Walking with God through the Unknown

joelby Joel Comiskey

Last Thursday (February 25) the visa/passport agency informed me that the Nigerian embassy had lost my passport, which I needed the next day to fly to Nigeria. I had to call my contact in Nigeria and cancel the conference. The Family Worship Centre had diligently planned for 2200 people to attend the three-night conference. I also really wanted to go and had already made lots of preparation. The pastor wrote me saying, “This will cause a major crisis for us.” This same pastor had already rescheduled the conference a few weeks earlier due to my not having a visa, and now he had to do it again.

The situation hit me hard because I really didn’t understand God’s plan and purpose. “What are you doing, God?” I cried. My own understanding was in rebellion, and it took awhile to surrender to God’s perfect plan and purpose. I had to spend large amounts of time in devotions to arrive at a place of trust.My mind settled on the verse in Proverbs 3:5, “”Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Cell church ministry demands similar trust. Sometimes we don’t see the end from the beginning. We don’t understand why a group member or potential multiplication leader moves away, leaves the church, or just doesn’t seem interested. We often wrestle with the lack of growth in the church. We want to see God move much more quickly. We often do all the right things, but the results are slim.

When you begin to feel the weight and weariness of ministry engulf you, remember the message of Proverbs 3:5. Trust the all-powerful God who has Your best interest in mind. His plan is perfect for you and will show you in His time.



P.S.: Thanks for praying for the Myrtle Beach JCG event and Day with Joel and Mario. God unified the JCG board and helped us to make important decisions. God gave us a greatjcg time of ministry at the Day with Joel and Mario. The event was a great success from a ministry standpoint but not from a fund-raising point of view. We had 21 people at the event (3 more than last time), but we also dropped the price a lot from last year. We will do the Day with Joel and Mario next year in Myrtle Beach and in another location by a major airport. Thanks for your prayers and please pray for next year’s event.

JCG ministry in Myrtle Beach, SC

by Joel Comiskey

On Tuesday, February 23, the Joel Comiskey Group board will meet together in Myrtle Beach, SC for a day of prayer and relational interaction. Each member will answer the following questions on a personal and ministerial level:

1. What point of celebration would you like to share with the group?

2. What was tough for you since our time together last year?

We then eat together. This has been our tradition since 2003 when we met for the first time. We believe that relational connection comes before the tasks of JCG.

On Thursday, February 25, we will meet again to reflect on whether we’ve accomplished our goals for the past year and then envision the future for JCG for the upcoming year.

Sandwiched in between the board meetings is the Day with Joel Comiskey and Mario Vega (February 24). Even though we call it “Day with Joel and Mario” the entire JCG team participates. I’m excited and hopeful about what God is going to do on that day.

Would you please pray that the JCG board (i.e., Joel and Celyce Comiskey, Steve Cordle, Rob Campbell, Mario Vega, and Jeff Tunnell) would experience unity of mind and vision. Pray that God would give us direction on specific issues for the future (e.g., we will talk about bringing on the first JCG missionary and what that would look like). Pray for God’s anointing on the Day with Joel and Mario, and that we could really meet the needs of those present. We will not be blogging this next week because of these events.

p.s.: Some have wondered why we meet each year in the Hampton Inn in Myrtle Beach, SC. The reason is because Buddy Lindsay, one of the original JCG board members and tax lawyer, is also the co-owner of this hotel (we get a great deal). Buddy first suggested the idea of organizing JCG into a non-profit organization and was instrumental in making it happen.

Open Doors

by Mario Vega

A few weeks ago I wrote about the differences between American and Salvadorian culture in relation to cell evangelism. Since then, I’ve been reflecting on this a lot. As a result of those thoughts, I can now add another element that I think is important.

Most houses in El Salvador are small and do not have interior gardens and much less exterior ones. The houses are huddled next to each other in a continuous succession. Moreover, the country’s climate is hot and having air conditioning is a luxury that few can afford. These conditions cause people to open their doors for better ventilation and a feeling of spaciousness when they get home. Many times a closed door means that there is no one home. An open door means that the family is present.

The “open door” has turned into a cultural norm in El Salvador. The individual who locks himself into the house with his family to enjoy his privacy is considered a strange person in El Salvador. In contrast, this is normative among Americans. Granted, there are middle and upper class families in El Salvador that like to preserve their privacy, but their percentage is low in comparison with the large popular sectors that keep their doors open.

This cultural condition has an impact on cell work because in the large popular sectors, cells rapidly multiply, while in the middle and high class sectors the work is much smaller and multiplication is much slower.

Obviously, a church has to adapt to the culture in which it finds itself. And I believe that every church can implement the habit of building rapport with other people, to lead a life of greater outreach to others, and to move the fellowship of the church’s cafeteria to the living rooms of the members. Although the pace of cell multiplication in some cultures is slower, the important thing is that the church is planting seeds, which over the years, will carry a rich harvest of salvation.



Translation in Spanish

Casas de puertas abiertas.

Unas semanas atrás escribí sobre las diferencias entre la cultura estadounidense y la salvadoreña en relación con el trabajo de evangelización con células. Desde entonces, la idea se quedó dando vueltas en mi mente.

Como resultado de esos pensamientos, puedo ahora añadir otro elemento que me parece importante. La mayor parte de casas en El Salvador son pequeñas y no cuentan con jardines interiores y mucho menos exteriores. Las casas se apiñan una al lado de otra en continua sucesión. Además, el clima del país es caluroso y tener aire acondicionado es un lujo que pocos se pueden dar.

Esas condiciones hacen que las personas, al llegar a casa, abran las puertas de sus casas para tener una mejor ventilación y una sensación de amplitud. Muchas veces una puerta cerrada significa que no hay nadie en casa. Una puerta abierta significa que la familia está en casa.

Pero, la costumbre se ha vuelto cultural y se considera extraña la persona que al llegar a casa se encierra con su familia para gozar de la privacidad de su hogar. Cosa que, por el contrario, es normativa entre los estadounidenses.

Existen en El Salvador familias de clase media y alta que sí gustan de preservar su privacidad. Pero esto es en la menor cantidad de casos. En los grandes sectores populares rige la costumbre de mantener las puertas abiertas.

Esta condición cultural incide en el trabajo celular ya que en los grandes sectores populares las células se multiplican aceleradamente, mientras que en los sectores medios y altos el trabajo es mucho más pequeño y su multiplicación mucho más lenta.

Obviamente que para la iglesia sería una tarea difícil, larguísima y al final quizá innecesaria el tratar de cambiar la cultura de los pueblos. Pero la iglesia sí puede adaptarse creativamente a sus condiciones culturales. Una línea de trabajo es la que, de hecho, ya se está implementando: el crear hábitos de relaciones con otras personas. Llevar una vida de mayor proyección hacia los demás. Mover la comunión de la cafetería de la iglesia a las salas de las casas.

Aunque el ritmo de multiplicación celular en el primer mundo sea más lento, lo importante es que la iglesia está sembrando un precedente que, con los años, llevará una rica cosecha de salvación.

Federer Follow Up

by Jeff Tunnell

In Monday’s blog Joel mentioned a well known tennis player’s approach to coaching.  Allow me to follow up with a little article from “World’s Greatest Coach”, by Running Press.

“When he qualified for Wimbledon in 2003, tennis player Roger Federer had yet to win a grand slam.  Though he had upset Pete Sampras in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2001, and won numerous minor tournaments earlier in the year, the Swissman was unable to crack a major title.

Critics who had predicted his rise had mixed feelings about his potential.  But his coach of 3 ½ years, Peter Lundgren, believed in him. Speaking to John McEnroe, Peter said that in order for Federer to reach his maximum potential, “all he needs is to get one [slam] under his belt.”  Lundgren was right!

Kneeling on the grass court just moments after his victory over Australian Mark Philippoussis, an emotional Federer looked up into the stands – not to pick out his family or acknowledge his fans, but to catch the eye of Peter Lundgren.  The look that passed between them was priceless; it spoke of gratitude, obstacles overcome, awe, and finally, triumph.”

Coaching cell leaders may present a different type of challenge, but the relationship you have with your leaders is vital.  It’s up to you to understand and unlock the potential of each one, pass on the fundamentals of cell ministry and inspire them to be ‘all they can be’ while depending on the grace of God.

By the way, at Wimbledon last year Federer surpassed Peter Sampras’ record (14) for winning the most Grand Slams in a career (15).  His win at the Australian Open at the beginning of this year makes it 16 and time is still on his side.  He is becoming known as the greatest player of all time and he couldn’t have done it without a COACH! (He’s had one since he was 8 years old)

If you are a cell coach, stay with it!  If you are being coached, make sure to utilize your coach often.

Three Questions about the Cell Church of the Future (part 2)

By Rob Campbell


Last week on this blog post I asked three questions about the Cell Church of the future. Thanks to all who responded. Please see the questions and a few comments below. Check out two or three of my thoughts at the end of this post.

1. Do you believe teens and people in their twenties embrace the cell church model?

Joel L wrote: I think one of the attractive characteristics of the cell church model is the invitation from the body to get in the game, and as I college cell pastor (and a twenty-something myself), I believe my teens and twenty-somethings desperately want to play ball. So any church model that equips and empowers is attractive to this generation. I believe my generation wants to be in the game, but in some ways they may not want to play in a way that imitates previous generations.

2. How would you see the cell church model changing to attract teens and twenties?

Oona wrote: I don’t see a huge need for change, there will always be a generation difference as to what preferences are; music, styles of preaching, etc. But the beauty of the way cell church is designed is that, it’s so little about that and so much about relational discipleship. A young person might walk out the door of a more program driven church that fails to have the right look or play the right music, but if that same person is ‘captured’ into cell group first I believe it would be a lot harder to push them off. After all even teenagers would agree that their friends are more important to them than their music.

3. Do you believe in two decades or so, the cell church model will be seen as antiquated and/or obsolete? Please explain.

Richard wrote: Not at all, the contrary. I feel it will be the model to imitate.

Now, a few of my thoughts.

Concerning the first question, I have nothing to add to Joel L’s response. I especially like his last sentence which reads, “I believe my generation wants to be in the game, but in some ways they may not want to play in a way that imitates previous generations.” Therefore, as a forty-something pastor, I choose to fan the flame of this younger generation and avoid “my way or the highway” mentality.

Concerning the second and third questions, I have one thought. Empowering teens and the twenty-something crowd to lead as cell champions will be essential and necessary. With that said, I conclude with a question for Senior Pastors and ministry leaders.

Are you empowering, training a person or a team in their teens and twenties to be the current and future voice of the cell church movement?



Effective Coaching: Throw Out the Rule Book

joelby Joel Comiskey

I’ve been coaching pastors since returning from Ecuador in 2001. My journey in coaching pastors can be summed up by the title of John Maxwell’s famous book, Failing Forward. When I first started in 2001, I figured pastors had hired me to tell them what to do. I thought coaching meant consulting. I soon discovered that my know-it-all approach was wearisome and didn’t work long-term. So then I read a bunch of books on coaching and changed my stance to the “therapeutic listener.” When a pastor asked my opinion on a topic, I would turn it around saying, “What do you think?” or “what would you do?” Listening and well-placed questions certainly enhanced my coaching, but the pastors weren’t satisfied. After all, some simply lacked knowledge on how to transition or how to lead a cell group. They needed information. coach

I became fruitful in my coaching ministry when I developed my own coaching style based on reading, experience, and practice. One key discovery can be summed up by the phrase “Throw Out the Rule Book.” I realized that each pastor was unique, and I needed to adapt my coaching to meet the needs of the coachee, rather than following someone else’s rule book. Some needed more listening and encouragement while others expected teaching and information. I came across a quote from an article in ESPN that really resonated with this truth. Writing about Federer’s approach to coaching (the great tennis champion), this article in ESPN said, “In today’s game, most players put great stock in having a full-time dedicated coach. The role of a coach can vary from tactician and strategy expert to psychologist, travel agent, babysitter, substitute parent and best friend, and often is comprised of all those facets.” From constant feedback and evaluation from the coachees, I can know if I’m effectively coaching that particular pastor or cell champion.

In June 2009, Ben Wong gathered a handful of pastors and leaders in Los Angeles to talk about coaching. We shared our varied experiences, and by the end of the day, we decided to join forces to write book on coaching. The book is due in October 2010 and the title is “You Can Coach: How to Help Leaders Build Healthy Churches through Coaching.” I will be the editor of this book and will also write a couple chapters. One chapter will be entitled, “Throw out the Rulebook.” The other authors will include Ben Wong (Hong Kong), Timothy Tu (Taiwan), and Sam Skaggs (U.S.). All of us are actively engaged in coaching pastors and leaders.

Here’s a question for you: What’s your opinion about the concept  “throw out the rulebook?”


Service in the Cell Church

marioby Mario Vega

I’m writing this blog right at the end of the welcome service for the people who will carry out “a privilege” in our church. This is a solemn worship service that takes place once every year. Today’s service had an attendance of approximately 4,000 people. Everyone of the 4,000 are involved in one of our service areas. What are all these people doing?

Some work as deacons and deaconesses in the adults’ church building. We also have deaconesses for the Babies’ Church. Besides we have deacons and deaconesses for the Children’s Church. The deacons and deaconesses that serve in the youth services have to be added too.

Another group of brothers and sisters work as the Protocol Committee. They are responsible for ensuring the comfort of those attending the celebrations and to serve them properly.

Another committee is the Mass Media Committee. They are responsible for receiving the contributions for the support of our radios and television channel. We should also mention the Support Committee, which is in charge of receiving the offerings that leaders have collected in their respective cells.

There are other service areas such as library, youth, women, counselors, prisons visits, and visits to orphanages. In addition the church has 13 musical bands, ministries of social projection, sound and audio recordings.

It is important to remember the fact that to execute any of these privileges it is an essential/required condition to be a cell leader. While contemplating these thousands of brethren set out to serve during 2010, I can only thank God for giving to His Church such a large number of servants. To Him be the glory!



Sirviendo en una iglesia celular

Escribo este blog cuando recién termina el servicio de bienvenida a las personas que desempeñarán algún privilegio en la iglesia. Este es un culto solemne que se realiza una vez cada año.

El servicio de hoy contó con la presencia de unas 4,000 personas involucradas en distintas áreas de servicio. ¿Qué hacen tantas personas dentro de la iglesia?

Unos trabajan como diáconos y diaconisas en el local de adultos. También tenemos diaconisas para la iglesia de bebés. Además tenemos diáconos y diaconisas para la iglesia infantil. Hay que añadir también a los diáconos y diaconisas que atienden los cultos de jóvenes.

Otro grupo de hermanos y hermanas fungen como Comité de Protocolo. Ellos son los encargados de velar por la comodidad de las personas que asisten a las celebraciones y atenderles de manera adecuada.

Otro comité es el de medios masivos. Son las encargadas de recibir las contribuciones para sostén de nuestras radios y el canal de televisión. Hay que mencionar también el comité de Apoyo. Éste es el encargado de recibir las ofrendas que los líderes han colectado en sus respectivas células.

Hay otras áreas de servicio como librería, juventud, mujeres, consejeras, visitas a penales, visitas a orfanatorios. Además la iglesia cuenta con 13 grupos musicales, ministerios de proyección social, sonido y grabaciones de audio.

Es importante señalar que para ejercer cualquiera de estos privilegios es condición indispensable ser un líder de célula. Al contemplar estos miles de hermanos decididos a servir durante 2010, no puedo más que dar gracias a Dios por entregar a su iglesia tan gran número de servidores. ¡A él sea la gloria!

No More Bowling Alone

Jeff Tunnell

I am blogging from the local bowling alley today while attending a Cell group birthday party for a six-year old and his friends.  Moms and dads are here from 2 cells and lots of fellowship is occurring.  The moms naturally cluster with the babies that are too young to participate in the sport and the dads are hanging together (no doubt solving the world’s problems) as well as coaching the active bowlers.  No specific exchange concerning the word of God is scheduled here, simply living out one of the simple celebrations of life together in HIS kingdom.

Relational structures are one of my ‘big four’ because growth and maturing take place in a caring environment.  The other three are; having a grace bias, holding a spiritualistic-biblical worldview and understanding the kingdom of God.  Looking at the life and ministry of Jesus I see Him operating in and through relationships; talking, teaching, modeling, eating, walking, attending events (weddings and marketplaces) and ministering together with His disciples.

My ministry training occurred ‘on-the-job’ in a program driven church within the North American culture.  Fortunately, I have some good balance from my out-of-country mission experiences and a super-dose of cell church learning, too.  However, I still find it hard to summarize that being here at the bowling alley is ‘ministry’!  I am comfortable with the summary, but know that the standard view from the body of Christ is that I should be at a desk, or a hospital, or a home visit, DOING something called ministry as defined by hundreds of years of formal practices by clergy.

As we prepare to depart, following the gift opening and snacks for hungry children, one of the other dads approaches and says, “I’ll see you tomorrow night at cell group.”  I sense the sincerity of relationships forming, ministry moving in a good direction and opportunity to worship coming up.

I may give my desk away!

Three Questions about the Cell Church of the Future

By Rob Campbell


As a team member of Joel Comiskey Group, I think often about the future of the cell church. Would you be so kind to answer the following three questions?

1. Do you believe teens and people in their twenties embrace the cell church model?

2. How would you see the cell church model changing to attract teens and twenties?

3. Do you believe in two decades or so, the cell church model will be seen as antiquated and/or obsolete? Please explain.

This blog conversation should be interesting and enlightening. Please join in.



Can These Dry Bones Live?

joelMost of you reading this blog have also read my February newsletter entitled
“Can These Dry Bones Live?” (if you haven’t, please check it out HERE). In that newsletter I talk about God’s heartbeat to convert hearers into warriors through penetrating cell groups. God never intended church members to only sit and soak. Ephesians 4:11,12 tells us that God has raised up gifted leaders to prepare the laity for works of service. I saw this truth in action during my last seminar in Newark, New Jersey at Bethel International. What a mighty army of cell leaders! I came back from that seminar inspired and a renewed vision for cell church ministry.

In the past, I’ve tended to over-magnify culture. “We’re just individualists in North America (and Western world), so it won’t work in the same way,” I’ve found myself thinking. Yet, the Bible, not culture, needs to guide all that we do or say. The community, one-another ministry, and group orientation that I saw at Bethel among the Latinos is actually Biblical culture. God has placed in the Latino culture (and many other cultures) a more biblical trait of community and unity, and He wants to change us to conform to that biblical pattern. Granted Western culture also has many wonderful, biblical traits, such as diligence, organization, adherence to law, etc. God wants to instill those traits in other cultures which might lack them. Again, the Bible, not culture, must dictate all we do and say.

My excitement lately is that cell church is a biblical model of raising up leaders. God is behind it. Yes, a church must make adjustments and be willing to pay the price (e.g., coaching meetings, training, leading cells, etc.), but there are many hungry souls who are willing to pay that price. I’m encouraged to run with those who are passionate with the vision, rather than allowing the doubters to weigh everyone else down.

God wants us to learn from the worldwide cell church, test everything by the Word of God, and ultimately pray that our ministries would fulfill the prayer of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). God is ready to blow on the dry bones in our chruches and convert them into a mighty army for His glory. Are you ready to participate?