D.Min course with Ralph Neighbour

joelRob Campbell asked me to share once again about my experience here in Texas at the cell symposium. The word “symposium” means “a formal meeting held for the discussion of a particular subject and during which individuals may make presentations.” The symposium, facilitated by Ralph Neighbour, was sponsored by the Golden Gate Baptist Seminary, and took place at Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. Immediately following the symposium was the Golden Gate Seminary’s D.Min course on cell church that Ralph Neighbour is in charge of. Ralph asked me to teach two full days (I just finished yesterday). I wondered beforehand how I’d feel with Ralph Neighbour and Bill Beckham in the classroom while I taught. It actually worked out very well. Both of them positively contributed to the teaching and all eleven of us were enriched.

I was amazed to hear how extensively Ralph has visited cell churches around the world. He spoke from such a deep reservoir of experience. I was also impressed by Bill Beckham. Bill always has something uplifting to say and truly has a heart for Christ’s church. I didn’t know that in 1983 Bill Beckham felt God call him to link himself with Ralph Neighbour. Those two have been inseparable ever since. They live near each other and talk daily. Their wives also spend lots of daily time with each other.

Ralph is now 80 years old. He’s passing on his years of experience of cell church ministry to a new generation. No one knows the exact future of the cell church around the world. We do know that Christ is the head of the church, and we’re in good hands with Christ in control. As I ate breakfast with Ralph Neighbour and his first born son this morning (his son is also named Ralph and was part of the D.Min course), my heart filled with joy for the life of a pioneer who has blessed Christ’s body with penetrating truths. Will we continue to carry the torch? Comments?

Joel Comiskey

Desertion of Leaders


by Mario Vega

The desertion of cell leaders is an unavoidable reality. As in any army at war where dropouts do occur, there are also those who fall-out in the battle of faith.

Desertions affect the multiplication of cells. Cell multiplication occurs only when leaders multiply. But if new leaders have to be continually used to replace those who dropout, much of the multiplying force will be lost.

Some desertions occur for unavoidable reasons. For example, change of address, death, and emigration. But another part of drop-outs occur for a common reason: lack of discipleship. Ideally, every leader should be also a disciple. However, this always the case. A disciple of Christ is someone who follows the example and footsteps of the Master, which includes obeying His Word and sacrificially serving Him.

Cell churches should extend their effort widely to make every believer a disciple. By doing this, the level of desertion will be greatly reduced and only those cases that are strictly unavoidable will remain. Yet, if new leaders are just trained and a cell is handed to them, desertions will continue. The goal is to shape them into disciples who will live consistent, godly lives for Jesus.



En Español

Deserción de líderes.

La deserción de líderes es una realidad inevitable en todo trabajo celular. Al igual que en un ejército en guerra, en el cual se producen deserciones, también en la batalla de la fe se dan deserciones.

Las deserciones afectan la multiplicación de las células. La multiplicación de las células sólo se produce cuando los líderes se multiplican. Pero si continuamente se deben colocar nuevos líderes en las vacantes de los desertores, parte de la fuerza multiplicadora se perderá.

Algunas deserciones se producen por causas inevitables. Por ejemplo, cambio de domicilio, muerte, emigración. Pero, otra parte de las deserciones se producen por una razón común: la falta de discipulado. No es lo mismo capacitar a una persona para que sea líder que hacer discípulo a una persona. Lo ideal sería que todo líder sea al mismo tiempo un discípulo.

Un discípulo de Cristo es alguien que sigue el ejemplo y las pisadas del Maestro. Obedece a su Palabra y le sirve de manera sacrificial. Las iglesias celulares deben extender un esfuerzo amplio por hacer discípulos a todos los creyentes. De esa manera, el nivel de deserción se verá grandemente reducido y solamente quedarán aquellos casos estrictamente inevitables. Si solamente se capacitan nuevos líderes y se les entrega una célula las deserciones continuarán; pero, si se les hace discípulos, su servicio al Señor será mucho más consistente.


Prayer First

coach-tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, is hosting the Cell Symposium this week! What a wonderful setting for writing today’s blog.  Participating in this historic event is a privilege and fun at the same time. 300 attendees from all parts of the world, discussing the state of the cell church in God’s economy while developing strategies for advancement of the Kingdom of God in the earth; pinch me, am I awake or dreaming?

The key area of focus woven into every message and conversation here at the Symposium is PRAYER FIRST.  Without this posture toward the work to which God has called us, our efforts are mere struggles to accomplish His task with our strength. Now there’s the wrong tool for the right job!

Personal growth is a requirement for all Christians; leaders embrace this responsibility. Rehearsing the axiom that “I cannot lead where I will not go, and I cannot teach what I do not know” is reasonable.

So, how is your prayer life?  In the conversations here, some quick “averages” of prayer, devotions, intercession and the “work” of prayer (as I see it) would come be: more than one hour daily, sincere prayer with others in the cell every week, a corporate meeting once or twice per month, and responses to urgent prayer gatherings for the church interspersed regularly on a frequent “as needed” basis. (These meetings are often being requested by government officials for intervention in civil disturbances!)

Reading books about prayer, talking about it and preaching/teaching about it, is necessary. However, these are no substitute for actually praying! We must pray. Let us determine to grow personally in PRAYER FIRST.

May I invite you to participate in the stream of conversation here this week?  Increase your fellowship with the Father and His family. Devote yourself to prayer. Colossians 4:2

The Army of God (notes from Dion Robert)

joelAllow me to share with you some things God has been doing this past week. Please read the fourth paragraph about my interview with Dion Robert:

Wednesday through Saturday: A “Cell Church Mission Conference” in Monterrey, Mexico from Wednesday to Saturday with Mario Vega, Ben Wong, and Robert Lay at Noe Salinas Church (2000 members in 250 cells). Powerful time talking to the 550 registered attendees about cells and missions. CCMN is trying to establish a mission sending network among cell churches throughout South America. This is our third congress.

Sunday: Preaching at a cell church in Santiago, Mexico on Sunday. This church is part of Rob Campbell’s network, and Rob asked me to minister there. Powerful time. It felt good to be in a smaller church that has grown to 10 cells and is continuing to reach out and multiply.

Monday until now:  Waco, Texas, hanging out in the room of Jim Lassiter, the translator and co-worker of Dion Robert, founder and pastor of the Baptists Works and Mission church (193,000 people). I had the incredible privilege of interviewing Dion Robert as we drove from the Dallas airport to Waco, Texas (2 hours). First, Dion is an incredible man. He insisted on carrying my bags for me. He would not allow me to sit in the back seat, asking me to sit in the front. He has a very humble demeanor, but very strong convictions. Dion sees his church as an army. His goal is to make disciples–not attendees. He learned how to organize this army by reading Numbers 18, where Jethro told Moses to organize the people into groups of 10s, 100s, and 1000s. “But how did your church grow so large?” I asked him. “Decrentralization,” was one of the answers he gave me. His 193,000 member church is organized around smaller local cell churches throughout the world. They are an army and share vision, cell messages, and ministries. Their main message is based on Luke 4:18-19–setting the captives free.

I have pages of notes, but I’ll stop there. The opening banquet for the cell symposium is in a few minutes.



Missions and the Cell Church


by Mario Vega

Most of the unreached people today are located in Muslim countries or in restricted countries to the Gospel. Under these conditions, it is not possible to perform the traditional role of missionary church planting.

Missionary work must be done slowly, carefully and practically in a clandestine way. This is where the work of cell church shines since the church members are trained and accustomed to delivering the Gospel person to person and from house to house. Joel Comiskey has said: “The same work that a leader performs multiplying a cell in his own country can be done on the mission field.” From that standpoint, every leader is potentially a missionary.

It’s easy for cell chruches to only focus on themselves. Yet, God wants to give them a vision of evangelizing unreached people groups as well. These are the topics that we are discussing right now in Monterrey, Mexico at the III Latin American Consultation of Cell Church and Mission network.

What do you think about these ideas?


Translation in Spanish:

Las misiones y las iglesias celulares.

Gran parte de los pueblos no alcanzados hoy en día se encuentras ubicados en países musulmanes o muy cerrados al evangelio. En esas condiciones el realizar un trabajo misionero tradicional que consiste en fundar una nueva iglesia no es posible.

El trabajo misionero debe ser hecho de manera lenta, cuidadosa y prácticamente en la clandestinidad. Es allí donde el trabajo de las iglesias celulares resulta importante ya que los miembros de estas iglesias se encuentran entrenados y acostumbrados a llevar el evangelio persona a persona y de casa en casa.

Joel Comiskey ha dicho: ‘El mismo trabajo que un líder realiza multiplicando una célula en su país es el que debe hacer en el campo misionero.’ Desde ese punto de vista, todo líder es un misionero en potencia.

Las iglesias celulares que hasta hoy se han concentrado en el crecimiento y en sí mismas deben levantar la mirada para dirigir sus capacidades adquiridas hacia la evangelización de los pueblos no alcanzados.

Temas como éste son los que se desarrollan en la Tercera Consulta Latinoamérica de la Red de Iglesias Celulares que se desarrolla en Monterrey la presente semana.

¿Qué piensas de éstas ideas?

Right Hand of Fellowship

coach-tunnellby Jeff Tunnell


a sharing of common interests, goals, experiences, or views

companionship or friendly association

a community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience

a company of equals or friends

In Galatians 2:9 the Apostle Paul relates the moment when the other apostles in Jerusalem “gave me and Barnabus the right hand of fellowship” in recognition of his ministry to the Gentiles.  This phrase has since been used regularly in Christian circles to express our agreement with others in common mission.

Ideally the cell group will discover similar fellowship in their common missions.  Often our fellowship first occurs in simple activities together (picnic, bowling, sports, coffee, events, etc). During these times we learn about each other’s personalities, reactions, likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.  Shared experiences can form a necessary foundation on which to build toward the “ideal” of accomplishing missions that promote the gospel.

As leaders we can organize our initial fellowship times with, and on, purpose.  That is, we may construct opportunities that will promote rapid and deep interaction with one another (internal to the cell) in order to establish association for future outreach (external to the cell).

Our mission of spreading the gospel is URGENT.  Our right hand of fellowship will be much stronger when we are in the company of friends, sharing the common goal of accomplishing the “Go” part of Jesus’ great commission.

How much time or number of internal activities together as a group is necessary to build enough community in order to activate the cell toward “mission”?  How long is too long?  What must we guard against to avoid becoming centric and stuck on internal focuses?

by Rob Campbell


“Holistic small groups are the natural place for Christians to learn to serve others—both inside and outside the group—with their spiritual gifts.  The planned multiplication of small groups is made possible through the continual development of leaders as a by-product of the normal group life.  The meaning of the term ‘discipleship’ becomes practical in the context of holistic small groups:  the transfer of life, not rote learning of abstract concepts.”

 Natural Church Development, Christian Schwarz, p. 32

 May I ask you to read that last sentence one more time?  That sentence is one of the most concise definitions of discipleship in the context of holistic small groups that I’ve ever read.  Ruminate of that sentence, my friend.

 A few questions:

 As you partner with God, how do your group members experience the “transfer of life?”

 Concerning your equipping track, is it curriculum centered or seminar style?  Do you equip one on one or assemble all the leaders together?

 What one mistake have you made in equipping leaders that you would like to share with this blog community?


Dion Robert and the Works and Mission Baptist Church

joelI hope to see many of you at the cell symposium this month. If you receive this blog and will be coming to the event, I’d love to greet you during the symposium. One of the pastors I’m looking forward to meeting for the first time is Dion Robert, founder and pastor of the Works and Mission Baptist Church. If you’ll look at Dion Robert’s bio on the cell symposium website, it says,
“CWMI is a cell church that gathers over 185,000 in cell groups weekly.” Wow.

I’m thrilled that I will drive with Dion from Dallas to Waco. Ralph Neighbour wrote yesterday, “Jim Lassiter will pick you up at DFW and bring you down along with Dion Robert.” I’m going to pepper Dion with lots of questions because my knowledge of his church is dated. The last time I wrote about his church was nine years ago in an article entitled “Ten Largest Cell Churches.” I wrote:

The celebration event in the mother church attracts some 6,000 worshippers each Sunday. However, the Works and Mission Baptist Church has 56 local satellite churches in the capital city of Abidjan alone and many more throughout the country. A total of 18,000 cells (14,000 adult cells and about 4,000 children’s cells) form the basis of the church. There is one system of government and administration from the smallest cell in France to the Temple in Abidjan. All reports, accountability, etc. filter back to the mother church. The local churches are not independent. Each local church has exactly the same departmental structure and ultimately report back to Abidjan.  Les Brickman, who did his doctoral dissertation at Regent University on the Works and Mission Baptist Church says, “This church has experienced quantitative and qualitative growth since its inception in 1975. With over 150,000 members worldwide, it has proven to be successful in the context of both African and non-African culture, having planted churches in 34% of current African nations as well as in Europe and North America.”

If you’d like to find out more about Robert’s church, buy Les Brickman book entitled Preparing the 21st Century Church. As mentioned above, Brickman earned his doctoral degree studying this great church.



p.s.: My daughter Sarah and I travel on Wednesday to Monterrey, Mexico to participate in the Cell Church Missions Network meeting. The goal of CCMN is to promote cell church missions in Latin America and beyond. Mario Vega, Ralph Neighbour, Ben Wong, and others will also be attending. I’ll tell you about it in next week’s blog.

Reaping the Harvest through Cell Ministry


by Mario Vega

Most of the conversions at Elim take place in the cell groups. Although we try to have a balance between cell and celebration, there’s no doubt that more people receive Jesus as Lord and Savior in the cell.

On many occassions I’ve said to the church that those who are born-again in the celebration services have first received love and friendship in the cell. . Actually, exceedingly few people just walk into our church on their own. I have no doubt that most have first heard the gospel on various occassions in the cell group. When they come forward in one of our services, it’s simply the final process of having heard the gospel many times.

In reality, salvation comes as a result of the church cooperating together, both in cell and celebration. The cell leader sows the seed, the preacher waters, but ultimately God gives the increase.



Translation in Spanish:

La mayor parte de conversiones que se producen en nuestra iglesia tienen lugar en las células. Aunque tratamos de establecer un equilibrio entre la reunión de célula y la celebración lo cierto es que la mayor parte de conversiones se producen en las células.

Repetidas veces he dicho a la congregación que incluso las conversiones que se producen en la celebración son el resultado del trabajo previo que se ha hecho en las células. Los amigos que nos visitan lo hacen porque la mayor parte de ellos han ido a una célula antes.

Creo que es muy pequeño el número de personas que asisten a la iglesia de su propia iniciativa. No dudo que la mayor parte de amigos vienen de reunirse en una célula donde han escuchado el evangelio varias veces. Cuando finalmente se entregan al Señor en la iglesia lo hacen como el final de un proceso en el cual han participado varias personas y después de haber escuchado repetidas veces el evangelio.

De esta manera, diría que las conversiones se producen como el resultado del trabajo corporativo de la iglesia. El líder sembró, el predicador regó, el crecimiento lo ha dado Dios.

No Success without a Successor

coach-tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

Jim Daly is the new President and CEO of Focus on the Family and the successor of founder Dr. James Dobson.  My wife and I just returned from an evening together with Mr. Daly, H.B. London, Jr. and the Pastoral Ministries staff of FOF.  It is apparent that a great commitment has been made to transition the leadership of this world-wide ministry in order to “reach another generation”, as stated by Jim Daly.  This process has been in the works for 3-4 years and has come to fruition in a beautiful way.

There can be no success without a successor!  Spending the evening with such a reputable ministry that demonstrates this principle by its actions has been inspiring.  I found it remarkable that Dr. Dobson announced his transition on February 28 in a gathering of the staff in Colorado Springs, while I did the same with our church on March 1; This encouraged me greatly.

Our blog readers know that I have been on a similar mission to transition the leadership of Big Bear Christian Center motivated by comparable desire.  Last Sunday I introduced my “Timothy” to the congregation, as God has provided a man for me to mentor over the next few years.  By His grace, Rob Hastings will succeed me as the Senior Pastor and become a great Champion for Cells in our community.  This will come after a season of discipleship and growth in the principles of cell ministry. Rob and I must first share a relationship comparable  to Paul and Timothy, Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, developing discipleship in the context of relationship.  I like the phrase “discipleship only happens in the context of relationship”.  Mentoring a new leader for our cell church will be a wonderful, life-changing experience for both of us.

Every cell leader (and cell Pastor) should be walking in a mentoring relationship in order to multiply himself/herself for the expansion of our Father’s kingdom on earth.  Jesus said, “Go, make disciples…” and we must, at whatever stage of leadership we are in presently. Successors lead to success in our mission!