Encounter at the Republic Church

marioby Mario Vega

In 1998, after working with cells for twelve years out of pure instinct, I received an invitation to speak at a conference on church growth in Quito, republicEcuador.

The invitation was from a church called The Republic Church, named after the important street on which it is located. This is the place were I met Joel Comiskey. He was a missionary at that time in Ecuador where he lived with his wife Celyce and their three daughters.

When I met him I was surprised at how much he knew about Elim, and the struggles the church had faced. But the best came when I listened to him speak. For the first time I heard someone speaking with knowledge and authority on the subject of cell groups.

All he said was new to me. Later on I found out that the invitation had been extended by Joel’s suggestion to Pastor Ludeña, the lead pastor at the Republic Church. At the end of the conference I was sure that I learned the most.

Since then, Joel and I have met at conferences in different countries and cities, and I always learn something new by listening to Joel. I believe that if we as a church had received advise from Joel at the beginning of our work, things would have been much easier and firm.

Blessed be the Lord for Joel’s life and for the JCG ministry that places tools within the reach of those who want them (I wish we would have had these tools at the beginning of our work). May God use these tools and bless the work of JCG!



Translation in Spanish:

Encuentro en La República.

En 1998, después de trabajar por puro instinto durante doce años con células, recib una invitación para impartir una conferencia sobre crecimiento de la iglesia en Quito, Ecuador.

La invitación era hecha por una iglesia llamada La República, por el nombre de la importante calle sobre la cual se ubica. En ese lugar pude conocer a Joel Comiskey. Él era misionero en ese momento en Ecuador donde viva junto a su esposa Celyce y sus tres hijas.

Al conocerlo me sorprendió todo lo que saba sobre Elim y sobre las luchas que la iglesia haba enfrentado. Pero, lo mejor llegó en el momento de escucharlo exponer. Por primera vez escuché a alguien hablando con conocimiento y con autoridad sobre el tema de las células.

Todo lo que deca era nuevo para m. Después supe que la invitación me haba sido extendida por una sugerencia de Joel al Pastor Ludeña, a quien apoyaba. Al final de la conferencia estoy seguro que fui yo quien más aprendió.

Desde entonces, nos hemos encontrado en conferencias en distintos pases y ciudades y siempre aprendo algo nuevo escuchándolo. Creo que si hubiésemos contado con una asesora de alguien como Joel al principio de nuestro trabajo las cosas hubiesen sido mucho más fáciles y firmes.

Bendigo a Dios por la vida de Joel y por el ministerio de JCG que pone al alcance de quien lo desee herramientas que hubiésemos deseado tener al principio de nuestro trabajo, pero que no tuvimos. Acá están esas herramientas. Úsalas y que Dios bendiga tu trabajo.

Is The Sky Falling Or Opportunity Knocking?

sky falling female.jpgJeff Tunnellby Jeff Tunnell


Chicken Little seems to be omnipresent these days! World financial woes, economic depression, wars and rumors of wars, and don’t forget (as if we could), there is an election coming in just 6 days! The media is feeding us information at a rate similar to “drinking from a firehose”. Acorns are bouncing off of our heads faster than we can dodge them! Is the sky really falling?

If you read The Cell Church, by Larry Stockstill, you may recall this from page 14: “Then, on that election night in 1992, the voice I have come to know and trust said, “Two things are coming to America: HARVEST and HOSTILITY. Your church is not prepared for either of them. I will show you something soon that will prepare you for what is coming upon the earth.” The force of the Lord’s words was so overwhelming that I sat fixed in the chair of my study until almost 2 a.m. I realized God was changing something major in my life as the impression continued: “I am going to send a revival to America that will bring millions into the Kingdom. They will not walk, but run to Me.””

These words came at the onset of Presidential change in the United States and initated Pastor Larry’s movement toward successful Cells at Bethany World Prayer Center. For those who have transistioned to cell church, you understand that the structure and its accompanying first-century church principles have prepared us to assimilate harvest and survive hostility. Even though nearly three decades in process, God has renewed the cell church model for such a time as this!

Turn down the volume on the world’s reports right now and give yourself the opportunity to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church in this hour. Sky falling male.jpgWe are not to fear, but embrace the moment. We are structured to receive the people who are afraid and uncertain about the future. We carry the answer to their need in our hearts, families and cell groups. Collect some of the uncertain, reach out with hope in Jesus, welcome them into your cell family to discover a roof over their heads which can protect them from the acorns. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but be of GOOD CHEER, I have overcome the world.” – Jesus!      



Battling the Mundane

by Rob Campbell


In a recent survey, 67% of Americans resist change.  I must confess I don’t get this reality.  I’m in the minority.  I embrace change.  I like change.  I know I’m sick!  Mind you, I’m not for change just for change sake.  I am, however, for change that keeps things fresh, exciting, life-giving, and battles the mundane.

Is it time for a wake up call for your cell?  Certainly, you’ve heard the phrase:  “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  Maybe a change for how you do cell life is at hand.  Let me give you one thought on how you might change the life of your cell group.

For illustrative purposes, let’s agree that a healthy cell gathers together weekly.  Joel is a big advocate of such a thought and I concur.  Gathering together weekly does not mean that the cell has to do the same thing every week.  Isn’t this correct?  For example, what would it look like if your cell gathered together the first and third week of every month in a home for a “traditional” cell gathering?  In other words, your cell connects with God and each other in a living room filled with worship, discussion, prayer, and more.  I trust there is a lot of laughter, encouragement, and such in the house.

Let’s continue.  Now, what would it look like if on the second week of each month your cell served the neighborhood?  For example, your cell hosted a free cookout for your block, cleaned up the neighborhood park, or spruced up an elderly neighbor’s yard.  Indeed, your worship would look different this week!

Further, what if your cell served the city on the fourth week of every month?  Your cell could feed the homeless, rake up leaves at the city park, or replenish the local food bank. 

I’m convinced that a cell needs to permeate the neighborhood and city with the love of Christ.  The suggested methodology described above will help one battle the mundane.

Break out of the four walls.  Get visible.  Meet needs.  Be the hands and feet of Christ.  I trust that you will find new life in your set of relationships as you serve others.



Growth Depends on the Soil

joelSomeone who is planting a cell church in a very resistant area wrote me recently saying, “It is a bit discouraging to hear churches in North, Central & South America or Asian countries that are developing in great numbers, when in a postmodern context it is often much more slow.” He then went on to talk about the soil“difficulties in the multiplication process.”

Are you in a situation like that? Can you feel this planter’s pain?

My friend Raymond Ebbett used to say over and over, “It all depends on the soil.” Raymond ministered for years as a missionary in Colombia (rapid growth) and then was sent as a career missionary to Spain (very slow growth). He understands first hand that church growth is dependent on the soil–God’s working in the nation and culture.

This is one reason why we at JCG base our ministry on cell church principles, rather than models. Principles work across cultures, but many of the exciting “models” usually work well where the church is already growing.

In my book Planting Churches that Reproduce (which is now available!), I try to include examples of cell church planting in various soils. Here’s an illustration I use for cell church planting in Spain:


The Holy Spirit never changes, but some cultures are more receptive to God’s message than others. Ecuador was a receptive culture, and it was relatively easy to win converts and make disciples. Those preaching and planting churches in Spain, however, experience a long, tough journey.

Tim and Marilyn Westergren began planting a church in Madrid, Spain in early 1994, and they can testify that it wasn’t easy.

The Spaniards in Madrid are generally a non-responsive and even resistant people group. Evangelical believers in Spain make up less than 1% of the population (estimates range between 0.2 and 0.6%). Considering that gypsies make up at least twenty-five percent of the evangelical population and that a considerable number are Hispanics from Latin America, the actual percentage of non-gypsy Spaniards who are born-again believers is extremely small. While it is possible to lead Spaniards to Christ, it usually takes time for this to happen. Most evangelical churches in Spain are small and have little impact on the society.

Tim discovered that the resistant culture caused stress fractures on the dynamics of the first pilot group. The lack of response and the many aborted conversions dampened the spirit of the group. He had to guard against small group diseases setting in when the group didn’t multiply after two years. He had to continually preach the word and allow the Holy Spirit to soften unreceptive hearts.

Tim admitted that one of the greatest challenges is making long-lasting friendships with non-Christians. “I find that most people are friendly to a point, but it’s hard to go to a deeper level with people. I think a lot of Spaniards are happy with the friendship and family contacts that they already have.”

The hard soil of Spain made multiplication of groups through conversion growth very difficult. The opposition that new Christians encounter in Spain made it hard to disciple the new believers into the initial groups. Tim writes, “We have been pleasantly surprised by the number of conversions—but disheartened by the number who fall by the wayside.”

In spite of the failures and setbacks, Tim had counted the cost and realized he was in it for the long haul because he understood that the soil was hard and that it took time for the seeds of God’s word to bear fruit. Tim writes, “We are miles ahead in the lives of those who have traveled with us. I don´t think they´d ever go back to business as usual. This gives me satisfaction for the time when the Spirit of God moves in this land.”

In 2003, the team transitioned the church plant, Comunidad de Fe, to Spanish leadership. The church is now a self-governing, self-propagating, and self-supporting congregation. Before Tim left, the church had grown to six groups—five adult groups plus a youth group. They also began a celebration service which had grown to about sixty people.

Tim began leading a church planting team in a city called Tres Cantos. At the time of this writing, they now have eight weekly groups and gather about sixty adults and children in their celebration service, which meets every other Sunday for teaching, worship, and the Lord´s supper.

Do you find yourself in a resistant environment or receptive one? How do the incredible cell church growth illustrations  around the world make you feel? Do they help or hinder your current situation?

Joel Comiskey

The Ongoing Quest for Excellence

marioby Mario Vega

One of the elements we have learned in the Elim church about working with cells is that you can always keep improving. The cell model can always be excellenceimproved. I am not talking about changing models, but of making small adjustments to the existing one.

The improvement process can be summarized in the following four steps:

1. Start your cell work.
2. Evaluate the results.
3. Make corrections to whatever is needed.
4. Go back to number one.

This cycle of correction and progress is key to give definition and dynamism to the cellular work. The elements that have been corrected or improved by this simple procedure are countless.
What do you think of this? What has been your experience?

Mario Vega
Translation in Spanish

La búsqueda permanente de la excelencia.
Uno de los elementos que hemos aprendido en iglesia Elim sobre el trabajo con células es que siempre se puede ir mejorando. El modelo celular es suceptible de merjoramiento todo el tiempo. No hablo de cambio de modelos sino de pequeños ajustes del modelo que se tiene.
El proceso de mejoramiento puede resumirse en los siguientes cuatro pasos:
1- Inicie su trabajo celular.
2- Evalúe los resultados.
3- Corrija lo que sea necesario.
4- Vuelva al número uno.
Éste ciclo de corrección y avance es clave para darle al trabajo celular definición y dinamismo. Seran incontables los elementos que se han corregido o mejorado por éste sencillo procedimiento.
¿Qué piensa de esto?