe it. I did not want to make a judgment on whether the vision was from God or not.

But a year later, that vision had come true. Every Sunday dozens of buses came to church and parked on the streets around the church. There were so many people attending that we had to seek help from the police to stop the traffic for the safety of the ones crossing the street toward the church.

Later on, this young man became pastor of one of our branch churches. With this kind of experiences the passion for multiplication could no longer be extinguished.

Perhaps you’d like to share your own experience in starting cell groups. . .


Mario Vega

Blog in Spanish:

La pasión se enciende.

Con un conocimiento muy modesto del modelo celular, las nuevas células comenzaron a funcionar. Pronto el entusiasmo se extendió y los resultados comenzaron a ser evidentes. No fue difícil encontrar el anfitrión número diez que nos hacía falta.
La dinámica de multiplicación era tan fuerte que hubo necesidad de capacitar nuevos líderes. Invité a todos los diáconos y diaconisas de la iglesia a que se sumaran al esfuerzo. Pronto alcanzamos veinte células y al poco tiempo fueron treinta.
Capacitaba a cada nuevo grupo de líderes personalmente. Siempre iniciábamos esas capacitaciones con el tema de ‘La Visión’. Era un tema de tipo motivacional. Después de impartir ese primer tema siempre hacíamos una oración.
Un día, mientras orábamos al final del primer tema, comencé a orar colocando mis manos sobre cada uno de los nuevos candidatos a líderes. Al finalizar la oración un joven llegó con su rostro cubierto de lágrimas y me contó que durante esa oración había tenido una visión. En ella vio que las calles alrededor de la iglesia se encontraban llenas de autobuses de donde bajaban grandes cantidades de personas para entrar al edificio de la iglesia.
Era evidente que él había tenido una experiencia con Dios pero lo que había visto en su visión era tan extraordinario que me costaba mucho creerlo. No quise emitir un juicio sobre si la visión era de Dios o no.
Pero, un año después, esa visión se había hecho realidad. Cada domingo llegaban a la iglesia docenas de buses que se aparcaban en las calles alrededor de la iglesia. Eran tantas las personas que asistían que teníamos que solicitar la ayuda a la policía para que detuviera el tráfico para seguridad de los que atravesaban la calle hacia la iglesia.
Posteriormente ese joven llegó a convertirse en Pastor de una de nuestras filiales. Con tal tipo de experiencias la pasión por la multiplicación ya no podía apagarse.



Increasing Leader Confidence

by Steve Cordle


“I could never be a leader.” How often have you heard a group member say that?

If we are going to see more effective group leaders in our ministries, we need to help people find leadership confidence in Christ.

Leader confidence is built on at least two foundational sources:

1) Internalizing our spiritual resources. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  

    This is an extension of spritual growth. As people grow in their experience of Jesus’ power and promises, they see God as faithful and personal. What are we doing to help people experience His intervention? One on one disciplesihp is often a prelude to a young believer becoming open to ministry. It then becomes a matter of helping them apply their growing relationship with Jesus to serving experiences.

2. Building on postive ministry experiences.

   When we give people small tasks for the group, we give them a chance to develop their ministry muscles gradually. With a few wins: under their belts, they are able to trust God for increasingly larger minstry outcomes.

I only ask people to consider becoming my apprentice after I have had a chance to do some one on one disipleship and also see them in a series of small ministry tasks. By that time they are almost expecting me to approach them with that larger challenge! It is then a natural step. Without that preliminary experience, the step seems too big.


Hanging Between Two Worlds

In light of Joel’s post yesterday, I like what Peter Scazzero writes in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Church. 

“My most effective discipleship is to be an incarnational presence to another person.  It was for Jesus.  It is, I believe, for all his followers.  Jesus….was fully God…He was also fully human, tasting suffering and death….by entering our world, he invited sorrow and pain into his life….He died a naked, lonely death on a cross, hanging literally between heaven and earth.  It was, in a word, messy.”

“You and I may not die literally on a cross as Jesus did, but we will die in other ways when we incarnate.”

“When we choose to incarnate, we hang between our own world and the world of another person.  We are called to remain faithful to who we are, not losing our essence, while at the same time entering into the world of another….We can be assured that as Jesus’ incarnation and death brought life, so our choice to do the same will also result in resurrection life and much fruit in us and others.”

Scazzero continues:  “I am aware of the truth that when we go out of ourselves and live briefly in the world of another person, we never return to our own lives the same person.  God changes us into the image of his Son through the process.  We learn to die to the ugly parts of ourselves.  Our feet are kept on the ground.”


by Rob Campbell  


Caught Rather than Taught

joelLast Saturday I taught a cell seminar in Monrovia, CA. I took with me my associate pastor, Denis Muñoz. On the way home, I asked Denis what he caughtNOTtaughtthought of the seminar. “I liked it,” he said. “Yet, I felt the people wanted something even more practical.” At first I was taken back. I was very practical, I justfied to myself. Why wasn ‘t Denis simply overflowing with praise for the seminar?

Yet, as I continued to reflect on his words, I grew to appreciate Denis even more. You see, Denis was born again in a cell group at Elim Los Angeles Church. From new birth, he began to grow in the cell atmopshere. Eventually, he became a cell leader, multiplication leader, and supervisor. He then started leading English speaking youth cells at Elim before joining us at Wellspring in January. From new birth, Denis has caught a very practical way of cell praying, visiting, planning, and multiplying cells. His practical cell ministry has already been bearing fruit at Wellspring.

The truth is that the best, most practical type of cell ministry is CAUGHT rather than TAUGHT. In reality, there’s only so much you can TEACH people about cell minstry. The best, most practical stuff, is taught by example within the cell (and cell system).

Have you found this to be true? Why or why not?

Joel Comiskey

The Important of the Host/Hostess

marioby Mario Vega

In 1987, after several attempts to establish an evangelistic work with small groups in homes, I decided to launch a much larger new effort. hostThis time, I was encouraged by the fact of having a little more information on how Pastor Cho´s Korean model operated.

I chose among the church ten brothers who I consider were more spiritually developed. All of them had already significant roles within the church. For several weeks I devoted myself to explain in detail the little I knew about the cell model, its results, and mechanics and how they would become the first leaders.

The brothers received with much pleasure and excitement the idea and none of them missed even one of the training sessions. At the end of the course we had dinner together, since we saw this moment as the one that would mark history in our city.

With the first ten trained leaders, I dedicated myself for another several weeks to teach the church about the adjustments we would make to work with cells. Without knowing it at that moment, we were taking steps for the transition of a traditional church to a cell church. We were serious this time and on our way with all the enthusiasm and commitment.

At the end of those weeks the enthusiasm in the church was so great that I thought that everything was ready… until the time to ask for the first homes to initiate the work came. As much as I insisted, it was not possible to complete the ten homes I needed for the first ten cells. I managed to find only nine houses. With great pity I had to apologize to one of the brothers who ended without a cell. But he was very sympathetic and waited until there was a home available.

All the effort was focused on the leaders. I hadn’t given any training course for hosts or done anything to motivate them. It was a mistake that hampered the initiation of the first ten prototype cells, as I had planned. I learned to never underestimate the important role of hosts.

Mario Vega


Blog in Spanish:

En 1987, después de varios intentos por establecer un trabajo de evangelización con pequeños grupos en casas, decidí lanzar un nuevo esfuerzo mucho mayor. Esta vez, me animaba el haber obtenido un poco de más información de cómo operaba el modelo coreano del Pastor Cho.
Escogí en la iglesia a los diez hermanos que consideré más desarrollados espiritualmente. Todos ellos tenían ya funciones significativas dentro de la iglesia. Durante varias semanas me dediqué a explicarles detalladamente lo poco que sabía del modelo celular, sus resultados, la mecánica y cómo ellos se convertirían en los primeros líderes.
Los hermanos recibieron con mucho agrado y emoción la idea y ninguno de ellos faltó a una sola de las reuniones de entrenamiento. Al final del curso tuvimos una cena juntos, pues, lo veíamos como un momento que marcaría historia en nuestra ciudad.
Con los primeros diez líderes entrenados, me dediqué por otras semanas más a enseñar a la iglesia sobre las adaptaciones que haríamos para trabajar con células. Sin saberlo en ese momento, estábamos dando los pasos para transitar de una iglesia tradicional a una iglesia celular. Esta vez íbamos en serio e íbamos con todo el entusiasmo y el empeño.
Al final de esas semanas el entusiasmo en la iglesia era tan grande que pensé que todo estaba listo… hasta que llegó el momento de solicitar los primeros hogares para iniciar el trabajo. Por mucho que insistí no fue posible completar los diez hogares que necesitaba para las primeras diez células. Solamente logré encontrar nueve casas. Con mucha pena tuve que disculparme con uno de los hermanos que se quedaría sin célula. Pero él fue muy comprensivo y esperó hasta que ubiese un hogar disponible.
Todo el esfuerzo estuvo centrado en los líderes. No había hecho ningún curso de capacitación para anfitriones ni había hecho nada por motivarles. Fue un error que me dificultó iniciar las primeras diez células prototipos, como lo había planeado. Aprendí que nunca se debe subestimar el importante papel de los anfitriones.



by Steve Cordle

Connecting personally with one another and with the world is an essential part of group life. Actually, we are already connected in many ways – we just need to recognize it.

Recently it was discovered that the water supply for over 41 U.S. residents contained trace amounts of prescription drugs. Mood stabilizers, hormones, antibiotics and more were found in the water of several major metropolitan areas.

It turns out that when we take pills our bodies don’t use all the medication, and some of it gets…well…flushed. Treatment plants take out most other impurities, but the drugs have snuck through the system and into the tap water.

We are not isolated beings — as humans we are connected. What happens to the person next door, across town, or across the globe, will affect you.

If the person next door is so down that she is taking anti-depressants, it will affect you, not just in the water supply, but in the very fabric of the community. The hope, fear, blessing, and pain of those around you will in some way influence your life.

If those next door are not yet following Jesus, our interconnectedness is yet another reason to reach out.

And of course the Bible says we Christ-followwers are the body of Christ, that “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26)

Make your group a place of true connection, authentic community, and you changee the world (and maybe the water supply).


Anchor Yourself on God’s Principles

jeffJeff Tunnell, sitting in for Rob Campbell this week

Relationships, conversational establishment of belief and action frameworks, application of truth with a genuine love for our own cultural groupings anchorwhile embracing diversity are dominant attitudes of this generation. Cell ministry embraces all of these ideals, and more, while consistently holding to principles that shape enduring ministry to a hurting world in search of stability and faith.

Principles must never be abandoned! They guide us consistently through life while it is “coming at us”. Scripture itself tells us that firm foundations in biblical truth are required to keep us from being blown about by every wind of doctrine. Following this principle, we conclude that there exist firm foundations in Cell-based ministry that keep us from being tossed about in our approach to ministry.

Have you been deluded by the world’s thinking that you can have everything you want, as fast as you want, any way you want it? Do you think you deserve a faster transition that comes in half the time? Are you disappointed in God who has not granted your requests within your timing? Be careful, look for the principles you are working with (or against). Principles change us, we don’t change them. It takes time to establish strong foundations.

Pastor Mario Vega opens his heart and ministry attempts to us, discussing the efforts made prior to their fulfillment. Joel Comiskey continues to remind us that principles always work. Steve Cordle articulates our continuing need to evaluate what and how we are “doing ministry” and Rob Campbell is ever ready to challenge us to think outside the box. Each one calls on us to comment on these valuable insights into cell ministry.

Hey, what a team! Thanks guys for your concern for the world-wide cell church!!


Jeff Tunnell

Has Anyone Used “”?

joelHas anyone used to invite new people to your cell group? We have one couple in our church who has literally birthed a MEETupcell of 15-20 people through this website. John and Janet live approximately 15-20 minutes from our celebration venue. Janet said to me, “I became desperate for communication with young mothers who were experiencing similar struggles and joys of raising young children. So I began to search on the internet and discovered I posted that I was starting a group for young mothers and now I have 36 mothers registered.”

As a result of the mother’s group, John and Janet started a family cell group on Monday night for those who wanted to learn more about Jesus. They now have 15-20 people coming. They also post their Monday night cell group on is not a Christian site. Every kind of group imaginable is listed. Yet, it might be a great way to attract pre-Christian people to your small group. The service is only free for the first 30 days. After that, it costs $12.00 per month for a minimum of six months ($19.00 if you just use it one month at a time).

I haven’t tried it but I think I will. Why? At least in CA it’s not attractive to go door to door. And fliers rarely work. Yet, people are on the Internet 24-7. It seems like an effective way to advertize the cell group to unchurched/pre-Christian people in the area. Janet told met that when people respond to the invitation, it’s wise to first set up a phone call with the person to make sure it’s the right fit (e.g., you don’t want to attract evangelicals from other churches to your cell). Granted, nothing can replace friendship evangelism. Yet, might be an effective tool to add to your evangelism arsenol.

Has anyone on this blog tried Do you have suggestions or ideas?

Other comments?


Joel Comiskey

“KALOS” PLAN (By Mario Vega)

mario In my third attempt to work with family groups, I developed a more articulated plan which I solemnly presented to the whole church. kalosI named that attempt “Kalós Plan”. “Kalós” is a Greek word and it appears in the New Testament several times. It is translated as: good, better, straight, honest, loyal. As in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good (kalós) works”. This verse was the motto of our plan.

After several weeks emphasizing the plan, the brethren had been infected. They had to reach their friends showing them their kindness, honesty and faithfulness. All of that within the context of small groups in homes.

After several weeks of promoting the plan we did not get the expected growth. I was disappointed, and knew that we had failed in a new attempt to follow Pastor Cho footsteps.

Today, remembering that Kalós plan, I see that we were on the right track. It was persistence what we lacked of. To obtain the first fruits we only had to persevere. But, my impatience ruined the effort.

Winning the lost ones by showing them our good works is effective. It is the way that Jesus recommended. But it is necessary to add the ingredients of patience and perseverance. After sowing it is necessary to patiently wait for the arrival of the harvest. We must not get tire of doing good.


What has your experience been in reaching out to others?


Mario Vega


In Spanish:


En mi tercer intento por trabajar con grupos familiares, desarrollé un plan más articulado que presenté solemnemente a toda la iglesia. A ese intento le di el nombre de ‘Plan Kalós’. La palabra ‘kalós’ es griega y aparece en el Nuevo Testamento varias veces. Se traduce como: bueno, mejor, recto, honesto, fiel. Como en Mateo 5:16, ‘Así alumbre vuestra luz delante de los hombres, para que vean vuestras buenas (kalós) obras.’ Este versículo fue el lema de nuestro plan.
Después de varias semanas de enfatizar el plan, los hermanos se habían contagiado. Ellos debían alcanzar a sus amigos mostrándoles su bondad, honestidad y fidelidad. Todo ello dentro de un contexto de grupos pequeños en los hogares.
Después de varias semanas de promocionar el plan no obtuvimos el crecimiento esperado. Decepcionado, sabía que habíamos fracasado en un nuevo intento por serguir los pasos del Pastor Cho.
Ahora, recordando aquel plan Kalós, veo que estábamos en el camino correcto. Lo que nos hizo falta fue la persistencia. Solamente debíamos haber perseverado para obtener los primeros frutos. Pero, mi impaciencia hizo que el esfuerzo se echara a perder.
El ganar a los perdidos mostrándoles nuestras buenas obras es efectivo. Es el camino que Jesús recomendó. Pero es necesario añadir los ingredientes de paciencia y perseverancia. Después de sembrar es necesario esperar con paciencia la llegada de la cosecha. No debemos cansarnos de hacer bien.