JCG Report and Church Planting in Practice

JOELby Joel Comiskey

Allow me to give an update on the ninth annual JCG board meeting and third annual special event. Both were held last week in Dallas. On Thursday, each board member (Mario Vega, Jeff Tunnell, Rob Campbell, and Celyce Comiskey) shared trials and victories of the past year–both personally and ministerially. On Friday, we spent a lot of time dreaming about the JCG event for 2012 and how to resource the worldwide cell church movement.

Special praise: Last year we set the goal of 100 registered guests for the 2011 JCG event (even though we only had 14 people register for the 2010 JCG event). While we were in the board meeting on Friday, eight new people registered, which made 100 exactly! God is faithful. During the event on Saturday, Mario Vega and I rotated the speaking load. Jeff Tunnell did an incredible job of organizing the entire event. Celyce and Rob Campbell played vital roles as well. We felt the event exceeded our expectations.

Next year’s event will also be in Dallas on Saturday, February 25, 2012. Those speaking English will meet in one part of the building and Spanish speakers in another. Mario Vega and I will rotate the speaking among both language groups and the JCG team will help out with the English group.


This week, we will be blogging about cell church planting models–those who are doing a great job of it. One exciting cell church planting ministry is Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. Jimmy Seibert, the founding pastor of ACC, was radically transformed at the age of seventeen. He started small groups on the Baylor University Campus that eventually grew to 600 students on four campuses. He and some of the students wrote a book called Reaching College Students through Cells. In 1999 Jimmy started ACC.

ACC has sent thirty-eight church planting teams to twenty-four nations all over the world and have a missionary support staff from their own church of 450. ACC has never been content to grow one church larger and larger. Yet as the mother church gives itself away, it keeps growing (135 life groups and 2500 in worship attendance). Like the New Testament church, God has called them to become a church planting movement. Jimmy once told me that churches need to offer their people a practical missionary vision to reach the world. As a college pastor, he noticed that parachurch organizations were often more mission focused than the church. “God’s plan is for the church to offer a world vision. Young people long to give themselves to a world-changing vision,” Jimmy said.

ACC breathes the principle of multiplication—in their groups, leaders, churches, and missionaries. Each year ACC offers either a missions conference or a church planting conference on a rotating basis.

Antioch believes and teaches the need for brokenness and the filling of the Holy Spirit which result in radical obedience. This church emphasizes very plain, clear biblical concepts. I pressed Jimmy about what model he was following and he kept on coming back to their desire to follow biblical principles. “The church at large doesn’t do the simple, biblical things well so we get caught up in following models,” he told me. The home life group is the basis for church planting at Antioch, just like it was in the New Testament period.

What are some of the other fruitful cell church planting models? Please share.


Understanding Your Region and Context

By Michael Sove

This week we are talking about church planting strategies for cell churches.  Obviously understanding your region and context is very important in the selection of a strategy that makes the most sense for church planting impact.  Last week I talked about some of the lessons I learned from the experiences I’ve had in planting, rescuing and merging churches.

In my first church plant I lived on the south side of Indianapolis, just outside Hwy 465 which loops the city.  In that context, it would take over an hour to completely circle the city.  I found out that for the most part, people wouldn’t travel from the north to the south to attend a celebration service.  I was part of a church planting vision from a mothering church on the west side that wanted to plant 10 churches in ten years around Indianapolis.  All of the churches were mentored under the staff of the mothering church until self-support status could be attained, usually about four years.  We all had our own vision and strategy and were autonomous once self-supporting, but we were keenly aware that we were part of a larger vision for a city. We did things together and the pastors of those plants maintained close relationships as we envisioned influencing all of Indianapolis.

In another region south of Dayton, Ohio I rescued and merged two churches together.  This was more of a rural setting and people were spread out.  Our church was located on a State highway and there was easy access to it.  The vision we had there was to bring worshipers to a central location yet plant networks of cells in the surrounding towns. If a network could grow to about 100 people or ten cells, the vision was to plant a new celebration service but that congregation would remain under the central hub for leadership and overall vision.

Years later in the same region, I formed a house church network.  The house churches were independent but we came together for quarterly worship events.  We were spread out across the Miami Valley of Ohio, which spanned Western Ohio from north to south. We envisioned a five-fold ministry team of leaders who would serve the overall network and give it leadership.  This was a much larger regional vision.

Now I find myself on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the peninsula known as Delmarva.  We have a central worship location and people travel from greater distances to attend our celebration services.  The vision we have here is to plant cells and form networks of cells in the surrounding towns but to maintain a central location for worship.

So through prayer and an understanding of your region and context, God will give you the strategy that makes the most sense and has the greatest Kingdom impact.



Building Mega Churches


by Mario Vega

There are several models of church planting that cell churches follow. In our case, we have opted to set up mega churches instead of many churches. In fact, when the cell work was adopted, we had about 22 churches in the capital city. As part of the adoption of the cell model the decision to close those churches was taken to centralize the effort into one mega church.

Since then, Elim has been focused on a few churches that have become quite numerous. In a country like El Salvador, we only have about 40 churches. This is a small number when compared to the Assemblies of God which has more than 1,100 churches in the country.

One reason we chose to become a mega cell church is to unify forces. By doing this, we have been able to achieve great goals such as television, various radio stations, land, buildings, etc. If the efforts were scattered in several churches, each one would have its own projects, and it would be very difficult to achieve something that would impact the country. For example, Elim owns a TV station which broadcasts 24 hours a day and covers the entire country.

A mega church also has considerable political impact within society. It allows the church to influence decision making, the enactment of laws, etc. The church can become a protagonist and a speaker before the State. Of course, this power can also be a temptation, but if the equanimity is maintained, the influence can be used to exercise an exemplary and ethical influence.

Some of our church plants have built the largest buildings in the interior of the country, and this allows them to develop a wide variety of projects to benefit their communities.

Obviously, we are not opposed in any way to the policy of aggressive church planting. I would not even dare to recommend our strategy for others to follow. However, our policy has its reasons, and that is what I have tried to explain here.



Translation into Spanish

Edificando mega iglesias.

Existen varios modelos de plantación de iglesias que siguen las iglesias celulares. En nuestro caso, hemos optado por establecer mega iglesias en lugar de muchas iglesias. De hecho, cuando se adoptó el trabajo celular, tenamos alrededor de 22 iglesias en la ciudad capital. Como parte de la adopción del modelo celular se tomó la decisión de cerrar esas iglesias para centralizar el esfuerzo en una sola mega iglesia.

Desde entonces, Elim ha estado enfocada en muy pocas iglesias pero que llegan a ser bastante numerosas. En un pas como El Salvador, solamente tenemos unas 40 iglesias. Si eso se compara, por ejemplo, con las Asambleas de Dios que tienen más de 1,100 iglesias en el pas, resulta ser una cantidad muy pequeña.

Las razones son varias. Una es que solamente unificando las fuerzas la iglesia ha podido alcanzar grandes metas como la televisión, las radios, los terrenos, los edificios. Si las fuerzas estuvieran dispersas en varias iglesias, cada una tendra sus propios proyectos y difcilmente podra alcanzarse algo que impactara el pas. Impactar como la televisión, por ejemplo, que transmite 24 horas diarias cubriendo todo el pas.

Una mega iglesia también desarrolla una influencia poltica considerable dentro de la sociedad. Eso permite que la iglesia tenga los elementos como para influir en la toma de decisiones, promulgación de leyes, etc. La iglesia se convierte en una protagonista e interlocutora frente al Estado. Eso supone la tentación de capitalizar la fuerza en un sentido partidario; pero, si se mantiene la ecuanimidad, la influencia puede usarse para ejercer una influencia ética y ejemplar.

Otras de nuestras iglesias han construido los edificios más grandes en el interior del pas y, eso, les permite desarrollar diversos proyectos de beneficio para sus comunidades. Obviamente, no nos oponemos en ninguna manera a que otras iglesias sigan una poltica de plantación agresiva de iglesias. Ni siquiera me atrevera a recomendar que se siguiera nuestra poltica. No obstante, esa poltica tiene sus razones y, eso, es lo que he tratado de exponer.

Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria…

by Jeff Tunnell

The primary thrust of the Apostles had direction from the risen Lord Jesus.  Starting in the center of the earth, Jerusalem, they would then expand an ever-extending circle of the gospel’s reach until the entire earth was affected.

I have been called to a “Jerusalem” of sorts for my life; the center of my world is a small resort community in the Southern California mountains called Big Bear Valley.  This is where I start.  I am not suggesting a limitation by stages, rather a vibrant heartbeat for my immediate surroundings.  It may be that, in a sense, we are on an island one hour’s drive in any direction from the lower elevations, sticking up above the clouds that makes me focus here first.

So my goal is to saturate this community with cells first and as we progress by building districts of cells to keep them connected in one church.  More of the Elim model mentioned by Joel in yesterday’s blog.  I would not resist a satellite church with it’s own leader as God raises up a leader, but I would keep the fellowship of churches connected overall.   This has been my vision now for some years, I’ve failed at accomplishing it twice.  If Dr. Cho is correct, I must fail that many times before success, so hopefully we’ll get Judea in our sites soon also!

Strategies for Planting Cell Churches

JOELby Joel Comiskey

Whenever I do a seminar about cell church planting, I start by talking about the different concepts or strategies for cell church planting. I’ve noticed four:

  • Plant Independent Cell Churches in the Same City
  • Plant Independent Cell Churches in Different Cities
  • Plant Satellite Cell Churches in the Same City

Some churches /denominations plant independent daughter cell churches in the same city, like the Southern Baptists do all over the world. Normally, the church planter opens a cell in a home or restaurant and invites people.As the cell group grows and new leaders are trained, multiplicationtakes place. Eventually a celebration service is started once per month and when there are enough cells the frequency of the celebration increases. I highlight this simple cell church planting option in my book Planting Churches that Reproduce.

Some cell churches choose to plant only one cell church per city. The Elim Church in San Salvador is an example of this strategy. Elim does plant churches in different cities—just not in the same city. The Elim Church now has more than 120 churches in distinct cities around the world with about 200,000 attending them. Before Elim starts a celebration service in a city, they wait until there are at least five cell groups fully operating. They want to make sure the cell system is fully functioning before they go public.

Other cell churches have chosen to plant satellite cell churches that are connected to the mother church. The finances of the satellite churches, for example, are administered through the mother church, and the satellite pastors are seen as staff pastors for the mother church. Often the satellite pastors attend the weekly staff meeting, with the exception of those staff pastors who live too far away.

One caution: A senior pastor should never try to keep leaders under his control through the satellite model. Some satellite pastors may feel trapped and never able to fully express themselves as the pastor of their own church. We need to be willing to release anyone who wants to plant a church, and then do our best to assure the success of the new church.