Rivalries and Sheep Stealing


by Joel Comiskey

One pastor of a cell church with 200 cells recently asked me two questions:

1. “How do I solve the problem of rivalries between the leaders?”

2. “How to I make sure that leaders don’t rob members from other cells and from other leaders?”

I answered him saying:

There is no easy answer to this problem. You will need to speak to these issues in your training and coaching. I believe that the essence of the cell church is to make disciples that make other disciples (generate other leaders). I believe that the atmosphere of the cell is the best one to produce disciples. At the same time, we must take heed to what Jesus said about those who would be His disciples. Jesus said that the entire world would recognize His disciples by their love, service, humility, and how they consider others better then themselves.

Jesus has been showing me lately the importance of applying the “one anothers” of the Bible and how a disciple of Jesus must practice these principles. Success in God’s kingdom revolves around serving one another and walking in humility–just like the community that exists within the Trinity.

You are going to have to teach your leaders and future leaders these principles. Yes, you could make “rules” to prevent “member stealing,” etc., but it seems to me that it’s much better if change comes from the leader’s heart, rather than from an external rule.

Perhaps you’d like to comment on one or more of the following questions:

Have you experienced rivalries between your leaders? Cell leader sheep stealing?

How have you dealt with such problems?

p.s.: remember to check out the cell symposium seminar sessions at  cellsymposium.com (I teach on cell church transition and cell church planting)

Learn by Doing


by Mario Vega

Any skill is learned faster when it involves our effort. It is much easier to learn something by doing it than by simply hearing about it. Similarly, cell work is learned more quickly by  getting involved, rather than hearing teaching after teaching about  it.

For this reason, the leader should provide all the opportunities in his or her power to get people to participate in cell ministry. When that is accomplished, the leader’s task of multiplying groups will increase.

The leader must delegate significant duties to the cell members, opening the door for new leaders to develop. On the contrary, when a leader monopolizes all the functions, it prevents other people from learning to become leaders, hinders the cell multiplication,  and will also end up overwhelming the leader.

It is essential to instill in leaders that the main purpose of cell ministry is multiplication. This truth will help them to focus on training new leaders,  rather than doing everything. Leaders multiply when they’re allowed to perform leadership roles as part of their training.



translation in Spanish:

Aprender haciendo.

Cualquier habilidad se aprende de manera más veloz cuando involucra nuestro esfuerzo. Es mucho más fácil aprender algo haciéndolo que simplemente escuchando de ello. De igual manera, el trabajo celular se aprende más rápidamente participando de él que escuchando muchas enseñanzas.

Por ese motivo, el lder debe proveer todas las oportunidades que sean posibles para que otras personas participen del quehacer celular. Cuando se hace eso la multiplicación de lderes es mucho más eficaz.

El lder debe delegar funciones significativas a los miembros de la célula y, de esa manera, abrir la oportunidad para que otros se forjen como nuevos lderes. Por el contrario, cuando un lder acapara todas las funciones para s mismo, impide que otras personas aprendan a ser lderes, estanca la multiplicación de la célula y terminará abrumado por el trabajo que implica el no delegar.

Es fundamental inculcar en los lderes que el propósito principal del trabajo celular es la multiplicación. De esa manera, se enfocarán en la formación de nuevos lderes antes que en acaparar privilegios. Los lderes se multiplican cuando se les permite hacer funciones de lderes como parte de su formación.

Back to the Basics

coach-tunnell    Jeff Tunnell

“As long as the worship team perfoms, the pastor preaches a relevant message, and the administration flows without a hitch, everyone feels satisfied.  As you examine these churches, however, you’ll notice a fatal flaw: the lack of transformed lives. There is no power. Even God seems scheduled on the church calendar.

The first and foremost solution to the transformation of the church in North America is prayer – a humble, radical crying out to God for help.  Commitment to prayer obliterates pride and forces us to rely solely on God Himself.  It teaches us to depend on Him before looking at strategies – even cell ministry.  The time has come to go beyond past remedies and fixes.  We need a major overhaul, a total solution.”

The preceding comments are straight from Joel’s book, “Cell Church Solutions; transforming the Church in America”, pages 100-101, and the chapter titled “Back to the Basics”.   This book has been updated and re-titled to “The Church that Multiplies: Growing a Healthy Cell Church in North America”.

I realize our blog readers are not limited to North America, thank you for your patience with me today.  I have blogged along these lines recently, but still would like more interraction on how your cell church is handling this BASIC value and practice.  Is it working, is it frustrating, is it satisfying? Inspire the rest of us with your story.



by Rob Campbell

In July 1994, Chuck Swindoll spoke at the Promise Keepers Leadership Conference in Boulder, Colorado. As he stepped to the podium, he looked intently from left to right at the thousands who had gathered for this event. I was one of those in attendance, seated in the very front row next to Coach McCartney. Then he spoke, “Pastors, lighten up…lighten up!” I loved his admonishment for I have always believed that pastors are too tight, serious, posturing themselves to be more important than they really are. The place filled with laughter and Chuck continued. This masterful communicator cited the dirty dozen obstacles to leadership. They are as follows: Authoritarianism, Exclusiveness, Greed, Hypocrisy, Sensuality, Prejudice, Pride, Rationalization, Manipulation, Secrecy, Unaccountability, and Traditionalism. As he rattled off this deplorable, dirty dozen list, conviction fell on me. I sensed God saying to me, “Rob, leadership is a big deal. Continually clothe yourself in me.”

Might I share a few thoughts on leadership? You are so kind!

First, a leader sees the way (vision). Second, fellow team members and followers are essential for the journey (mission). Finally, leaders must be passionate about people for relationships are the key to any successful quest (passion). Ecclesiastes 4:12 states, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Vision (seeing), mission (doing), and passion (feeling) are commendable and necessary traits for an effective leader. Each strand is essential as you serve others. For example, if you lack mission and passion, then chances are strong you will jump from project to project. Further, if you have strong strands of passion and mission but lack vision, then you will give yourself to too small a task. Finally, if you lack passion but have immense vision and mission strands, then you will not have the heart to inspire others and the vision will become dry and laborious.

Spiritual leadership is a high calling and can be filled with great joy and/or immense pain. A great deal is expected from key leaders. These expectations can become burdensome as a pastor tries to become all things to all people. Can you guess which group is “the single most occupationally frustrated professionals in America?” That’s right– you nailed it! The answer is pastors. Pastors are in need of help and help is available as they intentionally and deliberately empower others for ministry. Pastors must consistently be on the lookout for emerging leaders. Author Mike Regele writes, “This means you may get less done in the present, but you will actually accomplish far more in the future by pouring your life into the people who can carry on those things that are nearest and dearest to your heart.”



Key Role of Lead Pastor in Cell Ministry

joelby Joel Comiskey

Many churches have small groups. Some churches even have great small group programs. I was in such a church in Philadelphia two weeks ago. The cell champion of this church had taken Touch’s training, been to a seminar by Larry Stockstill, and had spearheaded small groups in his large mega church. Even though I usually only do seminars and coaching in cell churches, I accepted this invitation, had a great time of ministry, and received a royal reception.

There was a key problem. I never met/talked to the lead pastor, and he didn’t come to the seminar (nor did two out of the three associates or the elders of the church). The small group leaders loved the seminar and learned a lot, but I went away with a gnawing sadness in my heart because I knew the cell leaders would not receive the necessary attention, coaching, and would eventually feel marginalized in their cell ministry. Why? Because of the lack of involvement of the senior leadership. Cells were one of the many programs.

I’m writing now from Queens, New York. Victor Tiburcio, the lead pastor at Aliento de Vida, met me at the airport, and we talked excitedly about cell ministry. He’s passionate about home groups, gives direction to the entire cell vision, and recently even started a new cell group for businessmen. His wife, Hatty, is totally sold on the vision. The cell leaders and network coaches feel like their ministry is at the heart of the church, and they serve enthusiastically. His church plant in Queens has grown to seventy-five cell groups and 800 people [as a side note: every service is translated into English and Spanish, and it feels like preaching to the United Nations. I gave the seminar in Spanish and preached in English, with nearly a simultaneous translation in Spanish].

As you can tell, one of the key differences between a cell church and a church with cells is the lead pastor’s vision. Other leaders can help a lot, and I believe in the key role of cell champions. Yet the vision and overall leadership belong to the lead pastor.Dale Galloway, one of the pioneer cell church pastors in North America and author of many cell books, writes, “No matter who introduces small-group ministry into a church, that ministry will only go as far as the Senior Pastor’s vision for it. The people will watch the Senior Pastor to see if small-group ministry is important” (The Small Group Book, p. 21).

Key members can influence the senior pastor to catch the vision, yet ultimately cell church ministry succeeds or fails by whether senior leadership is promoting and living it. The bottom line is that sheep follow the shepherd. Actions speak much louder than words, and this is especially true in cell-based ministry. As David Cho once said, “The [senior] pastor must be the key person involved.  Without the pastor, the system will not hold together.  It is a system, and a system must have a control point.  The controlling factor in home cell groups is the pastor” (Successful Home Cell Groups, p. 107).