ON EQUIPPING TRACKS
Cell Net, March 2000
I was deeply
disappointed when we decided to change our equipping track at the Republic
Church. “Why are we changing now when we haven’t given our new training
track a chance to succeed?” I thought to myself. “ I had labored long and
hard to help transform our traditional Bible Academy into a cell equipping
track that resembled the one created by
Ralph Neighbour. We trained key leaders to become sponsors (mentors), prepared
a plan to lead a new convert to cell leadership, and even tested our training
in a retreat setting. Suddenly we were changing midstream. Those were
agonizing months for me, as I watched my “creation” torn apart.
What caused the
change? A trip by our pastoral team to the International Charismatic Mission
in Bogota, Colombia. After returning my senior pastor, Porfirio Ludeña,
announced a new training track that would conform to that of ICM.
Now, I have the
perspective of hindsight. The pain of those earlier months are gone. I can say
with confidence that my pastor was right-on to make the change. We haven’t
slavishly followed ICM’s training model, but rather we’ve adjusted it to
our particular needs. We have a new flexibility in our training model that is
right for us, as well as being more culturally relevant.
Before I get into
the specifics of our actual training track, I will list the principles &
patterns from the best cell church training tracks that I’ve observed around
the world. Afterwards, I’ll explain and the critique our own training track
at the Republic Church in light of the following principles.
PRINCIPLES FROM CELL CHURCH EQUIPPING TRACKS
Don’t over complicate your cell leadership-training
track. I like to recommend only
using four manuals or having only four steps. Most cell church equipping
tracks prepare their leaders in the following four areas:
þ Basic doctrine
þ Inner-life Development
þ Personal evangelism
þ Leadership training
The first area or step is basic
Bible doctrine. I think it’s
important to include basic teaching about God, sin, the person of Jesus
Christ, salvation, the Holy Spirit, and the church. Yet, each church must
decide if “basic doctrine”
step (embodied in a manual) includes six, nine, or fourteen lessons.
The number of lessons in the first manual will depend on how much Bible
doctrine your church deems is necessary for the new believer.
The second area, Inner-life
development, focuses on the devotional life. The goal is to help the new
believers feed themselves. The goal of this step is summed up in the saying,
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you
feed him for a lifetime.” The first step provides an understanding of basic
Bible teaching while the second step helps the new believer nourish himself
from God’s Word. The teaching of this stage should also deal with confession
of sin, forgiveness, and steps to freedom from past satanic bondages.
Christ wants to heal every sin and scar of the past, and the manual for
this step should cover these issues. New believers should learn that they have
direct access to the throne of God because of the blood of Jesus.
The third area, Personal
Evangelism, teaches the person how to share his or her faith (e.g., four
spiritual laws, Romans Road, E.E. outline, etc.). Each believer needs to learn
how to lead someone else to Jesus Christ. This stage teaches the plan of
salvation in a systematic, step-by-step process. Beyond learning the content
of the gospel presentation, the person must also learn how to develop
friendships with non-Christians (i.e., reaching their close contacts-oikos).
The effectiveness of small group evangelism is also highlighted and teaching
is given on how the cell functions like a team to evangelize non-Christians as
well as providing the ideal atmosphere for non-believers.
The final area covers how to lead a cell group. The manual for this stage
should cover the basics of cell ministry, small group dynamics (e.g., how to
listen well, transparent sharing, etc.), how to lead a cell group, and
characteristics of godly leaders. I like to teach this manual in a home
setting to provide a small group feeling as well as to give the group
opportunity to practice small group dynamics.
This manual should include teaching about the ideal order of a cell
meeting (Welcome time, Worship time, Word time, and Works time).
Make sure that your training is practical, and that you have an action
step for each step of your training. I’ve included four basic action steps
that could be included in a four-step equipping track It’s important to
action step for each part of the training. I’ve included four basic action
steps that could be included in a four-step equipping track.
þ First step: Basic doctrine
Include the action step of baptism in water
Second Step: Inner Development
action step of having a regular devotional life
action step of witnessing and
inviting a non-Christian to the cell group
action step of leading a cell group
Beyond the action steps connected with each step of the equipping track, all
those taking training must be actively involved in a cell group. By actively,
I mean leading various activity in the cell group. If you use the four Ws (Welcome,
Worship, Word, Works), the trainee must lead each W, under the direction of
the cell leader. One month, for example, the trainee could lead the Welcome
time, another month the Worship time, etc.
Many cell churches fall into the trap of over-complicating the
first-level of training. They try to place too many steps of training in the
first level and potential cell leaders never arrive at the point of actually
leading a cell group.
My advice is to divide your training into at least
two levels. The first level should include the four basic areas or steps (each
area is normally embodied in a manual). It’s
important that the first level is not too complicated and allows to prepare
cell leaders rapidly. The second level provides additional training for cell
leaders (note: second level training is only for those leading a cell group).
In the second level, you could add additional
doctrinal courses, a spiritual warfare course, teaching on spiritual gifts,
etc. There is a lot of room for creativity and many excellent courses and
materials. One cell church decided to use their denomination’s Theological
Education by Extension training for this second level. Cell leaders deserve
special treatment because of their important, foundational role in the church.
My advice is to treat them like kings and queens. Offer them all the help and
training that they need in order to be effective.
The Little Falls Christian Centre in
South Africa has developed an exemplary equipping system. Their first
level is clear, concise, and trains new believers rapidly to enter cell
leadership. In 1999, 970 passed
through this first level and were able to eliminate the cell leader shortage
in their church. LFCC also has a second level of training for those who are
leading a cell group. The second level provides added Biblical and spiritual
nourishment for those most needing it—the front-line soldiers.
Some cell churches even offer a third and fourth
level of training, all the way to pastoral ministry. Faith Community Baptist
Church features an extensive higher level training program to prepare higher
level leaders (i.e., zone pastors). Bethany
World Prayer Center hosts a three-year Bible School on their own property.
Neither church requires higher education for all cell leadership--it’s
simply provided for those feel called to full-time ministry (and who have been
successful in leading and multiplying their cell group).
While there should be flexibility in the training
methodology (next principle), it’s important to have only one training
track. After deciding on a church-wide training track (ideally both first and
second levels, although the first level will probably come first), a church
should require that all future leaders pass through the same training. This
will assure that:
All future cell leaders are Biblically and
All are prepared to evangelize and lead a cell
All are on in-line with the leadership of the
All understand the church’s vision.
guarantee long-term success, you want to make sure every future leader has
passed through the same process and has received the same training.
Some believe that the only way to train new
believers is one-on-one. Others disagree and train new believers in a group
setting. During one seminar, I mentioned that our church most commonly trains
new believers in a group setting. One wagged his head in disbelief and said,
“But isn’t one-on-one discipleship in the cell group, the only true
way to equip new believers.” I reminded him that even Jesus didn’t use the
one-on-one discipleship format. He trained
the twelve in a group.
Don’t confuse the training methodology (where or how you train
people) with the training track. (e.g., retreat, one-on-one, classroom, etc.).
From my study of the fastest growing cell churches around the world, I’ve
noticed a great variety of methodologies for implementing the training
model (e.g., one-on-one
discipleship, one-on-two or three, training after the cell group, seminars,
classes, retreats, or a combination of all of them).
I believe that the best place to care for new converts is in the
cell. All cell churches expect new believers and new members to immediately
join a cell. However, not all cell churches begin their training
process within the cell (e.g., using the one-on-one method). Some ask the cell
members to receive training in a group setting, retreat, etc.
When a church concludes that every cell member is a
potential cell leader, the logical step is to train each person to eventually
lead a cell group. Ideally, each new believer in the church should immediately
start attending a cell group and begin the equipping track. In reality,
it often takes more time. However, the more that a church closes the gap
between idealism and realism, the more effective it will be.
We don’t pressure those who refuse to enter our training to become a
cell leader, but we’re constantly promoting it (both at the cell level and
at the celebration level). Those who desire to follow the vision of the church
enter the training to become cell leaders.
You should be fine-tuning your equipping system continually.
At our church, we’ve been in a continual search for the best system
to meet our needs.
THE REPUBLIC CHURCH EQUIPPING TRACK
At the Republic Church we use four manuals to train new believers to
eventually lead a cell group. These manuals are:
Fundamentals of the Faith (Verdades Básicas)
Panorama (Panorama de la Biblia)
Evangelism (Evangelismo Celular)
Leadership in the Cell Church (Liderazgo en la
A new believer is immediately folded into a cell group and then
encouraged to begin the manual called “Fundamentals of the Faith.” The
goal is for this same person to go through the entire training track in order
to become a cell leader.
There is liberty to use our equipping track in a “one on one setting”
or in a group setting (e.g., classroom, after a cell group, etc.). Those who
teach our training track in a group setting are cell leaders who have the gift
How do we measure up with the above principles at the Republic Church? I
see both strengths and weaknesses.
Our training track is clear and doable (four
Our cell training is intimately connected with
the cell church (e.g., our first manual talks about our cell church vision,
We have included “action steps” for each
We have only one equipping track
There is flexibility in how we teach our
Each network of cells has the liberty to teach
the ONE equipping track in a VARIETY of ways
I’ve personally taught our equipping track in
a one-on-one setting with a new believers.
Several key cell leaders in my network of cells
(with the gift of teaching) have taught one of our manuals after their
Instead of “adult Sunday School” we teach
our equipping track on Sunday morning. Therefore, I might ask several in my
cell members in my network to take the equipping track on Sunday morning
(which is often more convenient for them)
We also offer our equipping track during the
week (for example, the women of our church offer our equipping track on
had to acknowledge the fact that Latin Americans are more group oriented and
they often like to learn in a group setting rather than one-on-one (yet, we
don’t exclude teaching our equipping track in a one-on-one setting).
We ask everyone in the church to enter our
training track to eventually become a cell leader
We don’t have a manual dedicated to the
devotional life and dealing with past bondages. Our second manual provides
more Bible training. As we adjust and improve our equipping track in the
future, I’d suggest combining our first two manuals and then adding a manual
on “inner development.”
We do not use Encounter Retreats at this time
as part of the initial training for new believers (following the pattern of
ICM in Bogota). We’ve fully intended to do this, but thus far, we haven’t
made it a reality. This is one of our future goals. Personally, I believe that
Encounter Retreats are the “wave of the future” and the most effective
equipping tracks use them.
We have not yet implemented our second level of
training for cell leaders. Right now everything is “on paper” but we’re
not practicing it. This is an area in which we need to “start practicing
what we’re preaching.”
Don’t follow training models! Rather extract the principles from the training models and apply them to your situation. Rather than telling you to follow the Republic Church equipping track, I’d encourage you to follow the principles from the best equipping tracks around the world. Afterwards, prepare your own model. At Quito 2000, for example, we will be selling Spanish material from three equipping tracks:
þ The Republic Church
þ Little Falls Christian Centre in South Africa
þ Touch Equipping Track (Ralph Neighbour’s equipping track).
We’ve come along way at the Republic Church, but we haven’t arrived. We still have a lot of adjusting and improving to do. We’re still learning from the best cell church models around the world. I would encourage you to do the same.