Clear Equipping Focus

By Joel Comiskey, check out Comiskey’s equipping

The best discipleship equipping path features a clear-cut beginning and ending. In other words, there is a place to start and a place to finish. It is not like many traditional educational programs that simply teach people information with the hope that they will do something with the knowledge later.

“Helter-skelter” equipping takes place when the church establishes one general educational program. While the intentions are excellent, far too many people fall through the cracks. There is no easy way to track the progress of those passing through this type of system. As a result of the fuzziness, a large number of candidates drop out. Getting lost in the educational machinery is a recurring flaw in the “general education” approach.   

Education is a lifetime process. Equipping, on the other hand, touches specific skills and lasts a limited time. Education never ends. It’s helpful to first examine the difference between equipping and education. Neil F. McBride, Ed.D., Ph.D., makes a helpful clarification:

Education is an expanding activity; starting with where a person is at, it provides concepts and information for developing broader perspectives and the foundations for making future analysis and decisions. On the other hand, training is a narrowing activity; given whatever a person’s present abilities are, it attempts to provide specific skills and the necessary understanding to apply those skills. The focus is on accomplishing a specific task or job (Neal F. McBride, How to Build a Small Groups Ministry; Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1995, p. 128).

McBride’s insight about equipping being a narrowing activity versus the lifetime process of education touches the nerve of cell church equipping. Understanding the specific purpose of discipleship equipping helps to focus on equipping potential disciple-makers who can form new cell teams, while not ignoring the general on-the-job education that all believers need over the long haul.

When a church concludes that every member is a potential disciple-maker who can form part of a new cell team, the logical step is to equip each person for that task. Ralph Neighbour writes, “Cell churches must take seriously the need to equip every incoming cell member. Cell members will stagnate who are simply invited to attend cells, without clear equipping for service”( Ralph Neighbour, Jr. “7 Barriers to Growth,” Cell Church magazine, Summer, 1997: 16)

The discipleship equipping is part of the overall cell ministry. It is not a “separate department” with a different administration. The discipleship equipping and the cell ministry “fit like a glove.” They are one. In many cell churches the discipleship equipping begins in the cell (mentor-mentoree) because everyone in the church participates in a cell group. In other cell churches, although all new converts are immediately connected with a cell, most of the cell equipping takes place in larger groups within the church under the cell networks (i.e., clusters of cells gathered in geographical or homogeneous groupings).