Worship, Passion, and Missions

joelGreat weekend of ministry at Vineyard of Harvest in Walnut, CA. This is a dynamic Chinese Church that forms part of the Vineyard movement. Their cell church influence comes mainly from Lawrence Khong (Faith Community Baptist altarChurch) and Larry Kreider’s house to house ministry.

As I ate dinner with the pastors, the lead pastor, Kenneth Kwan, admitted to me that they’ve neglected the cell emphasis and need to get back on track. VOH has an exquisite building in a wealthy area of southern CA, and they realize that God is calling them to send people from their building to penetrate the community through multiplying cells. As I ministered at VOH, I noted three top-notch qualities:

Worship: What powerful worship! Of course, the Vineyard is known for great worship, and this church certainly follows that tradition. Those in the congregation aren’t afraid to outwardly express their inward convictions. I was pleasantly surpised to see pastor Kwan grab a banner and march in front of the congregation, along with the others who were waving banners as part of worship. Dynamic! This church believes that ministry flows from the heart of God. Cell leaders and members are encouraged through dynamic worship. Cells, in fact, are the conduits of the Spirt’s grace and power.

Passion: Pastor Kwan speaks and preaches like a fiery southern Baptist preacher. Booming voice, passionate delivery. He stirs people to action. After his passionate introduction of me on Friday night, I felt stirred with enthusiasm. Kwan’s early passion and zeal comes from an encounter he had at John Wimber’s “signs and wonders” conference in 1988. Then in 1991, he planted VOH.

Missions: VOH holds a yearly mission conference to keep the fire burning for worldwide outreach. I spoke on the missional task of raising up an army of harvest workers and the worldwide cell church movement. VOH sends teams all over the world, has planted five churches, and believes missions must be at the core of all they do and say.

Two questions (feel free to answer one or both):

1. Which of these three characteristics (worship, passion, and missions) do you feel is the most necessary to make cell ministry work effectively?

2. Which of these these three characteristics is your church lacking the most?

Evangelists and the Cell Church


by Mario Vega

Cell models produce great results in terms of new converts. Newborn believers are so abundant that one question could be asked: do we need evangelists in the cell church era?

The main objection to the effort of setting up mass activities with emblematic evangelists is that these activities demand large investments and leave few results. Each crusade night 100s of people profess their conversion, but a few weeks after the evangelist has left, little fruit remains.

Instead, cell work doesn’t require extraordinary efforts, and it isn’t an occasional but a constant activity that continues to reach people for Christ each week.

But, there is no antagonism between cell church and evangelists. Rather, there is a relationship of cooperation. The church is never better prepared to take advantage of the results of an evangelistic activity than when its’ work is a cellular work.

The evaporation of the results of large crusades is because traditional churches are not prepared to maintain the results. What can a traditional church that receives 100s of new members in only one week do? If there is no priesthood of all the believers, most likely the church will lose them.

Instead, a cell church is trained and prepared to receive 100s of new members. The era of the great evangelists has not ended with the cell church, rather, when the church is a cell church it is prepared more than ever to take advantage of the abundant fruit that the Evangelist leaves.



Translation in Spanish:

La iglesia celular y los evangelistas.

Los modelos celulares producen grandes resultados en cuanto a nuevos conversos. Los nuevos nacimientos son tan abundantes que se podría llegar a preguntar: ¿En la era de las iglesias celulares siguen siendo importantes los evangelistas?

La principal objeción que se presenta al esfuerzo de montar actividades multitudinarias con evangelistas emblemáticos es que demandan grandes inversiones y dejan pocos resultados. Cada noche de cruzada cientos de personas profesan su conversión. Pero, unas semanas después que el evangelista se ha marchado no queda casi nada de los grandes resultados.

En cambio, el trabajo celular no requiere esfuerzos extraordinarios y es una actividad no ocasional sino constante que sigue alcanzando a las personas para Cristo cada semana.

Pero, no hay un antagonismo entre iglesia celular y evangelistas. Mas bien hay una relación de cooperación. Nunca la iglesia está mejor preparada para aprovechar los resultados de una actividad evangelizadora que cuando su trabajo es celular.

La evaporación de los resultados de las grandes cruzadas se debe a que las iglesias tradicionales no están preparadas para conservar los resultados. ¿Qué puede hacer una iglesia tradicional que recibe 100 nuevos miembros en una sola semana? Si no existe el sacerdocio de todos los creyentes el Pastor no tendrá más opción que dejarlos perder.

En cambio, una iglesia celular está entrenada y preparada para recibir a 100 nuevos miembros. Eso es muy natural dentro del modelo celular. La era de los grandes evangelistas no ha finalizado con la iglesia celular, mas bien, cuando la iglesia es celular está preparada mejor que nunca para aprovechar el abundante fruto que el evangelista deja.

Stay in Touch

coach-tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

How many of you have discovered that relationships developed within the Body of Christ are often deeper and more dependable than those of your natural family members who do not know Jesus as Savior?  I see those hands lifted up out there!

Staying in touch with the members of your Cell nurtures relationship.  Joel has stated often that cells are about what happens BETWEEN cell meetings; drink more coffee!  I love that insight.  Invest time with those God has given you to care for as an under-shepherd.  When modeling Jesus we should include His statement, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” It takes time for your cell members to “know your voice” and this can be accomplished during regular contacts.  Trust is built over time, sheep are a little jumpy around strangers, but relaxed around a familiar voice.

How will you make this happen?  After all, we are very busy people with many things on our “to do” lists.  Is there room to add another activity or function that is not already on the list?  What will have to be taken off to accommodate this ministry and the time necessary to fulfill it?  Can this occur more naturally and without inconvenience?  What are the consequences of not doing this part of cell ministry?

I believe that once you start connecting regularly with those friends God has placed in your life and cell family you’ll become addicted to them and the benefits of friendship in Christ.  Other things will naturally drop out of your schedule that are less important and generally not even be missed.

So, who is on your list of contacts and when will you connect with them? A suggestion; pray for them just before you call on them.  God will give you leadership insights for the time you spend together.

Don’t Wait on the Brick

by Rob Campbell


A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar.  He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something.  As his car passed, no children appeared.  Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and spun the Jag back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. He jumped out of the car, grabbed some kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?!!”  Building up a head of steam he went on. “That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?!!”  “Please, mister, please. I’m sorry, I didn’t know what else to do!” pleaded the youngster.  “I threw the brick because no one else would stop…”

Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car.  “It’s my brother,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.”  Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair?  He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”  Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat.

He lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be okay.  “Thank you and God bless you,” the grateful child said to him.

The man then watched the little boy push his brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long walk back for the man to his Jaguar….a long, slow walk.  He never did repair the side door.  He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.

God whispers in your soul and speaks to your heart.  Sometimes when you don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a “brick” at you.  It’s your choice:  Listen to the whisper — or wait for the brick.

“Be still [quit striving] and know that I am God…”  Psalm 46:10

More Than Fellowship

joelCommunity or fellowship is an essential part of any cell group. My next book, The Relational Disciple, is all about how God uses community to shape followers of Jesus. Yet, the cell group is not only about community. The greatest difference, in fact, between cell groups and other “small groups” is the emphasis on evangelism and multiplication in the cell. This emphasis doesn’t neglect community/fellowship, it just gives the community forward momentum. The vision in the cell is to get those outside the cell to experience God’s rich community, and thus the need to start additional cells. And of course, all elements of the cell (evangelism, community, spiritual growth, and multiplication) must take place under the power of Christ’s working in the cell. Ralph Neighbour, in his book Christ’s Basic Bodies, rightly reminds us that cells must be directed by Christ Himself.

Why am I saying all this? Every two months I drive 20 minutes to a large Christian bookstore in Redlands, CA, buy a book, and then sit in one of their soft chairs and read all the major Christian magazines. I was reading Leadership Journal yesterday and saw an excerpt (several paragraphs) from Larry Osborne’s recent book Sticky Church (Osborne is a megachurch pastor in California). Osborne strongly criticized the cell church’s emphasis on cell multiplication, claimed multiplication doesn’t work, and then concluded that the reason for small groups is fellowship.

I was reminded once again of how normal it is for churches like the one Osborne pastors to focus on the large celebration as the primary means of church growth, but then to use cells more like “holding pens” for people to get to know each other. Is there anything wrong with fellowship? No. It’s an important aspect of cell life.

In the cell church, however, we see the cell as the church. We believe that members need to exercise their muscles and reach out to their neighbors–not just depend on the “preacher” to do the evangelizing. There are way too few Larry Osbornes in the world, and if we depend on them, we will continue to lose the overall battle between population growth and church growth. In the cell church, members are seen as the ministers and encouraged to start their own cell.

Is this emphasis difficult in secular places like the U.S.? Yes. Is it easier to just ask the members to focus on their own needs (fellowship)? Oh yes!

As I’ve said over and over on this blog, some places in the world are far more receptive to cell growth. You might be ministering in one of those places. Other places are more difficult and see less cell results (the western world). Regardless of where you live, it’s best to emphasize HOLISTIC small groups, which turn your members into ministers by asking them to exercise their spiritual muscles through evangelism and leadership development. I believe it’s unhealthy to solely focus on personal needs in the name of fellowship. But what do you think?


The School of Ministry


by Mario Vega

Cell Ministry allows Christians to function as actual ministers of the gospel.

For example, the leader develops the cell lesson, with a special emphasis on reaching the unconverted. To make this happen, it’s essential for him or her to receive training in how to evangelize.

The leader might also be called upon to function as a counselor. This requires sensitivity to those in the cell. Experience is the best teacher to grow in this discipline.

The leader also functions in the capacity of disciple-maker. When a person comes to Christ, the leader needs to assure that the new convert matures in the Christian life.

And of course, the leader must guide the dynamics of the group, making sure there’s a proper flow between prayer, worship, and Word.

All of these disciplines prepare the leader to influence others. What the leader is called upon to accomplish is exactly what pastors are asked to do. That’s why cell ministry provides such a wonderful environment to produce ministers for the harvest.



translation in Spanish:

La escuela del ministerio.

El trabajo celular permite a los cristianos relacionarse con las funciones de un ministro del evangelio.

El líder desarrolla la capacidad de impartir una enseñanza de la Biblia y notar cuáles son los aspectos que debe reforzar para asegurar el aprendizaje y la conversión de los invitados.

Eso permite que el líder pueda entrenarse en el trabajo de compartir las buenas nuevas de salvación.

Además, el líder ejerce cierta función de consejería.

Le permite trabajar con diversas personalidades y desarrolla la capacidad de la empatía. La escuela de la experiencia le muestra las maneras más eficaces de ayudar a los demás.

El líder también ejerce una función de tutoría. Cada vez que una persona llega a la conversión es cuidada por el líder quien le guía en sus primeros pasos hasta que llegue a convertirse en un cristiano maduro.

El líder aprende a desenvolverse frente a un grupo de personas. Dirige las dinámicas. Dirige alabanzas, oraciones y toma iniciativas. Todas estas cosas le enseñan la manera de ejercer una influencia sobre las personas.

Cada una de las cosas mencionadas son características que todo ministro del evangelio debe tener. El trabajo celular permite que cada líder adquiera estas características con lo cual, en la práctica, se dan pasos agigantados para el deseo de Dios de tener en cada creyente una persona que ejerza la obra del ministerio.

Win Them To You

coach-tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

Win them to YOU, win them to your cell family, win them to JESUS!

The relational component of INVITE is of the utmost importance.  Yes there are strategic moments in a person’s life that will foster greater openness to your invitation (stressed, loss of health, bad marriage, loss of job, recent move), but establishing a relationship touches the need of most people.

The statement “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” is powerful insight and guidance.

I think that men have more difficulty with building relationships than women and that we tend toward “conquering” more than serving, fixing more than caring, being right more than being present.  Those attitudes are like hurdles on the runners track that must be cleared in order to win (the other person’s heart)!

Need to go, I have a cell with 12 other local pastors to be at in a few minutes – now there’s a small group I love!

Less is More


by Rob Campbell

About six weeks ago prior to worship, I was quickly scanning our Sunday Celebration’s Opportunity Folder (“bulletin”). I felt overwhelmed. There were many opportunities– many great opportunities. Yet, my feeling of being overwhelmed was not a positive feeling. I longed to return to a more simple church, lifestyle and ministry. Yes, even a cell church can become complex, clunky, clanky, and— overwhelming. I’m on a journey to reclaim simplicity.

Al Ries writes in his book, Focal Point, that there are four things you can do to improve the quality of your life and work.

1. You can do more of certain things. You can do more of the things that are of greater value to you and bring you greater rewards and satisfaction.

2. You can do less of certain things. You can deliberately decide to reduce activities or behaviors that are not as helpful as other activities.

3. You can start to do things you are not doing at all today. You can make new choices, learn new skills, begin new projects and activities, or change the entire focus of your work or personal life.

4. You can stop doing certain things altogether. You can stand back and evaluate your life with new eyes. You can then decide to discontinue activities and behaviors that are no longer consistent with what you want and where you want to go.

Dave Browning in his book, Deliberate Simplicity (a great read, by the way!), comments on the four options above. He writes, “While the traditional church tends to choose doors 1 and 3, the Deliberately Simple church looks at what is behind doors 2 and 4. By doing less of certain things, and stopping other things altogether, energy and resources can be reinvested in the few things really worth doing.”

Pastor Wade Hodges once stated, “If becoming a part of a church places people in an environment that encourages them to live more frenetic lives than they were living before, then we are going about doing church the wrong way.”

Browning writes, “What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?” He suggests that we “jettison other elements even if they have traditionally been associated with progress.”

One more thought from Browning:  “One of the questions that takes the church back to basics is, how would we do church if we didn’t have electricity? Your answer will undoubtedly push you back to the essence of the church and away from the artificiality of modernity.”

A parallel thought. My wife and I are buying a house for our university age daughter. Indeed, the mortgage industry is the antithesis of simplicity. I wonder if church life feels more like enduring the complexity of buying a new home, retrieving historical data, and appeasing the mortgage broker for our people than….say….loving God and others?? Weren’t our politicos pushing a one or two page closing document for the acquisition of a new house?

Shouldn’t church leaders contemplate “less can really mean more?”

‘Tis a gift to be simple. ‘Tis a gift to be free. ‘Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. [Shaker Hymn]



Grace-driven Ministry

joelI just got back from a ministry trip in New Jersey to celebrate the 5th year anniversary of Grace Christian Church (pastor Jeff Barbieri). I met with the cell JEFFleaders on Saturday night and preached on Sunday. Jeff and I excitedly talked about his equipping track. He is passioante about helping his members understand who they are in Christ and is a student of the “exchanged life” (the modern day Keswick movement). Jeff has designed a first-class equipping course that takes all members through a deeper understanding of their identity and identification in Christ.

Jeff believes that effective cell ministry flows naturally from leaders and members who are set free in Christ. If a cell leader, for example, doesn’t know he or she is fully forgiven, it’s hard to be transparent with the members.

We both agreed that a lot of cell literature is very TO DO oriented: “you have to build relationships,” “you have to evangelize more.” The grace-filled life, however, recognizes that Christ accomplishes these things through us. As we’re filled with Jesus, the overflow is to build relationships, witness, etc. Do you agree?

I told Jeff that he needed to publish his training track (and other books on the subject), so the rest of the cell church can benefit from them. In fact, you might want to contact Jeff, asking him about his training track and his passion for teaching on God’s grace.



The Leader’s Spiritual Preparation


by Mario Vega

Adequate leadership preparation is the key behind a successful cell meeting. This preparation is not only about the cell message, but in the spiritual preparation required to minister to others.

Prayer is a key factor. Fervent prayer is critical for lasting fruit. Prayer should not be made in a mechanical, non-thinking manner. Rather, it’s all about presenting our requests to God in natural, everyday dialogue.

The reading of the Bible is another key factor. People are always asking questions about various topics. Therefore, the leader must be prepared to provide guidance and answers. At the same time, the leader should always be honest. If a leader doesn’t know the proper answer, he shouldn’t hesitate to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll talk to my coach or pastor.” .

In our twenty-first century, meditation is an exercise that is almost non-existent. Meditation is not prayer. Meditation more to do with personal introspection, asking questions such as: What does God want from me? What’s the next step? What I do maintain the proper motivations?

Questions like these will find their answers if we can set time aside to leave the daily routine and dive into meditation.



Translation into Spanish:

La preparación espiritual del líder.

Un aspecto básico para una reunión celular exitosa es que el líder se haya preparado adecuadamente. Esta preparación no solo consiste en familiarizarse con el tema del día sino en reunir las condiciones espirituales que requiere la labor de conducir personas a Jesús.

La oración es un factor clave. La profundidad en la oración garantiza los resultados que se pueden obtener. La oración no debe ser hecha de manera rutinaria sino presentando a Dios las situación del día a día en un diálogo cotidiano.

La lectura de la Biblia es otro factor clave. Las personas siempre formularán preguntas sobre diversos temas. Por ello, el líder debe estar preparado para brindad orientación y respuestas. Sin embargo, también se debe usar de mucha honestidad. Si un líder no sabe cuál es la respuesta apropiada a una situación, no debe dudar en transferir el caso al Pastor.

La meditación es un ejercicio casi desaparecido en nuestro siglo XXI. La meditación no es oración. La meditación tiene que ver más con una introspección personal y la búsqueda a preguntas tales como: ¿Qué es lo que Dios desea de mi? ¿Cuál es el siguiente paso?

¿Lo que hago obedece a las motivaciones correctas? Preguntas como éstas encontrarán las respuestas si podemos apartar un tiempo para salir de la rutina diaria y sumergirnos en la meditación.