JCG meeting and Day with Joel and Mario


Celyce and I leave on Monday morning for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where we’ll participate in the Joel Comiskey Group (JCG) board meeting (Tuesday and Thursday), and Day with Joel and Mario (Wednesday).

You who are reading this blog know that our main ministry and accountability structure is through JCG. Once each year we come together to pray, build relationships, and plan for the future. On Tuesday, each of us will share from the following four categories: biggest success, biggest Aha moment, what’s working, and greatest challenge. We’ll also share our top three intimacy needs (e.g., encouragement, acceptance, comfort, etc.) and then take time to pray. On Thursday, we’ll dig into vision, goals, and decisions for 2009 and beyond. Please do pray that we might make God-anointed decisions for the upcoming year.

Please also pray for the Day with Joel and Mario. All six board members will be actively participating in this Wednesday event, along with the twelve pastors and leaders who will come specifically for this day. We have planned a very dynamic, interactive time for all participants. Yet, our plans will go nowhere apart from the anointing of the Spirit of God. Please pray for God’s fruit and blessing over each aspect of this first-time event. 

I want to take time to thank the bloggers on this site: Rob Campbell, Jeff Tunnell, Mario Vega, and Steve Cordle. I love the fact that each of the bloggers come from a different size cell church (e.g., 11 cells-Joel, 28 cells-Jeff, 80 cells-Steve, 125 cells-Rob, and 11,000 cells-Mario).

I WANT TO ALSO THANK YOU FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION. We treasure your feedback and appreciate your partnership.

God has great things ahead for all of us in 2009!

Joel Comiskey

Allow the Children to Come to the Lord


by Mario Vega

As we examined our previous experience working with children in the houses, we made another important discovery: children were naturally showing up in the adult cells and that there were even more children than adults attending.

Logic made us think that for each adult cell there was another children’s meeting going on in some corner of that house. But as we did a census, we were surprised to find that only half of the adults’ cells had a separate meeting to minister to children.

That led us to understand that while the average attendance in each cell was nine adults, the average children’s meetings was nineteen. This phenomenon could be explained only by the God-given sensitivity that children possess. Without making a specific effort, the children had been enthusiastically attending the meetings on their own initiative.

It is important to clarify that at the beginning of our cell work, we did not count children’s attendance or either include it in our statistics. Therefore, leaders focused on adults and didn’t pay much attention to children.

So we wondered: if children wanted to come to the Lord without making any specific effort, what would happen if we made an effort to reach them? We also wondered: why not count and include them in the statistics? Aren’t they human beings in need of salvation?

This is how we launched children’s cells, trying to rescue the new generation for Christ.


Translation in Spanish:

Dejad que los niños se acerquen al Señor.

Al examinar nuestra experiencia previa en el trabajo con niños en las casas tuvimos otro descubrimiento importante. Sucedía que la asistencia de adultos y la de niños era casi igual en las células de adultos y en las reuniones en un lugar de la casa para entretener a los niños mientras sus padres estaban en la reunión de célula.

La lógica suponía que por cada célula de adultos había una reunión en algún rincón de la casa para los niños. Pero, al hacer un censo nos encontramos con la sorpresa que solamente la mitad de las células de adultos tenían una reunión aparte para entretener a los niños.

Eso nos llevó a comprender que mientras la asistencia promedio a las células era de 9 adultos, en las reuniones de niños el promedio de asistencia era de 19. Ese fenómeno sólo podía explicarse por la naturaleza infantil que es más sensible a las cosas de Dios. Sin hacer un esfuerzo específico los niños habían estado asistiendo entusiastamente a las reuniones por iniciativa propia.

Es importante aclarar que al principio de nuestro trabajo celular no contábamos la asistencia de los niños ni la incluíamos en nuestras estadísticas. Consecuentemente, los líderes se concentraban en los adultos y no ponían mayor atención a los niños.

Entonces nos preguntamos: Sin hacer un esfuerzo los niños quieren venir al Señor ¿qué sucedería si hacemos un esfuerzo por alcanzarlos? También nos preguntamos ¿Por qué no contarlos e incluirlos en las estadísticas? ¿Acaso no son seres humanos necesitados de salvación?

Así nos lanzamos a la tarea, nueva para nosotros, de trabajar con células infantiles y lograr rescatar la nueva generación para Cristo.

15, Count Them, Fifteen!

coaches_jeff-150x1501by Jeff Tunnell                  www.bigbearchristiancenter.org

If you are reading the blog on the JCG website, look above and find the tab labled “Articles”.  If you click this tab it will direct you to a resource page that has a left column menu showing a link called Cell Coaching.  Click that title and you will see 15, count them, fifteen, articles on a topic in which we have demonstrated some interest over the last three weeks.  You can read these as you have time and benefit greatly on the subject of Coaching.

The one that stands out to me is Spend Time with the Coach of coaches. Three reasons why I am attracted to this article:

  1. I agree with Joel as he says, I’m convinced that the most important book I’ve ever written is called An Appointment with the King. I believe in Appointment with the King so much because it focuses on how to have a daily quiet time with God, getting know His person, His Word, and His presence.”  For me this book is Joel’s best (so far)!
  2. Of all the spiritual disciplines, daily fellowship with the Father is threatened most often by a leader’s busyness.  Coaches MUST have time with God or we will fall into the trap of applying our own “earthly” wisdom to coaching needs instead of the wisdom that comes down from heaven. James 3:17  Let’s guard our daily quiet time with our Father.
  3. I welcomed our most recent addition to the Tunnell family into the world on Tuesday.  Dawson was born to my son & daughter-in-law and when he arrived, he brought this reminder: the Father loves to simply hold us and we should love to be held. Thanks Dawson, you have already begun to teach your grandfather a most important truth!

Next blog will come from Myrtle Beach and the “Day with Joel Comiskey and Mario Vega”. I am so excited to be attending the event along with our other Coaches and Bloggers, Rob Campbell and Steve Cordle!  Pray for us as we meet for the Annual JCG Board Meeting. Thanks.

Foundational Pillars to Produce Missional Living

by Rob Campbell


First, I apologize for using the word “missional” in this blog post title.  It’s a buzz word these days and I’m tired of hearing it.  With that said, today I was with a group of church leaders and pastors who are interested in church planting around the world.  We were discussing some things and one of the presenters was Omar Reyes who is the Glocal (yep, “Glocal”) Impact Director at Northwood Church, Keller, Texas.

He briefly spoke on four “Foundational Pillars to Produce Missional Living.”  It was a captivating and insightful talk.  I thought I would share some of the content with you.  Here we go.

1.  Be about the gospel of the KINGDOM.  Christ spoke extensively about the kingdom of God.  Compare his “kingdom” talks with the the number of times the word “church” appears in the scriptures.  Next, consider that the kingdom of God is the reign and rule of God at any given time or place. 

2.  While membership is important, be about discipleship.  In simplest terms, discipleship is time spent with another person who desires to grow into the likeness of Christ.  Discipleship tools are plentiful; disciplers are the call of the hour.  In other words, it’s about relationship!

3.  Be mindful of SOCIETY.  Notice the spheres of influence (or domains) that exist in society such as economics, education, arts/media, medicine, etc.  When these domains relate well together, there is harmony.  However, when these domains are in conflict, chaos rules.  Here’s a few questions to ponder:  How can God use you to bless these domains?   How can the grace, love, and mercy of Christ flow through these domains?  How could you assist the mayor of your city in accomplishing something good for the city?  Do you know what the greatest need is at your local public school? 

4.  From these three before mentioned pillars, allow God to raise up his church.

In a nutshell, I could summarize these foundational pillars by saying, “Serve and bless your city and watch God birth your cell (church).”


Commitment to the Local Church

joelWe in the cell church world believe that both cell and celebration are the church. The natural result of this conviction is to encouage active participation in a cell group as a prerequsiste for membership.

Yet some might ask, “why membership?” Or, “why must I belong to one local church?” Why not just float from congregation to congregation, belonging to the body of Christ at large? Why do we even talk about commitment to one local church?

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately in my attempt to explain to an uncommitted family in our cell group why it’s important to join a local church. In my first conversation with the husband, I stumbled and bumbled. I didn’t want to appear legalistic or overbearing but ended up giving him fuzzy, unclear signals. The next morning, however, the Lord spoke to me clearly and reminded me why each believer needs to be committed to a local church.

Scripture says in Hebrews 13:17, Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” God reminded me that He has ordained the local church to “watch over the souls” of believers. The local church is God’s vehicle to take care of believers. When a person joins the local church, he or she is placing himself under God-ordained leadership. The person is saying, I will receive spiritual direction from the local church leadership, and I will also contribute to the local church (e.g., tithing, using his or her gifts, etc.).

I live in California. We have a lot of illegal immigrants in this part of the world. An illegal alien can’t receive the full benefits of the government, nor can he or she truly contribute to the nation. Those who hop from church to church are a lot like illegal aliens. They neither contribute to the needs of the local church, nor receive the full benefits of pastoral care and discipline. They are constantly wandering (like one couple who attended our church for 1.5 years without ever saying, ‘this is my church’).

The next week after the cell, I told this husband that he and his family needed to make a decision to join one local church and submit to the pastoral leadership. I told him that if he and his family made a decision to join our local church, he wasn’t making a life-time decision. He could always leave later on. But if and when he did leave, I would then encourage him to once again find one local church. I even told him that I didn’t feel comfortable taking his family through the training track unless he was called to be part of our church. Why? Because as his pastor, I wanted to know that I had the spiritual authority to minister into his life.

What do you think about this? What has your experience been in this area?


Joel Comiskey

Children’s Bible School and Cells


by Mario Vega

There were practical reasons that initially led us to shift the Bible School teaching for children to the houses. But as we started to design the first training course for leaders of children’s cells, new elements arose.

One was the reflection on how the New Testament church instructed children into Christianity. It was obvious that what today is called “Bible School” (or Sunday School) is a relatively modern term. It was born with Robert Rikes in 1780. Rikes’ idea was not exactly what we now know as Bible School. Rikes’ School included literacy, math and Bible classes. It would not be until 1889 when the Bible School would specialize in teaching the Scriptures.

But how did the New Testament church teach the faith to children? We know that the church was born following the Jewish traditions and within this tradition the two great pillars of education were memorization and oral tradition. Both elements were present at home.

So we decided to have memorization and oral tradition as pillars of the education in children’s cells. That is, we decided to give true value to the memorization of the Scriptures and the oral transmission of the teachings, rather than focusing on expensive methodologies or on making handcrafts.

With these two elements as main axles, we began to design the training course for leaders of children’s cells. It was an effort to return to the New Testament’s church model.

Comments? Ideas?


Translation into Spanish:

Escuela bíblica y células.

Lo que inicialmente nos llevó a trasladar la enseñanza de Escuela Bíblica para niños a las casas fueron razones de índole práctica. Pero, al comenzar a diseñar el primer curso de formación de líderes para células infantiles hubo nuevos elementos que se fueron sumando.

Uno de ellos fue el reflexionar sobre cómo la iglesia del Nuevo Testamento hacía para formar en el cristianismo a los niños. Era obvio que lo que hoy se llama ‘Escuela Bíblica’ es un término relativamente moderno. Nació con Robert Rikes en 1780. La idea de Rikes no era exactamente lo que hoy conocemos como Escuela Bíblica. La escuela de Rikes incluía clases de alfabetización, matemáticas y Biblia. No sería sino hasta 1889 cuando la Escuela Bíblica se especializaría en las enseñanzas de las Escrituras.

Pero, ¿cómo hacía la iglesia del Nuevo Testamento para enseñar la fe a los niños? Sabemos que la iglesia nació siguiendo las tradiciones judías y dentro de esa tradición los dos grandes pilares de instrucción eran la memorización y la tradición oral. Ambos elementos tenían lugar en el hogar.

Decidimos entonces hacer de la memorización y de la tradición oral los pilares de la enseñanza en las células infantiles. Es decir, darle valor a la memorización de las Escrituras y a la transmisión oral de las enseñanzas antes que enfocarnos en manualidades o metodologías caras.

Con estos dos elementos como ejes principales comenzamos a diseñar el curso de formación de los líderes para células infantiles. Era un esfuerzo por volver al modelo de la iglesia del Nuevo Testamento.

¿Comentarios? ¿Ideas?

Further Coaching

coaches_jeff-150x1501by Jeff Tunnell                    www.bigbearchristiancenter.org

If there is further interest in the conversation about coaching from last week, allow me to continue.  The comments received from Galen and Richared are appreciated!  We are grateful for each reader of the JCG blog, please fenter the conversations!!

Concerning the regular “practice” of coaches, shouldn’t we include visits to the cells being coached?  What prescribed frequency should be observed;  one cell per week or month?  Observing the cell leader leading their cell gives insight to the coach.  It provides points of praise for a job done well and the opportunity to stay after and give feedback concerning a weakness that exists. (such as ??? Just what would the coach be looking for during the meeting?)  Your thoughts here…

How many cells can one person coach in your cell structure?  Is it different for those who also lead their own cell?  Must each coach be required to lead a cell or not?  How frequently do the coaches meet with the Senior Pastor?  Let’s offer some assistance to those who are looking for direction on this topic.

What’s working?

by Rob Campbell


Hats off to Jeff and Jane Powell (Fellowship Church, Gainesville, Florida) whom Joel highlighted yesterday in his post.  Check it out!  It’s always encouraging to see people excited about God, Christ, and His church– eh?

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?  What has been your greatest “a-ha” moment in recent days?  What surprises you about your cell and/or cell church?

Post a quick comment that might benefit others.  The Powell’s “fire” encourages me.  Now, why don’t you take a moment to encourage others?

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


Transmitting the Cell Passion from the Top Down

joelDavid Cho once said, “The [senior] pastor must be the key person involved. Without the pastor, the system will not hold together. It is a system, and a system must have a control point. The controlling factor in home cell groups is the pastor.” I don’t completely agree with Cho’s statement because I believe that just as important as the senior pastor is the leadership team. I’ve given seminars and coached churches that don’t even have one lead pastor–yet were very successful in cell ministry. The difference was that the leadership team was fully committed and involved.

I’m writing this blog from Jacksonville, Florida. I just finished a seminar with Fellowship Church in Gainesville, Florida, led by Jeff and Jane Powell. Wow, Jeff has a fire for cell ministry! Jeff was initially on staff with Celebration Church,  a cell church led by Dennis Watson in New Orleans. Two years ago Jeff took the lead role at Fellowship Church, which has added 150 people since Jeff arrived. Yet, it is a programmed based church (started in 1988). I believe that Fellowship Church will eventually become a cell church because of Jeff’s passion for cell ministry.

Some seminars are good. This one was great. Why? The preparation. Jeff’s fire for cell ministry stirred him to gather seven area churches as well as his own for the seminar. Approximately 200 people attended. 

Jeff was hoping to use this seminar to launch his first six cell groups simultaneously. I counseled Jeff NOT to start his first six cells until after starting a pilot group, which would include his staff members. Why? I wanted to make sure Jeff and team got it right the first time. I told Jeff that the best way for new leaders and staff to catch the cell vision is to SEE it first hand from the senior pastor. The bottom line is that cell ministry is better caught than taught.

Jeff also needed to make sure the coaching structure was established from the top, and that’s why I told him to include the staff in the first pilot group. I wanted to make sure that Jeff focused on coaching his staff who in turn would coach the new cell leaders, rather than becoming the main coach of the new cell groups.

Jeff wholeheartedly agreed with this counsel and even called all the key cell leaders and staff together for a planning meeting on the last day of the conference. Most seemed relieved and grateful to first witness a cell led by pastor Jeff. 

What do you think? Do you have any additional counsel for Jeff or for someone in a similar circumstance?


Joel Comiskey

Teaching for Children in the Cell Church


by Mario Vega

As the number of cells in Elim grew, the number of children that attended both cell and celebration also grew. At church we followed the tradition of offering Bible School to children every Sunday, separating the children into age-related classes.
However, it was such a large number of children that it became very difficult to maintain pedagogical conditions for learning. In one occasion, we estimated how many classrooms we would need to attend comfortably all the children that attended the celebration services. It turned out that we needed 200 classrooms. And each year, we would need to continue building additional classrooms to take care of the children that were being added.

Of course we could not build a huge building with 200 classrooms and even less could we continue to develop it year after year. It seemed like we were at a dead end. So, it occurred to me that a solution could be the cell system. We didn’t need to build 200 classrooms, for we already had the numerous houses of our members in which we could care for our children.

Therefore we decided to invert things. Bring Bible School to the houses and then have a big celebration at church. This is how Children’s Church was born. In the church’s premises we built a new building where the children have a great celebration service in which they come together to worship God and develop a special program.

But in the houses they receive weekly Bible instruction from rom well-trained leaders. That is how our Children’s Cells were born. I’ll be sharing with you more about this in the coming future.



Translation in Spanish:

Enseñanza para niños en una iglesia celular.

Al crecer el número de células en Elim también creció la cantidad de niños que asistían a esas células y luego a la celebración. En la iglesia seguíamos la tradición de ofrecer una escuela bíblica cada domingo para los niños; separados por grupos de edad.

No obstante, la cantidad de niños era tal que resultaba muy difícil poder tener condiciones pedagógicas para el aprendizaje. En una ocasión, hicimos cálculos de cuántas aulas necesitábamos para atender cómodamente a todos los niños que asistían a la celebración. Resultó que necesitábamos 200 aulas. Pero no solamente eso sino que, cada año, necesitaríamos seguir construyen aulas adicionales para atender a los niños que se iban sumando.

Por supuesto que no podíamos construir un edificio enorme de 200 aulas y menos seguir ampliándolo año con año. Parecía que estábamos en un callejón sin salida. Sin embargo, se me ocurrió que una solución podía ser el mismo carácter celular de nuestra iglesia. No necesitábamos construir 200 aulas, pues, ya disponíamos de muchas más casas de nuestros miembros para atender a los niños.

Decidimos entonces invertir las cosas. Impartir la escuela bíblica en las casas y luego tener en la iglesia una gran celebración. Así nació la iglesia infantil. En el local de la iglesia construimos un edificio nuevo donde los niños tienen una gran celebración donde juntos alaban a Dios y tienen un programa especial para desarrollar. Pero en las casas reciben la enseñanza de líderes capacitados para impartirles su formación semanal. De esa manera nacieron nuestras células infantiles. De esto seguiré compartiendo en el futuro.