Dealing with a Leader that Doesn’t Multiply the Cell


by Mario Vega

We soon realized after beginning cell ministry that there were leaders who failed to multiply their cells at the pace that others did. Not knowing what to do, we sent a fax to Pastor David Cho, pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, asking him what to do with such leaders. He responded fairly quickly: “First make sure that the leader has learned the system’s principles. If he doesn’t achieve multiplication, after being properly taught, he must be sent to fast for a week. If after doing, so he still can’t multiply his cell, he must be suspended as a leader”.

For a while these recommendations were followed to the letter. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. Today after all these years, I believe the key issue lies in training. Every leader is able to multiply the cell if he or she is properly trained and guided. I believe that multiplication is not reached by removing leaders, but by training them for the multiplication task.

The supervisor’s work plays a key role in this; he must be attentive to every leader.  This will allow him to identify each leader’s weaknesses in order to train him and to bring him to an acceptable work level.

What is your experience in this field?


Translation into Spanish

¿Qué se hace con un lder que no multiplica su célula?

Cuando iniciamos el trabajo celular pronto nos dimos cuenta que haba lderes que no lograban multiplicar sus células al ritmo que otros lo hacan. No sabiendo qué hacer se le envió un fax al Pastor Cho para preguntarle qué hacer con tales lderes. Él respondió con bastante prontitud: ‘Primero hay que asegurarse que el lder ha aprendido los principios del sistema. Si después de haberle enseñado adecuadamente no logra la multiplicación, hay que enviarlo a ayunar durante una semana. Si después de ello todava no logra multiplicar su célula hay que suspenderlo como lder’.

Por un tiempo esas recomendaciones se siguieron al pie de la letra. A veces daban resultado a veces no. Hoy, después de todos estos años, creo que la clave del asunto se encuentra en el entrenamiento. Todo lder puede ser capaz de multiplicar su célula si se le capacita y se le acompaña adecuadamente. Creo que la multiplicación no se alcanza quitando lderes sino capacitándolos para la tarea de la multiplicación.

En esto juega un papel fundamental el trabajo del supervisor, quien debe estar atento al trabajo de cada lder. Eso le permitirá identificar las debilidades de cada lder para luego entrenarlo y lograr que alcance un nivel aceptable de trabajo.

¿Cuál es su experiencia en este campo?

13 thoughts on “Dealing with a Leader that Doesn’t Multiply the Cell

  • It is very interesting how this is done at Yoido in the various writings that have published on the Yoido church.

    First, Dr. Comiskey has written that Yoido’s principle is that preferred leaders of cell groups are those with the gift of evangelism. If they use their gift, they will fill up their cells with their own converts and multiplication will become necessary.

    Second, if the leader does not have the gift of evangelism but someone else does, the group will fill up with the converts of the gifted person. As these people are desired for leadership, they will be trained; when there is multiplication, the converts bonded to the person who has led them to Christ will have no problem going into a new cell with each other, removing one major barrier to multiplication. So, therefore, one must ask if the leader is allowing others in the cell to truly use their gifts rather than fostering spiritual dependency.

    Third,.at Yoido there are so many converts that they cannot have a place to house them all in worship; the same occurs at Elim. Therefore, the Yoido cells are filled by conversions made by people within the cell as they do not have contact with worship first. Therefore it is in the DNA of the cell to convert lost people.

    Traditional churches fill small groups with people converted in worship, resulting in the small group focusing on helping people who are already Christians to mature. This is the pattern in Wesley’s class meetings and in the way traditional churches use small groups. When the DNA is about maturation rather than evangelism, there will not be converts and there will not be multiplication. When cells are filled with strangers brought in through worship, I believe it is much harder to avoid the purpose of the cell becoming maturation rather than evangelism. How do persons enter a cell – after they attend worship or before, through the ministry of the cell?

    Fourth, while what Cho writes is the policy, Karen Hurston notes that a very high percentage of Yoido cells do not convert a single new person in a year. So the reality is that these leaders are left in place. Others explode into growth. It’s possible that this is due to the absence of a person with the spiritual gift of evangelism in a cell; when such a person is converted, the cell will fill up with converts made by this person and multiply, leaving the original cell again without a person with the gift of evangelism. But if the cell members continue to visit in their neighborhoods and do ministry, in time they will reap a harvest, just not as rapidly as when a gifted person is present and active.

    Fifth, I agree with Dr. Comiskey and the South American cell paradigm that anyone can lead a cell; to me a cell is like a spiritual family. But I do feel that multiplication is directly related to the identification, nurture and training of those persons with the gift of evangelism to be able to use their gift with the greatest possible effectiveness in the cell. This is done intentionally at Yoido.

    Sixth, C Peter Wagner has stated that such persons are usually 5-10% of those attending worship. It’s good to identify them and get them into the cell ministry, whether as leaders or participants. As they use their gifts, the cells should multiply.

    Given Elim’s growth, I wonder if the principles I’ve noted are also happening at Elim, whether or not they are emphasized, because of the results that Elim is achieving.

  • David, you make excellent points. I would disagree though that there is a “gift” of evangelism. We’re all called to it and it should not be hard to do when one is fully in touch with one’s depravity and God’s free gift of salvation through Christ, right?

    Cho and many other lead pastors place far too much responsibility on the shoulders of the cell leader. I’ve seen excellent cell leaders flounder because their group is filled with spiritual zombies.

    When groups grow, it may be from the leader doing a lot of inviting, but I do not believe this is a healthy principle. The group belongs to the members and the leader assists the whole group in reaching out.

    Disciplining a leader because he doesn’t multiply his group is shortsighted and legalistic, two things I am seeing too much of in the cell movement as it matures.

    Iif you ask the wrong people the right question, you often get the wrong answer. I would have interviewed coaches (what he calls supervisors) in Cho’s church who had successfully helped a struggling leader to turn around their group what their process is for befriending, cultivating, and motivating a whole group to become outward focused.

    My bottom line is that when the members of a church are missional and motivated to share Christ and do the inviting, the cell leader’s have a wonderful ministry that is very low stress and carries a high rate of satisfaction.

    We must stop focusing on results from leaders alone and refocus on equipping and releasing average members for their ministry. Then the cell structure actually becomes a helpful exoskeleton instead of another religious program.

  • Randall, what you are saying is very true and I know that you have the experience of these things that I wish I had because so much of what I say is theoretical.

    I Corinthians 12 indicates that we are all gifted in various ways and that we need to accept our different gifts, that the Spirit has chosen to work through us in diverse ways. So some people are gifted in evangelism; they are just better than others. I believe that serving as we are gifted is like finding our career. We each have a vocation and a specialty to bless the body of Christ and are called to serve in that area. Some are gifted in evangelism just as others are gifted in music.

    The task of evangelism, however, I believe is given to all Christians and the Spirit empowers all of us to fulfill that task. I believe that this task is relational, like partnering to start a family, having children, raising children, and helping them as they start their own families. All people can do that. And as you said, a family can be a “wonderful ministry that is very low stress and carries a high rate of satisfaction.”

    Within the cell, just as with children growing up, they must learn their gifts and discover their purpose in life. But they also learn in their families how to be a family and how to start their own family. These two areas – love and work – are central to life. So I feel that the image of the cell as a spiritual family is not only healthy, but allows every person to believe that they one day will also have their own family to “love one another.”

    The goal in my first post what to give an explanation for a commonly observed pattern – why cell multiplication is not uniform, but as diverse as nature is diverse. I still think it works as an explanation. I hope it’s clear that I would love and accept the reality of each cell family multiplying at the rate that is proper for it.

    But I also agree with everything you said – because when we try to make families (cells) task diven like departments of a corporation with intimidating goals, they can lose what makes them effective as families when leaders become too driven. Like spice, a little is good.

  • Very insightful points from David and Randall. I thought my research on why cell leaders multiply cells would point to the gift of evangelism as the key. It did not.

    Jim Egli repeated the questionnaire at Bethany World Prayer Center and came to the same conclusion.

    While I agree that having a member or leader with the gift of evangelism in a cell would be VERY HELPFUL, I don’t think this should be the focus (e.g., find members or leaders with the gift of evangelism so that the cells can multiply, etc.).

    P.S.: I distributed my questionnaire at Yoido Full Gospel Church in Korean and the results pointed in the same direction. Perhaps another statistical study has been done since then, but I haven’t heard of one. . .

  • Joel is right. I expected that small group leaders with the gift of evangelism would see more conversions, group growth and multiplication. But the statistical analysis showed absolutely no correlations between these growth outcomes and evangelism or any other spiritual gift on the part of the leaders.

    In my research involving thousands of leaders there was only one thing that showed a causal relationship to group multiplication and that was if the small group leaders were empowering others in ministry and leadership instead of doing almost everything themselves.

  • Powerful, Jim. I appreciate your feedback here. Did you ever write an article or blog on what you found about:

    “causal relationship to group multiplication and that was if the small group leaders were empowering others in ministry and leadership instead of doing almost everything themselves.”

    And if you haven’t, may I ask you to share about this in the JCG blog that would post on Sunday and go out to the emails Monday morning (I would post it)

    thanks, Joel

    p.s.: I could even send you some interview questions about that point, if you’d prefer. . . .

  • While everything that’s been said is true … equipping and empowering people as they are growing up is essential to help them to become responsible leaders of their own cells.

    I’m not sure how the “gift of evangelism” is being defined in the studies you are doing and how that might effect the results. When I encounter someone with the gift as I define it, they are known by their satellites … people who are not yet Christian but who surround them and follow them as they are slowly, through the developing relationship, coming to Christ. They are surrounded by fruit in development … by people in the process of coming to Christ … “you shall know them by their fruits.”

    When such a person enters cell life, they are a bridge by which new people enter the cell from the outside, leading to growth and multiplication as that mini-network moves out to form a new cell. This seems to me to be a very natural and logical process. Such a person would be naturally and normally be heavily investing time with lost people, as Yoido does with their intentional ministry visitation led by the cell leader. I would assume that cells where people have no involvement with lost people rarely grow and therefore rarely multiply.

    Is there a different definition for the “gift of evangelism” in the way gifts are used in the cell? I’m sure there are many with pride who claim to have that gift but do not have the fruit.

    As there is a very powerful resistance to the hypothesis that persons with the gift of evangelism make very productive cell leaders, there’s probably something useful to be learned here or there wouldn’t be such a strong reaction almost to the point of devaluing one of the gifts. I’m curious.

  • Thanks, David. I also talk about the gift of evangelism in my book HOME CELL GROUP EXPLOSION. And if you’d like more detailed information on the research, click here:
    David, please also contact JIM EGLI. Jim is more skilled at research design than I am and can give you better answers on the statistical side of things. In fact, I leaned on Jim quite heavily when doing the research. . .

  • Jim and I are neighbors, as we both live in Illinois. I have been blessed by his ministry and attended his seminar to train cell leaders offered in his church early on in the research for the DMin.

  • Maybe us westerners miss some things about evangelism due to the cultural relativism that we often display. After many years of trying to evangelise through cells I have come to the realisation that cells should be working together to evangelism. Really it’s group, or ‘team’ evangelism that I think works best. Members of the cell work together to introduce their contacts to other cell members, praying for the contacts, and that ‘net’ of relationships draws the person to Christ. Ever heard of ‘wolves’? They hunt together in packs, that is how Christians should hunt for the new christians.

    Not everyone is a gifted evangelist, but everyone can pray with the team for their contacts, make friends with others when introduced by a third party, and share God’s love, in essence sharing the ‘community’ that they already experience in Christ. This sort of concept is a bit foreign to western Christians, especially those already cultured into more traditional mindsets concerning evangelism and how people should be doing church. Change those mindsets and it does work.

    I spent a year in Hong Kong and observed this type of evangelism in a large cell church. It does work there. I would hazard a guess and say what happens in Latin American cell churches is similar. I have been in cell groups where this type of evangelism has worked here in Australia. However to successfully replicate this church wide in most western contexts I think you have to either FULLY TRANSITION believers from old ways of doing church, or start a new work from scratch (what I am thinking of doing). For us busy non relational Westerners it is not just a matter of training up leaders to do things differently. The idea has to be spread and adopted in the believers, often while fighting against cultural (and sinful) barriers. Unfortunately it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks 😉 But it can be done 🙂

  • Iain, I fully agree with what you said.

    There’s another option between the extremes of beginning a new work and fully transitioning an entire church – both of which are about having 100% of people on board with the new process.

    You can sow the new ways as leaven and allow them to slowly bring the whole “lump” around. This leaven or viral process is slow to happen and all social change is prone to conflict, but it is another alternative which has been scientifically studied.

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