Rivalries and Sheep Stealing


by Joel Comiskey

One pastor of a cell church with 200 cells recently asked me two questions:

1. “How do I solve the problem of rivalries between the leaders?”

2. “How to I make sure that leaders don’t rob members from other cells and from other leaders?”

I answered him saying:

There is no easy answer to this problem. You will need to speak to these issues in your training and coaching. I believe that the essence of the cell church is to make disciples that make other disciples (generate other leaders). I believe that the atmosphere of the cell is the best one to produce disciples. At the same time, we must take heed to what Jesus said about those who would be His disciples. Jesus said that the entire world would recognize His disciples by their love, service, humility, and how they consider others better then themselves.

Jesus has been showing me lately the importance of applying the “one anothers” of the Bible and how a disciple of Jesus must practice these principles. Success in God’s kingdom revolves around serving one another and walking in humility–just like the community that exists within the Trinity.

You are going to have to teach your leaders and future leaders these principles. Yes, you could make “rules” to prevent “member stealing,” etc., but it seems to me that it’s much better if change comes from the leader’s heart, rather than from an external rule.

Perhaps you’d like to comment on one or more of the following questions:

Have you experienced rivalries between your leaders? Cell leader sheep stealing?

How have you dealt with such problems?

p.s.: remember to check out the cell symposium seminar sessions at  cellsymposium.com (I teach on cell church transition and cell church planting)

Learn by Doing


by Mario Vega

Any skill is learned faster when it involves our effort. It is much easier to learn something by doing it than by simply hearing about it. Similarly, cell work is learned more quickly by  getting involved, rather than hearing teaching after teaching about  it.

For this reason, the leader should provide all the opportunities in his or her power to get people to participate in cell ministry. When that is accomplished, the leader’s task of multiplying groups will increase.

The leader must delegate significant duties to the cell members, opening the door for new leaders to develop. On the contrary, when a leader monopolizes all the functions, it prevents other people from learning to become leaders, hinders the cell multiplication,  and will also end up overwhelming the leader.

It is essential to instill in leaders that the main purpose of cell ministry is multiplication. This truth will help them to focus on training new leaders,  rather than doing everything. Leaders multiply when they’re allowed to perform leadership roles as part of their training.



translation in Spanish:

Aprender haciendo.

Cualquier habilidad se aprende de manera más veloz cuando involucra nuestro esfuerzo. Es mucho más fácil aprender algo haciéndolo que simplemente escuchando de ello. De igual manera, el trabajo celular se aprende más rápidamente participando de él que escuchando muchas enseñanzas.

Por ese motivo, el líder debe proveer todas las oportunidades que sean posibles para que otras personas participen del quehacer celular. Cuando se hace eso la multiplicación de líderes es mucho más eficaz.

El líder debe delegar funciones significativas a los miembros de la célula y, de esa manera, abrir la oportunidad para que otros se forjen como nuevos líderes. Por el contrario, cuando un líder acapara todas las funciones para sí mismo, impide que otras personas aprendan a ser líderes, estanca la multiplicación de la célula y terminará abrumado por el trabajo que implica el no delegar.

Es fundamental inculcar en los líderes que el propósito principal del trabajo celular es la multiplicación. De esa manera, se enfocarán en la formación de nuevos líderes antes que en acaparar privilegios. Los líderes se multiplican cuando se les permite hacer funciones de líderes como parte de su formación.

Back to the Basics

coach-tunnell    Jeff Tunnell

“As long as the worship team perfoms, the pastor preaches a relevant message, and the administration flows without a hitch, everyone feels satisfied.  As you examine these churches, however, you’ll notice a fatal flaw: the lack of transformed lives. There is no power. Even God seems scheduled on the church calendar.

The first and foremost solution to the transformation of the church in North America is prayer – a humble, radical crying out to God for help.  Commitment to prayer obliterates pride and forces us to rely solely on God Himself.  It teaches us to depend on Him before looking at strategies – even cell ministry.  The time has come to go beyond past remedies and fixes.  We need a major overhaul, a total solution.”

The preceding comments are straight from Joel’s book, “Cell Church Solutions; transforming the Church in America”, pages 100-101, and the chapter titled “Back to the Basics”.   This book has been updated and re-titled to “The Church that Multiplies: Growing a Healthy Cell Church in North America”.

I realize our blog readers are not limited to North America, thank you for your patience with me today.  I have blogged along these lines recently, but still would like more interraction on how your cell church is handling this BASIC value and practice.  Is it working, is it frustrating, is it satisfying? Inspire the rest of us with your story.



by Rob Campbell

In July 1994, Chuck Swindoll spoke at the Promise Keepers Leadership Conference in Boulder, Colorado. As he stepped to the podium, he looked intently from left to right at the thousands who had gathered for this event. I was one of those in attendance, seated in the very front row next to Coach McCartney. Then he spoke, “Pastors, lighten up…lighten up!” I loved his admonishment for I have always believed that pastors are too tight, serious, posturing themselves to be more important than they really are. The place filled with laughter and Chuck continued. This masterful communicator cited the dirty dozen obstacles to leadership. They are as follows: Authoritarianism, Exclusiveness, Greed, Hypocrisy, Sensuality, Prejudice, Pride, Rationalization, Manipulation, Secrecy, Unaccountability, and Traditionalism. As he rattled off this deplorable, dirty dozen list, conviction fell on me. I sensed God saying to me, “Rob, leadership is a big deal. Continually clothe yourself in me.”

Might I share a few thoughts on leadership? You are so kind!

First, a leader sees the way (vision). Second, fellow team members and followers are essential for the journey (mission). Finally, leaders must be passionate about people for relationships are the key to any successful quest (passion). Ecclesiastes 4:12 states, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Vision (seeing), mission (doing), and passion (feeling) are commendable and necessary traits for an effective leader. Each strand is essential as you serve others. For example, if you lack mission and passion, then chances are strong you will jump from project to project. Further, if you have strong strands of passion and mission but lack vision, then you will give yourself to too small a task. Finally, if you lack passion but have immense vision and mission strands, then you will not have the heart to inspire others and the vision will become dry and laborious.

Spiritual leadership is a high calling and can be filled with great joy and/or immense pain. A great deal is expected from key leaders. These expectations can become burdensome as a pastor tries to become all things to all people. Can you guess which group is “the single most occupationally frustrated professionals in America?” That’s right– you nailed it! The answer is pastors. Pastors are in need of help and help is available as they intentionally and deliberately empower others for ministry. Pastors must consistently be on the lookout for emerging leaders. Author Mike Regele writes, “This means you may get less done in the present, but you will actually accomplish far more in the future by pouring your life into the people who can carry on those things that are nearest and dearest to your heart.”



Key Role of Lead Pastor in Cell Ministry

joelby Joel Comiskey

Many churches have small groups. Some churches even have great small group programs. I was in such a church in Philadelphia two weeks ago. The cell champion of this church had taken Touch’s training, been to a seminar by Larry Stockstill, and had spearheaded small groups in his large mega church. Even though I usually only do seminars and coaching in cell churches, I accepted this invitation, had a great time of ministry, and received a royal reception.

There was a key problem. I never met/talked to the lead pastor, and he didn’t come to the seminar (nor did two out of the three associates or the elders of the church). The small group leaders loved the seminar and learned a lot, but I went away with a gnawing sadness in my heart because I knew the cell leaders would not receive the necessary attention, coaching, and would eventually feel marginalized in their cell ministry. Why? Because of the lack of involvement of the senior leadership. Cells were one of the many programs.

I’m writing now from Queens, New York. Victor Tiburcio, the lead pastor at Aliento de Vida, met me at the airport, and we talked excitedly about cell ministry. He’s passionate about home groups, gives direction to the entire cell vision, and recently even started a new cell group for businessmen. His wife, Hatty, is totally sold on the vision. The cell leaders and network coaches feel like their ministry is at the heart of the church, and they serve enthusiastically. His church plant in Queens has grown to seventy-five cell groups and 800 people [as a side note: every service is translated into English and Spanish, and it feels like preaching to the United Nations. I gave the seminar in Spanish and preached in English, with nearly a simultaneous translation in Spanish].

As you can tell, one of the key differences between a cell church and a church with cells is the lead pastor’s vision. Other leaders can help a lot, and I believe in the key role of cell champions. Yet the vision and overall leadership belong to the lead pastor.Dale Galloway, one of the pioneer cell church pastors in North America and author of many cell books, writes, “No matter who introduces small-group ministry into a church, that ministry will only go as far as the Senior Pastor’s vision for it. The people will watch the Senior Pastor to see if small-group ministry is important” (The Small Group Book, p. 21).

Key members can influence the senior pastor to catch the vision, yet ultimately cell church ministry succeeds or fails by whether senior leadership is promoting and living it. The bottom line is that sheep follow the shepherd. Actions speak much louder than words, and this is especially true in cell-based ministry. As David 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” (Successful Home Cell Groups, p. 107).



The Power of Focusing


by Mario Vega

When a person concentrates in one specific thing he can achieve amazing results. Thomas Aquinas once said: “I fear the one single book man.” The man who knows a single book only, knows it well and is a fearsome adversary.

If the leader focuses on training a new leader, in a certain amount of time (even months), the leader will turn into a fearsome multiplier. In order to do so, it is necessary that leaders define their priorities, their time, their efforts, and their investments.

When a person concentrates on training new leaders, he or she will soon be an expert in this matter. If all of the leaders do the same, a church can become a strong wave of leadership multiplication. The multiplication of leaders precedes the multiplication of cells, and because of this, the outreach will be larger. Lets encourage our leaders to focus on being multipliers.



El poder de enfocarse.

Cuando una persona se concentra en una cosa específica puede lograr cosas sorprendentes. Tomás de Aquino dijo en una ocasión:

‘Temo al hombre de un solo libro’. El hombre que sólo conoce un único libro, lo conoce bien y es un adversario temible.

Si el líder se enfoca en formar un nuevo líder cada cierta cantidad de meses se convertirá en un multiplicador temible. Para ello, es necesario que los líderes definan sus prioridades, su tiempo, sus esfuerzos y sus inversiones en torno al tema de la formación de un nuevo líder.

Cuando una persona se concentra en formar nuevos líderes muy pronto será un experto en la materia. Si todos los líderes hacen lo mismo, una iglesia puede convertirse en una fuerte ola de multiplicación de líderes. La multiplicación de líderes precede a la multiplicación de células y, de esa manera, los alcances serán mayores. Animemos a nuestros líderes a enfocarse en ser multiplicadores.

Friendship and Community

coach-tunnellJeff Tunnell

May I speak to Pastors and Cell Leaders for a moment?  Have you ever asked the question “Is it okay for me to have friends inside the church, or should they be from outside my congregation?”  I mean, have you wondered if it is possible to have “community” like the Godhead, or a Peter, James and John circle of confidence and friendship, while being the leader?

H.B. London, Jr., in his Pastor-to-Pastor ministry with Focus on the Family has reported,

“As we talk with thousands of pastors each year, we find that 70% of all pastors have no real close friend in which to confide (whether inside or outside the church). This is a tragedy. Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 describes to us the importance of having friendships in life so we can vent or join together in a project or lift each other up when we fall or enjoy recreation together. The key word we hear from pastors is “isolation”.”

Translation: 7 out of 10 pastoral leaders (and I include Cell leaders here) do not have someone they consider a close friend.  We constantly remind others to build community within the cell and evangelize by making friends outside the church (Jesus was a friend of sinners).  Yet the research from candid conversations with honest leaders concludes that we are not accomplishing the results expected of those we lead.  OUCH!

  There is not a singular answer to the original question, but there are several factors to be considered:

  • How vulnerable are you as a pastor, or cell leader?
  • How used to having closed friends are you?
  • What level of sharing is appropriate?
  • What has been your experience concerning friendships thus far?

 Jesus calls us “friends”; has He also given you others?  Who are they, and do they know you want to experience community with them?  If not, when will you express your desire for friendship to them?

More Thoughts on Relational Discipleship

robby Rob Campbell

If you haven’t read Joel’s blog from yesterday, then please do. Further, check out the comments from others. They are good and insightful.

Joel asks two questions.

1. Is it possible to be a cell leader and at the same time a relational dud? (relationally dysfunctional).

2. How do we assure that future cell leaders (disciple-makers) are relationally well-adjusted and growing in the one-anothers?

I tempted not to touch question #1 with a ten foot pole, but let me provide one thought. One has to be attractive in order to attract others to Christ. I’m not talking “physical attraction,” but the joy, life, hope of Jesus needs to be apparent. I propose the following question that links with this thought: If you could give away your Christianity to a not-yet believer for a 24 hour period, would he/she keep it or give it back to you?

Let me move to question #2. Two thoughts come to mind. First, relational/spiritual growth is plausible when we embrace a heart of brokenness meshed with humility. We simply cannot grow deeper with God and closer to others without this heart attitude. Next, Proverbs 27:17 seems to grant us an answer that is worth investigating. Check it out!

Finally, if you are jazzed by Joel’s inquiries, then please consider reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and the Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero.



Relational Discipleship

joelby Joel Comiskey

I believe the essence of cell ministry is making disciples who make disciples. The cell atmosphere is an incredible way to prepare future disciple makers. Mario has been blogging about the need for leaders to identify new leaders, and this excites me. Cell churches develop equipping tracks to guide the process.

But are we preparing disciples who know how to practice the one-anothers of Scripture? Is it possible to raise up a cell leader who is relationally dysfunctional? As I’ve been writing my new book, The Relational Disciple, I’ve been meditating on the need for future leaders to grow in their relational skills. The phrase “one another” appears 100 times in the New Testament. The majority of the occurrences of the phrase “one another” have to do with relationships between Christians and how to cultivate those relationships. And the writers of the New Testament exhorted believers to grow deeper and deeper in living out Scriptural truth through accountability with one another.

Here are two questions:

1. Is it possible to be a cell leader and at the same time a relational dud? (relationally dysfunctional).

2. How do we assure that future cell leaders (disciple-makers) are relationally well-adjusted and growing in the one-anothers?

All comments about your experience in this area are welcome. I’m also trying to discern how to help future disciples grow to become relational disciples.



Selecting a New Leader


by Mario Vega

The leader plays a fundamental role in creating a new leader. The leader’s work should focus on training another person who at the same time becomes a new cell leader.

The first step is to select a person as a candidate. This person must comply with certain conditions: maturity, spirituality, desire to serve the Savior. And of course, each church will also have specific conditions for a new leader.

But what if the leader doesn’t find a person in his cell that complies with these conditions? Well, he should take that person who comes nearer to that ideal and begin to mentor him so that he can reach the requirements he is lacking at the current time.

Even if there is no one in the cell that fulfills the basic requirements, the leader must not give up. On the contrary, he must take one of his cell attendees and begin to work to make him or her a suitable person for leadership. Every leader must be able to mention the name of a person who he is mentoring for leadership. Leaders must be raised up. As Paul says, the leader must experience birth pangs until he sees Christ formed in each Christian (Galatians 4:19).



Version in Spanish:

Seleccionando a un nuevo líder.

El líder juega un papel fundamental en la generación de un nuevo líder. El trabajo del líder se debe enfocar en formar a otra persona para que, a su vez, se convierta en un nuevo líder de célula.

El primer paso para ello es el de seleccionar a una persona como candidata. Ésta persona debe poseer las condiciones de madurez, espiritualidad, deseos de servir a su salvador. Además aquellas otras condiciones que cada iglesia establece como elementos básicos.

¿Pero qué sucede si el líder no encuentra una persona en su célula que cumpla con esas condiciones? Pues debe tomar a aquella persona que se acerca más a ese ideal y comenzar a mentorearlo para que alcance los requisitos que al momento actual le falten.

Si sucediera que nadie en la célula alcanza ni uno sólo de los requisitos, entonces el líder no debe darse por vencido. Por el contrario, debe tomar a uno de los asistentes a su célula y comenzar a trabajar para hacer de él una persona adecuada para el liderazgo. Todo líder debe ser capaz de mencionar el nombre de una persona a quien está mentoreando para llevarle al liderezgo.

Los líderes deben ser engendrados. Como Pablo, el líder debe experimentar dolores de parto hasta ver a Cristo formado en cada cristiano.