The Planning Meeting

marioby Mario Vega

Shortly after starting our cell work we felt there was a need to add one more meeting each week. ‘Planning meeting’ was the name given to this meeting. Its original purpose was to bring together Christians from the small group to plan the next cell meeting.

The main purpose was that each member in this meeting would assume a commitment to bring a specific guest to the cell meeting. Every Christian was requested to mention who they would bring as a guest to the cell meeting. The name was written down and a list of guests was prepared, then a prayer for the conversion of these people was made.

Later on, the planning meeting also served to evaluate the previous cell meeting, detect the reasons why it was difficult to bring the non-believers, designate duties for the next meeting, prepare the guest list, plan transportation to the church, check on the care given to new converts and to delegate visits.

Although the planning meeting was not part of the Korean model, it proved to be of great benefit and help. Until now every leader develops the two types of meetings each week: the planning meeting and the cell meeting.


Mario Vega
Reunión de planificación

Poco tiempo después de iniciar nuestro trabajo con células se dejó sentir la necesidad de añadir una reunión más cada semana. A esta reunión se le dio el nombre de ‘reunión de planificación’. Su propósito original era el de reunir a los cristianos del grupo pequeño para planificar la siguiente reunión de célula.
El objeto principal era que en esta reunión cada miembro asumiera el compromiso de llevar a un invitado específico a la reunión de célula. Se solicitaba que cada cristiano mencionara a quién llevaría de invitado a la reunión de célula. Se anotaba su nombre y se elaboraba una lista de invitados, luego, se hacía una oración por la conversión de esas personas.
Posteriormente, la reunión de planificación también sirvió para evaluar la reunión de célula anterior, detectar las razones por las que hubo dificultades para llevar a los no creyentes, designar funciones para la siguiente reunión, elaborar la lista de invitados, planificar el transporte a la iglesia, revisar el cuidado de los nuevos conversos y delegar visitas.
Aunque la reunión de planificación no era parte del modelo coreano, resultó ser de gran provecho y ayuda. Hasta el presente todo líder desarrolla los dos tipos de reunión cada semana: la de planificación y la de célula.

Ministry Endurance


by Steve Cordle


Recently I was talking with a guy in our church who has been a group leader for over 17 years. He has multiplied many groups, dissolved some groups, and influenced a bunch of people toward Jesus. I was impressed with his longevity, and I wondered, “What is it that helped him persist and not give up?”

Ministry is not easy – for pastors or for cell leaders. It can be tempting to give up. A few traits of those who go the long haul are:

1. A sense of call from God. This is why we start, and unless God tells us to stop, it is the reason to continue.

2. A vital relationship with Jesus. This brings strength, wisdom, and perspective.

3. Expect problems. Ministry is full of them (it’s where all those miracles in the Bible come from). Leaders who assume that an anointed ministry is marked by unbroken joy and success will soon quit when problems arise. They will feel like something is wrong with them, or that this is not what they signed up for, or figure God is telling them they are in the wrong place. Actually, it just means they are in a spiritual battle and ministering in a fallen world.

What is it that keeps you going? Why do you do what you do?


Advancing Through Adversity

by Rob Campbell

Joel’s post yesterday highlighted a cell church plant in Muskegon, Michigan pastored by Jeff Boersma.  Check it out and read the comments.

I ate lunch with a cell church planter yesterday and he said, “This is quite a journey.  Everything and I mean everything has not gone the way I expected it to go.”  We laughed.  Thankfully, this cell church pastor is leading a very dynamic cell church that is seeing lives changed.

Planting and leading will be treacherous at times.  It’s interesting.  One of God’s primary ways of shaping us and preparing us for service to Him is through adversity.  Adversity can become our greatest motivation for spiritual growth or the deadliest means of discouragement.  Our challenge is not to get stuck in adversity, but to grow through it.

Remember, God does not permit adversity for the purpose of defeating us but for the purpose of benefiting us.  Consider the eagle.  Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks?  The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come.  While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it.  The eagle does not escape the storm.  It simply uses that storm to lift it higher.  It rises on the winds that bring the storm.  May we emulate the eagle as storms come our way.  Here’s why.

Our response to adversity displays to others what we think of God.  It also reveals our life’s lenses.  Typically, people walk around with the following lenses:  Is it what I want?  Is it what I deserve?  Is it what I always expected?  Does it make sense to me?  Does it fit into my plans?  Does it make me happy?  Does it inconvenience me in any way?  Will others understand?

Those who successfully advance through adversity are astute and consistent in asking the following two questions:  First, how can this adversity in my life glorify God?  Next, how can this adversity fulfill God’s purpose in the earth? 

Indeed, our faith is weighed on the scales of adversity.  May you advance through adversity with God’s Spirit upon you.


Cell Church Planting in Muskegon, Michigan

joelThree years ago I had the privilege of being the doctoral reader of Jeff Boersma’s Fuller dissertation entitled “A Strategy for Beginning a Church Multiplication Movement in michiganMuskegon, Michigan.”

To start a cell church from scratch in Muskegon (population 40,000), Jeff first had to convince his denomination that he was really starting a CHURCH when he started the first cell group. He had to overcome the denominational rules which stated, “A minister of the Word serving as pastor of a congregation shall preach the Word, administer the sacraments, conduct public worship services, catechize the youth, and train members for Christian service.”

Jeff did an admirable job of describing point by point how that the first small group would participate in the Word of God, baptize new believers, partake in the Lord’s Supper, and even exercise Christian discipline. He completed his Fuller doctoral dissertation in March 2005.

During the first year in Muskegon, Jeff formed a leadership launch team, trained the leaders, met weekly for cell life, held several retreats, and prepared them for the multiplication of the first group. However, his launch team failed to launch. One-by-one, they left the pilot group. The problem? They were not able to reach the harvest.

During the second year, Jeff began over again with his wife and three kids in a small group. In the meantime they continued to develop relationships with the community. They eventually extended an invitation to several unchurched people to enter their small group. Three families signed on. The group grew to thirty people which gave birth to a second group.

The third year Jeff birthed his third group. Jeff writes, “I have weekly and monthly contact with our sets of leaders and feel good about our apprenticing process. However it has been challenging beginning to start a church with an entirely unchurched group of people. I guess I’ve learned again that God’s ways are not always my ways.”

Two months ago Jeff said, “We are still a mom and pop shop compared to most traditional church plants- claiming only about 40 that identify themselves with our church. Of course, that is 8 times the size we were 2 years ago- when we were my family of 5. It has been 3 years of persevering, forgiving a lot of hurt along the way, and sharing deeply in the joys, hurts, and lives of other people.”

He goes on to say, “It is nothing but a testimony to God’s grace that we are now supported by the denomination who has done two articles on our church in the last few months. And I’ve now been asked to coach other church planters and perhaps guest teach at our seminary.”

Isn’t this a great testimony of perseverance in the cell vision among a skeptical denomination!



Joel Comiskey

Cell Leaders in the Midst of Tragedy

marioby Mario Vega

On the night of July 3rd one of the buses that was bringing back home several families of our church was dragged by an overflowed river. The tragedyCROSS happened a few minutes after 9 pm.

About three hours later I was at the place where the bus had disappeared swallowed by the overflowed river channel. Around 40 buses had taken people to the churches’ celebration service that night. How could we know who were the probable victims riding that bus?

Each of the buses that carry people to the church are hired by sectors of 1 to 5 cells each. The bus of this tragedy had been hired by two sectors headed by a supervisor each. One of the supervisors was inside the bus and the other one was a little further back driving his own car.

Right after the incident the pastor of that area began to make a list of missing persons based on the information that is handled through the cell leaders. At about 2 a.m. there was already a preliminary list of 23 missing people. As the supervisors continued to contact the rest of the leaders the list continued to grow.

When it was nearly dawn the number of missing persons had risen to 31. We had their names and ages. The information was collected through the cell structure.

In the early hours of the next day, the Red Cross contacted me to ask if we had a missing persons list. I handed to them the full list of 31 people with their names and ages. They were surprised by the accuracy of our information and received it with disbelief. Unfortunately, the days that followed only served to confirm that our information was correct. Our 31 brethren died in the tragedy.

If it wasn’t for the cell structure it would had taken a lot of time to identify the victims from among the thousands that went to church that night in the same type of transportation. The closeness and intimacy that small meetings in houses allow is useful even in the middle of a tragedy.

Translation in Spanish:
Líderes celulares en medio de la tragedia.

La noche del pasado 3 de julio uno de los autobuses que llevaba de regreso a casa a varias familias de nuestra iglesia fue arrastrado por un río desbordado. La tragedia sucedió unos minutos después de las 9 de la noche.

Unas tres horas después me encontraba en el lugar donde el bus había desaparecido tragado por el cauce desbordado del río. Esa noche alrededor de 40 autobuses habían llevado personas a la celebración en la iglesia. ¿Cómo saber quiénes eran las probables víctimas que iban en aquel autobús?

Cada uno de los autobuses que llevan a las personas a la iglesia son contratados por sectores de 1 a 5 células cada uno. El bus de la tragedia había sido contratado por dos sectores a cargo de un supervisor cada uno. Uno de los supervisores se encontraba dentro del transporte y el otro viajaba un poco más atrás en su vehículo particular.

Al darse el incidente el pastor de esa zona comenzó a levantar una lista de los desaparecidos sobre la base de la información que manejan a través de los líderes de células. A eso de las 2 de la madrugada se tenía ya elaborada una lista preliminar de 23 personas desaparecidas. En la medida que los supervisores continuaban contactando a los demás líderes la lista continuaba extendiéndose.

Ya casi amaneciendo el número de personas desaparecidas había subido a 31. Teníamos sus nombres y edades. La información se había recolectado por medio de la estructura de células.

En las primeras horas del nuevo día, la Cruz Roja me contactó para preguntarme si teníamos un listado de desaparecidos. Les entregué el listado completo de 31 personas con sus nombres y edades. Ellos se sorprendieron de la exactitud de nuestra información y la recibieron con incredulidad. Lastimosamente, los días que siguieron solamente sirvieron para confirmar que nuestra información era correcta. Nuestros 31 hermanos fallecieron en la tragedia.

Si no fuese por la estructura celular hubiese tomado mucho tiempo identificar a las víctimas de entre los millares que esa noche fueron a la iglesia en el mismo tipo de transporte. La cercanía e intimidad que permiten las pequeñas reuniones en casas es útil hasta en medio de la tragedia.


Staying Focused–Seeing Clearly

jefJeff Tunnell here, pinch hitting for Steve Cordle.I just cleaned my glasses! Once again I am surprised by how much accumulation can occur SEEINGwithout my really noticing. I just plow ahead thinking I am seeing clearly when all the while my sight is being slightly blurred and clouded, almost imperceptibly.

Then I looked up at the bookshelf above my little desk and looking back at me was a hotel brochure for The Hampton Inn & Suites, Myrtle Beach – Ocean Front, in South Carolina. This is where the “Basic Principles of Cell Ministry” and “A Day with Joel Comiskey and Mario Vega” events will be held in February, 2009. (If you receive this blog to your email inbox without going through the JCG website, please visit the home page for additional information on these events).

Putting these two paragraphs together: As Cell church pastors and leaders we always have much to do that is both daily, and demanding. The dust of life accumulates on our original vision of multiplying leaders and birthing new cells in order to reach our communities for Jesus Christ. Occasionally, we need to “clean the lens of life” and do something to rekindle our passion and vision.

May I suggest you join me in attending one of the events provided by Joel Comiskey Group next February? I am keeping the hotel brochure right where it is, and keeping my glasses clean enough to see it – thereby retaining my focus on the goal of growth, both corporately and personally. Myrtle Beach is a very nice place to be in February!!

What is Your Name?

by Rob Campbell 

Joel’s post yesterday reflected upon recovery cells.  What an awesome mix, eh?  People who desire to be whole and…cell life.  When we participate with the Spirit of God in the context of community hope is instilled into our hearts.

One day Jesus encountered a demoniac.  Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”  He replied, “Legion.”  Who gave him that name?  Certainly, it wasn’t his parents.  It probably was the community folks who lived by the sea.  He resided in a graveyard.  This was a man of great rejection and he was the subject of “lock down” and “throw away the key.”  As time faded, he began to reject himself by mutilating his own body.

Why did Jesus ask him, “What is your name?”  Nobody knows for sure, but let me share one thought.  Wholeness only comes to us when we face our fragmented lives.  Could it be that Jesus wanted the demoniac to say his name as a starting place for his pathway to wholeness and healing?  “I am Legion….[Hundreds and hundreds of evil spirits indwell me]…Yes, this is who I am.”

Notice as well that Jesus did not avoid or ignore him.  He didn’t send one of his disciples to “take care” of Legion.  By asking his name, Jesus is extending himself to Legion.  It is a form of acceptance.  It wasn’t what Legion usually encountered.  He was used to rejection, not acceptance.

Do you see the connection?  Legion’s name clearly identified what he needed from Jesus.  It’s not as cut and dry in this life, is it?  Our name does not generally reveal what we need from Jesus.  Yet, we are fragmented in need of a touch from Jesus.  We all need recovery in the context of community– your cell members.

May your cell have the courage to face our fragmented lives and cooperate with God’s Spirit pursuing a new level of wholeness.

On a related note:  Pastor Bobby Arnold leads Cypress Creek Church’s network of recovery cells.  Check this ministry out at:  www.cypresscreekchurch/wimberley/cr/index.shtml



God’s Work through Recovery Cells

joelCelyce and I had the privilege of attending Jeff and Peggy Tunnell’s 30th anniversary one week ago. While there, we talked with Mike Erickson, the CELLSassociate pastor at Big Bear Christian Center. Mike told me what was happening in his network of cell groups, and my heart lept with joy for the many people getting saved and baptized. I asked him to write his testimony down to share with you on this blog. Here goes.

Mike Erickson writes:

April 9th of this year we were having our normal cell in the home of Keith and Patty White. This cell is a recovery cell, a cell in the truest sense yet the attraction is the group of people coming out of drugs and alcohol. This particular night there were seven in the cell and quickly we found out that five of the seven were not saved or didn’t know for sure about their salvation. Keith said, “The next week we are going to show The Passion of the Christ and everyone can get saved.” So the next week we did, with about 8 or 9 in attendance and about four or five were saved in a time of prayer after the movie.

One couple, Harry and Tracy, were saved that night. Harry had written his testimony for my book Recovery Cells: Small Groups for People in Recovery but at the time of the book’s release, Harry had relapsed and moved away from Big Bear. In March of this year, he told Tracy, “I am taking you to Big Bear, we are going to the cell group, find God, get baptized and get married.” They were saved at the viewing of the Passion, and baptized with two others, two weeks later. They entered marriage counseling and were married June 7th. About 75 people from the recovery community were at the wedding. . Harry and Tracy are now growing in Jesus and getting for our Encounter Weekend in August.

The week following the viewing of the Passion, we taught on water baptism and the week after that four were baptized. The excitement of that baptism has resulted in four more baptisms this year, including one scheduled for next week.

The follow-up of these people is so important. Right now we are helping most of them in the training track and have organized an Encounter Weekend in the home of Keith and Patty. The Encounter will be limited to 12 people, designed for an intimate encounter with God. After that the goal is to train some of them to be leaders and multiply new cells before the end of the year.

God is on the move!!




Joel Comiskey

P.S.: Dr. Mike Erickson can be reached at:


Thanks for Your Prayers

marioby Mario Vega

On July 3rd a bus that was returning from church with our brethren, after the celebration service, was confronted by the overflow of the Acelhuate floodRiver that runs through the entire city of San Salvador. The overflow occurred amid a violent storm.

After 15 minutes caught in a current that grew stronger and stronger, the bus started to be dragged until it was thrown to the ravine of the river where the force of water smashed it into pieces.

31 members of our church were killed in this tragedy. 11 cell leaders were among them, a supervisor and a hostess.

Only three bodies could be rescued on the day after the tragedy. Several days passed before other bodies could be located. Some of them70 kilometers (43.5 miles) away from the place where the bus was onslaught.

I want to thank those who expressed their condolences and solidarity in this blog. As well as those who did so through e-mails.

At the time of writing this note there are still two bodies to be recovered. Your prayers will be very important to find them and to strengthen and console the victims’ families.

Thanks again for your prayers,




El pasado 3 de julio un bus que regresaba con hermanos de la iglesia, después del culto de celebración, fue embestido por un desborde del río Acelhuate que atraviesa toda la ciudad de San Salvador. El desborde se produjo en medio de una fuerte tormenta.

Después de unos 15 minutos de quedar atrapado en la corriente que crecía más y más, el bus comenzó a ser arrastrado hasta ser arrojado a la hondonada del río donde la fuerza del agua fue estrellándolo hasta hacerlo pedazos.

En la tragedia fallecieron 31 miembros de nuestra iglesia. Entre ellos se encontraban 11 líderes de células, un supervisor y una anfitriona.

Al día siguiente de la tragedia solamente fue posible rescatar tres cuerpos. Pasaron varios días para que pudieran ser localizados otros cuerpos. Algunos de ellos a 70 kilómetros de distancia del lugar en que el bus fue embestido.

Por este medio deseo agradecer a las personas que manifestaron sus condolencias y solidaridad en este blog. De igual manera a aquellos que lo hicieron a través de correos electrónicos.

Al momento de redactar esta nota todavía hace falta localizar y rescatar dos cuerpos más. Sus oraciones serán muy importantes para encontrarlos y para que las familias de las víctimas sean fortalecidas y consoladas.

What Price for Success?

jeffJeff Tunnell, pinch hitting for Steve Cordle. The recent news from El Salvador, combined with Pastor Mario Vega’s blog last Friday, has challenged principlesmy mind – and I am attempting to wrestle those thoughts down into my heart. There is a price for “success” in cell ministry. I know this, but still refuse to get out my spiritual wallet and put my money where my mouth is.

In Joel’s books, Reap the Harvest, (ch 3) and, From 12 to 3, (pgs 32-33), I compiled a list of 21 principles of cell church. I refer to the first one on my list as our primary “price” for success; “Dependence on Jesus Christ through prayer”.

The “successful” cell ministries around the world pay this price FIRST and God answers by granting the souls and growth. Many of us want the growth that speaks of success, but lower the price for winning souls in prayer. We hear of, and may have visited Prayer Mountain in Korea, or seen the people pray at ELIM in El Salvador. I was ministered to personally, by the prayer team at Cypress Creek Church under the leadership of Pastor Rob Campbell. This occurred in the specifically designed, architecturally included, Prayer Room that is the FIRST part of their worship center. You must pass this room to enter their Celebrations. They have thoughtfully decided to pay the price for success in Wimberly, Texas.

Principles are always principles; we cannot reduce or shape them to our liking. We may work WITH them and find exciting ways of APPLYING them, but we must always give them the respect and allegiance deserved. Principles change us, we do not change them! Prayer first, is the first principle and price for success!

What price(s) have you PLANNED to pay for the success you desire in Cell Ministry? Or, what prices are you paying now for the failures you experience in Cell Ministry?