Staffing Questions in the Cell Church

joelI have the privilege of coaching pastors of churches from various sizes and different places in the cell journey. One church I’m coaching is in the single cell stage, has no celebration, and is preparing to multiply into two cells. Another church has 650, meets weekly in celebration and is transitioning to the cell church strategy.

Another church I’m coaching is right in-between. It started as a cell church, lost focus along the way, and asked me to coach them to retool and refocus. This church of 300 has approximately twenty cell groups and recently asked for counsel about hiring new staff. The pastor asked:

“How important is it to add a full time pastoral staff position to take the load off me, versus adding a part time person?” (one of his administrative team members insisted they hire a fulltime person, while others were open to either option).

I gave my opinion, but I told him that I would seek outside counsel. I asked Steve Cordle what he thought. As the founder of a church that now has 70 cells and 1200 worship attendance on 2 campuses, I knew Steve had loads of advice and experience.

Steve wrote saying, “Part-time people are preferable in my book: they often work well beyond their expected hours, and you can get two part-time for less than the cost of a full-time. Quite often they will produce more. The part-time role allows you to see how a person is doing before moving to a full-time role.”
The pastor of the church of 300 then asked, “Should I get an experienced fulltime pastor from outside who could lift stuff off my shoulders or hire someone from within, who might have less experience but who shares our vision and values.”

Steve Cordle replied, “If you stay focused on cell and celebration you won’t have to chase too many other things as you keep executing the ministry of the church through the cells. Hiring a part-time cell person sounds good, but hiring a part-time cell pastor from within is to be preferred. You know them, they know you, there is little danger of philosophical difference, and it models ministry advancement to the rest of the church. Make sure the person you hire has multiplied a cell and has the ability to influence others. The beauty of hiring from within is that you can see this in your own context before hiring. If there is no one suitable from within to hire and you hire from the outside, only hire someone who has done it already. Many can talk about cell ministry with conviction, fewer do it well. Make sure you set very clear expectations of their role: that the result of their ministry to measured in the number of healthy cells, and the adult discipleship is directly related to the cell ministry.”

I thought Steve’s advice was so right on, I wanted to pass it on to you.

What do you think?

Joel Comiskey

The First Contact

marioby Mario Vega

In the process of inviting a new guest to the cell, the first step is to make contact. The goal is to develop a relationship with the person and then friendshipeventually invite him or her to the cell. Joel Comiskey tells the story of how he would “do things in his yard ” with the goal of getting the chance to make contact with his neighbors. That first contact could be a simple greeting, but, then it could be cultivated into a much closer relationship.

Pastor Cho mentions how his members spend time going up and down in their apartments’ tower elevator only to meet “by chance” with a neighbor that could be helped with their shopping bag or children.

We should take full advantage of that first contact when we’re seeking to serve people. We can continue with the process of inviting this person to the cell meeting when this first contact is transformed into a friendly relationship.



El primer contacto.
En el proceso de hacer un invitado se debe procurar un primer contacto para iniciar una relación de amistad con la persona a quien se pretende invitar a la célula.
Joel Comiskey me ha contado de cómo invertía tiempo en ‘cuidar’ su jardín solamente por tener la oportunidad de tener un primer contacto ‘de casualidad’ con sus vecinos. Ese primer contacto podía ser un simple saludo; pero, que luego podía cultivarse como una más estrecha relación.
Por su parte, el Pastor Cho menciona cómo sus miembros invierten tiempo subiendo y bajando en el ascensor en su torre de apartamentos solamente para encontrarse ‘por casualidad’ con algún vecino al cual ayudar con su bolsa de comprados o con los niños.
Ese primer contacto se aprovecha al máximo en la búsqueda de servir a las personas. Cuando de ese primer contacto se transforma en una relación de amistad se puede continuar con el proceso de invitación de la persona a la célula.



Stuck In My Heart & Head

Jeff Tunnellby jeff Tunnell

Hallelujah! Thine the glory, Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Thine the glory; Revive us again!  The words kept running through my heart and head.  Sitting to write I couldn’t shut off the familiar tune rolling over and over in my spirit and so I yielded.  It was a cry coming from within after reflecting on the subject of prayer again. Revival is bringing back to the “normal” state something that is waning toward expiring.Worship knees.jpg Oh how much we need this in our worship of the Almighty.

Prayer, the outpouring of the heart to our Father, needs this reviving. Unrestrained worship as lifestyle, not simply a duty-filled, compartmentalized practice that fits neatly into a segment of my day.  Prayer without ceasing; love without restriction. Comfortable conversation with Jesus and power-filled intercession guided by the Holy Spirit.

To come again as the child with faith that is simple and trusting. Believing once again that our Father in heaven can do anything in response to believing prayer. Pastor Mario Vega’s blogs on this subject are stirring me.  Prayer dependency is a waning area of spiritual discpline in the western church.  We can operate celebrations without much prayer in them.  We know how to choreograph the meetings to look good and flow pretty seamlessly from beginning to end – but where is prayer?  We have songs with words about US and how God meets OUR needs, but when do we lean into our need for Him?

Worship child.jpgMake us like children, revive us again to the simple dependency of faith in the Greater One!

Happy Thanksgiving (whether in the USA or not!)

Celebration and Cell Connection

by Rob Campbell

Hats off to Michael Sove for his comments on Joel’s last post.  Simply put, his ideas are excellent concerning the cell/celebration connection.  With that said, my post today is a simple encouragement for you to read Michael’s comments.  Go back to Joel’s latest post and click on “comments.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all, Rob

Cells Celebrating Together

joelIn my last blog, I shared that many cell churches bring the cells together weekly, while others choose to do so monthly, or every other week. Celebration in a cell church, like other evangelical churches, should highlight worship and the preaching/teaching of God’s Word.

The distinction of celebration in the cell church is that it’s truly a time for the cells to come together. Many cell churches, for example, emphasize this fact by:

• asking a cell member who has been transformed through relational ministry—new friendships, special ministry times—to share what God has done
• hearing the testimony of someone who has received healing within the cell group
• presenting a new multiplication leader to the entire church

Those attending the Sunday celebration need to realize that the primary pastoral services of the church are offered through the cell system. If they need ministry and help, they can find it in a loving cell group.

I’ve always encouraged pastors to personally lead a cell group. Why? One of the reasons is because personal involvement allows the pastor to freely add cell examples to sermons. When a pastor who is personally involved in a cell talks about the need for community, body-life evangelism, leadership development, and the use of the gifts of the Spirit, that pastor can tie in personal involvement in cell life, drawing on a variety of illustrations and testimonies from real life. Soon the congregation begins to realize that cell life is the normal Christian life and that attending the celebration service is only one part of that reality. They soon realize that they must also be involved in cell to capture the full benefits of what the church really is.

If you’re planting a cell church, just keep it simple.

If you’re transitioning to the cell church, there are some thing you can do that will help your transtion. Take the bulletin. Cell ministry can find a great friend in the bulletin or other advertisements in the church. I suggest that the bulletin in the cell church highlight a cell testimony of how people’s lives have been transformed through cell ministry. Cell announcements should be given priority space so that those visiting will immediately see the heartbeat of the church and know where to go to get involved in a cell group.

One church I coached had thirty cells and two hundred worshippers. The bulletin in this church was a two-sided sheet of paper, listing all the cell groups each week on the front page. The statement made each Sunday was this: “We’re pastoring our people through cell ministry.”

A visitor to the celebration service should be able to detect the philosophy and priority of the church from the Sunday morning service. Some churches have book tables; larger ones even have bookstores. I encourage cell-based churches to have a cell information table where they lay out relevant books on cell ministry, the weekly cell lesson, a box to place cell reports, and other pertinent information about cell ministry.

It’s a great idea to post in the foyer a map of the city with each cell group pinned on it. This map explains where the cells are located, their focus (e.g., family cells, women’s cells, youth cells, etc.), and when they meet. A volunteer worker or secretary should be available to answer questions each week and connect new people to cell ministry.

It’s not easy to adapt to the cell model. People are accustomed to their old ways and habits. They must be reminded of the cell church focus by what they see in church during the worship service.

What have you done to connect cell and celebration?


About Prayer

marioRandall Neighbor is right about his remark concerning the importance of prayer. I have noticed that many people have lost their perception on the prayerpossibilities prayer can bring.

These people seek counseling to find a solution to their personal difficulties. Many of these difficulties cannot be solved by any kind of advice or suggestion. The only valid advice is prayer.

Despite that Christians confess their faith in prayer, in practice, it seems like they trust more in human advice to solve their problems rather than prayer itself. The best recommendation is to go and commit to prayer every day until receiving an answer from God. I also suggest to people that they fast once per week as well.

Perhaps people would like to be handed with a special formula to solve their conflicts, but I repeat, most of the time there is no formula but prayer. It is important to return prayer to the rightful place: to the center and the beginning.

What do you think?


Translation in Spanish:

Sobre la oración.

Es correcto el comentario de sobre la importancia de la oración. He notado que muchas personas han perdido la percepción de las posibilidades de la oración.
Esas personas buscan una consejería para encontrar una solución a sus dificultades personales. Muchas de esas dificultades son de tal naturaleza que evidentemente no pueden ser solucionadas por ningún tipo de consejo o sugerencia. El único consejo válido es el de la oración.
A pesar que los cristianos confiesan su fe en la oración, en la práctica, parece que confían más en que un consejo resuelva sus problemas antes que la oración misma. La mejor recomendación es la de ir y dedicarse a la oración cada día hasta obtener una respuesta de Dios. También sugiero a las personas ofrecer, al menos, un ayuno cada semana por esas peticiones.
Tal vez las personas desearían que se les de una fórmula especial para solucionar sus conflictos; pero, repito, muchas veces no hay ninguna fórmula mas que la de la oración. Es importante volver a la oración al lugar que le corresponde: al centro y al principio.


Changing Seas, Steady Rudders

Jeff Tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

I am appreciating the recent blogs that address underlying reasons for cell ministry approaches to our communities and the world. The comments are lively and we certainly expect the “give and take” from our blog readers and ministry leaders from around the world.  Much can be gained from our conversations.rough sea sailing ship.jpg

We need a steady rudder to help us hold course in times of change.  Rob Campbell recommended “Transitions” to us last week (I’m almost finished Rob!).  Conditions change, circumstances change, people change, approaches to ministry change, even leadership qualifications are altered to “fit” new times.  Church planting, reorganizing existing cell structures and how to accomplish the celebration of cells within a geographic or political confine are part of our discussion.

Decentrailization of leadership for multiplication of ministry is a strong rudder.  Close supervision of cell leaders must be maintained to keep the purity of our mission and message.  Bringing guidance and correction is one way of staying on course.  Not everyone can be the captain of the ship.  Planting new churches, and organinzing a community of believers must consider the quality of leaders and their loyalty to the Captain of the ship!

HOLD the rudder steady!  Keep to biblical standards for leaders while keeping the goal of evangelism and growth of His Kingdom on your horizon.  Set your course and stay with it, don’t just chase a better wind OR let the wind blow you off course.  Sail through to your God-given destination with confidence.

How are you holding to your course?  What are some of your rudders in seasonal changes?

“Come and Join Us?”

by Rob Campbell

Before reading this post, let me encourage you to read Joel’s most recent post AND the comments.  It will be worth your time and get you thinking about the balance between cell and celebration.  Thanks to those who posted comments!

I trust this quote from Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways will be helpful/insightful.  I believe it connects well with the discussion that ensued from Joel’s last post.

“Attractional church demands that in order to hear the gospel, people come to us, on our turf, and in our cultural zone.  In effect, they must become one of us if they want to follow Christ.  I can’t emphasize how deeply alienating this is for most non-Christian people who are generally happy to explore Jesus but don’t particularly want to be ‘churched’ in the process.  The biblical mode, on the other hand, is not so much to bring people to church but to take Jesus (and the church) to the people.”

Hirsch continues by writing, “Christology determines missiology, and missiology determines ecclesiology.”




Gathering the Cells to Celebrate

joelWe at Wellspring have been meeting in weekly celebrations for the past couple weeks. Meeting in weekly cells and weekly celebrations have many TWObenefits, such as more ways to reach people and regularity in seeing the rest of the church. There are also weaknesses, such as depending too much on the “preacher” to draw in the people and more overhead cost in paying for a place to meet (we’re meeting in a junior high school).

Rob Campbell, Jeff Tunnell, and Mario Vega also have weekly celebrations. Yet, I’m convinced that some church planters will never meet weekly. I’m coaching one church planter who never wants to go back to weekly celebrations–yet his church is growing and fruitful! In my new book Planting Churches that Reproduce I have a section on this topic. I included it here:


The cells of a cell church should meet together in a large group gathering. Not all cell churches, however, meet weekly in corperate gatherings. Cell churches, in other words, do not need to gather together weekly in corperate worship to be called a cell church. Weekly celebration services will not be the norm for every church.

I don’t think that the definition of a cell church requires a weekly celebration meeting. Rather, I believe that the cells do need to gather together in corporate worship to be called a cell church. The frequency of that meeting is what’s in question. The great benefit of the weekly celebration is that the cell church can reach out more frequently through the celebration wing. Yet, the cell must drive the church. The main priority is for the cells to meet weekly. Those cells should be networked together through pastoral care, coaching, training, and coming together. And these are the things that define a cell church—not whether the celebration meets weekly or not. I asked Bill Beckham about this, and he wrote back saying:

It seems to me that large group celebration can be very flexible in terms of frequency, place, number of people involved and even format of the meeting. Celebration was certainly flexible in the New Testament. Of course we must answer a question about the reference in the New Testament to “the fi rst day of the week.” What were they doing on the “First Day of the Week?” Were they meeting every “First Day” of the week in a large group expression? Or, were they meeting weekly in small group expression and from time to time in large group expression. I am inclined to believe that it is the second suggestion. I believe that we must operate from the large group celebration principle and not from the historical precedent of a large group meeting. The Body of Christ needs to experience God in a large group expression along with the small group and house church expression. I believe the 21st Century Church is fi nding innovative ways to live out the principle.

The cell church movement needs to develop new models of how the church will function in its large group expression. And we must remember that the large group expression is not just the time of public worship. In addition to public worship, the large group expression could be used for training, for showing a public face in the city, for fellowship, for coordina tion, and for evangelism.

The cells of a cell church should meet together in a large group gathering. Not all cell churches, however, meet weekly in corperate gatherings. The focus should remain on the weekly cells, and the celebration should develop as the cells build strength. Those cells might celebrate all together on a weekly basis or a monthly basis. Or they might meet together more than once per week, like in the case of Elim.They might even meet once a quarter.


What do you think?

Joel Comiskey

Who is a Guest?

marioby Mario Vega

A guest is not a person you approach only to attend the next cell meeting. Rather, a guest is a person that should be loved and served.

Once you have selected the person you want to invite, the next step is prayer. We must never forget that cell work is a deeply spiritual task. This is not about some ingenious human idea-while neglecting to pray. This is about a battle where only the Spirit of God can make a difference.

Prayer must be sincere, daily, and specific, mentioning the person by name. As we pursue the person each day in prayer, the Lord will give us the opportunities to start a friendship with that person. In fact, we should be attentive and looking for occasions to initiate the first contact with this person.

Friendship can start as a result of an apparently casual encounter, but deep down in your heart, you’ll know that everything was God’s answer to prayer. Accompanying prayer, Christians should initiate the first contact. We will talk about this next week.



¿Qué es un invitado?

Un invitado no es una persona a quien se le aborda solamente para animarle a que asista a la próxima reunión de célula, un invitado es una persona a la cual se le ama y se le sirve.

Una vez seleccionada la persona a quien se desea ‘hacer un invitado’, el siguiente paso es la oración. Nunca se debe olvidar que el trabajo celular es una tarea profundamente espiritual. No se trata de poner en práctica algunas ideas ingeniosas mientras se deja de lado la oración. Se trata de una batalla donde sólo el Espíritu de Dios puede marcar la diferencia.

La oración debe ser sincera, diaria y específica, mencionando por nombre a la persona. En la medida que se persevere cada día en oración, el Señor dará las oportunidades para iniciar una amistad con esa persona. Por ello, se debe estar atento y en busca de las ocasiones para entablar el primer contacto.

La amistad puede iniciar como resultado de un encuentro aparentemente casual; pero, en el fondo, se sabrá que todo fue una respuesta de Dios a la oración. Algunas veces, acompañando a su oración, el cristiano debe provocar ese primer contacto. Sobre esto hablaremos la próxima semana.