Don’t allow FAILURE to deter you

Myth: if you fail once in cell church ministry, don’t try again

Truth: you need to be willing to fail several times to get it right

Cho once said that you have to fail at least three times in attempting to do cell church ministry to get it right. Cho’s word strike an important chord with all of us who have attempted to transition to the cell model or plant a cell church–or even lead a cell group! Rather than allowing failure to dominate us and sap our strength, we must learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward.

Sadly, so many give up. I was in a church recently that tried to transition to cell church ministry by copying another model. They failed badly. Many were hurt. When I graciously pointed out why they failed, the pastor acknowledged my words, but simply did not want to try again.

The fact is that we will all fail as we move forward in cell ministry. You will have to fine-tune, perfect, and discover better ways to make cell ministry work in your context. There are no magical formulas. The key is diligently pressing on in the face of obstales. Fail forward, not backwards. Remember that failure is the back door to success. Abraham Lincoln is such a great example of pressing on in the face of defeat.

 In 1832, he lost the election to become senator.
 In 1833, his personal business failed.
 In 1835, his wife died.
 In 1836, he had a nervous break-down.
 In 1838, he was defeated in his race for the House of Representatives.
 In 1843, he lost the election to Congress.
 In 1848, he lost the congressional election for the second time.
 In 1849, his application to the registry office was denied.
 In 1854, he was defeated in the election to become a U.S. senator for the third time.
 In 1856, he lost the election for vice-president of the U.S.
 In 1858, he once again lost a key congressional election.
 In 1860─ after 28 years of failure─he won the U.S. presidency.

Abe Lincoln wasn’t deterred by his failures. He allowed his failures to create in him strength of character and the fortitude to press on. He remained diligent in the face of obstacles and difficulties. So can you.

Press on in cell ministry. Victory is in sight! Remember Paul’s words, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

When Cells Get Messy

There is nothing quite like being part of a healthy cell group community. When people are loving and being loved, known and being known, serving and being served; when Christ is changing lives in a visible way, and lost people are being found… that is literally awesome!

On the flip side, being part of a group in which members are sniping at each other, blowing off commitments, and generally stagnating… well, that’s just awful.

Cell group community rarely looks like the books says it should. (I say that as one who as written a book on cell ministry!).

Why does community get messy? Sometimes it happens because we’re immature (when you have baby Christians you need to change diapers!) Sometimes it’s because of sin; we hurt one another because we’re not perfected yet.

At other times it’s just because the members are getting real. When the masks come down and we see the real person behind the image, it can startle us. And that’s a good thing!

When a member shares a dark part of her soul and it provokes a stunned silence, that’s when God can start to work at new levels! What gets exposed can get healed.

It is important that as leaders we not only expect the messiness to happen, but we lead through it to help create a culture of authenticity and genuine growth. Don’t fear the mess!


The Myth of One Way to Transition

Myth: you must start with one prototype to successfully become a cell church
Truth: there are various ways to transition to the cell church strategy

Balance is such an important part of life. It’s so easy to become imbalanced–even in very good things. One of those great teachings in the cell movement that became imbalanced, in my opinion, was the issue of how to transition a traditional church to a cell church. Most people in the cell church movement would agree that it’s best to start a transition with a single pilot or prototype cell group. This prototype cell group, led by the senior pastor, would then multiply into a number of groups after six months or one year. The senior pastor would then coach those new leaders, start a new protopye, or lead an open cell group. I personally teach this, and most in the cell church movement would agree that this is the “normal way” to transition from a traditional church to the cell church model.

Yet, I’ve also noticed a certain rigidity in some cell church teaching concerning exactly what the prototype had to look like, how long it had to meet, etc., etc. One of my good pastor friends was excited about cell ministry and even started a number of healthy cells. But then he heard from a cell teacher that since he didn’t start with one “perfect” prototype he had to start over. He was told to “delete” his existing cells and go back into the womb of the prototype. My friend eventually determined that cell ministry was too legalistic and stopped his cell church experiment. 

The fact is that not everyone transitioning to cell ministry follows one pattern. Bethany World Prayer Center started 50+ cells at once. Phil Potter in his book The Challenge of the Cell Church shares his experience of starting 10 cell groups simultaneously. Scott Boren in his excellent book Making Cell Groups Work tells us that every church that has successfully transitioned and is moving forward in cell ministry has followed prototyping principles, even though they may not have prototyped with one cell group.

I think of one very successful cell church in Quito, Ecuador that started their transition with two or three pilot cells simultaneously. This illustration could be repeated. Differences in how to effectively transition to the cell church depends on how traditional the church is and how much authority the senior pastor and leadership team have in the church.

Prototyping principles, yes. Slavishly following one way to transition, no.



What is a Healthy Cell?

The Pastoral Team of Cypress Creek Church is in the process of an exercise I wanted to share with this blogging community.  Simply put, we are “re-defining” what characteristics make up a healthy cell?  We have done this exercise time and time again over the last 15 years and have found it helpful in refocusing us for the task at hand.

Below, you will see plenty of ideas from at least ten pastors at CCC.  Once again– the question– “What is a healthy cell?”  Here we go:

Service (Others Centered), Fellowship, Accountability, Leadership Development, Word-centered, Christ’s Presence in the cell, Individual prayer voiced for each other in the cell gathering, Living life with each other outside of cell gathering, Inviting others consistently, Cell leader praying each day for cell members, Weekly contact by cell leader to each cell member, Multiplication, Seeing new people in the cell on a consistent basis, Changed lives, Shared leadership, Consistency (in meetings and vision casting), Spiritual growth of cell members, Experience the `awe’ of God together, Welcoming of change, Relationship development, Actively seek those not connected to Jesus or a cell, Missional (service to others), Bless (relationships that bless), Belong (people feel they belong), Belief (beliefs are visible in the lives of people), Birth (new people becoming Christ followers), Gifts of the Spirit are apparent in cell gathering/cell life, AND….Passionate Worship.

Our team’s task is to winnow these many ideas concerning a healthy cell to five characteristics.  Further, we would desire for these characteristics to be measurable in some form or fashion.  A daunting task?  Probably so.  Do we need help?  You bet!  That’s where your contribution would be appreciated. 

I would be delighted if 10-20 people in this community would take a few minutes and give us your opinion.  What would you say are five characteristics of a healthy cell?  May I encourage you to be creative… think outside the box… and craft something that would really “wow” cell church leaders throughout the world??  You may be used of God to enrich many cell leaders/churches around the globe.

Comments, PLEASE!!



Turn Intention into Reality

Myth: tell the church how wrong it is and how ideal cell church is
Truth: just do it. People need to see cell ministry worked out practically so they can experience it

Now I believe strongly in the cell church concept and try to promote it continually. Yet, cell vision and promotion must ultimately be turned into reality. Pastors that make cell groups work in their church are able to turn their intentions into reality.

Some pastors fall into the trap of “over-preaching” and “over-selling.” They are constantly talking about how wrong the present day church is and how cell church is the only true New Testament structure. Yet, some of these pastors are never able to put their heavenly vision into practical reality. They over-sell and under-deliver. The congregation gets tired of hearing how bad the church is today when they’re not seeing the cell church alternative working in their own church.

I promote the radical middle in cell ministry. The term Radical Middle highlights the radical nature of cell ministry yet also proclaims the need for practicality—it must work. The word radical means that cell ministry will often go against the grain of conventional thinking that says Sunday morning is church.

The middle is important because the sensitive cell church leader must make sure that the congregation is following and not left behind in a trail of idealism. Some pastors are very radical about cell ministry but just can’t seem to lead their congregations to follow along. The Radical Middle declares that great cell ministry will eventually work to make disciples, grow congregations, and plant new churches. Solutions, rather than idealism, will ultimately win the day.