Assimilation / Formation

coach-tunnell   Jeff Tunnell

My son taught me how to fish.  We attended a brief class with local lake-district personnel. They gave us some primary instructions, gave us poles and tackle boxes filled with stuff useful for fishing, issued our licenses and off we went.  Following the instructions received, our excitement grew at the prospect of actually catching a fish as a trophy of our learning!  In suprisingly short order, we pulled a nice rainbow trout from the water. Holding it carefully we removed the hook, smiled in triumph and then asked… what do we do with it?  No thought had been given to the next steps necessary for actually keeping it.  Dumbfounded by our combined ignorance, our new friend left in a hurry.

As fishers of men, we should give some thought to the differences between ‘assimilation’ (catching) and ‘formation’ (keeping)?  When Jesus attracts one of His children to Himself, a cell-based church must have a strategy in place to assimilate them into Christian community and begin a process of spiritual formation for this newly established life in Christ.  Without doubt, the Holy Spirit is the guide for the new believer’s success in both of these processes and it is likely (and my hope) that He used the members of a cell to befriend and evangelize this person.

Randy Frazee in “The Connecting Church” offers: “The church must be careful not tot confuse an assimilation strategy for church involvement with a spiritual formation model for community building. Both are necessary, but they are very different. An assimilation strategy defines how one gets involved in the life and programs of a church; a spiritual formation model defines the essential outcomes the church is attempting to get working into the lives of its members.”

I admit, I have confused the two along the way.  For example, keeping records of how many are in cell groups is an easy shift from keeping attendance on Sundays.  But I must keep an eye on the continuing spiritual formation process in each of those lives as well.  Having a pre-determined strategy, normally referred to as a training or equipping track, is a must.

What do you think?

“A Beggar, A Digger, and A Steward”


by Rob Campbell

In Luke 16:1-13 (take time to peruse this text), we see a beggar, a digger, and a steward. A beggar’s motivation is survival. He wants to make it through another day. A digger’s motivation is success. He’s digging for gold. He’s on an insatiable journey to “make it big” and “turn a deal.” A steward’s motivation is significance. She wants to leave behind a legacy. She wants to invest in souls and the kingdom of God.

The story teaches us that we must give an account to God for our stewardship. Stewardship is much broader than how we manage and allocate money. It also includes the management/allocation of our time, influence, expertise, abilities, and resources. Speaking of resources, the use of one’s resources is a test of values, character, and heart. Further, the management of one’s resources is a preparatory lesson for other responsibilities before God.

Indeed, life is an exercise in stewardship.

David displays to us a majestic heart of a giver in 2 Samuel 24:10-25. He refuses to give something to God that doesn’t cost him something personally. The root of this reality is worship (a continuous preoccupation with God). In other words, he refuses to worship God on the cheap. The result of his gift is acceptable unto God (see 1 Chronicles 21:25-28).

Beggars beget beggars. Diggers beget diggers. Stewards beget stewards. A cell leader who doesn’t steward well probably will beget a cell leader who doesn’t steward well. I wonder what the cell members might be like in such a reality?

Leadership is modeling.

May your cell and church family experience Acts 2:43a, 44, 46b: “ A deep sense of awe came over them all… They shared everything they had…They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need…They shared their meals with great joy and generosity.”



The Case for Large Cell Churches

joelby Joel Comiskey

Last Friday night, I challenged the 1000+ participants at the cell church conference at La Misión Cristiana Moderna in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands to go beyond one big church and plant a multitude of churches. I thought the lead pastor (Ángel Manuel Hernández) would receive the challenge with joy. However, I ate dinner with him afterwards, and he said to me, “God wants me to continue to grow a large church here in Fuerteventura before we actively engage in planting new churches.” I responded, “But it’s much better to plant new churches because cell church is all about raising up new leaders–not just at the cell level but also at the pastoral level.” He shot back, “As an Assembly of God denomination, we’ve already planted many, many smaller churches that have yet to make a powerful impact on the Canary Islands. In a large cell church, we are having a far greater impact.” We went back and forth.

I had to admit that La Misión Cristiana Moderna has uniquely impacted their island as a large church. Patrick Johntone in Operation World (2003) wrote about all eight of the Canary Islands saying, “Among the 1,630,000 inhabitants are but 3,600 believers in 75 small churches and fellowships — most being on the two larger islands and over half being Assemblies of God.” Fast forward six years since Johnstone wrote these words and in just this one church on one island there are 200 cells and 1300 people in those cells and celebration. The island’s mayor often comes to the celebration services, the church has a powerful social outreach, and the church’s size stirs believers to openly express their faith in a very secular, Catholic atmopshere.

Lately, I’ve been so completely immersed in church planting literature that I haven’t thought too much about growing a large cell church. In the last five years, the cell church pendulum has swung away from promoting large cell churches to church planting. I’ve heard lots of criticism, in fact, about the tendency in the cell church movement to promote mega, mega cell churches. And I’m sure some of that criticism was directed toward me because in the earlier days I exclusively promoted and wrote about these very large cell churches.

Have we now swung too far the other way? Is there a case to be made for huge cell churches? Look at Mario Vega and the Elim Church. Elim’s size allows it to wield a special influence in El Salvador. For example, the government of El Salvador recently asked Mario Vega to pray a seven minute prayer in congress (check it out). The size of Elim (100,000) gives them a powerful voice in the country. The same is true with David Cho and Yoido Full Gospel Church.

What do you think? What is the place of mega cell churches? I do believe that even the huge cell churches need to engage in church planting. Pastor Angel told me that he’ll eventually plant churches and in fact, they’ve already planted their first daughter church on another island. And Elim has planted some 150 cell churches all over the world.

I’d like to hear what you think. . .


Adjusting the Cell Church Strategy


by Mario Vega

Last week I wrote about the need to make adjustments in the cell model according to the peculiarities of each church. Steve Cordle requested some examples of the adjustments that we have made in El Salvador to fine tune our original South Korea model.

One of the first adjustments we made was the addition of a weekly planning meeting that precedes the cell meeting. In the planning meeting the Christian core of the cell participates in detailed planning of the cell meeting. The core reviews the previous week’s work and then assigns responsibilities for the new week.

Another adjustment was to reduce the time of the training course for new leaders. In Pastor Cho’s case the training course lasts two years. In El Salvador the growth dynamics are much faster which led us to adopt a training course that lasts six months.

We have adjusted the most when it comes to growth goals. We started with a goal of 100% for each quarter. Subsequently a goal of 100% for the year was adopted (not sustainable year after year). Thus, we now assign goals according to the saturation level of each geographical area.

The above are examples of adjustments that have made Elim’s model a very particular case. But there are also adjustments we made in order to resemble to the Korean model. Last year, we adopted for the first time the goals for a five years term. Pastor Cho sets new goals for his church every quinquennium. So today, in El Salvador, each Pastor works with a one-year goal term without losing sight of his quinquennial goal.

Each adjustment has been made in response to a local circumstance. There are methods that work both in Korea and in El Salvador, such as establishing annual and quinquennial goals. But there are other methods that would not work in El Salvador, such as a two years training course. However, the cell work principles are cross-cultural and timeless.

Any comments?


Ejemplos de algunos ajustes.

La semana anterior escribí sobre la necesidad de hacer ajustes en el modelo celular de acuerdo a las peculiaridades de cada iglesia. Steve Cordle solicitó algunos ejemplos de ajustes que hemos hecho en El Salvador con respecto al trabajo que se hace en Corea del Sur.

Uno de los primeros ajustes que hicimos fue el añadir una reunión de planificación semanal que antecede a la reunión celular. En la reunión de planificación participa el núcleo cristiano de la célula con el objeto de planear los detalles de la reunión celular, revisar el trabajo de la semana anterior y delegar responsabilidades para la nueva semana.

Otro de los ajustes fue el de reducir la duración del curso de entrenamiento para nuevos líderes. En el caso del Pastor Cho el curso de capacitación tiene una duración de dos años. En El Salvador la dinámica de crecimiento es mucho más veloz y eso nos llevó a adoptar un curso de solamente seis meses.

El elemento que mayor cantidad de ajustes ha tenido es el referido a las metas de crecimiento. Comenzamos con una meta del 100% para cada trimestre. Posteriormente se adoptó una meta del 100% para el año. Hubo un tiempo en que asignamos las metas de acuerdo al nivel de saturación de cada zona geográfica.

Los anteriores son ejemplos de ajustes que han hecho del modelo de Elim un caso muy particular. Pero también hay ajustes que hemos hecho con el fin de acercanos más al modelo Coreano. El año anterior, adoptamos por primera vez las metas a cinco años plazo. El Pastor Cho establece nuevas metas para su iglesia cada quinquenio. De manera que hoy, en El Salvador, cada Pastor trabaja con una meta a un año plazo sin perder la perspectiva de su meta quinquenal.

Cada ajuste se ha hecho respondiendo a una circunstancia muy local. Hay métodos que funcionan tanto en Corea como en El Salvador, como el establecer metas anuales y quinquenales. Pero hay otros métodos que no funcionarían en El Salvador, como un curso de entrenamiento de dos años. No obstante, los principios del trabajo celular son transculturales y atemporales.

¿Algún comentario?

Social Outreach through Cells


by Michael Sove

Eph 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”SOVE

I want to tell you about our God who has gone beyond what I could ask or imagine.  Suresh Gumma has been praying for a vehicle for his ministry for five years.  He is located in Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh, India.  I met him through this web site and have been mentoring him in cell ministry for about a year now.  I want our cell groups to have a heart for the nations, so I have been asking our cells to adopt pastors like Suresh for prayer, ministry and possible mission trips.

I visited Suresh and his ministry in March and saw first hand the needs as well as the potential in his church as well as the branch churc+hes in his state.  So I began to pass INDIAprayer requests on his behalf through the International Cell Church Prayer Network which I coordinate, as well as through the cell groups of our church.  We have been honored to provide funds for Bibles as well as help support some of the branch church pastors with financial gifts but what happened next still boggles my mind.

One night after visiting a cell group I was approached by a cell member who ask me if Suresh could use a vehicle and if something like that could really help his ministry.  To make a long story short, within two days this gentleman provided the funds for a brand new seven passenger vehicle for this ministry in India.  This will greatly expand the ministry possibilities of Suresh.  The blessing also impacts me as I take annual mission trips to the area.  I will not have to take public transportation or rent vehicles for these mission trips.  God gets all the Glory!CROWD

When you pray for others you gain God’s heart for them, and when you have God’s heart for them, the possibilities are endless!  I want to encourage you to give your cells a vision for the nations.  If you are reading this and would like to pray for or participate in the International Cell Church Prayer Network you can contact me at for more information.



Sabbath Rest


by Rob Campbell

Let me share a few thoughts that should mesh well with Joel’s post yesterday.  The antidote to burnout is honoring the Sabbath (“cease to exist, to stop, to bring things to a halt, a DAY OF REST”).  The command to observe the Sabbath is one of the Big Ten, isn’t it?

Here are some things to consider in light of the Sabbath:

Sabbath is a matter of rest, not ritual.

“Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest.  I repeat: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.” Exodus 31:15

“He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”

Psalm 23:2

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”                                                               Mark 6:31

“It’s useless to rise up early and go to bed late and work your worried fingers to the bone.  Don’t you know He enjoys giving rest to those he loves?”                                    Psalm 127:2

One’s principle behind the Sabbath will determine the priority of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28).

The Sabbath is a matter of good, not greed  (Matthew 12:9-12).

The Sabbath is a matter of Lordship over legalism.

“For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”  Matthew 12:8

Now, consider the following three questions.  First, what day each week is your Sabbath?  How do you refresh your spirit?  What do you need to change in your schedule?

Before you move on to something else right now, please read Isaiah 58:12-14.



Personal Retreats

joel;I talked with a pastor who was struggling with personal problems that were affecting his pastoral work. His huge outside difficulties were placing enormous strains on his daily ministry.God blessed the church’s cell ministry in spite of the problems, and it grew slowly and steadily. But I noticed that the underlying personal struggles were taking a toll on his minsitry. “I’d be willing to leave the pastorate, if it would help,” he told me. Yet, his board of elders and those closest to him encouraged him to stay on, because they knew the situation and believed in him. This is a good sign, I thought to myself. His elders know everything and yet want him to stay.

I didn’t talk with the pastor for awhile, and just recently spoke to him again. I noticed a complete change in his voice, a new vibrancy in his attitude, and new hope in ministry. His personal problems had not changed drastically, but he seemed like a different person. “I’ve been taking some personal retreat times,” he told me. “I realize that I need to be refreshed by God in order to make it in the long haul. I’ve committed myself to schedule more spiritual retreats in the next year. I believe this is the key to pick me up in spite of my personal difficulties,” he said. I rejoiced with him for this new discovery.

The bottom line is that long-term ministry requires periodic breaks. Yes, our daily devotional times give us continual strength, and I believe all God’s people need to take a 24-hour day off each week. Beyond those basic refreshment times, we need periodic spiritual retreats.

I just came off my own yearly personal retreat. I’ve been doing this each year for the last twenty-six years. My pattern is to fast and pray for 2.5 days, rent a hotel room for one-night, review my diaries from the past year, and then try to make sense of it all. I ask myself key questions:

  • What are the patterns in the past year?
  • What were the significant events?
  • How did last year compare to the previous year?

And then I hone in on the vision God is giving me for the next year. In my case this involves: God, wife, family, personal vision, JCG, fund-raising, seminars, coaching, and Wellspring. I write down what God shows me, and it serves as a guide for the upcoming year. One of my goals for this next year (September 2009 to August 2010) is to have an additional, shorter personal retreat in February 2010, rather than waiting for one entire year. These retreat times provide refreshing, retooling, and fresh vision.

What about you? What has worked for you in the area of refreshment and retooling?

Joel Comiskey

Step by Step


by Mario Vega

The cell model is not something that is established once and for all. Rather, it should be improved continually. Each church must adapt, adjust, and determine how to improve every aspect of the cell model according to its context.

Although our model is strongly based on the work of Pastor Cho in Korea, and we try faithfully to adhere to his model, this fact hasn’t stopped us from making adjustments to our own reality. I could say that approximately every three years we are innovating in some way.

Obviously, these innovations do not change the principles or the values of cell work. In our case, it doesn’t even change our attachment to the Korean model. But, it does allow us to achieve the adjustments that make our work more efficient.

Another reason why we must make adjustments is because the society in which the church testifies is also changing. If we are not attentive to new sociological movements, the church will soon stop being relevant. That does not mean that the church walks by the world’s rhythm. It only means that the church takes advantage in the best way possible of the new opportunities society offers.

For these reasons, we should not fear to make adjustments or precisions that will fit within our particular reality. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can mend our nets for a greater catch of fish.



Translation in Spanish

Paso a paso.

El modelo celular no es algo que se establece una sola vez y para siempre. El modelo celular es susceptible de ser mejorado. Cada iglesia debe adaptar, ajustar, precisar cada aspecto que resulte en una mejoría dentro de su contexto.

Aunque nuestro modelo se basa fuertemente en el trabajo del Pastor Cho en Corea y tratamos de apegarnos de manera fiel a su modelo, eso no ha impedido que hagamos nuestras propias adaptaciones a nuestra realidad. Podría decir que aproximadamente cada tres años estamos innovando en algún aspecto.

Obviamente, esas innovaciones no cambian los principios ni los valores del trabajo con células. En nuestro caso, ni siquiera cambia nuestro apego al modelo coreano. Pero, sí nos permite lograr los ajustes que vuelven más eficiente nuestro trabajo.

Otra razón por la que debemos hacer ajustes es porque la sociedad en la que la iglesia testifica es también cambiante. Si no estamos atentos a los movimientos sociológicos la iglesia pronto dejará de ser pertinente. Eso no significa que la iglesia camina al ritmo del mundo. Sólo significa que la iglesia aprovecha de la mejor manera las nuevas oportunidades que la sociedad ofrece.

Por tales motivos, no debemos temer el hacer los ajustes o precisiones que funcionen en nuestra realidad concreta. Con la ayuda del Espíritu Santo podemos remendar nuestras redes para una gran pesca.

Step by step.


coach-tunnellJeff Tunnell

I am thinking about the usefulness of coaching today.  My musing is simple: Coaching only works if you use it.  What I mean is this, it may be available, but if you don’t access it, there is no benefit.

The largest share of “responsibility” in coaching is on the recipient; to access what is available and then to decide on implementation of any insight gained.  The coach can offer points of accountability relating to the decisions made, but cannot “play the game” for you.

In a similar way I apply this view to marriage counseling.  The counselor is the coach and is not allowed to take the field with the couple.  He/she may only coach from the sidelines, but may not be on the field/court where the team plays the game.  The coach’s role is highly valuable, but the team (couple) must learn how to execute the plays themselves.  The coach’s role is to observe, train, equip and encourage, but is not allowed to perform the task of the players.

Growing a cell-based church suffers from experimentation while shaping the church by its values and guiding by principles.  A coach can help you avoid many unnecessary changes and efforts that tend to make leaders feel like victims of trial-and-error.  Each of us can gain advantages by inviting a seasoned leader/coach to speak into our lives and circumstances.

Are you utilizing a coach?  Is your coach used for personal or cell church development? How are you benefiting from coaching?

Love and Lost


by Rob Campbell

No one tells a story like Jesus. The designation of “master storyteller” falls short of his creativity, expertise, and connectivity. Frequently in the gospels, Jesus speaks of the fine art of shepherding. This was an intricate part of his environment for he was continually around sheep and shepherds. Sheep were dependent on a shepherd to find pasture for them. The task of shepherding entailed finding water, shelter, medication; lending aid in the birthing process; and providing for wounded and weary sheep. Further, Jesus understood the Jewish mind which believed Israel was the flock of God. God was their shepherd and Israel was his flock. In Luke 15:1-7, Jesus tells a story couched in this timeless relationship. Before I progress, do you remember who is surrounding Jesus when he shares this story? Yes, the tax collectors and “sinners” were huddled around him. This infuriated the Pharisees and teachers of the law and they began casting judgment against Jesus for his association with such a desperate lot.

Jesus states, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Notice the condition of a certain member of this flock. This lamb was “lost.” Maybe this lamb had moved from one tuft of grass to another and spontaneously worked her little body through a hole in the rock fence. As the shepherd began counting his sheep, he discovered the reality of his flock– one was lost.

He would immediately survey the fence striving to find that little hole that enticed the lamb to wander from the flock. The shepherd would “go after” this lost lamb and would not rest “until he finds” her. Jesus adds more punch to this story as he proclaims, “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” Allow your mind to embrace this picture. The shepherd finds this little lamb. A broad smile fills his unshaven face. He stoops to pick up this little lamb and notices she is injured. The burly shepherd anoints the cuts and bruises with the gentleness of a mother. Slowly, the lamb is hoisted upon the shepherd’s shoulders and he relaxes on the strong muscles of the shepherd’s back.

This story is a beautiful picture of God’s love for you and me. In our wayward tendencies (and in our lostness), God’s searching love (“go after”) meshed with the persistence of his grace (“until he finds”) is desperately concerned for every single individual especially those outside the safety and protection of the flock. When any one lamb returns home, there is great rejoicing which illustrates God’s response to this recovery mission. God is filled with joy when he finds you!