Reaching Islam

by Jeff Tunnell

This week I am appreciating Author Dr. Nabeel T. Jabbour and his book, “The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross”, insights from an Arab Christian.  Born in Syria and raised in Lebanon, he then lived with his family in Egypt for 15 years.  His Doctorate is in Islamics and he presently works for the Navigators in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.

I enjoyed Dr. Jabbour’s explanations and insights on the different types of Muslims, their views of Christianity, and successful ways to reach out to them with the Gospel.  My surprise came in part three of the book when he explained his view of ecclesiology, faith and culture.  Here in chapter 15 was a simple diagram of two churches: one a traditional building, the other a network of relationships.  He went on to discuss that the second “hidden ecclesia” becomes the most effective way for Muslims to gather after accepting Christ and still remain salt and light inside their existing culture without complete rejection by family or society.

It now became clear why a Cell leader gave me the book.  Recent messages on “What is the Church?” “Community through Cells” and speaking about relational evangelism, had connected the two for this leader.  Her concern for those who make up nearly 20% of the world’s population had led her to investigate the life and beliefs of Muslims.

Dr. Nabbour inspired me by demonstrating once again that the cell church method is the most practical, effective and efficient way to reach the last great harvest among Muslims!

What is your experience with reaching Muslims?  Have you integrated these converts into your cell-based ministry?

Restructuring the JCG Blog

joelby Joel Comiskey

Rob Campbell is currently visiting one of his network churches in Mexico, and he doesn’t have Internet access. He asked me to blog on his behalf.

I’ll take the opportunity to share with you about our new blog emphasis and format. Starting next week, we’ll be switching to a thematic blog. That is, each of the five bloggers will focus on the same cell church theme. In this way, we hope to give a more in-depth view of a particular cell church topic each week. For example, for the month of April, all of us will cover:

Week 1: Prayer in the cell church–why prayer is so important in the cell church and how to do it

Week 2: Prayer in the cell–how to integrate prayer in the cell

Week 3: Leader exemplifying prayer in his or her own life (devotions, etc.)

Week 4: Christ presence in the cell–how the Trinity produces life and power in the cell group

We hope you’ll actively participate in commenting on these themes.

We also want to welcome Michael Sove, cell champion at Memorial Baptist Church, as our new weekly blogger. Here’s is the new order of blogging:

Monday: Joel Comiskey

Tuesday: Jeff Tunnell

Wednesday: Mario Vega

Thursday: Michael Sove

Friday: Rob Campbell and Steve Cordle (they will alternate from week to week or month to month)

We believe that this new format will bless all who read the blog and help extend Christ’s kingdom.



Balancing Cell Evangelism and Community

joelby Joel Comiskey

Most people consider David Cho to be the founder of the modern day cell church movement. Not only did his cell church grow into the largest church in the history of Christianity, but his landmark book, Successful Home Cell Groups, told everyone how it happened. In this book, Cho makes it clear that cell groups should emphasize both evangelism and community. Chapter 5 (The Security of Cell Groups) highlights cell community and chapter 6 (Home Cell Groups: a Key to Evangelism) emphasizes the evangelistic thrust. Even to this day, each cell at Yoido Full Gospel Church has the annual goal of winning two people to Jesus.

For the most part, worldwide cell churches follow Cho’s example in positioning cells  to both evangelize and promote intimate community. But it’s a tough balance to maintain.

I’ve noticed a tendency in some cell churches to over-emphasize cell evangelism to the exclusion of community (a tendency in some majority world churches). Others over-emphasize community to the exclusion of active cell evangelism (a tendency in some western churches).

Last week several pastors came  to to my house for our regular coaching time. One of them asked the question about how to maintain the emphasis on both evangelism and community in the cell. “How hard should I push for evangelism and multiplication,” he said.

I answered: “In our cell church in Ecuador, most understood the purpose of evangelism and multiplication in the cell. On the other hand, I’ve had to confront cell members in North America who outright told me that they weren’t interested in evangelism and were especially against multiplication. In such cases, I’ve had to work behind the scenes with such people to help them to understand the purpose of the cell. You cannot  back down from emphasizing evangelism and multiplication. True community demands reaching out to a hurt and dying world.”

Traditional church people often have a harder time balancing the dual emphasis.  I coached a pastor in Delaware last week who excitedly told me that  two of his cells were ready to multiply. “I’ve discovered,” he told me, “that the new believers quickly catch the vision for both evangelism and community.  Those who have been in the church a long time have a tougher time understanding the need to reach out and multiply.” I told him that it’s best to run with those who are running with the hope that their excitement will rub off on the rest of the church.

Whether you’re dealing with long-term church members, new converts, a church in transition, or a brand new church plant, it’s essential to emphasize both evangelism and community in the cell.



More about Rotating Cells

by Mario Vega

Cells that rotate from one house to another over a two to three week period are much more inclusive in terms of reaching people with the message of the Gospel.

When a permanent cell is opened, at first, there is a high interest among the neighbors to attend the cell. But, as months pass by, the cell stops being a novelty and a greater effort is required to bring guests.

The advantage of rotating cells is maintaining a constant freshness. They are always a novelty since they only stay in one house for two or three weeks before rotating to another one. Because of this there are always many guests wanting to know what a cell is.

But as I said before, rotating cells is not the only way to do it. We normally encourage rotation for specific needs, and the goal is to convert rotating cells into permanent cells. I simply wanted to share this variant of our work.

We’ve discovered that a rotating cell can only work when it has a very strong core, so that it doesn’t have to depend on a house, but on the inner strength of the core members.



Translation into Spanish:

Más sobre las células rotativas

Las células que rotan de una casa a otra en lapsos de dos a tres semanas, poseen la particularidad que son mucho más inclusivas en términos de alcanzar a personas con el mensaje del evangelio.

Cuando una célula permanente se abre, al principio, existe mucho interés por los vecinos por asistir a ella. Pero, en la medida que los meses pasan, la célula deja de ser novedad y requiere mucho más esfuerzo llevar a los invitados.

La ventaja de las células rotativas es que siempre se mantienen frescas. Dado que solamente permanecen dos o tres semanas en una casa, para luego rotar a otra, siempre son novedad. Siempre hay muchos invitados queriendo conocer lo que es una célula.

Pero, como dije anteriormente, las células rotativas no son nuestra regla. Su número es muy reducido y se recurre a ellas solamente por necesidades específicas. La meta es que las células rotativas terminen por convertirse en células permanentes.

No obstante, quería compartir esta variante de nuestro trabajo. Quiero insistir que una célula rotativa solamente funciona cuando posee un núcleo muy bien consolidado. Cuando la célula no depende de una casa sino de sí misma.

Prayer in Coaching

by Jeff Tunnell

I am sitting in our regular coaching time with Joel and 5 others and the dialogue is warming up.  We are developing relationship and pursuing progress while discussing principle approaches to cell ministry. All of us are cell leaders and two are Senior Pastors.

Joel moves from one to the next, asking us to share our recent praises and then request prayer for present needs.  I deeply appreciate this component today because as I share my needs (deep and personal ones) the group stops spontaneously to pray for me.  Kneeling on the floor, humbling myself before Jesus and this caring group, they begin to intercede on my behalf.

The conversation flows freely between these leaders and our Father, just for me.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit begin to operate in my friends as a word of wisdom comes through one followed by a supportive word picture from another, both bringing God’s life and guidance to my situation.

We proceed to counsel together as the conversation broadens to encompass other’s needs and more prayer is offered in the throne room of heaven.  The peace that passes all understanding settles on hearts which have surrendered to the will of God.

Coaching is a necessary and welcome part of my week (and month)!  It brings life in the kingdom into focus and provides much needed encouragement that reaches beyond our human limitations.

How has coaching helped you recently?  Is the JCG blog a regular component of your encouragement?  Let us know if there is an area of Cell ministry you would like addressed.

When in Need of Power–think TEAM

By Rob Campbell

In the scriptures, we find a strong, dedicated leader of the people of God– his name is Moses. Moses was a brilliant man, educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22). When we think of Moses, we recall God using him to part the Red Sea. We remember the challenges presented to him by his own people as they wandered through the wilderness. We think of his mentoring abilities with certain protégés like Joshua. There were times, however, when Moses needed others to experience God’s power. Let me cite three examples.

First, Moses was called by God to speak with the Egyptian Pharaoh and lead God’s people to liberty. His response to the Lord may ring of familiarity to you. “O Lord, I have never been eloquent,” he said. “I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Here, Moses is expressing to God his lack of confidence and power. How does God respond? God instructs Moses to take his brother, Aaron, with him to speak with the Pharaoh. In essence, God said to Moses, “Okay, my chosen leader, look around you– who is best qualified on your team to deliver the goods?”

The second episode illustrating Moses’ need for others occurs during Israel’s battle with the Amalekites. In Exodus 17:10-13 we read, “Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up– one on one side, one on the other– so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army.”

Finally, in Exodus 18 we find a very tired and weary leader. Moses was serving the people as judge from morning till evening. Enter Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. Jethro is being used of God as he says to Moses, “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:18). Jethro further advises Moses to select capable people who would serve as judges over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, leaving only the most difficult cases to Moses.

Please notice that in all three cases cited above– God provided the power for Moses to be an effective leader. God sent to Moses other people– his team members. Now, don’t miss Moses’ response to these three scenarios in his life. He received his team members as a gift from God. This reception of help is rooted in humility.

Like Moses, you may need to receive help from God through others. No man is an island. No man can be strong all the time. Who is God placing in your life to be a conduit of His power? Who is your Aaron? Hur? Jethro?



The Rabbit and the Turtle

joelby Joel Comiskey

Some of you have read the old English story of the hare (rabbit) and the tortoise (turtle) called Aesop’s Fable. In the story, the rabbit ridiculed the turtle for having short feet and a slow pace. The turtle replied, “Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.” The rabbit agreed to a race, believing that the turtle could never win. The two started the race together, and the turtle never stopped, following a slow but steady pace to the end of the course.  The rabbit, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep.  At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he realized the turtle had already finished and won the race.

I see this story played out in the cell church world today. Some cell models, like the rabbit, offer quick growth and the promise of rapid numbers. Here in Brazil, various pastors started following a cell model in Latin America that promised instant growth for those adopting their entire model. These pastors abandoned the slow, steady training that Robert Lay and Ministerio Igrega em Células offered.

The purpose of Ministerio Igrega em Células is to teach values, principles, and to network pastors and leaders together on the cell church journey (four modules, annual confernces, and lots of material). Some began to criticize Robert Lay’s ministry as being too “turtle like.” They felt that he and his ministry over-emphasized cell chruch theology, values, starting with a prototype, and making transitional change in a slow, steady manner.

The good news is that many churches who took the time to study cell church principles and network with other pastors are now shining models for others to follow. I heard testimony after testimony from these pastors at the two annual Ministerio Igrega em Células conferences this past week (1400 attended the southern Brazil conference and 900 attended the northern Brazil conference). Some of these model churches now have 100s of cell groups and are giving birth to new cell churches in other places.

On the other hand, many of the “quick growth” churches are realizing that the glitter quickly fades in the reality of day to day cell church minsitry. Some are now rejoining Robert Lay’s network.

I’ve seen the same phenomenon played out in the U.S. One famous church helped other churches start dozens and dozens of groups very quickly. Churches gave glowing reports of the rapid growth of their small groups. The problem was that these groups only lasted a couple months. According to this strategy, they weren’t supposed to last any longer. Some pastors then tried the “bait-and-switch” technique of convincing the temporary groups to continue. Most dissolved.

Turtle-like ministry requires long-term persistence, passion, and perseverance. It’s easy to give up along the way, or jump on the bandwagon of the latest, greatest sucess story. Yet, I’ve been encourged afresh to take the long-term approach. Why? Because the results are lasting and eventually such a strategy will win the race, just like the turtle.



Rotating Cells from House to House

by Mario Vega

When we started our work with cells, the enthusiasm spread rapidly, and the members invited many people. Some of the newly invited friends attended so much that they became well acquainted with the inner workings of small group dynamics. These same non-Christian people volunteered to host the cell groups in their own houses, since they were thoroughly enjoying the cell atmosphere. Suddenly, we found ourselves in a new situation that didn’t fit the normal pattern of cell ministry.

To avoid giving a negative answer that could discourage these friends, we decided to start rotating the cell groups from house to house. The cells would be in one house from one, two, or at the most three weeks. Then the cell would rotate to a new location nearby.

Even today, our cells continue to rotate in this way, until one of the host families comes to faith in Christ. When this happens, we ask the converted family to host the cell on a permanent basis.

The only way we’ve found for a rotating cell NOT to lose its identity is to have a committed core group in each cell. We’ve found that when there is a committed core, the cell remains healthy regardless of the physical space it occupies. The house may change, but the core remains the same and moves to where there is a need to shed the light of Christ.



Translation in Spanish

Células rotativas

Al iniciar nuestro trabajo con células, el entusiasmo corrió rápidamente y muchas personas comenzaron a ser invitadas. Algunos amigos asistieron tantas veces a una célula que llegaron a comprender un poco sobre la dinámica de trabajo.

Pronto aparecieron personas, que sin ser cristianas, solicitaban ser anfitriones para que en su casa se desarrollara una célula. Ante semejante solicitud nos encontramos con una situación que, de alguna manera, rompía con el modelo acostumbrado del trabajo celular.

Para no dar una respuesta negativa que pudiera desalentar a los amigos, decidimos comenzar a trabajar con algunas células rotativas. Estas son células que funcionan por una, dos o a lo sumo tres semanas en una misma casa. Luego, rotan para trasladarse a una nueva casa ubicada en las cercanías.

La célula continúa así rotando a menos que una de las familias anfitrionas llegue a la fe del evangelio. Cuando eso ocurre, la célula se convierte en permanente y no rota más de casa en casa.

Obviamente, la clave para que una célula rotativa no pierda identidad es que el núcleo de la misma esté muy bien consolidado. Cuando eso sucede, la célula se estructura en torno a sí misma y no en relación a un espacio físico determinado. La casa puede cambiar, pero el núcleo sigue siendo el mismo y se traslada a donde hay necesidad de iluminar con la luz de Cristo.

The Four Stages of Team Development

By Rob Campbell

Author Rick Love formulated these ideas on team development. I thought they might be helpful to this blog community. I believe the four stages cannot only be applied to one’s team, but also a cell.

Here’s a synopsis of Rick’s ideas. There are four stages most teams go through before they are productive: forming, storming, norming and performing. These four stages describe what happens in team relationships. While we call these stages, there is another sense in which these dynamics are cyclical. That is, teams go through ever deepening levels of storming, norming, and performing. It is also true that individuals on the team may be storming with one teammate and performing with another. Thus, these stages merely give a rough outline of the growth dynamics of any team.

The beginning stage of team life. Expectations are unclear. Members test the water. Interactions are superficial. This is the honeymoon stage.

This stage is characterized by conflict and resistance to the group’s task and structure. The team is struggling through its differences. There are healthy and unhealthy types of storming. The goal is to work through the healthy types of storming and minimize the unhealthy types (since we live in a fallen world unhealthy storming will take place). In my experience as a team leader and coach, I have found that there is usually conflict

in five major areas: character problems, gifting fit, authority issues, vision and values dissonance, and personality differences.

In this stage, a sense of group cohesion develops. Members accept the team and develop norms for resolving conflicts, making decisions and completing assignments.Norming takes place in three ways:

First of all, as storming is overcome, the team becomes more relaxed and steady. Because of growth in the five stumbling blocks of storming, the team is stabilizing. Conflicts are no longer as frequent and no longer throw the team off course.

Secondly, norming takes place when the team develops some kind of routine. Scheduled team meetings of various kinds give a sense of predictability and orientation to the team.

Thirdly, norming is cultivated through team building events and activities. Celebrations, public and private affirmation, retreats and fun get-togethers are practical ways to help the team norm.

These team-building events are also necessary to move the team to the performing stage.

The team’s goal is performing, not just norming. Yet, norming is a necessary transition stage. A team can’t get on to performing if there is no norming.

This is the payoff stage. The group has developed its relationships, structure and purpose. It’s beginning to tackle the task. The stumbling blocks of storming have been turned into stepping stones of performing. Let’s examine just how the five stumbling blocks of storming can be turned into stepping stones of performing.



Prayer in Monterey Church

by Jeff Tunnell

Liz Lynberg is the Cell Champion for Monterey Church, located on the Monterey Peninsula in California. Their Sunday morning service unites people from around the historic Peninsula; Carmel, Pacific Grove, Seaside, Marina, Salinas and beyond.  Sunday morning services feature live and vibrant rock-styled worship and during the week they establish connections through D-Groups (Discipleship Groups).

I met Liz in Waco, Texas while participating in the Cell Symposium.  Recently Liz launched a new prayer thrust, partially inspired by this blog, so I asked her to give us some additional insights.

Jeff:  Can you give us an overview of the prayer ministry you recently implemented?

Liz:  We are a small team of women of varying ages and roles within the church who come together weekly to seek God on behalf of our church and our community.  John 15:5 says, “I am the vine and you are the branches, if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.”  We recognize our dependence on God’s power and anointing to lead people in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jeff:  What inspired you to make this decision?

Liz:  The Holy Spirit through prayer! Pastor Bryan James and I had been part of a church leadership prayer team and we were both sensing that God wanted to make a shift.  We believed that the Lord wanted the faithful prayers from the church body, not just from leadership.  Pastor Bryan also felt, that for now, it was to be a team of women.

Meanwhile, Rob Campbell blogged about the importance of prayer, telling about Cecelia Belvin, who serves as Pastor of Prayer for Cypress Creek Church and her book “In The Name of Jesus, Amen.” I ordered the book and received it the next day!  (Unusually speedy delivery, by the way!).  I immediately devoured it.  As I read, what stood out to me the most was the purity with which leads the women in prayer and the standard of excellence for Jesus that has been established and expected among the prayer team.  I sensed God pouring into me the courage and conviction I would need to establish such a team among our body.  My directions were to start small and He would be faithful to guide us.

Jeff:  As Cell Champion for your church, how did you communicate and coordinate with your Senior Pastor?

The Lord had already been directing each of us individually.  As I shared Cecelia’s book with Pastor Bryan, he encouraged me to pray about beginning an intercessory prayer team for Monterey Church.  I quickly ordered copies for a few other women and asked them to read and pray with me about what God would have us do.

This past January, these same women felt led by the Lord to join me to form our Prayer Ministry Team.  At our first meeting, we were joined by our husbands as our pastor prayed and commissioned us to serve God and our church in this way.

Jeff: Does this require a higher level of time commitment or is the prayer ministry actually a part of the cell meeting each week?

Liz:  While prayer is an integral part of our cell meetings, our prayer team has a separate meeting time.  The women are committed to meeting with the Lord in this way each week and are happy to give of their time in this way.

Jeff:  How have you seen God move?

Liz:  As we spend time in worship and praise and pray by faith, we have seen God answer prayers, sooth souls, heal wounds both physical and spiritual, quiet storms, bring unity and basically come in power and might!  As it says in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Jeff: Are there any goals for the prayer ministry, and how do they support your current goals?

Liz:  Our desire is to honor God with our lives and to be a blessing to our community.  We recognize that we cannot reach our neighbors with the love of Jesus without His covering and protection and direction.  Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the mighty muscle of God.”  As the Lord builds our team in depth and He finds us faithful, I believe He will entrust us to grow and be able to touch more lives through prayer.

Thanks Liz, Godspeed to you and your team!  JCG is happy to have played a part in the process.