Members Talking to Members in the Cell Group

joelby Joel Comiskey

When you’re leading a cell group, do you try to look right at the person answering the question? Or do you look away at times so the person will talk to other members of the cell group? After all, a key purpose of the cell is for members to minister to one another. Is it counter-productive, therefore, if the members  look directly at the leader while answering the questions? Does that convert the cell group into a classroom experience?

I’ve been thinking about this in the last couple weeks. One leader recently said to me, “After I ask a question, I look down at the ground, so the members will talk to each other, rather than looking directly at me.” Another leader present in my house that day echoed Bill’s remarks. I knew God was throwing me a curve ball because I confessed to the group, “This is a brand new concept. I know that Ralph Neighbour has taught that if members don’t answer the question right away, it’s best to look at your big toe or something like that. But when people are talking, I’ve always taught and practiced the importance of looking the person directly in the eyes while listening intently to his or her answer. But I can see the validity of what you’re saying. I’ll have to give this some thought.”

Last Tuesday in my LIFE group, I tested this concept. I tried shifting my eyes to another person while a member was answering the question. It worked. Rather than just answering my question, the member started talking to others in the group. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want the member to feel unloved or not listened to by my lack of eye contact. So this leads me to my question:

What has worked for you? Share how you have successfully drawn out members to talk to other members, rather than primarily talking to the cell leader. . . .

P.S.: We at JCG will not blog again until January 03, 2010 because of the Christmas/New Year season. We at JCG wish you a Merry Christmas and blessed New Year. Thanks for all your contributions. . .


Between Movement and Institution

by Mario Vega

The Christian church was born as a movement that rapidly spread throughout the world. As time passed, the church began to institutionalize, and its nature as a movement began to fade.

Throughout the years, God has provided revivals to not only revitilize the institutionalized church but to also generate new renewal movements. As time passes, however, even these new renewal movements begin to institutionalize.

Not everything in a movement is good, nor is everything bad in an institution. A movement has the advantage of freshness, dynamism, and enthusiasm, but  it’s only through institutionalization that a movement can retain the results and preserve those results over time.

Regarding the cellular model, we still continue to call it a movement. And it is indeed. The cell movement is spreading rapidly throughout the world, and it it has freshness and dynamism. However, many studies have already been made, and many books have been written. Entire denominations have adopted the cell model as their chief strategy. Are we, then, beginning to see the institutionalization of the cell work? Probably. But as I said before, that is not necessarily bad.

The key lies in maintaining a balance between the movement and the institution. This is not easy, but it is possible. We will talk about that balance on the next  blog.  But meanwhile, what do you think of the current topic?


Translation into Spanish:

Entre el movimiento y la institución

La iglesia cristiana nació como un movimiento que rápidamente se propagó alcanzando diversas naciones. Cuando el tiempo transcurrió la iglesia comenzó a institucionalizarse y al mismo tiempo sus características de movimiento comenzaron a perderse.

La iglesia ya institucionalizada ha necesitado en diversos momentos de avivamientos que generan nuevos movimientos de renovación. Con el tiempo los mismos comienzan a institucionalizarse también.

No todo en un movimiento es bueno como tampoco no todo en la institución es malo. El movimiento tiene la ventaja de la frescura, el dinamismo, el entusiasmo. Pero solamente la institucionalización puede retener los resultados de un movimiento y preservarlos en el tiempo.

En el caso del modelo celular, todavía continuamos llamándole movimiento. Y en verdad lo es. El movimiento celular se propaga con rapidez en todo el mundo, posee frescura y dinamismo. No obstante, se han realizado ya bastantes estudios y escrito muchos libros. Denominaciones enteras han adoptado el modelo y es parte de su metodología trabajo. ¿Nos encontramos, entonces, ante el inicio de la institucionalización del trabajo celular? Probablemente. Pero, como dije antes, eso no necesariamente es malo.

La clave se encuentra en conservar un balance entre el movimiento y la institución. Lo cual no es fácil pero sí posible. De esto hablaremos la siguiente semana. Pero, mientras tanto, ¿que opina de este tema?

Bill Joukhadar and Cell Ministry

BIL Today, I, Joel Comiskey, would like to introduce a worldwide cell expert named Bill Joukhadar (picture on left). Bill’s cell experience spans the globe. He’s experienced cell ministry both in the majority world (Africa) and the western world (Australia). He now heads up a non-profit ministry called CCI. I’ve known Bill personally for seven years, having first met him in Moreno Valley, CA, and then later in the Maadi Church in Egypt, where I conducted a seminar. Bill is the real deal. I’ve asked Bill some questions:

Give a brief summary of your cell ministry in Egypt. What kind of growth did you see?

I was brought onto staff at Maadi Community Church (MCC) in April, 2000, to establish and develop small groups in the church. The church was 400 in size. The senior pastor asked how many small groups could be formed in my first year. I had no idea but thought that 12 groups would be a reachable goal. My aim was to develop healthy, fruitful and reproducing groups that would help the church to grow in community, servant-hearted leaders, and the Kingdom of God (my measurable health indicators).

I began to put my hand to the plough by inviting the general church membership to sign up for a seven weeks Cell Pastors Training course which I had developed. By the end of my first year the Lord had blessed our labor with 12 groups. Encouraged by the Lord, I then set a goal of 24 groups by the end of the following year (deciding to double the goal at the end of each year that followed). This is what resulted: 2001 = 12 groups, 2002 = 23 groups, 2003 = 41 groups, 2004 = 110 groups, 2005 = 209 groups, 2006 = 317 groups, 2007 = 413 groups (4,518 members).

But the most exciting and satisfying part of this experience was: 1,184 members were trained, 1,600 new believers came to Christ through our cell groups, and 5 daughter cell-churches were planted!

When did you leave Egypt and why?

We signed up for a 2 year call with MCC, but stayed 8 years. We left on January 31, 2008, as we sensed our assignment at MCC had reached completion and the Lord was calling us back to Australia to apply the amazing principles we had learnt in our time in Cairo.

What are you doing now in Australia?

Believing it was the Lord’s leading, my wife, Beryl, and I formed an independent, non-profit, organization (Cells-church Consultants International) to help existing churches in Australia and around the world to develop expanding networks of cells/small groups to aid their churches to grow and experience God’s bountiful goodness.

Why do you believe so strongly in cell ministry?

Like our physical bodies, the church cannot grow in health, strength and size, without believers practicing authentic community with one another, discipling one another (building leaders) and reaching out in love to their unchurched friends through healthy cells.

This is how I ‘see’ the relationship and relevance of celebration (large body worship service) and cells: Cell groups complement and complete the weekly large body worship celebration experience. A healthy church can be illustrated by a wholesome cake that is decorated with icing. The cake represents the place where community and purpose takes place in many small group settings and the icing represents the place where the whole church (all the cells) gather together, as one large body, to celebrate the goodness of God. Note: It is the cake that supports the icing, and, while the cake can stand alone, the icing cannot. Even though the cake does not need the icing… it can stand independently, both are desired since both parts combining in a complimentary way is better.

Healthy cells are the means of a health body… they must not be seen as an optional extra to Christian life… cells are the main event! The Sunday celebration experience cannot take believers deep enough in the Christian life for maturity – that results in fruitfulness.

Share about your worldwide ministry at this time.

The exciting movement of God that began at MCC in 2000 has spread to many parts of the world through former cell team members returning to their homelands or relocating to another country. Our MCC experience with cells has impacted church growth in Cyprus, Nigeria, Sudan, Romania, Poland, Finland, Wales, Canada, USA and Australia. I am presently working closely with four CCI associates; in Wales, Romania and Australia. With the remainder of my life, my aim is to network the world through as many cell partners as possible.

What kinds of things do you do to resource people interested in cell groups?

CCI offers consulting, training and coaching support to churches of all denominations, anywhere in the world. If a church is interested, we will help them in any way we can. As we have established ourselves as practitioners, specializing in the development of cells/small groups, we’ve needed to develop practical resources that help churches move quickly from the theory into practice. The following is a sample of the range of resources CCI has available to help churches get into the game:

• People can visit our website: for information and assistance

• An illustrated Small Groups Church Plan is available to help church leaders capture a snapshot of our vision and strategy.

• We have an effective seven session training program (Small Groups Development)

• Comprehensive operation/administration/ promotion and structure forms available

• Christianity Explained is our 6 session guide to understanding the Gospel (used for equipping leaders and in live presentations of the Gospel)

• Growing Up Into His Likeness is our 14 session, basic level, discipleship book

• A training track that incorporates our material and excellent resources developed by my mate, Joel Comiskey.

If someone reading this blog needed your help, how would they contact you?



• (+61) 432 780 348

What do you think? Please feel free to comment. . .

The Two-Winged Church: Cell and Celebration

by Joel Comiskey

As I was giving announcements during our Sunday celebration service this morning at Wellspring, I reminded those present that Christmas is an opportune time to share the good news of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. I reminded them that our LIFE groups (Living in Fellowship to Evangelize) are not just for community and one-another ministry, but to give away that community to a hurting, dying world. I also encouraged everyone to invite an unchurched person next Sunday to the celebration service on December 20. “Many unchurched people still feel a religious obligation to attend church on Christmas, so please invite them to our celebration gathering next Sunday morning,” I told them.

I was reminded afresh that the cell church is made up of both wings, cell and celebration. We see this two-wing dynamic in Acts 2:42-47 when the early church met together in the temple courts (large group expression) and from house to house (small group expression). We see this same structure in Acts 5:42,  “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” Again in Acts 20:20, Paul says, “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.”

Both wings of the cell church play their essential part. For some people, the larger setting is the best introduction to the gospel message, while then being invited into the circle of warm relationship and support through cell ministry. For others their introduction to the gospel is through a small group of believers in their neighborhood, and they are then invited to the larger celebration service.

There are different times in the life of a church when one wing is emphasized over another. During the initial process of planting a cell church, for example, the cell is emphasized over the celebration. The opposite is true when transitioning from a traditional church to a cell church (see my video on this topic). Nevertheless, both cell and celebration play an essential role in cell church ministry. Bill Beckham says, “The cell church is balanced between corporate community and cell community: between a large-group expression and a small-group expression.”



Writing for the Joel Comiskey Group

by Mario Vega

In February 2008 I was invited by Joel Comiskey’s Group Board to write a weekly blog on this Website. At the time I considered it an honor but until then, I had never written a single blog.

Later, I thought I was in trouble, because I didn’t know where I would I get the material to write indefinitely about cells. However, I continued the write. Now, almost two years later, I’m coming to the conclusion that the subject is almost inexhaustible.

I also realize that it is not only about my blogs but also the very valuable and interesting blogs that other members of the JCG Board write.Furthermore, I want to express my appreciation to all of you readers for the valuable comments you’ve made. I believe that the material on this site is very important for the cell church worldwide. Because I strongly believe this, I want to continue to write each week about the experience God has taught me/us about cells and to continue reading what others write about this topic–including the comments of all of you.

Do you have a comment today that you would like to add?


Translation in Spanish

Escribiendo para Joel Comiskey Group

En febrero de 2008 fui invitado por la Directiva de Joel Comiskey Group para escribir un blog por semana en este sitio Web. En el momento lo consideré un honor aunque, hasta ese momento, nunca había escrito un solo blog.

Posteriormente, pensé que me encontraba en un problema porque ¿de dónde sacaría material para escribir sobre células de manera indefinida? No obstante, seguí con el trabajo. Ahora, casi dos años después, estoy llegando a la conclusión que el tema es casi inagotable.

Además, hay que tener en cuenta que no solo se trata de mis blogs sino de los muy valiosos e interesantes blogs que escriben otros miembros de la Directiva de JCG.

Además, hay que mencionar los comentarios que varios lectores agregan. La suma de todo esto supone un importante material que está a la disposición en éste sitio y que puede convertirse en fuente de referencias y consultas para quienes desean conocer más de este trabajo.

Eso es suficiente estímulo para continuar escribiendo cada semana de lo poco que la experiencia nos ha enseñado sobre células y a continuar leyendo lo que otros Pastores escriben tanto en blogs como en comentarios.

¿Tiene hoy un comentario que quisiera agregar?

Coaching 5 – Get Your Hands Dirty

coach-tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

I’m not much on gardening, but this part is certain; you have to get your hands right in the dirt so plan on getting dirty!  Planting, tending to the growing plants, weeding and fertilizing are part of the process for healthy growth.  If you are like me, you might need some instruction on gardening and personal pointers on the practical aspects leading to success.

Coaching requires a similar involvement and attentiveness.  If I leave my cells alone, hoping they will do well, my hopes will likely be dashed.  When I finally see that growth is not happening by itself, it may be too late to start over due to lost seasonal opportunity.  So where can I obtain the instruction and pointers leading to successful coaching?

Joel Comiskey comments in his book COACH:

“I’ve learned that it’s easy to start groups. Keeping them healthy, growing, and fruitful requires ongoing coaching and development. The purpose of this book is to train coaches to help cell leaders stay healthy and fruitful. Coaching is the key to guiding leaders to succeed over the long haul. Yet those who are willing to coach other leaders often lack information on how to coach. This book provides step by step instructions on how to coach a small group leader from the initial stages of leading the group all the way to giving birth to a new one. Those who have never coached before will receive clear information on how to take the small group leader to the next level. And someone who is already coaching a small group leader will also find the eight lessons in this book invaluable to empower others to lead fruitful groups. This book is a great resource to use individually, in a small group, or in a classroom teaching setting.”

Get your hands in there and get dirty; And remember, you have to shoo away intruders to keep them from eating your produce! John 10:10

Discipleship and the Transfer of Life

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?



Watch the Motivation for Cell Church Ministry

joelby Joel Comiskey

I often like to go through books with the pastors I coach. With Big Bear Christian Center (BBCC), we go through one cell church book every three weeks. We review one of the books when we meet at my house every sixth week and the other one via SKYPE in the middle of the six week period. Last week we were reviewing the Apostolic Cell Church by Laurence Khong. I highly recommend this book because it’s chalked full of cell ministry insight. My only criticism of the book is that it should have been three books–one on cell church, one on spiritual gifts, and another on leadership.

Jeff Tunnell, the lead pastor at BBCC is wisely mentoring a younger leader (Rob Hasting) to take his place as lead pastor. As we talked on SKPE, I reminded Rob to watch his motivation. I warned him about the disease called “Yonggi Cho envy,” that fatal attraction to numerical success for the wrong motivation [please check out Mario Vega’s excellent blog on this topic]. We wrestled with the context of Laurence Khong’s church in Singapore which has 10,000 people as opposed to the 150 people at Big Christian Center.

I warned Rob that sometimes people leave cell churches to attend churches that only emphasize Sunday morning attendance because there are far less requirements. I reminded Rob that the chief motivation for doing cell church is theological. We do cell church because we believe we can make better disciples who make other disciples. We practice cell church because we want to live out the priesthood of all believers and fulfill the one-anothers of Scripture. Because Rob is fairly new to cell church ministry, I wanted him to make sure he understood the values and biblical principles for doing cell church ministry.

Often pastors who begin cell church practice without believing in cell church values fade away over time when confronted with obstacles. Cell church ministry has deep theological foundations that need to guide our practices.



p.s.: My next book will cover those key theological foundations for cell ministry.

Proper Motivations for Cell Ministry

by Mario Vega

When we talk about cell ministry, we often associate it with church growth. The desire for church growth may have several motivations. Some people desire growth to build a mega church and become a famous icon. And there will always be pastors who desire growth to become the Pastor with the largest number of church members in the city. Others might desire growth for the sole purpose of increasing church income. The reality is that a multitude of motivations may lurk behind the desire to grow a large church.

The fact is, however, that God will only bless those who have the right reasons or motivations. Those motivations are the desire to adopt the model that the New Testament shows for the church and the desire to live as a community that grows in fellowship, evangelism and knowledge.

Not every cell church will become a mega church, but every cell church can live the values of the Kingdom of God. Whenever a person has a sincere and pure heart, God will continue to bless such a person.

Motivations, therefore, are an essential element when referring to cell work.

What do you think of this?


Translation in Spanish:

Motivaciones para trabajar con células.

Usualmente el tema de las células se asocia con el crecimiento de la iglesia. Y el deseo de crecimiento puede tener diversas motivaciones. Existen las personas que desean el crecimiento para poder edificar una mega iglesia y convertirse en un referente famoso dentro de su área.

No faltará quien desea el crecimiento para convertirse en el Pastor con mayor número de miembros en la ciudad. Otros podrían desear muchos miembros con el propósito que los ingresos económicos de la iglesia sean mayores. En fin, detrás del deseo de crecimiento pueden esconderse multitud de motivaciones.

Sin embargo, Dios solamente bendecirá a aquellos que posean las motivaciones correctas. Esas motivaciones son el deseo de adoptar el modelo que el Nuevo Testamento muestra para la iglesia y el deseo de vivir como una comunidad que crece en comunión, en evangelismo y en conocimiento.

No toda iglesia celular se convertirá en una mega iglesia; pero, toda iglesia celular puede vivir los valores del Reino de Dios. Cuando existe un corazón sincero y puro, Dios no dejará de bendecir a tal persona.

Las motivaciones son, entonces, un elemento fundamental al hablar del trabajo con células.

¿Qué piensa usted de esto?

Coaching 4: In Person

coach-tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

My friend Debbie Shuck-Mills was getting married at Duke Chapel and I had the privilege of conducting part of the ceremony.  With the rehearsal completed we traveled to the rehearsal dinner being hosted in a historic North Carolina home.  Debbie was late arriving to the dinner and this became a topic of discussion among her closest friends.  I listened in as they each told a story of when Debbie’s chronic tardiness had affected them in some way or another.

To my surprise and delight the stories all concluded with similar sentiments:  all of her friends were very accepting of her being late because she was “so very present in the moment”.  When she was with you, it was as though you were the only person alive on the planet.  She would not leave you for another appointment until she had a certainty that her relationship with you ‘in the moment’ was as full as possible.  Each one knew that she would only be late because she was pouring herself into the relationship in front of her.

Joel Comiskey’s article here on the website “Friendship: The Simple Secret of Coaching” gives us a similar conclusion from principles in Jesus’ life.  The adage ‘people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’ is powerful insight for the coaching relationship.

As Joel says, “You must first win the leader through a caring friendship, everything else will flow naturally.”