Celebrating Cell Church Pioneers: Special Tribute to Ralph Neighbour, Jr.

By Joel Comiskey, Ralph Neighbour’s free autobiography, 2022

As we look into the future and attempt to perfect our small group ministry in 2022, let’s be encouraged by those pioneers who have paved the way.  God has used Ralph Neighbour to resource the cell church movement and keep it on track. Ralph will turn ninety-three this year. He continues to offer cell church leadership in the U.S. and around the world.

Ralph recently wrote his autobiography, Inside My Skin (Dwells the Godhead). Like so many things Ralph does, he wanted to offer it to you free of charge. Click here to download it and if you have any trouble, send an email to joelcomiskeyinfo@gmail.com, and we’ll send you a PDF attachment (feel free to translate Ralph’s autobiography into your own language).

In1965, Ralph Neighbour was looking for a biblical church structure, rather than the program-based churches that dotted the landscape. He wrote, “When I turned thirty-six I was absolutely, completely disgusted with traditional church structures that catered to self-needs and ignored the unchurched.” Neighbour had already worked with churches in a wide diversity of settings. He grew up as a pastor’s child, had worked for the Billy Graham organization in its infancy, planted twenty-three churches in southern Pennsylvania, and had acted as an evangelism consultant for five years for the Texas Baptist Convention.

At forty years old, Neighbour left the comfort of his denominational job to spearhead “an experimental church” in rapidly growing west Houston. The Houston church became a model of cell-based ministry.  One significant person impacted by Neighbour was a young Baptist seminary student named Lawrence Khong from Singapore who became involved in the Houston church.

Khong returned to Singapore in the mid-’80s to pastor a growing church. Khong asked Neighbour to guide him and his church into an integrated cell methodology. The combination of an outstanding senior pastor—tremendously gifted in speaking and leadership—and the cell strategy spearheaded by Neighbour enabled the church to grow from six hundred to five thousand in attendance with five hundred cell groups between 1988 and Neighbour’s return to Houston in 1997. 

In 1994, about one hundred and twenty South African pastors came to Singapore to learn from Neighbour at Faith Community Baptist Church. In response to this specially planned training seminar, Neighbour was invited to come to South Africa to give in-depth teaching in cell church methodology. He developed a four-week course with one week being taught each quarter. This training entitled “The Year of Transition” was launched in October 1994 in South Africa and over the next two years would be taught to thousands of pastors. Churches implementing cell groups in South Africa shared their learning and helped further disseminate cell methodology to churches in the nearby countries of Lesotho, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, as well as countries far away, including Ukraine, the United States, and especially Brazil.

Neighbour’s cell church manifesto, Where Do We Go from Here? A Guidebook for the Cell Group Church, published in 1990, fanned the flames of the cell movement in many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. This book greatly accelerated the cell movement in these countries and beyond.

Neighbour’s ministry has had an impact throughout the world and has also been instrumental in molding and shaping Joel Comiskey Group. We are grateful for Ralph Neighbour and are thrilled to offer you a free copy of Ralph’s autobiography.