Missionary Cell Church Planting


I’m alway encouraging people to write their dream book. And I’m especially thrilled when it involves cell church. Richard Houle, an experienced cellrichard church pastor and key visionary, has a vision to write a book on cell church planting via the missionary team concept. And he has the experience to back up his writings.

I was with Richard and the network of cell church plants a few months ago in Gransby, Quebec. The darknes and unbelief in that region is great, but God is greater and is moving among a small movement of cell churches. Richard would like to complete his book in a couple years, so I was glad when he sent me the first chapter for review. I asked to refresh our readers with the concept of the missionary planting team:

“From a traditional Baptist Church in Quebec, Canada to a cell church planting movement.

In 1994, we started the process of transitioning the 250 people from the mother church in Granby. Quebec, into a cell church. It took us 7 years to transition. We lost 60 members. Tough for a pastor’s heart! But from those heartbreaks, the Lord called many leaders through coaching in the G12 model. They began to make disciples, and train as elders, evangelists, etc.

Then the Lord called clearly the two oldest pastors in their fifties to form our first missionary team, myself included. We were reliving Acts 13 where the Spirit called Paul and Barnabas to plant churches. One of the younger pastor took the lead of the mother church, to free the missionary team overseeing cell church plants. We felt we needed to change our approach, not let the church plants depend on the mother church, but let it be overseen by the missionary team. This new structure has worked very well for us.

There are now 3 church planters. We are at our 4th church plant in five years, in a culture very closed to the gospel. They are yet little plants (between 20-55 people in each plant), but with growing eagerness. Already the oldest plant consider to plant an English church just along the French Church in the same city. The goal is to see 15 church plants in the next 10 years. The obstacles are very great, the battle is fierce, but the Lord is on our side.


Thanks, Richard!


Joel Comiskey

9 thoughts on “Missionary Cell Church Planting

  • Wow this is right up my alley!

    We are missionaries in the Philippines planting a cell church using the G12 as a model. I would love to glean from these missionaries and their work. If you are not a national Pastor planting the church I have found as a missionary you need to understand the limits of your role.

    What I mean by that is even though I am looked upon as the “Pastor or Leader” of the church now my cell consists of foundational leaders for the church. Those whom are in my cell have been with me long enough that they realize their role is not just to be a cell leader but to help as a team ministry develop the church. I really don’t like the “authority only” aspect of G12, instead as a missionary I really enjoy our team leadership and ability to honor one another, even though I am looking for a point leader eventually. My heart for this team and church is bursting! I love Shepherding & being one of the sheep!

  • This is great stuff! First of all Richard, awesome vision, may Quebec be forever changed! Eric as I read this I knew your heart would explode as mine has. God keeps giving me International pastors who have a heart to plant new churches and this missionary team approach really excites me as well. I love this web site and the ideas that get generated here!

  • Hey, Eric, great to hear from you! I sent an email to Richard Houle to comment directly on your comment. Please be checking back. I’m sure he’ll respond soon.

  • Eric, Richard Houle wanted me to post this in response (he’s been having trouble connecting to the internet). Here it is:

    “We follow the G12 model, but only for “the equipping part” in the cell development. We do not think that the G12 model is the biblical model. We feel that the biblical one is to have a “team of elders” where some of the elders rule well and are full time pastor-teachers, prophets in their local churches. From that local church God calls missionaries (apostles/evangelists) to start new churches like in Antioch. They plant churches, supervise the new planted churches, establish elders and assist the new churches in time of trouble.

    So for us, it means that the G12 in the local church is under the supervision of the board of elders and tackles only what’s happening in the cell section of the church to insure growth of the cells and training of new leaders for cells.
    It means also that the G12 of planters (outside the local church) is under the supervision of the missionary team and tackles the formation of the new evangelists, and their training. We will develop slowly, we are not yet sure of all the details, but we are firm not to make the G12 structure the biblical one, but only the structure for equipping. It has worked well in the local churches, and we try to follow it through in the missionary team. In a few years I will be able to say if it has worked well in that setting too.”

  • Thank you so much Joel and Richard. It really is a blessing to see others doing what we have began to do the last year 1/2. The problem I had with the G12 one man authority was lack of eldership / team ministry. Right now we have a very young church most people are in their twenties. I don’t feel at the moment that we have any elders, therefore I look at our leadership team (the people in my cell group) as a discipleship leadership team. These guys and girls are really sold out.

    It takes alot of pressure off of my wife and I to perform and instead give them Fathering and Mothering in a sense. We see the church through the glasses of a family more than a functioning business seeking to make more and process more disciples. I really love the community side of cell ministry and the G12 in this sense what it is doing for us.

    But as Joel said in his Groups of 12 book there are 3 things needed as a foundation to cell ministry: Community Evangelism & the Priesthood of all believers. These things we have been preaching since we came to the Philippines 6 years ago as a team leadership of missionaries. Those 3 principles have engulfed our church that when we began to feel the need to transition in to G12 it really was not that difficult. We just dealt with the normal transition I think.

    As a new church plant I am looking forward to seeing elders come about and should the Lord lead my family to another church planting endeavor I feel having an eldership is the key to long-term successful ministry here. We minister to the very poor people, however when someone shows them love and a desire to be family with them it is amazing the transformation that comes about!

    Sorry for the rambling I am excited to connect with the greater body and learn from as well. Richard my email is hismission@mac.com and I would love to connect with you, ask questions etc if that would be possible with your schedule.

    Thank you all again!


  • Eric said – The problem I had with the G12 one man authority…
    I never saw the G12 thing like that….
    Maybe he’s talking about what happens when G12 systems go wonky…
    I am certainly more in favour of a ‘collaborative’ and ‘parenting’ leadership style….
    I think that’s biblical. I think that’s what the original G12 pioneers intended, and practised.

  • Iain,

    I have never been to Columbia so I have limited understanding of the whole G12 history except what I have read.
    Reading from the different church leaders in Europe and the USA who chose to focus on the “principle of 12” after they broke away from G12 I believe came from the leadership in Columbia placing pressure upon international churches to look exactly like Columbia. It does not work that easily all the time. You cannot plant an orange tree from Florida in Alaska it just won’t grow. But if you improvise and create a greenhouse then maybe you can make it work. I think that the Columbia leadership stepped to far in their authority in that sense by wanting everyone to look just like them. Principles yes. Cloning no.
    Being a missionary here in the Philippines for 6 years I have seen Filipino churches look just like their western orgins. There is no unique cultural flavor. We are focusing on using the G12 here because we want to raise up and equip Filipino LEADERS, not just servants of our western mindset. This has worked so far and seeing them transition from a servant (in a bad way servant more like a slave) into taking responsability for their nation is really unique. Of course we all change to become more like heaven’s culture but I know that as this thing grows and matures it should not look like a white American’s vision only of what the church in the Philippines should look like. It should look Kingdom/Filipino.
    There are alot of churches here that have adopted the G12 vision and it is working really well for them. However my concern is that in all of their desire to look like Columbia do they not have any encouragement to be creative? Or Unique to that body of believers gift mix, experience, testimonies, etc.?
    I am not saying authority is wrong or that it does not have a place in the body of Christ. What has worked in Columbia and other parts of the world has been great. Honestly I love using the G12 here, but something on the inside of me cries out for an authentic revelation from the Lord for the Philippines and for Filipinos to rise up and take a leadership role with a unique kingdom flavor.

    Please let me know what you think. Blessings

  • Hey, Eric, I love your searching, seeking attitude. And I love the fact that you want to see the Filipinos respond AUTHENTICALLY. As a westerner, you can understand the SINS of AMERICA in producing CLONES (your churches must be just like our churches). Yet, MISSIOLOGY has come a long way and most missionaries (like myself) were trained thoroughly in indigenous principles. So you’re RIGHT ON to raise these questions!

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