On Equipping Tracks



By Joel Comiskey

Word Count: 2500

 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.   



     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  

þ     Second Step: Inner Development  

Include the action step of having a regular devotional life  

þ     Personal evangelism  

Include the action step of  witnessing and inviting a non-Christian to the cell group  

þ     Leadership training  

Include the 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 spiritually trained

¨      All are prepared to evangelize and lead a cell

¨      All are on in-line with the leadership of the church

¨      All understand the church’s vision.

 To 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.


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)

¨      Bible Panorama (Panorama de la Biblia)

¨      Cell Evangelism  (Evangelismo Celular)

¨      Leadership in the Cell Church (Liderazgo en la Iglesia Celular)

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 of teaching.

How do we measure up with the above principles at the Republic Church? I see both strengths and weaknesses.


þ     Our training track is clear and doable (four steps)

þ     Our cell training is intimately connected with the cell church (e.g., our first manual talks about our cell church vision, etc.)

þ     We have included “action steps” for each manual

þ     We have only one equipping track

þ     There is flexibility in how we teach our equipping track

a.       Each network of cells has the liberty to teach the ONE equipping track in a VARIETY of ways

                                                               i.      I’ve personally taught our equipping track in a one-on-one setting with a new believers.

                                                             ii.      Several key cell leaders in my network of cells  (with the gift of teaching) have taught one of our manuals after their cell meeting.

                                                            iii.      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)

                                                           iv.      We also offer our equipping track during the week (for example, the women of our church offer our equipping track on Wednesday).

b.       I’ve 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).

þ     We ask everyone in the church to enter our training track to eventually  become a cell leader


þ     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.”

þ     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.

þ     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.