Chapter 8: Leadership Patterns

Joel Comiskey’s Ph.D. Dissertation

This dissertation was submitted to the Fuller SWM faculty in March 1997. On May 02, 2000, I made some minor changes, which will be reflected in RED font.

From the study of these five case study churches, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of effective leadership in cell ministry. In this chapter, I will describe the process of leadership selection, training, and ongoing care that are present in these case study churches.

La Misión Carismática Internacional

The goal of this church is to make every person that enters the church a leader of a cell group. Unlike Cho, who believes that only those with the gift of evangelism can be leaders (Cho 1984a), Pastor Castellanos encourages everyone to be a leader.[1]

Leadership Requirements

To be a cell leader, one needs to be baptized in water and the Holy Spirit (with the evidence of speaking in tongues) and fulfill the duties of church membership (e.g. attending the main church services, tithing, and demonstrating faithfulness to the church). Holy living is repeatedly emphasized as well as maintaining a godly family life. The top leadership does not hesitate to remove people who are not living godly lives.[2]

Leadership Training

César Fajardo, the overseer of 3,600 cell groups (He now is over approximately 8,000 groups), told me that the key to cell success is raising up quality leadership. He believes that MCI is experiencing such amazing church growth due to quality leadership.[3] In order to become a cell leader one must overcome at least three hurdles.

Step One: First Encounter Retreat

These are regular spiritual retreats that take place every weekend at designated retreat centers (e.g., ranch home, farm house). The purpose is to make sure that the person who receives Christ during an altar call has truly experienced the Christian life. During the Encounter, each person receives concentrated teaching about liberation from sin, the sanctified life, and the baptism of the Spirit.[4] Attending an Encounter Retreat is the first step required for leadership.

Step Two: First Semester of Leadership School

After the Encounter Retreat, the person attends a course designed to train new cell leaders. They call it C.A.F.E. 2000, which basically means, “Cells of Family Training and Evangelism.” The training material gives the potential leader the basic foundational principles for leading a small group. The material is very basic and straightforward.[5] These leadership training meetings take place throughout the week within the church. When I was at MCI in October 1996, it was estimated that there were some fifteen leadership training schools in session every day with a total of approximately 3,000 students.

Step Three: Second Encounter Retreat

In October 1996, attendance at a second Encounter Retreat was only a requirement for the youth cells group leaders.[6] This second retreat is designed to reinforce the commitments made at the first retreat and to instill final principles in the potential leader before he or she launches the cell group.

Second and Third Semester of Leadership School

The core cell leadership training lasts three months, but the deeper levels of training extends to nine months. During this second and third semester, there is deeper level teaching about false cults, false philosophies, and the core values at MCI. By the time the student enters the second semester, he or she should be leading a cell group which forces the student to learn both theoretically as well as practically.[7]

Theological Education by Extension

If a leader desires deeper levels of training beyond the nine month courses, an excellent, proven extension course of theological education is offered.[8] Although this extension level course is not a required course at MCI, it does provide the opportunity for deeper level leadership training.

Leadership Trainers

At first, Pastor Castellanos and his original twelve disciples taught the leadership training courses. However, the demand brought on by the huge number of potential cell leaders required that Pastor Castellanos hand this ministry over to the staff of seventy. The seventy are also allowed to raise up exceptionally fruitful disciples (one with successful multiplication) to teach the leadership training course.

Training through the Twelve

As has been mentioned previously, the goal of cell leadership is not to merely lead a cell group, but rather to raise up twelve more cell leaders (disciples). Because every cell leader is in a discipleship group of twelve, there is no need for a large, ongoing training courses. The ongoing, personal care of cell leadership takes place within the weekly discipleship meeting.

Christian Community Agua Viva

AGV requires a rigorous training program for future cell leadership. Those who pass through the first year of training normally become cell leaders. They have also proven their commitment to the church. Approximately one half of the cell leadership is women, but of the fourteen current zones leaders, twelve of them are male.

Leadership Requirements

Along with the general leadership characteristics mentioned in the New Testament, potential cell leaders at AGV must: be baptized in water and the Holy Spirit (with the evidence of speaking in tongues), complete the first year of training, be a member of the church (as explained in the following section), and complete the four-week leadership training course. The future challenge for AGV will be to have enough trained people to meet the needs of their emphasis on rapid expansion.

Leadership Training

The total leadership training program at AGV lasts three years, but only one year is required for cell leadership. The first year provides teaching on the basic doctrines while subsequent years focus on more specific areas.

One Year Bible School

Of the three full years of Bible training at AGV, every potential leader must complete the first one.[9] Some 1,000 people are enrolled in doctrinal training every week. Table 32 illustrates their training system.

Advanced Leadership Training

This is a required course for every potential cell leader and is taught by Pastor Juan or his wife Alicia. It lasts for two months and prepares a member to be a cell leader. Before taking this particular course, a person must have completed the first year training requirements.



Members are encouraged to be baptized immediately after conversion. However, membership does not take place until the completion of the following courses.


Members are taught the doctrines of: God’s love, salvation, forgiveness, and the Bible.


Members are taught the doctrines of: Faith, knowing God, sin, the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Spirit, prayer, Bible meditation.


Members are taught the doctrines of: blood covenant, future things, stewardship, divine healing, spiritual battle, liberation, more about Bible meditation.


It is at this time that one can be a member of AGV.

Second Year Ministerial Training

This second year training is not a requirement for cell leadership. Rather, it is designed to give advanced training for those who desire to go deeper. This course is normally taught by Pastor Alicia Capuro in the evening. It covers such topics as counseling, false cults, spiritual battle issues, and other fundamental doctrines. Only those who have passed through the first year of Bible training can take this course.

Third Year Ministerial Training

Juan Capuro teaches this third year of training (Juan Capuro has since left the church). The goal is to cover the whole Old Testament. Only those who have taken the second year of ministerial training can take this course, and it is only offered once per year. It is complete with exams and homework. I was told that there are quite a few who begin the course but the number decreases as exam time approaches.


Just about every 11/2 months, AGV sponsors a seminar for the whole church. The seminar lasts for three days and the theme varies according to the guest speaker.[10]

Leadership Emergence

A poll was taken in 1992 for the purpose of discovering cell group effectiveness.[11] As a result of this poll it was discovered that sixty-four percent of the people converted in the cell group were led to Christ by cell leaders who had also been converted at AGV. This fact seems to confirm the fact that leadership raised up from within is most effective. This emphasis on homegrown leadership is evident at AGV. In the past no one could be a cell leader without having multiplied his or her group three times. Although now there is more openness to giftedness, talent, and calling, leadership at AGV continues to emerge naturally from within the existing structure.

La Misión Cristiana Elim

Leadership training at the Misión Cristiana Elim is very basic and much like that of other Pure Cell churches. However, because of the enormous success of this church, it is important to understand how leaders emerge at MCE and how they are trained.

Leadership Requirements

The leadership requirements are minimal at MCE. They include six months of being a Christian, membership in a cell group, baptism in the Holy Spirit (as evidenced by speaking in tongues), baptism in water, and completion of the four-week leadership training.

The heaviest requirement is the time commitment. According to this schedule, the supervisor and cell leader must attend five meetings per week.[12] Of course there are other commitments such as visitation, all night prayer meetings, fasting days, and the weekly statistical reporting.[13]

Leadership Training

The cell training at MCE is very simple. There are very few initial requirements. This is partly due to the diligent ongoing care that each cell leader receives. For example, MCE prepares the lessons in written form for the cell leader, and then diligently trains the leader on lesson delivery every week. Little is left for chance.

Training in the Group

The separate planning meeting (in homes on Thursday night) for all cell teams adds an important element of on-the-job training. A potential leader might begin as an assistant, music leader, treasurer, secretary, or children’s Bible leader. Through this methodology leadership is primarily “caught” as opposed to being “taught.”

Bible Training in the Church

The mid-week expository Bible teaching service is designed to provide foundational Bible training. The Calvinistic emphasis and strict interpretation of the Bible is often highlighted during these meetings. This is the main (and practically only) channel for a future leader to receive Bible training.[14]

Four-Week Cell Group Training

A four-week training course is a prerequisite to cell leadership. Normally, the district pastor teaches this course, with the help of a zone pastor. Each district offers this course repeatedly throughout the year. The following table explains the content of this leadership training course:



The Calling to Lead

The Vision of the Cell Group

The Reason for Cell Groups


Requirements and Characteristics of Leadership

Lesson Preparation


How the Cell Groups Operate

How the Cell Group Multiply


Administration and Organization of Cell Groups

Final Exam

Ongoing Pastoral Help

This is the strong point of leadership training at MCE. The Jethro system at MCE is highly developed. Zone pastors meet weekly with supervisors and cell leaders to teach the weekly lesson, so that they in turn can teach it to their groups. Encouragement, motivation, and vision are transmitted during these meetings.

Another area in which MCE excels is the “high touch” supervision of top leadership. Each week, the supervisors, zone pastors, district pastors, and even senior pastor visit a different planning meeting on a rotating basis. In this way, the top leadership can offer practical help to those in cell leadership.

Further Training

They do not encourage their leadership to study beyond the training that they receive in the church. Partly, this is due to the fact that they are very concerned that no one strays from pure doctrine. Although they do not criticize further study, they also do not encourage it.[15]

Leadership Functions

The major leadership principle at MCE is that all leadership must be in the battle. No one is exempted. For example, Jorge Galindo, the head pastor at MCE, attends a different cell group every Saturday.[16] It is worth repeating that each week, every district pastor and zone pastor must attend both a Thursday team cell group as well as the normal Saturday cell meeting. MCE wants to make sure that top leadership stays in tune with what is practically happening in cell ministry.

The district pastor, a salaried staff person, is responsible for his entire district. Each district pastor has approximately 675 groups under his care and some 14,500 people. The district pastor principally works with his twelve zone pastors to care for the district. He is regularly involved in preaching (including Sunday morning) and administering the sacraments for his particular district.

The zone pastor, a salaried staff person, oversees the supervisors under his care. He might have from fifteen to thirty supervisors under his care. For this reason it is not uncommon for a zone pastor to be responsible for one hundred groups and between 1,000 to 1,500 people. The pastor visits his supervisors and cell leaders, preaches during the mid-week service, and administers the sacraments to his zone.[17]

The role of supervisor is not a paid position at MCE, but it can be a full-time job.[18] I was happy to know that supervisors are not supposed to lead cell groups at MCE, so that they can freely rotate among their five groups. Women can be supervisors but only over women’s groups.

At MCE each leader only has one group. The goal of the cell leader is to multiply the group, and he does this by first developing his cell team. The cell leader tries to delegate tasks to every member on the team, so that they in turn will eventually be prepared for cell leadership.

El Centro Cristiano de Guayaquil

The strongest facet of this church’s leadership development is the ongoing training that takes place every Tuesday night. CCG has been successful in assuring that a large part of their cell leadership attends this ongoing training session. CCG also has an excellent program for those who desire to receive more in-depth preparation. There are many opportunities, from Bible classes in the church to Bible Institute Training.

Leadership Requirements

Leadership requirements at CCG include salvation, baptism in water, attendance at a cell group, and completion of the four week cell leader training course. Although an Assembly Of God church, it was the only case study church that did not require that the cell leader speak in tongues.

Leadership Training

As of October 1996 there were 1590 groups, yet only 810 leaders. It appears that CCG has not been able to train leaders quickly enough to meet the burgeoning needs of a growing cell ministry. In general, CCG excels at providing ongoing training for existing cell leaders, but lacks the capacity to rapidly raise up new cell leadership.

In the Cell

The cell leader at CCG is encouraged to raise up new people in his group. However, I did not notice a clear leadership training program within the cell group at CCG. In fact, after talking with many leaders, I arrived at the conclusion that proportionately few of the 1,600 cell groups have interns or assistant leaders. Their goals to open new groups seem to have outweighed their capacity to provide sufficient leadership.

Initial Four-Week Training

Once a person has received baptism, is attending the cell group, and wants to be a leader, he or she must attend a four-week training class that takes place on Sunday evening. The four-week course covers the main points of the CCG manual. After attending that four-week course, the person can officially lead a cell group, although further training is encouraged. When I was present in October 1996, between twenty and thirty potential cell leaders passed through the four-week course each month.

Required Tuesday Night Training

Every Tuesday night, the cell leaders gather in the sanctuary at CCG to receive training. The training is divided into three parts. During the first part, all of the leaders meet in the sanctuary to receive skill training about how to be a more effective cell leader (e.g., listening and counseling). This portion of the training lasts about forty-five minutes.[19] During the second part, the head pastor reviews the lesson for the upcoming week.[20] The lesson is based on the pastor’s weekly sermon. Finally, all of the cell leaders break up into smaller groups with their zone pastors and supervisors in order to review statistics, set goals, and plan for the future.

Sunday Morning Training

On Sunday morning there are several Bible classes offered. These courses are open to all members of CCG and not just potential cell leaders. On any given Sunday, there is normally an average of five hundred adults who take these courses. The core courses can be completed in one year and are designed to give the student a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. There are three courses offered the first year (Christian Growth I, II, III) that teach basic Christian doctrine. After completing these three courses the person goes on to complete Discipleship I, II, and III. It was difficult to determine the percentage of cell leadership that had completed all of the courses offered on Sunday.[21]

Cell Congress

Every six months there is a cell congress at CCG. I was told that some 800 people were present at the 1996 congress.[22] The congress begins on a Friday night and continues through Saturday. There are two major emphases: first, to train and teach new cell leaders, and second, to instruct those cell leaders already leading a group in a variety of skill training.

Bible Institute

CCG has their own Bible Institute that meets four nights a week within their own church facilities. It is a four-year Assemblies of God Bible Institute for the purpose of training Christian workers. All district leaders and zone pastors must have previously graduated from the institute or be enrolled in the institute with the goal of graduating.

Leadership Functions

The leadership functions at CCG are well organized and clearly distinguished. Pastor Jerry Smith is responsible for the overall vision and direction of the church.[23] He takes this responsibility seriously and stays in close contact with the cell ministry.

Each of the three district leaders at CCG have distinguished themselves as responsible, successful, and called to the ministry. All of them have a Bible degree from a recognized institute. The district leader is directly responsible for the growth of his particular district and is an overseer to the zone leaders. One of the three district pastors was female.

The zone leader is normally selected because of his or her prior success in the cell ministry. Before such rapid growth occurred in the cell ministry, Smith required that a zone pastor also have a Bible degree. Now, it is permissible to study while ministering as a zone pastor. As of October 1996, there were an average of eight zone pastors in each district. Six of these twenty-three zone pastors were women. From my conversations with zone leadership, I gathered that they spend the majority of their time in prayer, planning, and visitation. Zone pastors are required to make forty visits each week and thousands each year (Smith 1995:32). They must report a variety of statistical information every week–including how they spend their time each day.

Supervisors are lay people who oversee several cell groups (approximately four cell groups per supervisor). At CCG, they often lead their own cell group as well. The supervisor spends most of his time visiting, administrating, and meeting with cell leaders.

The leader of the cell group is at the very heart of the cell system at CCG. According to the manual, every cell leader makes it his goal to win two friends to Christ, make sure those friends are baptized in the church, develop an assistant cell leader, and multiply the group in six months (1995:24). Overall, I estimated that more than half of the cell leaders are women.[24]

The host of the cell group opens their house for the cell group to meet, serves the refreshment to the cell members, and tries to create an atmosphere of love. This person plays an important role at CCG.[25]

El Amor Viviente

Cell leader training at AMV is both practical and theoretical. The first part is “caught” while participating on the cell team and the second part is “taught” in the seminar format as well as a special type of training that AMV calls “Discipleship.”

Leadership Requirements

If one decides to be involved in cell ministry, he or she must be a Christian for two years, be a regular member of a cell group for one year, be the assistant cell leader first, be baptized in water and in the Spirit, pass the interview with the district supervisor, enroll in the discipleship training, and have the proper disposition (e.g., correct attitudes, good testimony, submission to authority).

Nothing is done hurriedly or whimsically at AMV. Possibly, it is for this reason that the cell groups have experienced consistent growth. Unlike other cell ministries in which leaders often have two or more groups, at AMV each leader can only direct one growth group.[26]

Leadership Training

Leadership training at AMV is a very straightforward process with a strong emphasis on practical training. Although some theoretical training is provided, the majority of training is practical and learned on-the-job.

On-the-Job Training for Potential Cell Leadership

The fact that a cell leader must first be a cell assistant assures that all those who eventually are cell leaders have passed through the normal progression of ministry experience. Because cell multiplication is a vital part of the cell groups, the cell assistant is aware that eventually he or she will become the cell leader in the new group.

Seminar Training

The seminar system is used quite frequently at AMV. Before starting the cell group, new leaders are trained in a one-day seminar. There is also a yearly three-day cell congress in which cell leaders are trained in the fundamentals of cell ministry. Other specialized seminar training is offered at AMV throughout the year.

Discipleship Training

One of the requirements for anyone entering cell leadership is to be enrolled in discipleship training. Although discipleship training meets for one hour before the two major services on Saturday evening, it cannot be compared to a Sunday School program. Discipleship at AMV is a creative balance of both personal training and classroom instruction. It touches both the heart and the head (Table 34).

Leadership Functions

The leadership functions are many and varied at AMV. Following are some of the most important responsibilities of the key cell leadership.

The head pastor oversees the entire cell ministry. He works with the cell director to confirm goals and to plan for the future. He is also available to speak to the cell leaders when called upon. However, for the most part he is not directly involved with the cell ministry on a weekly basis.

Although the senior pastor is the official head of the cell ministry, the director of the cell ministry is the one who does is most responsible. This person pastors the district superintendents, oversees the direction of each district, and coordinates all of the cell ministry activities. As of November 1996 he was the only one on full-time salary.



  • Potential disciples must initially apply before being accepted into discipleship. Next, an interview is conducted.
  • Unless the student is involved in a cell group, he or she cannot enter the discipleship program; The person must also be converted for two years.


  • Discipleship is taught in three, one year segments (lasts three years). One cannot enter the following year without graduating.


  • Personal interaction is valued. Discipleship groups are divided into units of ten to fifteen people; Each group has its own discipleship trainer who stays with that group throughout the year.
  • The mentor/discipler visits with the student outside the class, contacts the person’s cell leader, and observes the disciple’s behavior.


  • Knowledge of Bible doctrine is part of the training. Disciples are also encouraged to have their devotions each week, probed on their attitude toward authority, and conduct in marriage.
  • If a person persists in sin and does not change, he or she is asked to leave the program.
  • Each group has at least three annual all night prayer meetings each year.


  • There is a highly developed point system for completion of homework (the homework is often very practical such as witnessing to your neighbor, or having your devotional time).
  • A student cannot graduate if absent ten or more times.


  • The discipleship groups use text books such as More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell.
  • The first year of discipleship training consists of fourteen courses (five to fourteen weeks) which cover topics such as spiritual authority, false cults, administration, Bible doctrine, and the gifts of the Spirit.

The district superintendent oversees one of the eight geographical districts. As of November 1996 each superintendent had close to 200 cell groups under his care. He oversees the zone leaders within his district (average of seven zones per district), makes sure that each zone is participating in the activities of the church, and that the goals of the church are being fulfilled. The district superintendent does not visit the cell groups.

As of November 1996 there were twenty-seven zones and zone leaders at AMV. Each zone is broken down into areas which are cared for by supervisors. Therefore, the main job of the zone leader is to make sure that the area supervisors are growing in the Lord, strengthening the groups under their care, and fulfilling the cell ministry goals.[27]

It appears that the position of area supervisor is one of the most vital at AMV. It is this person who works individually with the cell leadership teams as well as regularly visits the five cell groups under his or her care. The area supervisor must assure that each cell group has a functioning leadership team and that each group is participating in the various activities of the church.

The cell leader is responsible for the care of the cell group. However, in this system, he is not alone. The leadership team accompanies him. Therefore, the cell leader must direct both the leadership team and the cell group.

The leadership team is the most fundamental unit at AMV. It is made up of three principle members and two members at large. The team members include the leader, the assistant (preparing to lead the next cell group), the treasurer (counts the money and delivers it to the church each week),[28] and two members at large (who take part in the planning process, serve as replacements, and prepare to fill one of the positions in the new cell group). At AMV, any member of the leadership team is allowed to fulfill any role in the growth group (e.g., lead the lesson, lead worship).

Summary of the Five Churches

As a result of the research on these five case study churches, various leadership patterns have emerged. I have also noticed distinct differences which need to be analyzed.

Similar Cell Leadership Patterns

Various leadership patterns emerged from this study which will be helpful for those conducting cell-based ministry. These patterns can be seen in the following list:

  1. Strong leadership of head pastor
  2. Leadership governed by vision
  3. Clear leadership requirements
  4. Required new leader training course
  5. Heavy time commitment for cell leadership
  6. Elevation in ministry based on past success
  7. Leadership raised up from within the church

Strong Pastoral Leadership

These churches were led by strong pastors. The cell system flowed from the authority of the senior pastor. I detected a great respect and willingness to follow among the members of these churches. All of these senior pastors held unchallenged authority. I noticed a certain pattern of Christian caudillo leadership (discussed in chapter 5).

Leadership Governed by Vision

Without exception these pastors were men of vision and dreams. Their ultimate church growth goals envisioned hundreds of thousands of people. They were out to conquer a city for Christ–not just grow a church. Two of the pastors openly talked about the importance of dreaming big dreams and used Cho as their example. Because of the pastoral vision, the congregation in turn sensed that they were part of a work greater than themselves and that God Himself had spoken to their pastor.

Clear Leadership Requirements

All of the cell churches had clearly defined cell leadership and training requirements. Although these requirements varied from church to church, the core requirements included: salvation, water baptism, cell attendance, and completion of cell training.

Leadership Training Course for New Leaders

Even if a potential cell leader met the basic leadership requirements, in each of these churches there was still the need to complete a leadership training course. Although the length and demands of the course varied, two characteristics were similar: this course was taught by pastoral staff and the course always covered cell organization, cell vision, and New Testament leadership requirements.

Heavy Time Commitment

All of these churches expected a large time commitment from their leaders. CCG and AGV required the least–only two cell meetings per week besides the normal church services. MCI encouraged their cell leaders to attend at least three cell related meetings per week as well as the weekly congregational and celebration meetings. MCE and AMV required three cell related meetings for all those in leadership.

Elevation in Ministry Based on Past Success

Elevation in ministry to higher positions of leadership was primarily the result of previous success in cell multiplication. Although calling and personal qualities were taken into account, the ultimate test was past success as a cell leader. Bible school training was not a major factor in elevation to top leadership.

Home Grown Leadership

These churches did not look beyond themselves to fill their top leadership positions.[29] Without exception, all leadership had to go through the normal channels of ministerial experience, ministerial success, and leadership training within the church before being lifted up to higher positions.

Cell Leadership Differences

Along with the patterns of cell leadership, there were some distinct differences. The following list highlights those differences:

  1. Active involvement of top leadership
  2. Statistical comparison among cell leadership
  3. Amount of leadership training requirements
  4. Success in raising up new leadership
  5. Degree of focus on team structure
  6. Higher levels of cell leader training

Active Involvement of Top Leadership

In four of the churches, all of the top leadership were personally involved in cell ministry. MCE required that district pastors, zone pastors, and supervisors visit both the planning meeting on Thursday night and a cell meeting on Saturday night.

Three of the head pastors in the case study churches were very much involved in the cell ministry. These pastors realized that they could not simply delegate this ministry to someone else.[30] The one exception was the top leadership at AMV. The head pastor chose to delegate the cell ministry to another director and only became involved when petitioned.

Statistical Comparison of Cell Leadership

Two of the churches statistically compared leadership effectiveness by cell group multiplication, adult cell attendance growth, children’s cell attendance growth, conversion and baptism. The purpose of such comparisons was to stimulate healthy competition, and so that everyone would know exactly where they stood. At the same time, three of the churches did not practice such leadership comparisons.

Amount of Leadership Training Requirements

As mentioned, all of these churches required that a leader fulfill certain requirements and basic training. However, the amount and content of the training varied greatly from church to church. CCG and MCE provided the easiest training course. In these churches, if the potential leader fulfilled the simple, basic leadership requirements, he took a four-week training course that prepared him to lead the cell group. AGV, on the other hand, had the heaviest requirements with at least one year of Bible training.

Success in Raising up New Leadership

The number of potential leaders available for future cell ministry greatly varied among these case study churches. MCI exhibited the greatest success in this area. With fifteen daily training groups and 3,000 potential leaders enrolled in any given week, this church is on the cutting edge of new cell leader training. CCG, on the other hand, seemed to have a scarcity of prepared leadership ready. Their multiplication of new cells had greatly exceeded their capacity to properly staff each cell group.

Both MCE and AMV relied on the team concept of cell multiplication which proved to be very effective. New potential leadership was initially placed on a leadership team which prepared to serve the future cell groups.

Degree of Focus on Team Structure

Three of the churches had little or no focus on team ministry in the cell group. In these three churches, many of the groups did not even have an assistant. On the other hand, MCE and AMV made team ministry a high priority. I believe that it is safe to say that these two churches were highly successful in mother-daughter cell multiplication because they focused on transforming the nucleus of each cell into a leadership team.

Higher Levels of Cell Leader Training

Most of the ongoing cell leadership training took place through the Jethro system and weekly or monthly training sessions. However, there were varying levels of emphasis on higher training among these churches. On one end of the spectrum, MCE did not provide any further Biblical training beyond the weekly expository teaching. On the other hand, CCG offered everything from adult Sunday school training to Bible Institute training where one could earn a degree. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes were the other case study churches.


There seems to be a relationship in these cell churches between the ability to raise up strong leadership and cell group effectiveness which results in multiplication. I also noticed a qualitative edge in those cell groups who emphasized team ministry. Although all of the cell churches provided both pre-training for potential cell leaders and various types of ongoing training for actual leaders, not all of them utilized the team concept of ministry to train new cell leaders. In the next chapter we will look at how these churches multiplied their cell groups. We will also see how that leadership development plays an important role in cell group multiplication.


[1] I was told that Pastor Castellanos often gives invitations for people to become cell leaders.

[2] I repeatedly heard stories of leaders being removed because they were living in sin, had a “spirit of pride,” or were in ministry because of their talent instead of their commitment to Christ. The young people require that a leader is fruitful in multiplying cell groups if he or she wants to remain in leadership. The story is told of the drummer who was given one month to multiply ten cell groups or resign. Supposedly, he was in leadership because of his talent and not his heart for ministry. He resigned.

I am reminded of how John Wesley did not hesitate to remove “class” leaders if they were not living in holiness. At the same time, it seemed to me that some of the reasons for removal were very subjective. I heard of several leaders being removed or strongly warned about having a “spirit of pride.” This surely has to do with not being submissive to those in charge. There seemed to be very little room to criticize the system.

[3] This church estimates that they are able to keep eighty-five percent of their new converts due to their follow-up and training program.

[4] It is my understanding that almost everyone comes back with the gift of tongues.

[5] There are primarily two books used for the leader training time. The first is called, El Lider En Los Grupos, The second manual is called Encuentro (Encounter). This book was written by César Castellanos (1996).

[6] It is common knowledge at MCI that the ministry of the young people is the most effective in the entire church. I heard from several leaders that ideas and methods are first proven among the young people and if they work they are implemented in the entire church. I would not be surprised if the “Second Encounter Retreat” concept would soon be a requirement for all of the cell groups.

[7] Oftentimes, there are more people in the first trimester than in the second and third. It is normal that the first three-month session begins with forty students, the second trimester starts with thirty-five, and by the last trimester there might be only twenty-two students.

[8] These “Theological Education by Extension” courses (called F.L.E.T.-Faculty of Latin American Theological Training) are developed by conservative Episcopalians in Argentina and are used throughout Latin America.

[9] Pastor Capuro told me that at times they have been extreme. For example, at one time, they required that only those who were interested in being leaders could go on to the next level of Bible Training. They later realized that they were cutting off a large number people who needed the Word of God.

[10] When I was there 1,500 people crammed into the auditorium every night to hear César Castellanos from Colombia. Earlier that year (1996) Peter Wagner taught a seminar at AGV.

[11] I went over the results of this poll with Pastor Capuro. He repeatedly told me that it was an accurate poll with a representative sample.

[12] Monday, expository teaching service; Tuesday, zone pastor meeting with supervisors and cell leaders; Thursday, cell planning meeting; Saturday, cell meeting, and Sunday, normal services.

[13] Time-wise, it seems much easier to be a zone or district pastor than a cell leader or supervisor.

[14] There are no outside Bible classes, TEE, or Bible institute training. Membership is taught a certain interpretation of Scripture without much further exposure. Although each cell leader preaches with loud fervor, theres is not a lot of “in-depth” Biblical preparation.

[15] I was told that no one in present leadership is promoted because of higher level Bible training. It is simply not a factor in upper leadership training.

[16] I was very impressed by the commitment of Jorge Galindo to the cell ministry. He realizes that the head pastor is the key to the success of the cell ministry, and he is involved in weekly planning meetings with the district pastors, weekly encouragement of the zone pastors, and weekly attendance in a cell.

[17] Unlike some cell churches, the zone pastors at MCE are not encouraged to visit a set number of people.

[18] The supervisor has five required meetings that he or she must attend each week.

[19] As of October 1996, there were approximately four hundred leaders present each Tuesday evening. When I was present, a professional counselor taught on how to counsel those in the cell groups. Each cell leader received a handout. It was very practical and informative.

[20] For the lesson training, the adult leaders meet in the sanctuary and the those who lead groups for children or youth meet in different rooms due the different slant of the material. However, it is my understanding that all lessons are based on the pastor’s weekly message.

[21] I talked with two district pastors and several zone pastors about the percentage of leaders who have taken all of these courses. They told me that a large percentage have not. At this time, there is a new attempt among the pastoral staff to stir up leaders to take this training.

[22] Of the 800 people present at the 1996 congress, I was told that almost half were from other churches.

[23] In Smith’s absence, Pastor José Medina has taken on the responsibilities of the head pastor. José Medina has been with Smith from the very beginning. He told me that due to his long acquaintance with Jerry, he is able to know what decision Jerry would make at any given time.

[24] This conclusion is based on my observations at the leadership training where all leaders were supposed to be present, looking at the lists of cell leaders, and talking with several leaders.

[25] Pastor Johnny, one of the three district pastors, told me that the difference between the success and failure of a cell group is often the change of host.

[26] This same principle applies to the cell members, who are allowed to attend only one cell group.

[27] More recently at AMV it was determined that the zone leader needs to have more contact with the cell groups. It appears that this role had become more administrative. The zone leaders were not supposed to visit the cell groups, and thus it seems that their effectiveness was diminished. AMV is trying to correct this problem.

[28] At times the administration might have a meeting of all the treasurers to share a pressing financial need in the church. All of the money received in the group goes directly to the church, with the exception of those groups who need to contract buses for the Saturday service. In that case, every other offering is for the church. Treasurers are entrusted to receive the tithes and offerings of the people.

[29] I am referring here to pastors, district leaders, zone leaders, supervisors, cell leaders, and administration.

[30] Here I do not include César Castellanos because he is presently traveling outside of Colombia for six months out of the year. I am not sure about the amount of involvement that he has with the cell ministry at this time.