Volume 9, Number 1

Table of Contents:
Work Out Your Salvation Together - Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.

Editor's Note: Randall Neighbour

I fully expected to have a string of nail biting days when I had to embrace so many new changes for this issue. This magazine changed its name, design and layouts, writers, typefaces, artists and editors in less than 90 days. Whew!

Knowing most of our readers are cell leaders, I asked our Lord to simply let the new magazine flow. I prayed for column writers who could make a great impact in small space. I asked for a graphic artist who understood our mission. I asked that my laptop would hold out until the issue went to press.   I asked for a daytime production schedule instead of a string of all-nighters, and finally I asked the Lord to help me get this issue get to press two weeks early. Hey, if you’re on your knees, why not ask for everything on the list? Well, it all happened.

Needless to say, God answers prayer! Every writer sent in concise, meaty articles. The design work from Richard Slayton in Dallas looks superb. I do not have bags under my eyes from sleepless nights, and the magazine was on the press in early December. Never underestimate the power of prayer.

I’m not bragging when I say you’re gonna love this issue. It’s filled with practical ideas and tips to help you become the best cell leader on the planet.  If you read each of the articles and columns, you will be challenged to facilitate your next meeting differently, reach people for Jesus as a team fueled by prayer and grow as a leader, avoiding costly mistakes. Hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it?

As you may know, I’m a cell leader myself. My wife and I have launched a cell comprised of young professionals and college students. As each day passes, we learn how to love each other through the power of the Holy Spirit and use that love to reach a hurting world. We have our rough days and our times of laughter, but I can see us coming together as a strong team to reach the lost. We will succeed because we have three things going for us: A God with a big plan, a pastor who is a living example for us and a constant flow of encouragement from the writers in this magazine. I run all the information we publish through my own filter . . . the thoughts and needs of a current cell leader. If it wouldn’t help my group grow or develop me as a stronger leader, it doesn’t get published.

Some of the best writing on cell groups is found in this issue. Considering it’s not that large of a publication, there’s no reason you can’t just sit down with a cup of coffee and read it from cover to cover. So you’ll know, my goal is to keep this magazine so fresh and inspiring that your java gets cold because you forgot it was there.   (end of article)


Randall Neighbour is the President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries and the senior editor for Cell Group Journal.



Editorial – Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.


Work out your salvation together! God never intended that we walk alone


Entering a cell group should radically revise the way you offer salvation to pre-Christians! Scripture never encourages the independence of the individual believer. Many times when the pronoun “you” is used, it is in the plural. The act of becoming a Christian is a choice to no longer live independently. Receiving the presence of Christ into one’s life requires the deepest levels of intimacy to be surrendered. Sadly, the traditional offer of salvation by “receiving Christ” ignores this issue.


We offer the unbeliever a “personal” salvation, one that is explained as creating a safety net for a future life. Example: “If you were to die today and God were to say, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ — what would your answer be?” This enticement ignores the issue of Lordship. It doesn’t mention the implications of becoming a slave to a new owner! The unbeliever makes a “decision to accept Christ” without a thought of fully yielding body, soul, and spirit to the new Resident who will take control of them. This has been cynically referred to as “cheap grace.”


The entry of Christ into the life of a person launches a lifetime of sanctification activities. The new Owner’s value system clashes with those of the individual. The indwelling Christ values a servant lifestyle, one that says “look not to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

In Welcome To Your Changed Life, the following personal covenant is provided for use as a person enters the Kingdom:


“Knowing that Christ has brought me His peace, I will declare Him to be Lord over all my life. My body, my possessions and my future are His to command. I will join my life to a cell group and consider it my Basic Christian Community. I will respond to all with God’s acceptance. I will not be judgmental. I will always remember that God allows all things for His eternal purposes. I will learn to pray and seek to know how to hear His voice speaking to me. I will prayerfully seek to know what, in each situation, God wants to address, and be His instrument of healing. Knowing that my cell group may be a turning point for my life or that of another person, I covenant to place my commitment to its ministry at the very top of my priority list. As God anoints me, I shall be His instrument to save, to heal, to deliver, and to restore others. In this spirit, I invite His Spirit to take my life and use it for His glory.”


When you explain salvation to an unbeliever, always include three aspects: at the cross (the individual is set free from the penalty of sin); in the edification provided within a cell group (the collective freedom from the power of sin is received); in the coming Kingdom (we shall be released from the presence of sin). Phil. 2:12 states “Work out your (plural) salvation with fear and trembling.” This was not spoken to an individual, but to a small group of believers like your cell!


It is almost impossible to present this facet of salvation outside of a strong, spiritual family atmosphere. Without an established “basic Christian community,” there will be no way of showing unbelievers the incarnation of Christ in His present body. It is in your cell group that the unbeliever or the ungifted one can observe everyone revealing God’s presence, be convicted of a self-owned life, and decide to be invaded by Christ’s Spirit.


The first official act of the Holy Spirit in the life of a new believer is to further remove the spirit of being independent. He does this by baptizing the individual into the Body of Christ as a hand, a foot, or some other body part. Never, ever should a true child/servant of God say, “I have no need for you, my fellow Christian!


In this generation, the growth of your cell depends heavily on presenting a clear view of what it means to be a Christian! Your witness cannot be a cognitive database explanation. It must be a witness of incarnated believers who have been joined by the Holy Spirit to become a Body for the indwelling Christ. Only this will permit the seeker to observe God’s inner Presence in your gatherings.  (end of article)


Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr. is the founder of TOUCH Outreach Ministries. Currently he pastors the TOUCH Family Church in Houston and directs an online training center called TOUCH Glocal.


Toolkit – Practical Tools and Testimonies from Cell Leaders for Cell Leaders


Cover Article:


I have many hobbies of which, if I am not prudent, can become very obsessive. Basketball, golf, mountain biking and playing the guitar all compete for my free time. Their rival is fly fishing. My new love is fly fishing because I do it often and it crowds out all my other hobbies and interests. The saying “look for what you do and you’ll find what you love” is true for me.


My descent into the world of fly fishing was not a journey I took alone. I was mentored in the art by my friend Lennie. I have found fly fishing as rhythmic as words are to poetry or as movement is to a ballet. It is a skill that is best performed artfully. My mentor loves this art and he shares his love of fishing because he does it often and he’s very good at it. It is not catching fish to Lennie. It’s a lifestyle of fishing . . . the residue of a sportsman’s heart.


I must say that I was not the most graceful pupil Lennie has encountered. I can simply look at a fishing line and tangle it! The way I see it, Lennie was enlisted to make a successful fly fisherman out of a mass of dysfunction.


Over the course of the first weeks, Lennie introduced me to knots, flies, water conditions, trout feeding habits, casting, false casting, wet flies, dry flies and when and where to cast. He taught me to watch the water and find the right time to fish. As I reflect on my time with him, Lennie taught me much more than simply how to fish. He showed me why fishing is more than just filling a creel. Through my education and time investment with him, I now experience the excitement of the challenge and the rewards of remaining faithful to this art.


If Lennie had simply handed me a book on fly fishing and sent me out to the stream, I would have become discouraged and failed miserably. Fly fishing is difficult, even with faithful mentor! Lennie could have filled my head with every article published on fly fishing and encouraged me to join a fly fishing society. But if I never felt the rod in my hand, performed a false cast or saw a trout gently float to the surface, I would just be a knowledgeable fisherman who never fished.


Instead, my mentor taught me the essentials and set me up with the equipment I needed. He walked me to a stream in acres of open space and said “let’s fish.” He did not position me in a stream where I would be forced to cast with great proficiency, avoiding trees and bushes. Lennie recognized my non-existent skill level and placed me where I could succeed and learn. I also noticed that we did not begin with dry flies, which are much harder to cast. Lennie put a wet fly on my line because he wanted me to succeed and gain confidence.


After spending the morning on the big stream in the clearing, we found a smaller stream and he suggested I use a dry fly. By this time, I had built up my confidence and I was able to cast my line with a more technical approach. While I left some beautiful flies in the trees that afternoon, I was excited. As we fished, Lennie modeled good casting techniques and shared the exhilaration he felt when a trout would strike. His excitement ignited my own and I was high with expectation. I didn’t catch a fish that first day, but a big one got away (ask Lennie!). No pun intended, but now I am hooked on fly fishing!


Discipling others in your cell group is very similar to what Lennie has done with me in the art of fly fishing. You see, discipleship is more than just educating a new believer. When you disciple someone, you invest your time into him or her. The purpose isn’t to simply explain God, His Word and ways; it’s to experience the presence and promises of God together! Jesus intentionally spent a great deal of time with His disciples mentoring them to serve as He did.


As Jesus walked beside the sea of Galilee, He saw two fishermen named Peter and Andrew. “Come follow Me.” Jesus said. “I will make you fishers of men.” He says the same to you and me. If you love the Lord, you’ll invest your time in others and disciple them. You will meet them where they are, and bring them along at the right pace. You will be patient and affirm them, and you won’t give up when they falter or expose their dysfunction.


Just as Lennie is mentoring me in fly fishing, I know we are called to mentor others for Kingdom building. As you disciple others, exude as much passion and excitement for disciple-making as Lennie does for fishing. It’s contagious!


—Rick Fraley, Grace Community Church, Broadheadsville, PA



Do They Leave You Hungry and Thirsty?

If your cell group is like ours, you probably have plenty of snacks and drinks on hand, so your first response to the above question would be “no.” I’m not implying they should leave your presence physically in need of refreshment, but hungry and thirsty for a deeper walk with God.


Many of the first time visitors and new members in our group do not spend time with God each day. I don’t think it’s laziness; these men and women are new believers and simply do not have a compelling hunger to be with Him.


Before our weekly cell meeting, my husband and I pray that every person will leave us with the burning desire to spend time with God. We use the meeting to pull back the “cloud of mystery” about spiritual things and let people see a God that  loves them and cares about the intimate details of their lives. With this kind of consistent emphasis, it only takes a week or two for new Christians to walk with God on a deeper level.


After we see the hunger begin, we use this opportunity to pair them up with another believer who is a little farther on their spiritual journey. The two of them meet weekly and talk almost daily about all their new discoveries as they work first through the New Believer’s Station and then later The Arrival Kit. They are encouraged not only by their new friendship, but also by their relationship with the Father. Their hunger and thirst for more of God is met. With each passing day, they become more hungry and thirsty in a never ending cycle of drawing closer to the Father!


This always helps them form a new heart for the lost. We’ve found that once people are in true fellowship with God, it is natural to see the world around them and desire to give away what they now possess. People along their daily path become more than just objects. They see pain in a stranger’s eyes for the first time. Co-workers and family members in need start to look like a harvest field instead of an inconvenience. They hunger and thirst for people who do not know the love of Christ.


Yes, we desire for people to leave us hungry and thirsty. We pray and fast for that desire to be birthed within them. We have seen many come to know Christ and become fully devoted followers with this attitude, and our ministry is expanding. Our first cell members have led others to Christ, discipled them, and passed along the hunger and thirst for God and a hurting world.


If we are to become effective leaders, we must become totally contagious! Our hunger and thirst for God should infect everyone we come in contact with.


How hungry and thirsty are you? Remember, you cannot take others where you are not yourself. As Revelation 22:17 says, “Let the thirsty ones come.”


—Sandee Roquemore, Cell Leader, Mainland Community Church, Texas City, TX


Pray With All Five Fingers

our thumb is nearest to you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C.S. Lewis once said, a “sweet duty.”


The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and your pastor. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.


The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God’s guidance.


The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger; as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them!


And lastly comes our little finger; the smallest finger of all. Which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, “The least shall be the greatest among you.” Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.


—Al Atkins, Cell Leader, Garden Oaks Baptist, Houston, TX


Do You Know Beans About Me?

This cool icebreaker will provide your group members with a fun and non-threaten-ing way to reveal meaningful information about themselves!

1.     Give everyone in your group 6-8 beans as they walk in the door.

2.     Ask everyone to mingle and ask other cell members or visitors questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no” for about fifteen minutes. The goal is to answer honestly, but to work around saying either of these two words.

3.     If someone slips and says “yes” or “no,” they must give a bean to the person asking the question.

4.     When you sit down to begin your meeting, find out who has the most beans. This person is the winner! He or she has done a good job of asking deep questions and revealing themselves to others.

Actually, your whole cell group has won the game. Each person has learned more about others and learned to share more openly than before!


—Gary Steffaniak, Cell Leader, St. Louis, MO



Are you Seizing Every Opportunity?

This week marked the 13th time I had been to that office. I go there every month to pay our rent, leaving the money with an administrator who manages several hundred rental properties. I have had good conversations with both the manager and his associate, a single mother in her 40’s, and we have talked about spiritual issues, albeit in a superficial way.


Marisol, the single mother, had asked several good questions in the past. This time I greeted them both and casually asked Marisol how she was doing. She immediately burst into tears, explaining that she was having major problems with her two teenagers. I assured her that I would be praying for her. And then I sensed that I should pray right then and there. Another customer was also sitting in the small office, but   I looked at all three and asked, “We all believe in God, don’t we?” They all nodded yes and  I asked them if they would like to join me in prayer right then for Marisol. They agreed, we stood together in a circle, held hands and I prayed for God’s intervention in Marisol’s life and family. She seemed touched and very grateful. It is a busy office and it was not the time for an extended conversation, but God has given an open door for me to go back with my wife and minister to Marisol. 


Most people who come to the Lord in moments of crisis, such as what Marisol is experiencing. This is also a good example of how we must develop a level of trust with people before they will open up with deep spiritual issues.


—Raymond Ebbett, CMA Missionary, Madrid, Spain


The Butterfly

One day, a man found a butterfly’s cocoon. He watched it carefully, and after a week or so a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly struggle to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. So, he decided to help the butterfly.

He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.


The butterfly emerged easily, But he noticed it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. Watching carefully, he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.


In his kindness and haste, the man did not understand a vital process God had designed. The struggle required to get through the tiny opening of the cocoon is God’s ways of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. And so it is with you and I. If God allowed us to go through life without obstacles, it would cripple us and keep us from achieving all He has for us.                                                                                                 


—Submitted by Emory Ediger


Intergenerational Cell Groups – By Daphne Kirk


Are Your Children Being Discipled?

Unlock the hidden potential for your youngest cell members.


This year I have traveled extensively to work with cell churches and I see a disturbing consistency. All over the world, most parents are not discipling their children or looking for them to be discipled. When I ask them why, I receive the same answer. Most parents were never discipled themselves, and without any modeling or resourcing, they do not know how to go about it. Also, many parents have not been discipled in adulthood, and the cycle continues with their children.


Sadly, the local church has colluded with this — albeit for the most commendable reasons — by taking the primary task of overseeing the child’s spiritual development. Many parents are left feeling inadequate and dependent on children’s workers for spiritual development. These parents do not see themselves as God’s chosen and anointed for the task!


Then there are many who do not feel child discipleship is important. These parents are content that their children have been born again and presume that discipleship or equipping will safely wait until they are older. It is quite remarkable that this principle is not applied to other profoundly important areas of their children’s lives, such as safety, manners and schooling. It’s obvious that some parents do not understand the value of discipling or the scriptural command to pass on the lifestyle that is based on Godly values!


Why do children need discipling?

The children in your cell need discipleship for the same reasons as the adults! Each child is a unique, profoundly precious individual in the eyes of God and their parents. For that individuality to be recognized early in life, they need someone who knows where they are in their relationship with Jesus and the problems they face. Who will nurture them, just as they have in every other area of their young lives? God has a unique plan for every child!


The process begins with parents and other adults who will sponsor children. These adults need support, equipping and resources for one of the most important roles they will play in this life. In a cell church, there must be a network of adults that will envision and support this task. In the growing cell churches with whom I work, the role is held by cell leaders, coaches and pastors who release parents into this ministry through preaching, teaching and modeling.


What I have written thus far has probably created more questions in your mind than can adequately be answered in a short article. What if the parents aren’t Christians? Does it have to be the parent who sponsors the child? What is my role as a cell leader? All these questions are answered in my book Hand in Hand, so I won’t go into great detail here. What must be discussed is the basic elements needed for children to grow in their spiritual walk.


Move forward with a Track

Just as adults, children need a track on which to move forward. A good equipping track will give them the opportunity to increase their love for God, their love for each other and their love for the lost.


So, look for very specific things in the resources you offer your members. This must be a relational encounter with a special friend or sponsor. In order for this to develop in a healthy way, it requires that both are vulnerable. Sadly, this two-way vulnerability is either lacking or used inappropriately. Therefore, a children’s equipping track must promote discipling within healthy parameters.


For example, if a child is prompted to ask their sponsor “Would you write me a letter describing all the Godly things you see in me?” the sponsor can affirm the child in a powerful way.


At the same time, if the child is asked to draw a picture of their sponsor and tell the sponsor all the special things the child sees in them, the sponsor is edified. This is one example of healthy discipleship. Children and adults treasure this kind of affirmation and it results in growth.


The basis of a solid discipleship track is to create a relational encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit’s activity, based on the following four elements.


The first is to develop a relationship that children must have with their heavenly Father. Jesus understood this when He said that we should become like them. Many children and adults are not aware they can hear the voice of their Father! Together, a good track will enable the sponsor and child to learn how to identify the voice of the Good Shepherd who says that “My sheep hear my voice” and learn how to listen accurately.


The second key is to understand that discipling a child isn’t the solo task of a sponsor. It must be an encounter that mobilizes children within their cell group and is a team challenge. For instance, when they ask other cell members how they were born again, they begin to discover their community. If they are fully integrated into cell life, they notice when a cell member has not been to the meetings and call them. This level of participation helps them realize that Jesus has a body on earth and they are part of it. He desires that body to be an expression of Himself, and they are accountable to be a vital part of that expression, regardless of age.


The third key is that discipling a child must be an encounter which releases them into evangelism. As they learn to “stand in the gap” for unsaved friends, missions and unreached people groups, they will appreciate a special aspect of being a believer. Each child must be discipled so that he or she can lead another into an encounter with Jesus early in life! Why waste these early years?


The last key to discipling a child is that it must be fun! The kingdom of God is an exciting place and His people are fun people just like their Lord. So talking together, breaking down strongholds and walking free becomes a prophetic, joyous experience. This is a child and adult working together with the power of the Holy Spirit to achieve Kingdom values at an early age . . . and enjoying the process.


Your role as a cell leader and/or parent is to involve your children in cell life and see that they are equipped to serve. Use these keys and sponsorship to unlock hidden potential in the youngest among you. Your cell will grow in ways only found in the intergenerational  experience!  F


Daphne Kirk is the author of numerous IGC books, and has made a home base in Bartlett, Tennesee. Visit her website at: www.daphnekirk.org


Cell Worship – Gerrit Gustafson


God Is Looking For Worshippers: We believe according to how we worship.


Several years ago, our church hosted a group of pastors from Nigeria. Near the end of their visit, I asked them to comment on American Christianity. With a delightful twinkle in his eyes, one man said: “In America, you believe; in Nigeria, we worship.” 


Those words have regularly served to challenge my own priorities as a church leader: “Is my service to God producing believers or true worshippers?”


In this article, I would like to do two things. Offer a Biblical rationale to fortify worship as your ultimate priority, and offer practical ways to help develop worshippers in your home, cell group and church.


God is Looking for Worshippers

Consider the following observations. Each has to do with the issue of purpose, or the reasoning behind action.


When Jesus evangelized, his goal was worship. Probably the best example of Jesus evangelizing is in John 4 in His encounter with the woman at the well. After communicating with her at her level of need, He challenged her to be part of an eternal plan: My Father is looking for worshippers.

In fact, she did become a worshipper, declaring God’s praises all over her  hometown resulting in a city-wide awakening: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him.”


In sharing with this worldly woman about God’s search for worshippers, Jesus revealed His understanding of His own mission . . . to win true worshippers for His Father. We may have known that He came “to seek and save the lost.” Now we know that it was for the purpose of populating creation with true worshippers. Do you have the same goal when you evangelize?


When Moses led millions out of Egypt’s captivity, his goal was worship. Talk about a revival! Millions coming out of bondage (I Cor. 10:2) and being baptized! What was the message that brought those results? “Let My people go that they may worship Me!” The reason behind the exodus was worship, as is the reason behind our salvation. You have been called out of darkness for the purpose of becoming a worshipper.


Early apostles expected believers to become worshippers. Peter taught that we are the priestly people of God for the purpose of declaring God’s praises (1 Pet. 2:9). Paul argued that praise from among the Gentiles was God’s prophetic plan. Furthermore, he testified that his own mission was to see the Gentiles become offerings of worship to the Lord (Rom. 15:12,16). When Paul described a typical New Testament conversion, the new believer is worshipping God in the first moments of his Christian life: “He will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’ ” (I Cor. 14: 24).


When an angel preaches the gospel internationally in the last days, it is for the purpose of worship. Revelation 14:6-7 points to a time when an angel will issue this imperative to all the nations: “Fear God; give Him glory, and worship Him!” The essence of this “eternal gospel” is a call to worship the Creator! 


The gospel of Jesus, Moses, Peter, Paul and a last days angel call men to worship. The fruit of evangelizing, discipling, church planting should be, as John Piper says, “white-hot worshippers” who love God with everything they have! If somehow, a person becomes a believer and never becomes a worship-per, something has gone wrong. Churches typically count the number of converts, members or attendees. All the while God is looking for worshippers. What kind of disciples are you making?


Developing Worshippers

What does a worshipper look like, and how can you effectively develop worshippers in your family, cell and church?

1.      Know what you’re looking for. Worship is the expression of our love for God. God’s design is that we love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. So, your goal is to develop family members and cell members into those who are able to give expression to their love for God physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.


2.      Talk regularly about the importance of worship and what it means to be a worshipper. Start with basic principles like God’s search for worshippers, giving thanks in everything, and using our lips to offer “the sacrifice of praise.” Read the Psalms together. Make a list of action items from some of the Psalms (eg. Ps. 95, 100, 149, etc.). Now, do what you’ve listed! Worship is about doing, or as Robert Webber says, “Worship is a verb!”


3.      Reserve time for worship in your cell. If you have a guitarist, make sure he or she is prepared with 3 or 4 songs every time you get together. If you don’t have a guitarist, use a worship CD or cassette. And last, take the necessary time to create songsheets.


4.      Identify the hindrances to worship and prayerfully overcome them. Some of the most common are: unbiblical traditions (“that’s not the way we do it”), fear of man (“what would everybody think?”) and unresolved guilt (“I’m not worthy”). You’ll find that what hinders  worship may also hinder ministry to others. Overcoming embarrassment in worship, for instance, may liberate someone from embarrassment in being a verbal witness! As changes happen, be cautious not to artificially adopt new actions without working through issues of emotional and intellectual honesty. God is looking for believers who worship in truth. Selah!


5.      The last is to lead by example. Is you own life filling up with praise? Practice your worship in the shower, on your way to work and with your family.  People learn more by what they see in you than what they hear from you.


“Lord, we pray that in Your search for worshippers, you will not be disappointed in what you find in our families, groups and churches. Instead, let there be hearty, honest, and bountiful praise that delights your heart. Give us courage and wisdom to see the believing church become the worshipping church! Amen.” 

(end of article)


Gerrit Gustafson founded WholeHearted Worship (a great resource for small group and cell group worship songs). He works with small groups in the Nashville, TN area.

 Cover Article:


How to stimulate interaction and discussion in your next cell meeting

– By Joel Comiskey


It was a horrible evening for Frank. He worked hard to make the Word portion of the meeting meaningful for the other cell members, but his attempt to stimulate discussion failed. “Is there anyone else who would like to comment on this verse?” Still no response. Frank decided that it was best to break the silence by launching into an ad-hoc homily of the Bible passages. His words filled the air and broke the silence, but didn’t help the group. As he stared at the ceiling and tried to drift off to sleep that night, he thought, “At least they’re receiving God’s Word.”


I know what this cell group facilitator felt like. I’ve faced similar periods of strained silence as I’ve attempted to lead the lesson during my Thursday night cell meeting. On more than one occasion, I’ve thought, “Why are my own discussion times so dry? I’ve lectured and written extensively about cell group ministry. Shouldn’t I be an example in this area? Shouldn’t my own discussion times be filled with participation? What’s the missing link?”


Then I discovered that the difference between effective cell group discussion and dry Bible study. Word times (the part of the cell meeting when you apply the Word) that fizzle into embarrassed silence have more to do with the type of questions asked than how well the facilitator listens, gives positive feedback, deals with the rabid talker or draws out quiet people.



As a routine part of leadership development in my group, I’ve been encouraging others to lead the cell lesson. Paul accepted that challenge. He’s a growing believer and fully capable. After four weeks of watching him and taking the lead in the Word portion of the meeting, I rated two of his meetings as “dry as a bone” while the other two stirred exciting discussion. In all four meetings, he listened intently, called individual members by name and was careful not to dominate. I couldn’t fault him on any of these points.


I did see an emerging pattern on the off-nights. Paul used closed-ended, one-answer questions that killed participation and jolted the group into a stunned silence. He focused exclusively on the Bible passage. He asked the group to tell him what the Bible verses said, but he neglected to help the group members make the Scripture personal and find personal application.


One night, we covered the book of Jonah. Paul asked: Where did Jonah flee? “To Ninevah,” a member replied. “Great answer,” said Paul. “Anyone else?” Silence filled the room. “Why did Jonah flee?” asked Paul. “Because he was disobedient,” said another cell member. Paul tried to get others to talk.


“Would anyone else like to share?” A few mumbled a variation of the same answer, but when all was said and done, there was only one answer.


Paul listened well, gave positive feedback and did everything right. What more could the group say? There was basically only one answer to give. Jonah fled because he was disobedient. Someone might have added a few more adjectives, but why bother? Even a superb, highly trained facilitator couldn’t get much more. Paul could have waited in silence for an hour, hoping for someone else to talk.


A few days after the lackluster meeting, I visited with Paul. I shared my own failures and discoveries, especially in the area of asking questions.


Something clicked in Paul and the next lesson was excellent! We covered Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble, and Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.


Paul began with a few closed, observation questions to help us understand the biblical text. But this time, he quickly applied the biblical passage to our own lives with questions such as, “When have you had a crisis and how did you handle it?” Then he followed with another application question, “Share with the group how God has been your refuge through a difficult time.”


Everyone had something to share! “Many years ago I administered the most successful tailoring business in the country,” Jim began.  “I loved my job and even made suits for the president. At the height of my success, the doctors told me that it was either my health or my job, so I had to leave it. . . .”


Then Mary shared, “Recently, my daughter Nancy said she’d be home at 10 p.m., but at    1 a.m. she still hadn’t arrived. I’m a nervous person anyway, but this time I was beyond myself. Through prayer, God began to do a work in me. . . .”  Our group shared deeply that night. We bore each other’s burdens. We went away edified, encouraged, and eager to come back for more.



Take a moment right now to reflect on your recent cell meetings. What kind of flow are you experiencing during the Word time? Do your Word time discussions overflow with participation? Do you have to stop the excited conversation due to time constraints, or does it naturally fizzle out as agitated members long for a concluding prayer? The type of questions asked can make the difference between a cell meeting full of life, fun, excitement or one of boredom, frustration, and silence.


If you or your cell group would say your Word times are dry, the first thing to do is rid yourself of the mentality that you are a Bible teacher leading a Bible study. Neither is true. Cell leaders are enablers or facilitators. Synonyms for the word facilitate include: help, aid, assist, ease, empower, lubricate or smooth the progress. The facilitator of this portion of the meeting (and it shouldn’t be you, the cell leader, all the time) is to empower others to share!


The group facilitator is not to preach or teach the Word of God. This is where most people fail. I cannot count the number of cell groups that I have attended in which the facilitator dominated the entire meeting. On the way home from these meetings I’ve thought to myself, “That cell was more like a mini-Sunday church service with the pastor performing his preaching role.” God has blessed His church with gifted teachers and preachers, but that’s not your responsibility in this meeting. The cell group stands in contrast to the “preacher-congregation” mentality. Facilitators who teach the Bible in a cell group can actually hinder the development of new leadership because few group members will ever feel qualified or gifted to teach the Bible.



If you’re reading this article, I’m going to make a couple of assumptions about you. You desire a dynamic cell meeting in which everyone is participating, and you believe that the role of the cell meeting facilitator is not to preach or teach the Word of God. Assuming that we’re on the same page, let’s look at ways to improve your ability to ask questions and teach others how to do the same.


Closed questions demand one correct answer. The purpose of a closed-ended question in a cell group is to discover the content of the Bible verse or passage. This type of question is effective immediately after reading a new verse or passage of Scripture. People want to know the context or the meaning of the verse. Yet, too many closed questions convert the cell group into a classroom. When a facilitator uses lots of closed-ended examination questions, he positions himself as the Bible expert who is trying to discover the brightest, most biblically literate students. Some will shine as they show-off their Bible knowledge, while the majority will try to hide from the piercing gaze of the “teacher.”


Open-ended questions, on the other hand, elicit discussion and sharing. There is more than one right answer and open-ended questions stir cell members to apply the Biblical truths to their own lives. See the difference?

Let’s look at an example from the familiar passage in John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


You could begin with a closed-ended observation question like: “How did God demonstrate his love for us?” In this case, you’re simply asking the people to observe and answer what they see in the verse. Even a Hindu who had never read the Bible could read the verse and answer that God demonstrated his love by sending His Son! There really is no other answer. You could call on the silent ones in the group to express their opinion, but they’ll probably say the same thing. Trying to expand on the meaning might help a little, but not much.


Here’s where many facilitators make a mistake by asking other forms of closed-ended questions. For example, if the question “What kind of love did God demonstrate?” was posed to the group, some might talk about God’s sacrificial love and others might refer to God’s Fatherly compassion. A person knowledgeable about the Bible could visit the meaning of the Greek word agape — which refers to Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross — but in all of these questions and discussions you’re only dealing with interpretation of the passage, not applying it to current day problems and personal issues. If you use this type of question too frequently, your people will leave with lots of knowledge but little transformation in their own lives.


Observation and interpretation questions help us understand the Bible, but for the most part, they’re closed questions. They reach the head but not the heart. They can provide useful Biblical information, but they’ll generate little interaction. The cell group discussion, in fact, might come to a screeching halt! Some empathetic cell members might even try to help you out by guiding the conversation into another direction to get others talking, but it won’t birth ministry opportunities.


Now let’s look at a few open-ended application questions covering the same familiar verse in John. You could say: “Describe the experience when you first understood that God loves you.” Then call on one of the believers in the group, “Susan, would you share what happened when you first experienced God’s love?” This type of question, which is also called exhortation, takes the well-known verse in John and invites members to apply it to their own lives. Your cell members will share openly with questions like these. You could also ask a question like: How did you come to know that God loves you? Did someone talk to you about God? Were you alone or in a crowd? The idea behind open-ended questions is to provide an environment where each person can share their life experiences.


In your next meeting, choose questions that will encourage hungry cell members to share where they are in their walk with God and what the next step will be. Don’t allow your people to leave the cell group without applying the Bible to their own lives. I know of one cell leader who likes to conclude the Word time by saying: “In light of what we’ve read and discussed in this passage, how do you think God wants to use this in your life or the life of this group?” In a nutshell, you want to grab the hearts of your members each week.



Several years ago, I visited a cell that discussed the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. The cell leader asked question after question about the text (observation), then a few more questions about what the text meant (interpretation), but not once did he ask the people to apply these verses to their own lives!


He missed a perfect opportunity. He could have asked group members to share an experience when they had to forgive someone. He could have said: “Share an experience when you felt bitterness toward another person.” He could have followed with, “Share how you overcame those feeling and were able to forgive that person.”


As I looked around the room, I saw people that needed freedom from pent-up bitterness and were longing to share with others, but had no place to do it. I left that cell meeting feeling dry and weak, longing to shout from the house tops: “The place of the cell group is for intimate, application-based sharing! The Sunday sermon is the place where people sit and listen to the anointed, gifted man of God. The cell group should encourage the members to sit-up and speak. Let your people share!”


You don’t have to be an expert to prepare dynamic, life-changing questions. Just remember a few basics:

1.     Ask yourself the question before asking others. If you had to answer your own question, could you freely share? Does the question generate more than one response?

2.     Does the question reach the heart or only the head? Phrase your question in such a way that it generates heart-felt sharing. A good way to do this is to start out with: “Share an experience when . . .” or “How does this passage make you feel about . . .”


Again, not all questions have to be the open-ended, heart-reaching type. Some will simply clarify the Biblical passage. Yet a large proportion of your lesson must be application-based. Don’t wait until the end of the lesson to apply the Bible passage. It will probably be too late. By that time, your people will have fallen into a deep slumber and won’t be interested.


I believe that dynamic, vibrant Word times are birthed in the right questions, not in a gifted teacher. Before you beat yourself up thinking that you lack communication skills, examine the type of questions that you’ve been using. It may be that the lack of participation in your cell group is the result of too many closed-ended questions rather than your skills as a facilitator. Include open-ended application questions near the beginning of your Word time and watch your cell members come to life!  (end of article)


Joel Comiskey was a long-term Christian Missionary Alliance Missionary to South America, where he was a staff pastor at a rapidly-growing cell-based church. He is the author of numerous books on cell leadership, including How to Lead a Great Cell Meeting, from which this article, in part, was drawn. Today, Joel pastors a church plant in Southern California. Visit his website at www.comiskey.org


 Feature Article:


Top Ten Mistakes Cell Leaders Make and How To Avoid Them – By Randall Neighbour


Let me begin with a confession. I am the most qualified person to write this article. I am guilty of every mistake covered here. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife. She doesn’t like to say bad things about me but will be brutally honest if necessary. The mistakes I have made through the years help me see gaps in my spiritual walk and skills as a leader. Instead of trampling my self-esteem with guilt, I use mistakes as learning experiences. If I don’t repeat them, I have learned something more valuable than any training class can offer. I see my primary task as a leader to help my cell reach the lost and raise up leaders, expanding the works of God’s people. When this doesn’t happen consistently, I know I’m making mistakes that will kill my group. This may sound overly dramatic to you, but it’s painfully true. Cells die all the time and it’s usually due to one or more of the reasons discussed in this article.


A few weeks ago, I asked five hundred cell leaders three questions. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a cell leader? How did you correct the problem or avoid making it a second time? What have you learned from the experience, or how has it changed your leadership style? Those who answered were very honest, and it took guts. Everyone likes to toot their own horn, but few will reveal their failures. Up front I’d like to thank those cell leaders who made this article possible. You are a blessing to the body of Christ! As you read these common mistakes submitted by real cell leaders, you will probably see areas in which your ministry needs improvement. This list is by no means complete, but it touches on key issues that will make or break your ministry as a cell leader.


“I operated passively without goals.”

Cell leaders who “follow their nose” never gain any ground in reaching the lost or developing leaders. They wander aimlessly without a plan of action to storm the gates of Hell and set captives free. As I visit with successful cell leaders around the world, they all have common goals of reaching X number of people for Christ by a certain date and raising up enough leaders to pastor the new believers. This drives the leader to invest time with his members, unsaved friends and relatives attached to the group. The responsibility of meeting the goal is not completely shouldered by the cell leader, but he owns the goal and sets the example for the rest of the group.

These leaders are also accountable to their church leadership. Each week, they eagerly meet with their pastor or coach to find ways to meet or exceed the stated goal. If you want to succeed as a cell leader, set realistic growth goals. Submit your goals to your leadership so you can be held accountable. Then get to work meeting those goals, removing all obstacles that get in your way. Remember, run as to win the prize.


“I released an untrained intern.”

Years ago, I watched a cell leader multiply his group and give half his members to his intern. As the weeks passed, I watched the new leader struggle as she lost member after member. They didn’t feel loved by her, and she didn’t know how to love them with servanthood. The leader’s mistake stemmed from not giving the responsibility of the original cell to her months before the multiplication date. Although she facilitated the meeting a dozen times, she had very little servanthood experience. What she lacked was the daily interaction between a leader and cell members that refines the leader and builds a new team. If you’re not transferring an increasing amount of leadership responsibility to your intern, you’re setting them up for defeat. You’ll also wound cell members you dearly love when they multiply off with this new leader. Give your intern the reigns of cell leadership a little at a time over the course of six months, and then back off and let them be the “senior leader.” Your role then will be one of a consultant, and if you’ve trained them well, you will experience some rest as they lead the cell members.


The best way to view your intern is to see and treat them like a real cell leader. Challenge them to serve the cell members between meetings. Help them set up ministry visits to pray for members in their homes and join them. Spend an hour a week or more on your knees in prayer with them for the needs of the group, and you will release strong leaders.


“I was leading as if I was the senior pastor.”

The role of the cell leader is often mistaken to be more than should be. If you’re making this mistake, the indicators are clear. You are worn out because you have mistakenly taken on the whole load of pastoral care for each member. Your pastoral staff doesn’t know what’s going on with your members because they only hear about problems when it’s too late to be supportive. You’re riddled with guilt because you work a full-time job or raise a house full of kids and you just can’t be a full-time minister. Did that about cover how you feel right now? The best way to correct this mistake is to clearly understand your role. You are a faithful undershepherd, caring for someone else’s sheep. If they get sick or attacked by wolves in the field, you help them to the best of your ability and get help. The sheep entrusted to you do not belong to you, so you are obligated to find the senior shepherd (your pastor) or the ranch hand (your coach) who is there to help.


This news should set you free! Your role is to encourage, minister to and love your members unconditionally. You’re a vital part of the care-giving system of your church, but not the whole system!


If you’ve been acting like the senior pastor, the best way to correct the problem is to ask your cell and your pastoral staff to forgive you. Ask them to hold you accountable for a balanced ministry and take some of the load you’re leaving behind. Cell leadership should be a joy, not a burden.


“I pastored the wrong people.”

There are four kinds of Christians in this world with whom you will come into contact in your ministry. Your cell members, somebody else’s cell members, church friends who refuse to join your cell and other church’s members who show up at your meetings. The last three will not build your cell and make it strong if you shepherd them. When a cell member from another group approaches me with a complaint about their home cell or leader, I do not take ownership of the problem. Assisting a runaway is an offense punishable by law! I promptly see them home and I don’t let them wander off. If the issue can’t be worked it out in the home cell, he or she should visit with the coach or pastor above the cell, not with other cell leaders in the church.


When my church friends want the benefits of a cell life — counseling, ministry and support, to name a few — but are unwilling to join a cell, I don’t give them much of my time either. If they want a deep relationship with me, they should join my cell group! This way, I can minister to them and they can catch the vision for living in community. I don’t come off as “high and mighty,” but I do tell them what they’re missing by resisting the call to cell life. It’s the best place to be in my Book      (Acts 2).


The same thing applies for believers who want to join my cell group and maintain a church membership elsewhere. If they want the benefits of cell life my group offers, they should be giving my church 110% of their energy. This includes attending celebration services, daily involvement in my cell member’s lives, reaching people for Jesus and discipling others. The bottom line is that a person cannot have two spiritual authorities simultaneously. He or she will run back to the first church to evade conflict and will not easily accept a challenge.


“I made community the highest goal of my group.”

This mistake is tough. It seems so right when you’re doing it! When the group fizzles, no one understands why. Cell groups that focus on community, fellowship and intimacy as the ultimate goal rarely see new believers in the group. God gave us community for a reason that transcends the “little corner of heaven” created in cell life. If your cell does not harness the power of basic Christian community to build the kingdom with new believers and new leaders, it will slowly die. The best way to avoid this mistake is to pray for the lost in every cell meeting.


Also, schedule a time to meet and hang out with your member’s lost friends and family. Make a personal goal to help your members get these loved ones saved and into your loving community. If you’re stuck in the community phase of cell life, you must show your members this is what the victorious Christian life is all about! When your cell members catch a fire for reaching the lost, they will finally understand why community is so important and why it was created for us.


“I took shortcuts with equipping, discipleship and accountability”

Pairing up members for accountability or sponsorship is a pain. The members don’t really understand it and resist the self-discipline it demands. You may have even said to yourself, “Our church’s equipping track is comprehensive, but the cell members seem to be doing O.K. without it.”


Has this kind of thinking entered your mind? This mistake will come back to bite you, and it has huge gnarly teeth. One day you’ll think “why is my ministry so strained and going nowhere all at the same time?” Please, learn from the failure of others here! If you don’t pair up your people for accountability, guess who has to hold every member accountable for growth at Denny’s every morning at 6 a.m.? YOU. If you don’t disciple your members through the use of your equipping track, guess who will baby sit a bunch of immature believers through the never-ending cell cycle? You guessed it! YOU. But the results are really more impactual than your personal state of exhaustion.


Jesus modeled discipleship for us as He developed and released his twelve. They left and did all kinds of cool miracles because of His work with them. No equipping books way back then, you say? Yes, you’re right. It was much harder without printed materials. You have it easy in the age of information in which we live!


Get busy pairing people up to work through your equipping track or set your alarm for 4:00 a.m. There are no short cuts in discipleship and if you take them, your alarm clock and a death-warmed-over look in the mirror will remind you every morning.


“My sole focus was the weekly cell meetings.”

If you fail to create a seven-day-a-week relationship with your cell members, your group will not grow because people don’t want another meeting. They want deep friendships where there’s impromptu meals, baseball games, prayer, ministry time and relaxing. Watching TV, surfing the net, or sitting at the kitchen table and watching a pot of coffee disappear will dynamically change cell life. Your members will tell their friends how much fun cell life is — as opposed to a good cell meeting — and your group will flourish.


If your group only sees each other at the weekly meeting and at the Sunday services, you’re not doing it right and it’s not a genuine “cell group.” Take it from me, the guy whose dad wrote the book on it!


If you’re making this mistake, don’t worry; it’s easy to fix. For example, invite someone over for dinner from your cell and tell them to bring over a load of laundry. When you fold laundry together, they’ll know you are interested in true Christian intimacy, not an attendance roster.


What you must do is to reserve time to be with your cell members between meetings. If you don’t have the time to do this, make the time. Let go of things that are non-essential. Your golf game can suffer, your kids may not be in as many after school activities, and your new “open-door policy” at home will make for less private time. Remember: cell life must be a very high priority in your life for it to work. God has called you to it and He wants to use your group to win souls and raise up leaders. It takes a sizeable time investment, but it’s worth it.


“I appointed myself as the Holy Man.

Answering all the Bible questions and maintaining dominant spiritual authority will make you a very lonely person! No one will join you in leadership because they don’t measure up. People won’t get close to you because you can’t just be a friend in a time of need, you have to fix the problem. It’s also stepping on God’s toes. If you’re making this mistake, ask your cell for forgiveness in your next meeting. Tell them you love them and you need help with a pride issue. That’s the root of this problem.


The way to avoid this mistake is to prayerfully ask yourself “How can God be glorified through someone else right now?” He will be faithful to show you how the whole body builds itself up by every supporting ligament. Even baby Christians can minister to others very effectively. The Holy Spirit operates at full strength in all who believe and give it away freely.


“I Operated out of a vocational paradigm.”

If you see cell leadership as a job at the church, you’ll hate the position. Your role is one of a calling. A hired hand quits when the going gets tough. A called man or woman just sees the obstacles as new ways God will reveal His power. See the difference?


The way to avoid or recover from this mistake is to simply read the last mistake below. Drink at the well often, and you will never be thirsty. Prayer is the key here, and this will birth a calling in you, empowering you to do great things for God.


“I had no prayer life.”

The biggest mistake cell leaders make is to cut off the lifeline to God’s power and wisdom. It comes from above and it solves all the problems a leader faces. Jesus modeled a life of prayer for us. As I reflect on His integral part of the Trinity,  I see why Jesus prayed so much while on earth. He was recently separated from His Father and the Holy Spirit and missed His family!


God created us in His image, and our spiritual nature thirsts for community with Him through prayer. If you don’t pray much, don’t expect much power in your ministry! Pray alone, with cell members, family, friends, children, neighbors, co-workers, your boss and total strangers when you feel led by the Spirit to do so. Prayer is powerful and the more you pray, the better your ministry will be!



There are only two kinds of mistakes. Good mistakes are the ones you learn from; bad mistakes are the ones that you repeat or ignore. God has given you a unique opportunity to shake up Satan’s kingdom with the power of community. Your group was designed by God to storm the gates of Hell and set captives free. Don’t be afraid to make changes today in your ministry to see revival in your cell group!  (article end)


(callout boxes: testimonies submitted by cell leaders)


“I didn’t raise up leaders”

When I first led a cell group, I thought I was best equipped to sponsor promising new believers through our equipping track. I felt I knew the Bible better than most of the others in my cell because I had been praying and doing spiritual warfare a lot longer. Each week I met with these new Christians so they would be discipled right.


Instead, they were trained to depend on me, and most felt inadequate to equip others when the need arose.  Also, the people being sponsored missed the most important ingredient of discipleship . . . an ongoing relationship with their sponsor.


I have corrected the problem by making it a personal policy not to equip more than one person at a time. Now I pair new believers with someone who is just a little further along in the equipping track.


With this experience, I have learned the premise of 2 Timothy 2:2; True leadership is raising up leaders to multiply the work.”


—Doug Carr, First Church of God, Sturgis, MI


“I made assumptions about my members”

“The biggest mistake I’ve made in cell leadership was to expect the members of my cell group to be open to sharing their homes. This made me quite frustrated with the lack of community involvement.


It took some time, but I found out that the more relational we became, the faster people would respond to offering their home to the group for weekly meetings.


I’ve learned to wait on the Lord. Now I understand the need to be patient with others as they grow into giving lifestyle.


My leadership style has changed from one that needs to see involvement from others to one that knows involvement is there because the spirit of God has addressed the issue in the time set forth by the Father. Learning this lesson has had a positive effect for me and my wife. Now we think cell life is an adventure and we don’t call it ‘the dreaded cell night’ anymore.”


—Bill Oliver, Family Life Center, Coeur d’ Alene, ID



“I didn’t share the vision to grow and multiply”

“The biggest mistake I’ve made in cell leadership was not sharing the vision week after week and setting a date to multiply. I just let the group grow together and build relationships. Now we’ve grown to 17 members!        


I have no interns at this time and we must schedule a multiplication date. The problem is that everyone is comfortable and no one has taken ownership of the group.


We are correcting the problem by launching a 12 week cycle to multiply and release with new interns we challenged to take the role.


My leadership style has changed from this situation. Now I understand that I must stick to the plan, keep it the uppermost thing in my mind, share the vision constantly and ask for decisions from people step-by-step through the process to create ownership. And I now pray a lot more than I used to.”


—Mike Mckee, The Lighthouse, Wellington, New Zealand


Randall Neighbour is the President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries and the senior editor of CellGroup Journal. He is the author of Are you Fishing With a Net? and Answers to Your Cell Group Questions



Cell Leadership: Billy Hornsby


Your Leadership Point of View: You do have one, don’t you?


If someone were to approach you and ask, “What is your leadership point of view or philosophy of leadership?” Could you answer right away, or would you just stand there with a confused look on your face?


Many cell leaders would be hard pressed to come up with a definitive answer. However, in scripture I see a consistent theme of the Apostle Paul’s philosophy of ministry. He knew what he believed and how he would present his “point of view” in any given situation. He passed that knowledge to Timothy and others. Though he doesn’t spell it out for us, you know that he was confident in what he told his followers.


“Having a point of view is worth 50 I.Q. points,” said Roger Enrico, CEO of Pepsico. Knowing your leadership point of view helps you become a better, more consistent leader, and helps you pass on your leadership skills to others. 


Consider the following acrostic that reveals my personal leadership point of view.



Love what you do and those around you. You may ask, “What does love have to do with leadership?” I tell you, love never fails! How would you like the promise of constant success? Then love what you do and the people with whom you work. Love is kind, patient, seeks not its own, bears all things, believes all things and hopes all things! What is more promising of success than that?


Encourage others to be their best. To encourage is to “inspire with courage, confidence and hope.” The people that follow you are in constant need of encouragement. One of the most important roles that I play in the life of those   I lead is to tell them “you can do it!”    If they cannot, then I find training and instruction to help them become more proficient and useful. You will build lifelong skills into those that you encourage and equip.


Add value to people by affirmation and training. The key element that adds value to our lives is knowing that we belong to Christ. But what if one of your cell members feels inadequate as a family provider or useless in ministry? What can be done to increase this person’s worth to self and to God? First, speak positively to them about the things that they possess that are good. Then give the discipline, instruction and practical experience they need to increase and grow personally. As leaders, we have been given stewardship over “human capital” to make each person more valuable to his/herself and everyone more value to the Kingdom of God through ministry.


Delegate responsibilities to develop skills. Trust those you lead enough to give them the responsibility to do tasks that you normally reserve for yourself. This gives them the practical experience that they will need to lead. When we entrust people with the “important” jobs, we communicate to them that we have confidence in them.


Delegation does not just rid you of necessary tasks, but develops people to learn new skills. You must maintain the responsibility of the task until it is completed. In the meantime, there are always other more important things to do. I have discovered that many of my tasks can be done better by others. Adopt a new motto: “I am, therefore I delegate!”


Exemplify the type of leader you want others to become. You serve as the example of how things should be accomplished with your attitude and standards. Others will follow your example as you serve as their role model. If you do things that you don’t want replicated, change! This keeps the pressure on you — in every area of your leadership — to be the model that you should be.


Respect everyone. Hold every member of your cell and family in the highest esteem. Human tendency is to favor those who agree with us and think less of those who disagree. This is a character flaw. We must honor people on the basis that they belong to God. The “least among us” deserve the utmost respect! When you respect others you will honor them and uphold their position and reputation to others.


Servanthood provides for greatness. Meet the needs of those in your cell group and in your leadership. As each of us works to meet the other’s needs in the local church, we make each person’s job easier and more pleasant. There is no positional or intellectual hierarchy in the Kingdom of God, only lesser or greater degrees of servanthood.


Humble yourself by thinking more highly of others. Bring down your personal status in your own eyes and lift up the importance of other people. This is accomplished when you give up the “perks” associated with positions of higher importance. Come to understand your dependence on others for your success. Let them know that you are a cell leader because they allow you to stand on their “shoulders.”


“I may not have the best idea.” One of the most subtle errors made in self-appraisal is that people think they always know what is best. Not listening to the counsel of the “least” will cost you the most! I have personally discovered over the years that my staff at work always has valuable input that helps me make better decisions. Listen carefully to your cell member’s ideas and respect their experience and insights.


Practice your priorities. No matter what you say, your actions speaks volumes more to the people you serve. Your cell members are waiting to see you live out your words. As a leader, you must “flesh out” what you preach to others or you’ll look like a hypocrite. Build your values by living out your ideals. Then, others will take you seriously when we begin to lead.


Do you have a leadership point of view? Live by it! If you don’t have one, use the one presented here to create your own. This will keep you from wandering through your life as a cell leader without a measure of character.  (end of article)


Billy Hornsby is a church planter today, and was director of Bethany Cell Church Network for a number of years. Today, he heads up the Association of Related Churches, based in Baton Rouge, LA.

Making Him Known – By Karen Hurston


Developing A Heart For Evangelism: Move your cell out of a passive desire to reach the lost.


A cell host in Zurich, Switzerland, invited her neighbor to her cell meeting and two “harvest events” at her church. Soon after, the neighbor discovered she had  cancer. When the cell leader visited that neighbor in her home, the searching woman joyfully gave her life to Jesus.


Emerson de la Cruz, “secretary” of a group in Lima, Peru, excitedly reports three people have become born again through their cell — a fact newly converted Oscar, Ruth and Alan eagerly share with friends and neighbors.


Men in a cell group in Seoul, Korea, invited an agnostic businessman to their meeting. Even though he vowed never to darken the door of a temple or church, their peace and joy drew him to their home meetings. He went faithfully to that cell group for two years before he decided to receive Jesus as his Lord. He now leads a men’s cell group in his area.


Several cell hosts invited friends and neighbors to “harvest events” at Family Worship Center, their church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Five of their targeted friends have become born again through prayer and attending the church sponsored activities to attract the lost.



Whether you live in Zurich, Lima, Seoul, Grand Rapids, or any other city, lost people surround you and your cell group. Every day an estimated 94,000 people die without the Lord, bound for a hopeless eternity without Christ. Of that number, 55,000 have never heard the Gospel. The lost fill your city’s  apartment buildings, shop in your local grocery store, sit near you in your workplace and frequent your family gatherings.  It’s time to move out of passivity!


The older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) was dutiful, and obeyed his father’s every command. But he was also passive: never once did he search for his rebellious younger brother and persuade him to return home. In Hebrews 2:17, Jesus is called our “brother.” He left the glory of heaven to come to earth as a babe in a simple manger, live a sinless life and die on a cross of humiliation for our sins. Jesus is the older brother who understood the heart of His Father, and gave everything to restore us back into relationship with Him. Even now, our older brother Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of our Father, interceding on our behalf.


Which older brother will you and your cell be like? Will you and your group do your “duty” like the older brother in the parable, praising together, discussing the Word together, praying and ministering to one another and remain passive in reaching the lost?


Or will you and your group be like our older brother Jesus, leaving your comfort zone and “member’s only” meetings to pray, reach out and embrace the lost? This should be your goal!



Once you have made the decision to be an active, evangelistic cell, there are three steps you can take to encourage a heart for evangelism:


1. Whenever you want to change the behavior of your cell, begin in the realm of prayer. In each cell meeting, plan at least one occasion of “evangelism prayer.”  For a list of options, see the sidebar in this article.


2. Identify and target specific lost people as a cell. Challenge each person in your group to name at least three lost people in the area. Encourage them to pray daily for their salvation, and spend time developing a caring relationship with one of the people each week. As you model this lifestyle for them and hold them accountable for prayer and new relationships, you will see your group discard their passive lifestyle.


3. Hold periodic “visitor friendly” events in which you will invite lost friends.   Lost people are reticent to attend a Bible study, but will gladly come for food, a game night or Superbowl party. Then it will be much easier to invite and include them in upcoming cell meetings.


Some churches, like the ones in Zurich and Grand Rapids, have “harvest events” in the church facilities where several cell groups invite lost friends. If your church offers these kinds of events, use them to expose unbelievers to your cell group, your church and most importantly, the love of Christ.


Developing a heart for evangelism in yourself and in your members is only birthed through prayer. To increase a passion for the lost, petition the Lord to see the lost souls around you. Then, minister to their felt needs and continue to pray for wisdom as they see Christ in you and your cell. As light casts out darkness, a deeper prayer life and strategic relationships with lost people will cast out passive attitudes about your cell’s call to evangelism.  

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The “empty chair” prayer — Leave one chair empty in each meeting to represent one or more lost friends. Ask your cell members to gather around the chair and pray for the salvation of the lost people in their oikos.


Prayer partners — Pair up cell members who will pray daily for each other’s lost friends. These partners can hold each other accountable.


Concert prayer for the lostIntroduce a new kind of prayer to your group! At your next meeting, ask them to stand and pray aloud simultaneously for the salvation of specific lost friends. It can be noisy, but it’s a powerful “rumble” of prayer that puts Satan on notice!


Prayer walking — Walk in pairs through a targeted community, praying for salvation to come to each home or apartment you walk past. This is a great way to prepare a new host home for your cell meetings.


Create a “Blessing List” or “Most Wanted” Poster  Use a pre-printed poster or a piece of butcher paper and write the names of lost people on it. Post it on the wall and pray for these people each week, making plans to connect them to the members between meetings.


Karen Hurston is an international consultant to cell churches based in Gulf Breeze, FL. In future columns, Karen will focus on specific principles, practices and workable strategies to help you and your cell be more like the evangelistic older Brother we serve. Click here to go to Karen’s Website.


Just For Pastors - by David Brandon


Living Out A Well-known Command: Making disciples gave us an unusual opportunity to serve the Bride.


I pastor a cell church in Newmarket, a bedroom community just north of Toronto. Our groups are growing and multiplying through conversion growth and internal leadership development. We are supporting a church plant in a neighboring town, and we have a working system to develop our new believers and members into strong leaders.


The journey into equipping every member for the work of ministry wasn’t easy though. Designing a discipleship track forced us to re-examine our overall mission and vision to move forward.


After years of tweaking, we arrived at our current mission statement: “The mission of Newmarket Alliance Church is to love God supremely and to demonstrate that love by making disciples of Jesus Christ from our surrounding communities, province, country and world.” Once we defined our mission statement, it required us to define the word disciple. 


That initiated confession. We had to accept that we did not know, let alone have a process in place whereby we actually made a disciple! We did not have a recruitment process in place (evangelism). When we received new Christians, we did not have a curriculum that satisfied a rather well-known command that says, “make disciples.” Over and above this, our hard wrought definition told us that “making disciples” involved far more than just recruiting them!


Implementation Bottlenecks

Once again, our leadership team prayerfully formed a seven step strategy that satisfied our desire to make disciples. But this made fulfilling our mission more difficult.


It’s one thing to develop a detailed strategy. It’s another thing to implement seven different things into a fast paced, entrepreneurial bedroom community of Canada’s most thriving city.


For example, one of our steps was to develop seven eight-hour weekend seminars that worked together to make true disciples. This looked good on paper but created problems. Our members attend a weekly cell meeting. Some G12 members attend two, and they faithfully attend the corporate worship service. This alone challenged seminar attendance not to mention the other six steps in our strategy. 


To solve this, we revisited our philosophy of ministry. Years ago, we wrote these two statements: “All activities of Newmarket Alliance Church exist to serve the needs of individual cells” and “In Newmarket Alliance Church, the real church is the cell.” In other words, nothing can compete with cells. Our seven seminars had to supplement cell life and not hinder it.


Avoid Draining Your People

After intensive study in Christian Schwarz’s Natural Church Development, we discovered that what we had developed thus far fulfilled his six biotic principals to a tee. For example, one biotic principle is that whatever you create in a living organism (like a church) is interdependent on all that already exists. Adding seven seminars to your cell-based church schedule can either break it, because it drains energy from what already exists, or it can nourish it and achieve growth. In practical terms, people will not attend because they cannot fit seminars into their schedule and so a very vital part of their maturation process is voided.


But this wasn’t the only obstacle we faced. We decided we needed to repeat these seminars three times a year to keep up the pace of equipping new converts. Again, interdependence means that your teachers have to be chosen carefully. In our case, they are some of our best cell leaders. They do not have time to be involved in twenty-four additional weekly meetings a year.


Another practical issue is the whole issue of attendance.  As any Sunday school teacher knows, adult attendance is not consistent and many lessons are missed. So how do you create a seminar system that facilitates the need for your maturing and time challenged disciples to hear the “whole gospel?”


Helping Others Beyond Us

As I stated before, our mission statement says that we want to “make disciples from our surrounding communities, province, country and world.” We are presently carrying the cost of our denomination’s financial subsidy for a cell-based church plant in an adjacent community. Over and above this support, Jim Pesce and I work very closely in our sphere of influence with several cell-based activities that help those   striving to plant or transition cell-based churches.


Jim’s church — like all true evangelistic cell church plants — has financial, facility and mature personnel challenges. The good news is the evangelistic endeavors of his cell-based plant are reaping a steady flow of conversion growth. Through the lenses of our mission statement, we saw that “making disciples” in our province meant more than just giving financial resources to his ministry. We needed to help them with other provisions they do not have at this time.


Multi-Church Discipleship

Each of our seminars is judged on the criterion of “making disciples.” Does it contribute to teaching the developing disciple about Christ or does it equip them to serve Christ? Below is a brief outline of what we are doing and how we accomplished the launch of seven weekend seminars, held three times a year without losing momentum.


We scheduled three strategically placed weekends a year and placed them on the calendar two years in advance. We run all seven seminars each weekend. In any given weekend you can choose from one of the seven and in a year you can attend three seminars. We ensure that the seminars are balanced with other weekend activities and are adequately spaced throughout the year. We do not plan any large events in December, March or the three months over the summer (we have to accept the effects of long Canadian winters and our member’s desire to be outside while it is warm). We use Friday nights and all day Saturday for these seminars which does not conflict with any of our cells’ schedules. By structuring the seminar week-ends this way, we supplement the cell and do not drain or compete with them.


Honoring Teachers & Students

This strategy honors our teachers in many ways. First, they can complete their ministry over three weekends instead of twenty-four sessions; The student is available for the full course and is very attentive because they have committed a valuable weekend. The teacher (who attends a cell as well) does not have to spend another evening out.


Initially, our weekends only included our cell church plant. Several courses were team-taught by lay people from both churches. We provided first class manuals, great meetings rooms and quality food for those in the cell church plant, which was a treat for them.


But that was just the beginning! In time, surrounding churches heard about our weekend seminars and retreats and wanted information. Our solution was to say “come and experience it!”


This has resulted in church leaders and church groups coming from as far away as 600 miles to observe. In some cases, nearby developing cell churches have used our seminars as their own to facilitate their people. A third church in our area has sent their cell interns to our training course for two semesters. This fall, they taught this course in-house.


If your church is struggling with discipleship, revisit your mission and clarify it. Design a comprehensive plan that supports — without competing with — your cell groups. If you can structure weekend seminars and invite other churches around you when you are confident, your church will enjoy a broad fulfillment of the great commandment to “make disciples!” (article end)



Newmarket’s Discipleship Seminars

1. Spiritual Formation — Over-viewing the basics of the faith.

2. John 3:16 — Learning how to  share your faith with a “man of peace.”

3. Spiritual Victory I — Victory over Darkness by Freedom Ministries.

4. Spiritual Victory II — Bondage Breaker by Freedom Ministries.

5. Spiritual Warfare I —Prayerwalking and intercession.

6. Spiritual Warfare II — A launch weekend for a two year training to

minister deliverance and inner healing.

7. Mentor/Protégé — Learning to mentor another believer.


Dave Brandon is the senior pastor of Newmarket Alliance, a cell-based church just north of Toronto, Canada.


Nucleus – By Larry Kreider


Staying Fresh Spiritually: Remember that simple faith you had as a new believer?


Recently, I was standing at a self-serve salad bar staring at brown-edged, limp lettuce. Although presented in a lovely crystal bowl on ice, last week’s lettuce could not be camouflaged. It was a disappointing sight. You know, it’s just as hard to fake a leftover relationship with the Lord!


In order to live in basic Christian community, we must stay at the feet of Jesus and constantly be filled. Healthy cells are led by spiritually healthy believers who have a fresh, appealing relationship with Jesus Christ.


D. L. Moody, a well known evangelist from a century ago, once said that he needs to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit because he leaks. We all leak! New wineskins (cell groups) need to be filled with believers who are brimming with the new wine of His Spirit every day, giving us a fresh passion for Jesus. Only then can we really stay fresh spiritually to fulfill the call of God on our lives, cell groups, church and generation.


So what is a fresh relationship with Jesus? The Bible tells us in Rev. 2:2-5: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. . . .”


These believers were doing many things right. They worked hard, were patient, hated sin and used the Word of God to test man’s faithfulness. On the surface, they appeared to be model cell leaders. Yet the Lord held one thing against them. They no longer loved Him as they had when they first came to know Him. They had lost their freshness.


Years ago, a team of Chinese pastors visited the United States. After attending many influential churches, they were asked to communicate what they observed. They simply responded, “It is amazing what the American church can do without God!”


The Lord gives us three simple instructions for returning to our first love for Him: 1) Remember the height from which you have fallen; 2) Repent; 3) Do the things you did at first.


Unless we know how far we have fallen in our love relationship with Jesus, we will not see our need to change. The Lord requires honesty and vulnerability.    


Remember what it was like to be a new Christian? We prayed simple prayers of faith and loved reading the Word. We knew we could do nothing without Him. When we prayed to receive Christ and be filled with His Spirit, we took Him at His word. The Lord honored our simple faith and He yearns for us to return to it!


This week, my wife LaVerne and I celebrate twenty-eight years of marriage. In order to keep our marriage fresh, we’ve discovered that we must continue to do the things we did when we first fell in love. We’ll take the next few days away from phones and the busyness of life to just spend time together. Good marriages do not just happen. It takes quality time together to build and continue to have an intimate relationship. To build intimacy with Jesus, we must spend time alone with Him.


How about you? Do you love Jesus as much as you did when you first came to know Him? Do you feel your relationship with the Lord is fresh, or do you focus on leftover spiritual experiences that are now brown-edged and limp?


Rekindle your intimacy with God today and every day. He is patiently waiting to spend time with you the way it was in the early days of your new life in Christ. Don’t forsake your first love!  (end of article)


Larry Kreider is director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a world-wide network of cell churches. Larry travels extensively to work with cell church plants and has recently pioneered cell-based microchurches (a new breed of house church.)


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