What about Vacation Time?

joelI’m on vacation right now in Colorado. I had to decide what to do with my LIFE group while on vacation (At Wellspring we call our “cells” LIFE groups–Living in Fellowship to Evangelize)

In my case, I asked someone else to lead our Life Group in my absence. Yet, there are times when my group just decides not to meet one week. This happens. I was in one cell church that felt it was a sin for the group not to meet each week. This church believed that even if everyone in the group was on vacation and couldn’t meet on the regular day, they should somehow meet on another day to get their regular meeting in. While I applauded their commitment, it seemed legalistic. On the other hand, I know it’s vogue in some “small group philosophies” to close all groups for the summer or worse yet, have all small groups close every semester and then reorganize (very much like Sunday School semesters).

My personal conviction is that cell ministry should continue on a weekly basis throughout the entire year–just like the celebration service. Yet, there are times when indivdiual cells choose not to meet for a particular week due to a holiday, people being on vacation, etc. This should be an individual group decision, as opposed to the pastor saying, “all of the groups will be closed during the summer” or “all of the groups will close for this semester”. If the church decrees that small groups will not meet during the summer, what happens to the person who receives Jesus during the summer? Will she have to wait until September to join a cell? I’ve written an article on this topic, so if you’d like to read more, go to: http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/basics/vacations.htm

What’s your feeling on this topic? All comments are appreciated!



Evangelism and Care

marioby Mario Vega

Elim was one of the first cellular churches in El Salvador, very possibly the first one. This brought the novelty advantage. People attended the cellsEVANGELISM driven by the curiosity that those meetings in houses raised.

In the early years it was enough to invite a person to ensure with a lot of success their attendance at the cell meeting. However, as the novelty effect passed, it became more difficult each time to get people to accept the invitation.

So it was necessary to do more than simply invite friends. We saw the need of promoting relationships of friendship and service to get the non-believers attention. Guided by Pastor Cho’s books where he mentions what he calls the ‘holy indiscretion’, we began to penetrate in the lives of our neighbors to identify their major difficulties. That information gave the brethren clues to introduce the gospel to them as the way out of their problems.

Since then the meetings´ purposes in houses were defined as: evangelization and care. The care for people’s needs was not seen as a bridge to evangelize but as a sincere interest in itself. Soon the church understood the double purpose of our meetings, and that was decisive for the growth.

What has been your inviting experience ?

Evangelización y atención.

Elim fue una de las primeras iglsias celulares en El Salvador, muy posiblemente, la primera. Eso le dio la ventaja de la novedad. Las personas asistían a las células movidas por la curiosidad que esas reuniones en casas les despertaban.

En los primeros años bastaba con invitar a una persona para asegurar con bastante éxito su presencia en la reunión de célula. Sin embargo, cuando el efecto de novedad fue pasando, cada vez fue más difícil lograr que las personas aceptaran la invitación.

Entonces, se hizo necesario hacer algo más que simplemente invitar a los amigos. Se vio la necesidad de comenzar a fomentar relaciones de amistad y de servicio para interesar a los no creyentes. Guiados por los libros del Pastor Cho donde menciona lo que él llama la ‘indiscreción santa’, comenzamos a penetrar en la vida de los vecinos para identificar sus principales dificultades. Ese conocimiento les daba pistas a los hermanos para presentarles el evangelio como la salida a sus problemas.

Desde entonces los propósitos de las reuniones en casas se definieron como: evangelización y atención. La atención a las necesidades de las personas no era visto como un puente para evangelizarles sino como un interés sincero en sí mismo. Pronto la iglesia comprendió el doble propósito de nuestras reuniones y eso fue decisivo para el crecimiento.

¿Cuál ha sido su experiencia al invitar?


Shortcuts & Deal Breakers

jeffJeff Tunnell here, pinch hitting for Steve Cordle. Not long ago a couple joined us coming from another church. She is outgoing, an extraordinary COVENANTgatherer, and people love her. Having caught the vision of Cell ministry she is highly driven to multiply a new Cell out of the one in which she currently participates. As far as readiness goes, she wants to get moving THIS WEEK.

This situation is not uncommon as unsatisfied program church people discover the avenue of ministry and relationship their hearts have searched for in the cell-driven environment.

Here is the proverbial “however”; in our training track we include the step of membership prior to becoming a cell leader. (For clarity, this step is #5 in our training track) This couple has many years of serving Christ, plenty of experience and excellence therein, even to the point of shepherding others and administering Christian Schools. Even though she is working on it, they have not yet progressed through all the steps required for leadership in our body. Her husband takes a position that membership is not necessary to be a part of the local church body. I think he has some reservations about control issues from prior church and leadership experiences. Will this become a deal breaker?

The temptation is to fast-track them (or at least her) in order to capitalize on the new cell, get closer to our goals for the year and work out the bugs later. Hmmm…..?

For me the question is not simply one of membership. It’s about Covenant relationship, being committed to one another and being united in mission that is duplicateable (not short-cut-able).

Amos 3:3 provides the rhetorical question, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” What principles should be held to in this case and others like it?



Core Values

by Rob Campbell


A few days ago, Steve Cordle in his blog post entitled, “Simply Reproducible” got the waters stirring.  Check out the blog comments before carrying on.

I got to thinking about this stirring.  Here’s what I want to say– briefly.  Cell churches should be careful not to make the cell paradigm a core value.  Let me explain.

Built to Last authors Collins and Porras:  “Core Values:  a small set of guiding principles; the organism’s essential and enduring tenets; not to be confused with specific cultural or operating practices; not to be compromised for financial gain or short term expediency.”  I like this definition of core values.

My church family adheres to the following three core values.

First, we adhere to the eternal authority and relevance of the scriptures.

Next, we are Christ centered because Christ is Lord.

Third, all members are equipped and engaged for the work of service.

As we lead our church family, these are the values that undergird our decisions, plans, and ministry initiatives.  I’m sure these three core values are not perfect.  Further, I understand that these values may not be who you are or who God has called you to be.  I affirm and applaud the diversity of the body of Christ.  Indeed, diversity is not the enemy of unity.  

Please notice that a specific church structure (paradigm) is not one of our core values.  Why do you think this is so?


Matt Anderson Meeting Needs in Venus, TX

joelLast week I highlighted Jeff French as an effective cell church planter. I hope you had a chance to send him an email, asking for his MP3 CHURCH PLANTINGfiles and lessons. Another church planter I’ve been coaching is Matt Anderson. Matt, a young Assembly of God pastor, is planting a cell church in Venus, TX– a town of about 8,000 people. Matt understands the needs of the area because he grew up in Tyler, TX, not far from Venus.

Matt fell in love with the cell church vision through attending seminars at Bethany World Prayer Center and by reading various cell church books by Ralph Neighbour, David Cho, Larry Kreider, and others. Matt decided to plant his church by starting a single cell (pilot group) in his home. He had a few core couples but the only way to grow was through reaching out. Matt knows the pain of pressing on through unresponsiveness. What I love about Matt is his persistence. Through the tough times, Matt has found his strengh in Jesus.

Matt and I have done a lot of brainstorming about ways to reach out. Matt kept on coming back to the theme of feeding the hungry and helping the needy. Matt grew up in the area, so he has seen the poverty first hand. He shared his vision with the pilot group, and they started a ministry of providing food for the hungry. Last week they served 41 needy families with free food! They testified about God to each family before giving out the food, and asked if they could pray for needs. The result was wour new visitors to their church.

All church planters face the dilemma of how to connect with new people. Let’s rejoice in the fact that Matt pressed on in spite of the obstacles and found a way to reach people for Jesus. Have you found that meeting people’s physical needs is an effective way to reach people for Jesus?

Joel Comiskey


Little Roxana

marioby Mario Vega

In our second year working with small groups in houses, we had already structured leaders within their sectors with their respective supervisors. LEADERSThese supervisors responded to zone pastors, as well.

In a meeting with pastors, one of them mentioned that Roxana was responsible of a cell. She was well known and appreciated upon the church for being a very devout sister, exemplary and of good manners. But there was a problem with Roxana, she was only twelve years old!

When the pastor mentioned that she was a cell leader I was shocked. I immediately told the zone pastor that it couldn’t be possible to have a twelve years old girl in charge of an adults cell. I argued that adults were not going to take her seriously, that she wouldn’t be able to give advise to a couple that was facing marital problems.

That zone pastor patiently heard me, understanding my shock. At the end he just said, -You should listen to her-

I thought it was a wise recommendation. At the very first opportunity I went to listen to little Roxana at her cell. The house was full of grownups. In order not to disturb Roxana, I stayed outside the house and heard how she directed the cell. The more I listened the more I was amazed by what God did through her. At the end of the meeting I was excited. I was very happy with Roxana’s performance.

In the years that followed she continued being an outstanding leader. Then she became a supervisor and, very young, became a deaconess of the church. She always stood out for her maturity and love for the cause of Christ.

Since that moment we understood that age is not an insurmountable obstacle to become a leader. Since then, the age requirement to be a leader in Elim was: a responsible age.


Translation in Spanish:


En nuestro segundo año de trabajo con pequeños grupos en casas, teníamos ya estructurados los líderes dentro de sectores con sus respectivos supervisores. Estos supervisores, a su vez, respondían a los pastores de zona.

En una reunión con los pastores, uno de ellos mencionó que la encargada de una célula era Roxana. Ella era muy conocida y apreciada por la iglesia ya que era una hermana muy devota, ejemplar y de buenos modales. Pero el problema con Roxana era que ¡Solamente tenía doce años!

Cuando el pastor mencionó que ella era la líder de una célula me sobresalté. Inmediatamente le dije al pastor de zona que no era posible que una niña de doce años estuviera al frente de una célula de personas adultas. Le argumenté que los adultos no la tomarían en serio, que ella no podría dar recomendaciones a una pareja que estuviera afrontando problemas conyugales.

Aquel pastor de zona me escuchó pacientemente, como comprendiendo mi sobresalto. Al final solamente me dijo: -Debería escucharla-

Su recomendación me pareció sensata. En la primera oportunidad fui a escuchar a la pequeña Roxana en su célula. La casa estaba llena de personas adultas. Me quedé fuera de la casa para no perturbar a Roxana y escuchar la manera en que dirigía la célula. Mientras más la escuchaba más me sorprendía de lo que Dios hacía a través de ella. Al final de la reunión estaba entusiasmado. Muy contento con el desempeño de Roxana.

En los años que siguieron ella continuó siendo una líder sobresaliente. Luego se convirtió en supervisora y, muy joven, llegó a ser una diaconisa de la iglesia. Ella siempre sobresalió por su madurez y amor por la causa de Cristo.

A partir de ese momento entendimos que la edad no es un obstáculo infranqueable para ser un líder. Desde entonces, el requisito de edad para ser líder en Elim fue: edad responsable.



Simply Reproducible


by Steve Cordle


A seminar speaker I heard recently (sorry I can’t remember the teacher’s name!) said “What is not intentional is not reproducable”. In other words, if you don’t know what you did, you probably can’t do it again.

As Joel says, the goal of a cell group is to multiply (reproduce). That means it must be intentional; a group leader should be able to describe how the group works and ministers. One of the enemies of this is complication. We leader-types often who have been doing cell minsitry a long time can be tempted to make ministry a little too complicated. We want everyone to know everything we do.

You might be too complicated if:

– your training manual is 500 pages long

– your Equipping Track qualifies for state higher education funding

– your group leaders have trouble memorizing the 212 keys to effective cell meetings

– your weekly report forms can be used as door stops.

Well, you get the idea!

When cell ministry is simple – leaders understand the basic principles and variety flourishes. When it gets complicated, the leaders still only remember a few things; it’s just that those might not be the most important things!

Is your ministry simple enough to be reproducable?



French Thoughts

by Rob Campbell



First, thanks to Jeff Tunnell for filling in for me the last two weeks.  I was visiting a few cell churches in Skopje, Macedonia and Thessaloniki, Greece.  I was very encouraged by what God is doing in and through these churches.  If you are interested in a good contact in that region of the world, then please let me know.

Next, if you didn’t read Joel’s post yesterday, then please check it out.  This blog will make more sense.

Hats off to Jeff French and Resurgent Church (Neunan, Georgia) whom Joel highlighted yesterday in his post.  Jeff is taking the gospel to the streets, outside of the box, and employing superior creativity keeping his pilot cell connected outside of the gathering.

Here’s the point of this post:  What’s working for you?  By this question I mean– How are you and your cell/church getting outside the walls of the church and building relationships with not-yet believers?  Further, what one “tweak” or innovation has worked well in the context of keeping the cell members connected throughout the week?  In essence, post a quick comment that might benefit others.  You see, Jeff French’s ingenuity encourages me.  Now, why don’t you take a moment to encourage others?

My hunch is that if some of you shared briefly then others would benefit from your creativity and experience; thus, benefiting the cell church around the world. 


A Great Resource from Georgia

joelI have the privilege of coaching various pastors, some of them being church planters. One of those church planters is Jeff French, who is planting jeffResurgent Church in Newnan, Georgia. Before starting the church, Jeff was a pastor in a denominational mega church. He felt a burden to leave the church to not only plant one church but a movement of churches.

I’ve been impressed with how much time Jeff spends with unbelievers. Jeff and Laura, his wife, frequent the local bar to hang out and play trivia. Most of the people Jeff is befriending won’t mention religious things and even fewer go to church. Jeff doesn’t force it. Yet, he’s also noticing a lot of receptivity to Jesus among those people.

From all the contacts with outsiders, Jeff started his first pilot group in May 2007, which meets on Sunday evening. I’ll be sharing more about Jeff and his church plant in my new book, Planting Churches that Reproduce: Starting a Network of Simple Churches (published in October 2008). The main point of this blog, however, is how Jeff is able to connect with those in his pilot group during the week. Here’s the scenario:

  • On Monday after the pilot cell group, Jeff sends each person a set of preparation questions for  the upcoming pilot cell group. The questions (and commentary) are based on a Bible passage and provide devotional study for the members during the week.
  • Then on Thursday, he sends them an MP3 audio file about that particular lesson that he has prepared. The length of the audio is normally about 30 minutes. Since each person has already reflected on the Bible theme and the questions, the audio reinforces what they’ve already learned.
  • On Sunday evening when they come together for the pilot group, each person is ready to share. Jeff combines lesson, worship, and break-out groups–it’s all participatory based on what each person has already been meditating upon during the week.

Here’s the good news. You can receive Jeff’s MP3 files and lessons for free! In my coaching session last week, I asked Jeff if I could share this resource with others, and he was fine with it. If you’d like to receive this weekly resource, simply write Jeff French at: resurgentchurch@yahoo.com and he’ll put you on his list. I just listened to the lesson last week and reviewed the reflective questions. They are great!



The Results

marioAfter our first year of cell work the results were noticeable. The most visible aspect was the numerical growth. In its first nine years, the church fruithad grown up to 3,000 members, with its traditional work. In just one year of cell work the church grew up to 10,000 members. In other words, in a year’s cell work the church grew what in its traditional format would had taken 27 years.

But there were also other results that weren’t so visible but still weren’t less real. The most important of it is that the church had drawn much more closer to the New Testaments´ church model. The issue is not about liking or not the cell model. It is about this being the church model that appears in the Scriptures and there is no other one. In that sense, our church had taken a step forward in obedience to God’s model.

Another result was that a leadership culture began to take place within the church. Each time even more, the aspiration of new converts was to become a cell leader.

The church also adopted a more communitarian conscience. In the relational environment that was lived inside the cells, people acquired a new concept of identity, of mutual responsibility and of deep fraternization.

Finally, another result was a great harvest of people trained for the work of the ministry. In fact, in the following years, most of the branch churches that were opened abroad, were the result of cell leaders that in a new country or city continued their work in a small group becoming later on a Branch Church.


Mario Vega
Translation in Spanish:
Los resultados.

Después de nuestro primer año de trabajo celular los resultados fueron notables. El aspecto más visible fue el crecimiento numérico. En sus primeros nueve años la iglesia, con su trabajo tradicional, había crecido hasta 3,000 miembros. En un sólo año de trabajo con células la iglesia creció hasta los 10,000 miembros. En otras palabras, en un año de trabajo con células la iglesia creció lo que en su formato tradicional le hubise tomado 27 años.

Pero, también hubo otros resultados no tan visibles pero no menos reales. Lo más importante es que la iglesia se había acercado mucho más al modelo de la iglesia del Nuevo Testamento.
El tema no es tanto si nos parece o no nos parece el modelo celular. Se trata de que es el modelo de iglesia que aparece en las Escrituras y no existe otro. En ese sentido, nuestra iglesia había dado un paso adelante en su obediencia al modelo de Dios.

Otro resultado fue que comenzó a desarrollarse dentro de la iglesia una cultura de liderazgo. La aspiración de los nuevos conversos comenzó a ser cada vez más la de llegar a ser un líder de célula.

También la iglesia adoptó una conciencia más comunitaria. En el ambiente relacional que se vivía dentro de las células, las personas adquirieron un nuevo concepto de identidad, de responsabilidad mutua y de confraternización profunda.

Finalmente, otro resultado, fue una gran cosecha de personas capacitadas para la obra del ministerio. De hecho, la mayor parte de iglesias filiales que se abrieron en el extranjero, en los años posteriores, fue el resultado de líderes celulares que al verse en un nuevo país o ciudad continuaron con su trabajo en un grupo pequeño llegando a convertirse después en una iglesia filial.