Follow the Way of Love

joelby Joel Comiskey

In the first chapter of my book, How to Lead a Great Cell Group Meeting, I wrote:

A certain winsomeness characterizes dynamic cell leaders. They demonstrate loving concern, but they firmly lead. They allow discussion to flow naturally, but refuse to stray from the theme. They listen intently, but won’t allow one person to dominate the meeting. They build community, but not at the expense of reaching out to the unsaved. They take responsibility for the group, but refuse to do everything. They promote group identity, but never at the expense of the multiplication of new cell groups.
Does this balance sound difficult? Let’s just say impossible—apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Logic and technique, while necessary, can’t teach the when and how of small group dynamics. Effective small group leadership begins with a transformed heart. The Holy Spirit works inside the cell leader so he or she can minister from the overflow of the heart.

Following the Spirit of God is the key to small group success. But what does that mean practically? I believe it can be summed up in Paul’s advice to the Corinthians: “Follow the way of love” (1 Corinthians 14:1). God’s love always builds up, never tears down, and is patient and kind. All people–whether Christian or not–will respond positively to this type of love. Effective cell leaders allow the Holy Spirit to use them as a channel of love to others. They build up others in love.

You’ll remember a few weeks ago I transparently shared my failure at breaking in on a person without his permission and making him and those present feel uncomfortable. Let me now transparently share a victory (something I did right). Last week we had a new couple in our group who are new to the faith. God has lit a new fire within, and they’re excited about Jesus but know little about walking with the Master.

Before the group started,  the Lord showed me to follow the way of love. I tried to build them up, encourage them as a couple, and show enthusiasm for their answers. I didn’t put them on the spot by asking them to pray or read (I knew beforehand they were not accustomed to doing this). The Holy Spirit used me as a channel of edification and the couple went away encouraged and excited, along with the rest of those in the group. .

I don’t believe it’s difficult to effectively lead a cell group. All you need to do is ask God to make you a channel of His love. Look for ways to serve others in the cell and build them up.  Follow the way of love in all you do and say. The members will want to come back for more. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. They aren’t impressed by the incredible knowledge of the leader or even by the leader’s small group skills. They do respond, however, to love and care.

Do you agree? Disagree? Share your experiences in this area.


The Need for Supervision


by Mario Vega

One of our branch churches grew to more than 300 cells. The lead pastor decided to conduct a thorough evaluation. He found a lot of distortions and inconsistencies with the model.

Given the circumstances, he decided to implement a correction plan that lasted for nearly a year. During that time the leaders were trained once again and the supervision structure was changed. This particular pastor estimates that when he restarts, he will begin with 100 cells, rather than 300 (only one third of what he had before).

The reason why a model may pick up a number of deformities resides in the lack of supervision on a permanent basis. Moreover, it is a mistake to think that the model has been healed with these corrections and new training. At first all things will be in order. But if no detailed supervision is applied, the same defects will be repeated.

This actual experience shows the important value of supervision. Nothing can take its place. Therefore, not only supervision must be held in high priority, but it must be strengthened and perfected. The first supervisor is the lead pastor himself. His dedication to the cell work is critical for the health of the system. The greater involvement of the lead pastor, the greater the certainty that things will continue in the right direction.



Translation in Spanish

La supervisión continua.

El pastor de una de nuestras iglesias filiales, después de haber alcanzado más de 300 células, decidió realizar una evaluación a fondo. Encontró una gran cantidad de deformaciones e incongruencias con el modelo.

Ante esa situación, decidió implementar un plan de corrección que se extendió por casi un año. Durante ese tiempo los líderes fueron entrenados nuevamente y se modificó la estructura de supervisión. El pastor calcula que al echar a andar de nuevo el trabajo comenzará con aproximadamente 100 células. Es decir, un tercio de lo que antes tenía.

La razón por la que un modelo puede llegar a adquirir tantas deformaciones reside en la falta de una supervisión permanente. Es más, el pensar que con estas correcciones y nueva capacitación, el modelo se ha sanado es un error. Al principio todas las cosas se encontrarán en orden. Pero, si no se aplica una supervisión detallada los mismos vicios volverán a repetirse.

Esta experiencia real nos muestra el importante valor que posee la supervisión. Nada puede tomar su lugar. Por ello, no solamente se debe sostener la supervisión sino que se la debe reforzar y perfeccionar. El primer supervisor es el Pastor mismo. Su dedicación al trabajo celular será determinante para que las cosas marchen correctamente. A mayor involucramiento del Pastor mayor seguridad que las cosas marcharán por buen camino.

500+ cells at CityLife Church. What Can We Learn?

daljitI, Joel Comiskey, want to take this opportunity to introduce an incredible cell champion. His name is Daljit Gill (left photo).  Daljit is part of the senior leadership team at CityLife church in Melbourne, Australia. He’s also a very good friend (we had a lot of fun together in 2000 when I visited the church).Mark Conner, the lead pastor, is the chief visionary for cell ministry, but Mark depends heavily on Daljit to make it work. And it certainly works. CityLife now has over 500 cells!

I asked Daljit to share some key principles behind their cell success. Please take diligent notes because Daljit touches on key principles:

How many cells does CityLife Church have?

503 Life Groups at this very present moment.

When you first came, how many were there?

At that time there were 42 groups.

What has been your position at CityLife Church?

I am the small groups champion (we call them Life Groups), but my official title is Associate Minister – Pastoral.

Does your church consider itself a cell church?

Yes, we embrace the majority of values of a cell-based church. In other words, nothing competes with cells (life groups). We are a two winged church, consisting of cells & celebration.

How does the top leadership (lead pastor Mark) promote/stay in touch  with the cell vision?

Mark is always in the ‘know’ and takes a personal interest in small groups and is totally convinced that life groups is the very heart of the church. He has never for once deviated from this and has always been totally supportive to any suggestions I have to make. He is the driver from  the platform and the vision caster –though I am the one that make things happen. His support to me is 110%!!!

Share some secrets/principles of how your church has grown so many cell groups?

1) Ensuring that cell remains a priority and not an option.

2) Constantly reminding people of the cell vision, values and purpose.

3) Making sure cell (life) groups are given precious air time during the celebration meetings.

4). Setting clear numerical and qualitative goals for the year and regularly monitoring the success.

5). Guard the nights and church calendar in the sense that we want to ensure that people attend 1 celebration service (not 2) and 1 life group meeting and that people are not pulled in all different directions.

6) Emphasis on life groups and their value in our Equipping Track.

7). Highly effective visitors & new Christian’s pastoral follow-up and to connect them to a Life group immediately (I monitor this very closely and ensure the highest level of assimilation)

8). Regular leaders summits where we affirm all our leaders, build a team spirit, vision cast, challenge, inspire and equip them.

9). Monitor the health of all our leaders.

10). Provide resources to all our leaders.

11). We even set goals on the number of leaders that each Network Pastor should raise in a year because we believe the notion  that everyone is a “potential” leader.

12). Eldership holds us accountable on the growth and progress of our life groups.

13) Celebrate BIG WINS and major milestones  in celebration meetings (eg. when we hit 400 groups I got my head shaved).

14) Keep pushing the bar upwards on Life group involvement (i.e., % of people involved in life group ).

15) To be a partner of the church you will need to be in a life group.

16). Our Team Spirit as a church and that the heroes of CityLife are our volunteers!!

What are some struggles that you face with your cell system?

1. Raising leaders & co-leaders

2. Getting those not in group to join one – there are some in this category who  feel that their world is already too busy.

3. Keeping the LG leaders fresh and motivated and keeping a low turnover of leaders year in  year out.

4. Getting more groups to be evangelistic (though we are gaining some good ground here now).

What are some things you’ve done really well at CityLife that the rest of the cell church world can benefit from?

1. I can honestly say that I am proud of our  statistics, our one-page reports, report keeping, vital signs, and accuracy of our database. Our Life groups reports are ‘smart’.

2. We focus on our ministry goals and regularly review and fine-tune them

3. Our leaders are well cared for.

4. My outstanding team of Network Pastors are all very focused.

5. Thorough  and prompt assimilation of new people.


The Power of Transparency

joelI visited Jim Gunther  today (not real name). We were best friends throughout elementary school, played YMCA sports together, and eventually partied together in junior high and high school. Jesus rescued me from the drug/party scene during my senior year in high school, but Jim continued down that road for another thirteen years. In 1988 I had the opportunity of leading Jim to Jesus, baptizing him and his girlfriend, and then marrying them.

Ten years later Jim lost his only son and was overcome with grief. His grief and addiction to pain pills caused Jim to turn inward, become depressed, and eventually led to a heart attack. During his hospital stay and open heart surgery, Jim was able to withdraw from his over-dependency on pain pills and renew his commitment to Jesus.

Today at his house we had a great time of fellowship and prayer. He confessed his desperate need for a small group. He realized he couldn’t just sit in his house alone, but that he needed to talk to others. I live 1.15 hours from Jim, and it bothered me that I couldn’t recommend a  church in the area that prioritized holistic, weekly small groups. I’ve been reminded today that one of the primary needs of cell ministry is open sharing and transparency. People need a safe place to share their grief and problems.

Cary Sove understands the power of transparency in the small group. It saved her life. Listen to her testimony:

“I went through a horrible divorce,” she said. “My husband, who professed to be a godly Christian, turned out to be a con artist and drug addict. He preyed on people like me. While we were in Israel, he stole all my money to purchase drugs. And then he left me. He shattered my dream of being a missionary to Israel, and his actions caused intense devastation and shame.”

Cary was so hurt and embarrassed by the situation, she wouldn’t come out of her house. Her lonely, dark thoughts —spurred on by demons—drove her into an emotional death grip.

Spending time alone didn’t help Cary at all. Her individual thoughts, rather than being a comfort, confused and tormented her. Cary needed other people to help untangle her web of confusion. Someone invited Cary to a small group. She felt warmth and love and was able to share her hurt, struggles, and problems. “They didn’t judge  me or try to correct me. They just allowed me to share. I realized I wasn’t alone in my struggles. I slowly began to understand that perhaps I wasn’t abnormal.”

But it wasn’t human warmth or psychology alone that helped Cary. Yes, her brothers and sisters in the small group used plenty of that. But the small group centered on prayer and the Word of God. God’s Word began to speak truth into her life and guided her onto the right path (this illustration appears in my new book, Relational Disciple in chapter six).

One reason that both Mike and Cary Sove love cell ministry is because of the power of transparency. What about you? What is the role that transparency plays in your group? Can you share a testimony?


Cell Church in Chile


by Mario Vega

In the years 2000 and 2002 Joel Comiskey and I went to Chile to conduct two national conferences on cell work. The first was held in Viña del Mar and the second in Santiago, Chile. Both conferences were organized by the Baptists churches.

This past weekend, and after 7 years from the last conference, I was invited once again by the Living Hope Baptist Church in the city of Linares to a new conference.

This activity shocked me in a very positive way.  I shared the teaching with two other Chilean pastors. This is a very important step, since those who were teaching were just learners a few years ago when we taught them cell fundamentals in 2000 and 2002. Now they are key speakers on cell ministry!

One of the pastors expounded on the subject of the leader’s profile, while the second one taught on the subject of the vision. Both did a great job. In recent years, several of these churches made their transitions to become cell churches. Others are in the transition period and only a couple of the 200 registered pastors had not yet started their cell work.

Living Hope Baptist Church, pastored by Pastor Carlos Chea, one of the speakers, is a church that uses contemporary worship music for their services; the brethren clap their hands and have many expressions of joy which isolates them from the traditionalism that characterizes other Baptists churches. But it is not only about songs, but of a surprising familiarity with the topic of cell ministry. The church has a very high level of cell participation and has increased its membership 10 fold in the last 7 years.

It is gratifying to know that the humble seeds Joel and I sowed have bourne fruit into a healthy native cell movement in Chile. Thank God for His endless mercy.



Iglesias celulares en Chile.

En los años 2000 y 2002 fuimos con Joel Comiskey a Chile para realizar dos conferencias nacionales sobre el trabajo celular. La primera se realizó en Viña del Mar y la segunda en Santiago de Chile. Ambas conferencias fueron organizadas por las iglesias Bautistas.

El fin de semana pasado, y después de 7 años de la última conferencia, nuevamente fui invitado por la iglesia Bautista Esperanza Viva de la ciudad de Linares para una nueva conferencia.

La actividad me impresionó muy favorablemente, en primer lugar, porque el programa alternaba mis enseñanzas con la de dos pastores chilenos más. Esto es muy importante, porque los pastores que hace unos años fueron a conocer los fundamentos del trabajo celular ahora enseñan a sus hermanos sobre el tema.

Uno de los pastores desarrolló el tema de el perfil del líder, en tanto que el segundo desarrolló el tema de la visión. Ambos desarrollaron un papel muy bueno. En estos años, varias de estas iglesias realizaron sus transiciones para convertirse en iglesias celulares. Otras se encuentran en plena transición y solamente un par de los aproximadamente 200 pastores inscritos todavía no han comenzado su trabajo celular.

La iglesia Bautista Esperanza Viva, del Pastor Carlos Chea, uno de los ponentes, es una iglesia que utiliza música contemporánea de adoración para sus cultos, los hermanos aplauden y tienen muchas expresiones de gozo que los aleja de el tradicionalismo que caracteriza a las iglesias bautistas. Pero, no solamente se trata de cantos sino de una familiaridad sorprendente con el tema de las células. La iglesia se encuentra involucrada en un alto porcentaje en el trabajo celular y han multiplicado 16 veces su membresía en los últimos 7 años.

Es satisfactorio saber que aquella humilde semilla que sembramos con Joel ahora ha fructificado en un incipiente pero saludable movimiento celular criollo en Chile. Gracias a Dios por su misericordia infinita.


coach-tunnell    by Jeff Tunnell

Planning ahead for the coaching time is a smart idea.  Regardless of duration, whether a 15-30 minute phone call, 30 minutes in person, or 3 hours in the living room, build a flowing outline in your mind (or write it out) that gives direction for your time.  Plan to address your most pressing issues and needs so that you come away with valuable information and direction.  As the coaching time unfolds remain flexible enough to embrace spontaneity when it arrives.

Plan Ahead sign

What key elements do you use to plan for your coaching times?

The Power of Story


by Rob Campbell

Elie Wiesel wrote, “God made man because he loves stories.”

I trust that you know storytellers. They are probably very dear friends to you. As you converse with these individuals, a myriad of stories are meticulously woven through the fabric of your conversation. Typically, sanguine personality types are big storytellers. Storytellers build relationship, cement friendships, and display transparency and vulnerability through the spin of conversation. As you recline on the couches with your friends in your hunting cabin or gather around the table with your family during your annual family reunion, stories will be shared. These vignettes remind us of the past and point us to the future. The swapping of stories fills the pages of God’s Word as well. For example, read closely this story of God’s mighty work recorded in Nehemiah 9:9-12:

You saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.

At the last supper, Jesus stated to his disciples, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Do you see “the remembering one,” the God-man commanding us to tell his story? Indeed the scriptures are chalked full of stories– God’s most effective means of breaking into our hearts and minds. Larry Crabb wrote “God is telling a story, a story full of life, love, and grace, a story of hating evil and honoring good, a story rich in drama, poetry, and passion. As we see his story told through our lives, we find the courage to handle the inevitable confusion of life. We find the strength to move ahead, to take risks, to relate deeply, because we are caught up in the larger story of God.”

Enjoy the journey. Be captivated by God’s story expressed through the lives of people around the world. But, don’t be content in simply reading stories about God’s activity. GET YOUR OWN STORIES of God’s marvelous work in your own life and church.



Cell Church in the Russian Far East

joelby Joel Comiskey

I’m writing from my hotel room in Ussuriysk , Russia, a city of 160,000 people about 100 kilometers from Vladivostok, the major city in this far east region of Russia. Pastor, Alexander Volkov, invited me to come speak about two years ago, so it was great to finally be here. He started his church, Higher Call  Church, fifteen years ago with his wife, Ira, and it’s now one of the largest churches in the area (300 people in the mother church and an additional ten church plants). This church is a pure cell church with 45 cells and more than 90% in cell groups. Alexander has four pastors under him who oversee approx. ten groups each and who also lead their own cell (I thought this was a great characteristic!). Although my cell seminar included various churches (400 during the first night and 250 on Saturday ), it especially confirmed to Alexander’s church that they were on the right track.

Cell church comes naturally to these Russian people. They are very friendly and group oriented–much like the Latin American culture. Pastor Alexander said, “When we go on vacations, we  like to invite other families to go with us. It makes the time more exciting.” My translator said to me, “Russian people depend on each other. They’ve gone through very, very hard times together and they’ve learned to overcome with the help of friends.” Another person gave me an illustration of popular culture saying,  “When a Russian person drinks vodka, he never does it alone. He’ll even find someone off the street to drink with him.”

I appreciated the way that pastor Alexander organized each detail of the seminar, so that I could eat and talk with a wide range of leaders from his church (and even experienced a traditional Russian sauna on the last night with some of his key leaders!). After the first night, we ate a traditional Russian meal, and I sat next to Tasha, a cell leader who has multiplied her group various times. She shared that her cell members experienced such wonderful fellowship that some would spend the night after the cell. And Tasha loved it! She told me that her main problem in cell ministry is that sometimes she doesn’t stick to the cell agenda.

I told Alexander that North Americans are far more individualistic and less group oriented, but that we desperately needed cell ministry to truly experience God’s plan for the church. He agreed with me. I’m excited about what God is doing through the cell movement in Russia and plan on coming back in the future.



Cell Churches in Brazil


by Mario Vega

The past weekend I was invited as keynote speaker at the conference entitled “Passion and Persistence,” organized by Bethany Church in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Bethany Church is a Presbyterian Church that, like many other denominations, has begun to make its transition to the cellular model.

The conference registered a little over a thousand attendees whom for three days received lessons on cells. It’s amazing the interest with which many pastors and leaders received the principles of cell work.

There is no doubt that Robert Lay’s work in Brazil has been outstanding. With such large cities as Rio de Janeiro, the cell model is a key to reach significant evangelist goals. Another factor that attracted the attendee’s attention was the translation to Portuguese of Joel Comiskey’s book on Elim’s history.

“Paixão and Persistence”, as it is called in Portuguese, is a book that Brazilians acquire with great interest and has made it possible for even very conservative churches as Bethany, to have adopted the cell model and continue to deepen in its study. They are interested not only in numbers but in all the values of fellowship, evangelism and the teaching that the model implies.

Brazil is a fertile ground and the cell model has begun to yield results. At the end of the conference Pastor Josué Rodríguez gave me as a present a clock with a picture of the Maracana Stadium, the largest in the world, as a representation of the purpose that Rio de Janeiro’s churches have to fill it completely one day as testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the country. My desire is that this purpose becomes a reality.



translation in Spanish:

Iglesias celulares en Brasil.

El fin de semana pasado fui invitado como orador principal a la conferencia ‘Pasión y Persistencia’ organizada por la iglesia Betania de Río de Janeiro, Brasil. La iglesia Betania es una iglesia Presbiteriana que, al igual que muchas otras denominaciones, han comenzado a hacer su transición al modelo celular.

La conferencia contó con un poco más de mil inscritos que durante tres días recibieron enseñanzas sobre células. Es impresionante el interés con el cual muchos pastores y líderes recibieron los principios del trabajo celular.

No hay duda que el trabajo de Roberto Lay en Brasil ha sido sobresaliente. Con ciudades tan grandes como Río de Janeiro, el modelo celular resulta clave para obtener alcances evangelizadores significativos. Otro de los factores que despertó la atención de los asistentes es la traducción al portugués del libro de Joel Comiskey sobre la historia de Elim.

‘Paixão e Persistencia’, como se llama en portugués, es un libro que los brasileños adquieren con mucho interés y ha hecho posible que incluso iglesias muy conservadoras como Betania hayan adoptado el modelo celular y continúen profundizando en su estudio. Ellos no solamente están interesados en los números sino en todos los valores de comunión, evangelización y enseñanza que el modelo implica.

Brasil es tierra fértil y el modelo celular ha comenzado a dar resultados. Al final de la conferencia el Pastor Josué Rodríguez me obsequió un reloj con la fotografía del estadio Maracaná, el más grande del mundo, como un propósito de las iglesias de Río de Janeiro de llenarlo completamente un día como testimonio al país del evangelio de Jesucristo. Mi deseo es que ese propósito se haga realidad.


coach-tunnell  by Jeff Tunnell

Today is Veteran’s Day in the USA, so HATS OFF to each of you who have given such a large part of your life to the defense of freedom! There are multiple Vets in our family line and while they have much to be proud of, their service has not come without deep personal costs. I say humbly, THANK YOU!

Anticipating the moment of coaching: looking forward to when you will be WITH each other; nervous, excited, cautious, joyous, whatever the emotions, harness them to prepare you for the time!  Coaching is a relatively brief exchange that helps the coached in applying principles learned or learning new principles.  Because it is a ‘short’ time, you should prepare to maximize the time.  Write out some questions, rehearse your victories in applying previously discussed principles and be ready to answer for any assignment for which you are accountable (this assists the coach in monitoring your progress). THEN PRAY.  Give yourself a bit of time ahead of the coaching appointment to get focused.  Settle your heart and spirit.  Take control of your physical environment to guard against interruptions or distractions.

You are about to receive a boost from the Holy Spirit working through your coach, so watch for it, anticipate how you will accept the assistance God is giving you, and have fun!

What is the most recent benefit you have received from coaching?