Coming Full Circle

by Michael Sove

1 Thess 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”.

From the beginning I have called the tool I give the cell leaders to use their weekly gatherings, the cell edification sheet.  I’ve done that in part to remind the leader that the purpose of the gathering is to experience Christ in the midst and to encourage one another ministry to flow as each member becomes a conduit of gifts of the Spirit.  I also prefer this term because the purpose of the Word time in the gathering is not Bible study but application of the Bible.

When I came to the church the pastor was excited about the fact that I was going to write all the edification sheets based on his weekly message themes.  This would provide continuity between what we were hearing on Sunday and what we were discussing and applying during the week.  We did this for my first year and really liked it.  The only challenge of this was getting the message topic early enough in the week so I could have adequate time to pray through and prepare good application questions.

The second year we took all our cells through our equipping track during the Word time in cell.  This got many people through our five book equipping series at the time.  I wrote edification sheets to apply what we were learning from the chapters each week.  Although this was a great way to introduce many people to our equipping track books, it quickly became a problem as new people came in and we were now in later books.

This past year we chose Books of the Bible like Ephesians, James and Philippians and I wrote the edifications sheets based on passages from these Books with an application focus.  This has been a good experience as people are in the Word and are going through it in a systematic way.  The benefit here was that I could work ahead and not have to wait for message topics and could get ahead so that I could hand out a month worth of edification sheets at our monthly cell leader meetings.

So during my three years here all our groups have used the same edification sheets in their cell gatherings regardless of the topic.  We have now come full circle and plan to start matching the message topics again in September.  This is our favorite approach because of the continuity of Sunday message to weekday application.  We don’t want to be “hearers only” but “doers of the Word” as well.

Comments?  Questions?  Do your cell groups use a common tool or do they all use something different?


A Cell Lesson Variation

by Mario Vega

Using the pastor’s Sunday message as grounds for the cell study seems to be an excellent way to organize the cell material. Personally, I would have wanted to do this in our church, but it’s simply not possible.

First of all, we have six services in our church on Sunday, and in each one of them a different message is preached. It would be extremely difficult to synthesize a single teaching of all six different sermons.

Second of all, when we designed our Leader’s Guide, we realized it would not only serve for the mother church but for all the Branch Churches of the Elim Mission.

For these reasons, we created a quarterly cell lesson guide that containts thirteen studies and is published every quarter. The studies follow the sequence of a New Testament book that the church is studying. For example, the Gospel of John is studied, section by section, from beginning to end. The same teaching, therefore, that is being imparted in a cell in San Salvador, is being imparted on the same date in our cells in Brussels, Madrid, Lima, San Francisco, etc.

For his part, Pastor Cho has written several volumes of lessons for cells that follow a thematic order. These volumes represent several years of continuos teaching. A leader in Cho’s church, for example, can buy all the volumes and know that he or she will have material until Christ returns.

Both in the case of Elim, as in the case of Korea, the Guides are written by the Senior Pastor. From that point of view, the principle of unity of teachings and of uniformity of contents is maintained. The leader’s Guide, therefore, is simply a variation from the one that revolves around the Sunday sermon.



Translation in Spanish:

Variaciones en las lecciones para las células.

El utilizar el mensaje dominical del pastor como base para el estudio en las células me parece que es un recurso excelente. En lo personal, es algo que me hubiese gustado hacer dentro de nuestra iglesia. Pero, tal cosa, no es posible.

En primer lugar, porque en nuestra iglesia tenemos seis servicios dominicales y en cada uno de ellos se predica un mensaje diferente. Sera sumamente difcil sintetizar una sola enseñanza de seis sermones diferentes.

En segundo lugar, porque desde el momento en que surgió nuestra Gua del Lder, se hizo pensando en que ésta sirviera no solamente para una iglesia en particular sino para todas la filiales de nuestra Misión.

Por estas razones, se publica cada trimestre un pequeño volumen que contiene trece estudios para los siguientes tres meses. Esos estudios siguen la secuencia de un libro del Nuevo Testamento. Por ejemplo, puede ser que se estudie el evangelio de Juan, sección a sección, de principio a fin. La misma enseñanza que se imparte en una célula de San Salvador, se está impartiendo en la misma fecha en nuestras células en Bruselas, Madrid, Lima o San Francisco.

Por su parte, el Pastor Cho ha escrito varios volúmenes de lecciones para células que siguen un orden temático. Estos volúmenes representan varios años de enseñanzas continuadas que al finalizar regresan al lder al punto de inicio. As, un lder puede comprar todos los volúmenes y saber que con ello tendrá el material adecuado hasta que Cristo vuelva.

Tanto en el caso de Elim como en el caso de Corea, las guas son escritas por el Pastor titular. Desde ese punto de vista, se mantiene el principio de la unidad de enseñanzas y uniformidad de contenidos. Esta es una variación de la Gua para el lder que no desvirtúa aquella que gira en torno al sermón dominical.

Unity of Heart & Vision

by Jeff Tunnell

Walking in unity of heart and mind is such a benefit. Keeping the vision clear and consistent throughout the congregation underwrites a consistent spiritual formation of those in the cells. W have discovered that when all the cells have the same content we are healthier overall.

We provide the cell facilitation guide each week on our website or in printed form for each leader.  Our preaching service is recorded and posted to the website for those who were not in the weekend Celebration so that they can review the content as desired. The questions provided in the guide point to the message of the Celebration in a way that begs for personal and corporate application.  The 4 Ws are followed and each cell leader has the authority to adjust their implementation, adapting for visitors, extended prayer for members, longer worship as the Holy Spirit prompts, etc. We do not encourage re-preaching or teaching the message.

We have practiced this method from the beginning with only a few deviations.  Those deviations simply trained us to NOT deviate!

Vision comes from the leadership and is successfully transmitted to each participant via the faithful leadership of each cell leader.  I have quizzed many pastors this way, “How would you like to see your message applied to the lives of your congregation instead of forgotten within 45 minutes after you’ve finished preaching each week?”  Using the message in the cell accomplishes this more effectively than any other method I have used.

Basing the Cell Lesson on the Pastor’s Teaching

joelby Joel Comiskey

I’ve become increasingly excited about the effectiveness of using the pastor’s sermon (teaching) as the basis for the cell lesson. We’ve been doing this in our church plant here in Moreno Valley for years, and I’ve increasingly seen its importance. Here are a  few reasons:

  1. It connects small group with the large group. Basing the cell lesson on the Sunday sermon serves as a constant reminder that the cell isn’t an independent entity doing its own thing. The larger purpose and vision of the cell is to build the local church. The expectation is that those in the cell are also part of the larger gathering on Sunday—or at least being evangelized to eventually hook into the celebration service.
  2. It applies the expository/teaching message to real 24/7 life. I like a church that has a well-planned preaching schedule and skillfully exegetes God’s inerrant Word from the pulpit. Yet, the best churches humbly realize that even excellent sermons are inadequate to completely transform the hearers. George Barna and others are reporting that those inside the U.S. church are not applying what they hear. Statistics demonstrate that North American church goers are not significantly different from those outside the church (e.g., ethics, morals, divorce, pornography, etc.). When a church asks each member to discuss and apply the Sunday message in a cell during the week, there’s a far greater chance that transformation, rather than information, will take place.
  3. This is the pattern of cell churches around the world. As I researched these churches, I noticed that all of them–without exception–based their cell lessons on the pastor’s teaching (either the Sunday sermon or mid-week expository teaching).
  4. It provides a never ending supply of material.Buying cell material at the local Christian bookstore can be very expensive. And even the best material is bound to run out. When the lesson is based on the pastor’s teaching, there is a steady stream of new material–as long as the pastor doesn’t repeat the same sermons each week!
  5. It relieves pressure from the leader.It’s hard enough leading a cell. There are people to visit, leadership development to consider, etc. Add the need to find or prepare the lesson, and the leader might feel overwhelmed. Distributing questions based on the Sunday morning message helps alleviate the leader’s workload.

Cell material is far less important than other key cell components that I’ve blogged about for the last few weeks, but it’s still important. What about you? What kind of material do you use? What are your convictions on this issue?


Traditional-thinking and Cells don’t mix!

by Bill Joukhadar (guest blogger for Rob Campbell, who is on sabbatical)

While traditional-thinking works nicely in a ministry-based church context, in a cells-based church setting it simply doesn’t work, believe me! Trying to convince traditional-thinkers that cells is the best way to grow a church (and the Kingdom of God) is like trying to convert Goliath to Judaism.

Back in 2000, when I joined Maadi Community Church (MCC), an English speaking international church in Cairo, with the goal of transitioning MCC from being ministry-based to a cell-based church, I was greatly encouraged by the writings of Joel and the wholehearted support of the Senior Pastor, the late Dave Petrescue – and so with the heartfelt inspiration of the Lord I started a radical experiment of “road-testing” cells-based church principles with a particular demographic group of solid, ‘traditional-thinking’ church members. Genuinely believing this to be a wise strategic move, my goal was for this group of people to “buy-in” to the whole “cells” idea and join with me in influencing the rest of the church community.

Well, while I was busy trying to “sell cells” to my dear traditional-thinking brethren, the not-so-traditional-thinking African and Asian demographic of our church had bought into the cells vision with the little they knew and understood and engaged wholly and heartfully in the work of growing our church through the formation of healthy, multiplying cell groups. Their passion, and the way that they embraced this non-traditional (but biblical) model inspired and encouraged me AND other new wineskin-thinkers in the church to the point where we experienced huge growth in cells, leadership training, outreach, church membership, attendance at worship celebrations and – most importantly – lives saved for the Kingdom! During the eight years that my wife and I served in Cairo, MCC saw their cell group community grow from 0 to 413 groups involving over 4,000 people, regular attendance at weekend worship grew to around 1,500 a week and five new churches were planted among the African and Sudanese refugee communities – a truly amazing harvest!

This fantastic, life-transforming experience in Egypt turned my passion for the cells-based church model from a roaring fire into a blazing inferno, which is why we set up Cells-church Consultants International ( when we returned to Australia in 2008. Friends, I have learned that cells-based church principles perform quite differently in certain soils, and I encourage any church – whether a new plant, or a ministry-based church transitioning to a cells-based model – to look for “non-traditional” soil in which to plant their precious cell groups seeds.

It’s my conviction that in Cairo, Australia … or anywhere else in the world, traditional-thinking and cells don’t mix!


Bill Joukhadar