Encounter at the Republic Church

marioby Mario Vega

In 1998, after working with cells for twelve years out of pure instinct, I received an invitation to speak at a conference on church growth in Quito, republicEcuador.

The invitation was from a church called The Republic Church, named after the important street on which it is located. This is the place were I met Joel Comiskey. He was a missionary at that time in Ecuador where he lived with his wife Celyce and their three daughters.

When I met him I was surprised at how much he knew about Elim, and the struggles the church had faced. But the best came when I listened to him speak. For the first time I heard someone speaking with knowledge and authority on the subject of cell groups.

All he said was new to me. Later on I found out that the invitation had been extended by Joel’s suggestion to Pastor Ludeña, the lead pastor at the Republic Church. At the end of the conference I was sure that I learned the most.

Since then, Joel and I have met at conferences in different countries and cities, and I always learn something new by listening to Joel. I believe that if we as a church had received advise from Joel at the beginning of our work, things would have been much easier and firm.

Blessed be the Lord for Joel’s life and for the JCG ministry that places tools within the reach of those who want them (I wish we would have had these tools at the beginning of our work). May God use these tools and bless the work of JCG!



Translation in Spanish:

Encuentro en La República.

En 1998, después de trabajar por puro instinto durante doce años con células, recibí una invitación para impartir una conferencia sobre crecimiento de la iglesia en Quito, Ecuador.

La invitación era hecha por una iglesia llamada La República, por el nombre de la importante calle sobre la cual se ubica. En ese lugar pude conocer a Joel Comiskey. Él era misionero en ese momento en Ecuador donde vivía junto a su esposa Celyce y sus tres hijas.

Al conocerlo me sorprendió todo lo que sabía sobre Elim y sobre las luchas que la iglesia había enfrentado. Pero, lo mejor llegó en el momento de escucharlo exponer. Por primera vez escuché a alguien hablando con conocimiento y con autoridad sobre el tema de las células.

Todo lo que decía era nuevo para mí. Después supe que la invitación me había sido extendida por una sugerencia de Joel al Pastor Ludeña, a quien apoyaba. Al final de la conferencia estoy seguro que fui yo quien más aprendió.

Desde entonces, nos hemos encontrado en conferencias en distintos países y ciudades y siempre aprendo algo nuevo escuchándolo. Creo que si hubiésemos contado con una asesoría de alguien como Joel al principio de nuestro trabajo las cosas hubiesen sido mucho más fáciles y firmes.

Bendigo a Dios por la vida de Joel y por el ministerio de JCG que pone al alcance de quien lo desee herramientas que hubiésemos deseado tener al principio de nuestro trabajo, pero que no tuvimos. Acá están esas herramientas. Úsalas y que Dios bendiga tu trabajo.

Is The Sky Falling Or Opportunity Knocking?

sky falling female.jpgJeff Tunnellby Jeff Tunnell


Chicken Little seems to be omnipresent these days! World financial woes, economic depression, wars and rumors of wars, and don’t forget (as if we could), there is an election coming in just 6 days! The media is feeding us information at a rate similar to “drinking from a firehose”. Acorns are bouncing off of our heads faster than we can dodge them! Is the sky really falling?

If you read The Cell Church, by Larry Stockstill, you may recall this from page 14: “Then, on that election night in 1992, the voice I have come to know and trust said, “Two things are coming to America: HARVEST and HOSTILITY. Your church is not prepared for either of them. I will show you something soon that will prepare you for what is coming upon the earth.” The force of the Lord’s words was so overwhelming that I sat fixed in the chair of my study until almost 2 a.m. I realized God was changing something major in my life as the impression continued: “I am going to send a revival to America that will bring millions into the Kingdom. They will not walk, but run to Me.””

These words came at the onset of Presidential change in the United States and initated Pastor Larry’s movement toward successful Cells at Bethany World Prayer Center. For those who have transistioned to cell church, you understand that the structure and its accompanying first-century church principles have prepared us to assimilate harvest and survive hostility. Even though nearly three decades in process, God has renewed the cell church model for such a time as this!

Turn down the volume on the world’s reports right now and give yourself the opportunity to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church in this hour. Sky falling male.jpgWe are not to fear, but embrace the moment. We are structured to receive the people who are afraid and uncertain about the future. We carry the answer to their need in our hearts, families and cell groups. Collect some of the uncertain, reach out with hope in Jesus, welcome them into your cell family to discover a roof over their heads which can protect them from the acorns. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but be of GOOD CHEER, I have overcome the world.” – Jesus!      



Battling the Mundane

by Rob Campbell


In a recent survey, 67% of Americans resist change.  I must confess I don’t get this reality.  I’m in the minority.  I embrace change.  I like change.  I know I’m sick!  Mind you, I’m not for change just for change sake.  I am, however, for change that keeps things fresh, exciting, life-giving, and battles the mundane.

Is it time for a wake up call for your cell?  Certainly, you’ve heard the phrase:  “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  Maybe a change for how you do cell life is at hand.  Let me give you one thought on how you might change the life of your cell group.

For illustrative purposes, let’s agree that a healthy cell gathers together weekly.  Joel is a big advocate of such a thought and I concur.  Gathering together weekly does not mean that the cell has to do the same thing every week.  Isn’t this correct?  For example, what would it look like if your cell gathered together the first and third week of every month in a home for a “traditional” cell gathering?  In other words, your cell connects with God and each other in a living room filled with worship, discussion, prayer, and more.  I trust there is a lot of laughter, encouragement, and such in the house.

Let’s continue.  Now, what would it look like if on the second week of each month your cell served the neighborhood?  For example, your cell hosted a free cookout for your block, cleaned up the neighborhood park, or spruced up an elderly neighbor’s yard.  Indeed, your worship would look different this week!

Further, what if your cell served the city on the fourth week of every month?  Your cell could feed the homeless, rake up leaves at the city park, or replenish the local food bank. 

I’m convinced that a cell needs to permeate the neighborhood and city with the love of Christ.  The suggested methodology described above will help one battle the mundane.

Break out of the four walls.  Get visible.  Meet needs.  Be the hands and feet of Christ.  I trust that you will find new life in your set of relationships as you serve others.



Growth Depends on the Soil

joelSomeone who is planting a cell church in a very resistant area wrote me recently saying, “It is a bit discouraging to hear churches in North, Central & South America or Asian countries that are developing in great numbers, when in a postmodern context it is often much more slow.” He then went on to talk about the soil“difficulties in the multiplication process.”

Are you in a situation like that? Can you feel this planter’s pain?

My friend Raymond Ebbett used to say over and over, “It all depends on the soil.” Raymond ministered for years as a missionary in Colombia (rapid growth) and then was sent as a career missionary to Spain (very slow growth). He understands first hand that church growth is dependent on the soil–God’s working in the nation and culture.

This is one reason why we at JCG base our ministry on cell church principles, rather than models. Principles work across cultures, but many of the exciting “models” usually work well where the church is already growing.

In my book Planting Churches that Reproduce (which is now available!), I try to include examples of cell church planting in various soils. Here’s an illustration I use for cell church planting in Spain:


The Holy Spirit never changes, but some cultures are more receptive to God’s message than others. Ecuador was a receptive culture, and it was relatively easy to win converts and make disciples. Those preaching and planting churches in Spain, however, experience a long, tough journey.

Tim and Marilyn Westergren began planting a church in Madrid, Spain in early 1994, and they can testify that it wasn’t easy.

The Spaniards in Madrid are generally a non-responsive and even resistant people group. Evangelical believers in Spain make up less than 1% of the population (estimates range between 0.2 and 0.6%). Considering that gypsies make up at least twenty-five percent of the evangelical population and that a considerable number are Hispanics from Latin America, the actual percentage of non-gypsy Spaniards who are born-again believers is extremely small. While it is possible to lead Spaniards to Christ, it usually takes time for this to happen. Most evangelical churches in Spain are small and have little impact on the society.

Tim discovered that the resistant culture caused stress fractures on the dynamics of the first pilot group. The lack of response and the many aborted conversions dampened the spirit of the group. He had to guard against small group diseases setting in when the group didn’t multiply after two years. He had to continually preach the word and allow the Holy Spirit to soften unreceptive hearts.

Tim admitted that one of the greatest challenges is making long-lasting friendships with non-Christians. “I find that most people are friendly to a point, but it’s hard to go to a deeper level with people. I think a lot of Spaniards are happy with the friendship and family contacts that they already have.”

The hard soil of Spain made multiplication of groups through conversion growth very difficult. The opposition that new Christians encounter in Spain made it hard to disciple the new believers into the initial groups. Tim writes, “We have been pleasantly surprised by the number of conversions—but disheartened by the number who fall by the wayside.”

In spite of the failures and setbacks, Tim had counted the cost and realized he was in it for the long haul because he understood that the soil was hard and that it took time for the seeds of God’s word to bear fruit. Tim writes, “We are miles ahead in the lives of those who have traveled with us. I don´t think they´d ever go back to business as usual. This gives me satisfaction for the time when the Spirit of God moves in this land.”

In 2003, the team transitioned the church plant, Comunidad de Fe, to Spanish leadership. The church is now a self-governing, self-propagating, and self-supporting congregation. Before Tim left, the church had grown to six groups—five adult groups plus a youth group. They also began a celebration service which had grown to about sixty people.

Tim began leading a church planting team in a city called Tres Cantos. At the time of this writing, they now have eight weekly groups and gather about sixty adults and children in their celebration service, which meets every other Sunday for teaching, worship, and the Lord´s supper.

Do you find yourself in a resistant environment or receptive one? How do the incredible cell church growth illustrations  around the world make you feel? Do they help or hinder your current situation?

Joel Comiskey

The Ongoing Quest for Excellence

marioby Mario Vega

One of the elements we have learned in the Elim church about working with cells is that you can always keep improving. The cell model can always be excellenceimproved. I am not talking about changing models, but of making small adjustments to the existing one.

The improvement process can be summarized in the following four steps:

1. Start your cell work.
2. Evaluate the results.
3. Make corrections to whatever is needed.
4. Go back to number one.

This cycle of correction and progress is key to give definition and dynamism to the cellular work. The elements that have been corrected or improved by this simple procedure are countless.
What do you think of this? What has been your experience?

Mario Vega
Translation in Spanish

La búsqueda permanente de la excelencia.
Uno de los elementos que hemos aprendido en iglesia Elim sobre el trabajo con células es que siempre se puede ir mejorando. El modelo celular es suceptible de merjoramiento todo el tiempo. No hablo de cambio de modelos sino de pequeños ajustes del modelo que se tiene.
El proceso de mejoramiento puede resumirse en los siguientes cuatro pasos:
1- Inicie su trabajo celular.
2- Evalúe los resultados.
3- Corrija lo que sea necesario.
4- Vuelva al número uno.
Éste ciclo de corrección y avance es clave para darle al trabajo celular definición y dinamismo. Serían incontables los elementos que se han corregido o mejorado por éste sencillo procedimiento.
¿Qué piensa de esto?

Salvation On the Training Track

Jeff Tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

www.bigbearchristiancenter.orgsalvation Train.jpg

What a great week!  Two young ladies gave their hearts and lives to Jesus as a direct result of the Cell training track. 

First, Brittany who attended a cell at the invitation of her co-worker (who had come to Jesus earlier this year in the same cell).  Brittany did not immediately accept Christ, but willingly started our “pre-encounter” portion of the training track.  By review of the material and personal attention from the cell family, she accepted Jesus last Thursday night.

Next, I agreed to meet with a college-age girl to answer some questions she had after attending a cell and a celebration in the same week.  During the questions it became apparent she had not yet surrendered to Jesus but had only a knowledge about Him.  A scheduled Encounter was just 1/2 hour from starting and I asked if she would like to attend for the weekend due to available space.  Her excited ‘YES’ led to a weekend of freedom and salvation.  She is being assimilated into the cell she first attended and that cell family is so very excited to have her.

Having the regular components of a training track in place are so vital to discipleship and SALVATION!  It is much easier to assess where a person is in the journey of maturity and then help them take the next step.  Moving people along, just one step at a time, leads to systematic leadership development.  We rejoice in these salvations and know that Brittany’s co-worker will soon become a new leader as well.

Do you have a training, or equipping track in place?  What steps are involved?  What successes have you experienced through implementation?

Christ’s Presence at Christ Fellowship

coaches_joelTREE.jpgI am truly blessed with the distinct privilege of observing Christ’s church up close. This time I’m flying back from a cell seminar/preaching in Forth Worth, Texas, the home of a church called Christ Fellowship.  Jamie Miller started the church in 1993 in Grapevine, Texas–about 45 minutes from Forth Worth. Picture1.jpg
Jamie began with a cell in his neighborhood that grew and multiplied.

From the beginning, the church not only believed in multiplying cells but planting cell churches. From 1993 to 2002, they planted eight churches!

Yet, they felt their church was too suburban and white (characteristics of Grapevine). So they decided to move the entire church to Forth Worth! About fifty families sold their homes and relocated to the ethnically diverse city of Forth Worth. They relocated near Texas Christian University to have a greater impact on students.

I love the fact that this church of 300 has now planted 12 cell churches. Their school of leaders is actively preparing cell leaders and church planters.

Some seminars are special. This was one of them. “What was it?” I asked myself. “Was it the incredible pre-planning for the seminar?” “The excitement of those present in the seminar?” “The powerful worship?”

Most likely it was because Jesus Christ is truly present at Christ Fellowship.


Joel Comiskey

The Practice of Prayer

coach_mario.jpgby Mario Vega

Prayer is a closely linked topic to the cell work. In addition to the prayer periods in our cell and planning meetings, there are other efforts that are put into practice.

When we do our big rallies, we prepare spiritually with a prayer chain. This chain lasts 24 hours during the previous month to our big rally.

We start the first day of the month with a celebration service in the church’s building at 5 a.m. From 6 a.m., after worshiping and receiving a bible teaching, the first period of prayer until 7 a.m. starts. At that time, in a specially prepared place, a group of people prays until 8 a.m. Another group will replace these people for the next hour. This goes on successively until the 31st day of the month when the prayer chain ends.

It might be thought that the hours between 1 and 4 a.m. would be the most difficult to cover. But the fact is that these are the hours when the largest number of cell members comes to pray.

We make sure that the chain doesn’t brake by assigning to each Zone Pastor a certain amount of hours. The Pastor distributes his sectors between those hours, doing this, there is always someone to continue the prayer chain where exclusively five prayer requests related to the big church’s rally are presented.



La práctica de la oración.

La oración es un tema estrechamente ligado al trabajo celular. Además de los períodos de oración incluidos en nuestras reuniones de células y de planificación, existen otros esfuerzos que se ponen en práctica.

Cuando se realizan nuestros grandes eventos nos preparamos espiritualmente con una cadena de oración. Ésta cadena tiene una duración de 24 horas durante el mes previo a nuestro gran evento.

Iniciamos el primer día del mes con un culto en el local de la iglesia que comienza a las 5 de la mañana. A partir de las 6 de la mañana, después de haber adorado y recibido una enseñanza bíblica, comienza el primer período de oración hasta las 7 de la mañana. A esa hora, en un lugar preparado especialmente, un grupo de personas ora hasta las 8 de la mañana. Éstas personas serán relevadas por otro grupo por la siguiente hora. Así sucesivamente hasta terminar la cadena el día 31 del mes.

Se puede pensar que las horas entre la 1 y 4 de la madrugada serían las más difíciles de cubrir. Pero, lo cierto es que son las horas cuando mayor cantidad de miembros de células se acercan para orar.

Se asegura que la cadena no se rompa asignando a cada Pastor de Zona cierta cantidad de horas. El Pastor distribuye sus sectores entre esas horas y, así, siempre hay quien continúe la cadena de oración donde se presentan exclusivamente cinco peticiones relacionadas con el gran evento de la iglesia.


Jeff Tunnell by Jeff Tunnell


Encouragement!  We all need encouragement.  The Church Growth International (CGI) conference at Bethany World Prayer Center Mentor.jpglast week supplied just that, and plenty of it.  Pastor Mario Vega ministered with precision, giving insight to the Cell church philosophy of multiplication and evangelism; setting clear goals, training new leaders, diligent continuance in our work, having all things underwritten by the essential life of prayer.  Dr. Cho inspired us to live by faith, dreams, vision and the good confession in expanding the church.    Billy Joe Daugherty reminded of the necessity for delegation combined with organization and planning in order to “Let my people go” to do the work of ministry.

Surrounded by 1500+ others who desire to expand the kingdom of God through cell ministry I was encouraged to see that I am not alone in the daily efforts made at the local church level to which God has called me.  As Casey Treat said, “Every overnight success is preceded by 20 years of hard work!”

It’s like the farmer who came along a traveller stuck in the ditch.  He hitched Daisey, his old, blind workhorse to the car and began to call out, “get up Daisey, get up Bess, get up Daisey, get up Bess” and the horse strained at the harness until the car was pulled out.  The traveller thanked the farmer and inquired curiously about his calling out to two horses when obviously he had only one.  To this the farmer cupped his hand and whispered in reply, “Daisey is blind, but she pulls much better when she thinks she’s part of a team.”  I return to the work, encouraged, knowing I am part of a greater world-wide team that I just can’t see.

Simple Thoughts

coaches-rob11.jpgby Rob Campbell

In light of Joel’s post yesterday, it does appear that pastors throughout the world are longing for a more simple approach to church. They are tired of the unneeded bells and whistles of church which seem to encumber reaching not-yet believers and seeing lives change on a consistent basis. Of course, even a cell church can be encumbered with numerous appendages that impede making a difference in one’s community.

In Floyd McClung’s book, You See Bones, I See An Army, he writes, ”

I believe any model of church that wins, gathers, and multiplies followers of Jesus is a good model. But the fact is that the bigger and more complicated a local church becomes, the more people and the more money it takes to lead on person to Christ.

This fact has been proved over and over again throughout the decades.
Like Joel Comiskey, McClung is a fan of the simple church. McClung continues:

Simple church seeks to empower people by avoiding bureaucracy, dependence on buildings, hierarchy, and ‘come to us’ models of mission. Simple church spontaneously and deliberately gets everyone involved– where they live, play, and work.

Years ago when I was a youth pastor, I was asked to preach one Sunday morning by my Senior Pastor. He asked me, “Rob, do you know what the KISS theory is?” I said, “Nope, I don’t believe so.” That’s when he stated, “When you preach, Keep It Simple Stupid!”

I don’t mean to be offensive, but maybe it’s time to remember that theory and apply it to our communities of faith.