The First Cell-Based Assembly

Church Leadership


by Joel Comiskey

A well-known, highly applicable Old Testament story is Jethro’s counsel to Moses. Rob Campbell wrote about this in a recent, challenging blog entitled “God’s Gift: A Team,” in which he highlighted how Moses learned about his need for team ministry. Many cell churches, in fact, base their entire coaching structure on Jethro’s advice to Moses. Jethro starts out by clarifying the why: “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18). Jethro then suggests the how, ” select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. (Exodus 18:21-23).

Jethro gave Moses the freedom to concentrate on those who would care for the rest of the people. The leaders of groups of 10 would provide intimate care, counsel, and teaching. Those over 50s would “coach” the leaders of groups of ten, and so forth. Each leader was cared for and Moses could just concentrate on the higher level issues. By following Jethro’s advice, Moses could care for 2.5 million Israelites. I like to say that this was the first cell-based assembly of God’s people.

Many churches today use the Jethro model as their primary organizational structure. The Yoido Full Gospel Church, for example, became the largest church in the history of Christianity using the Jethro Model. The 25,000 groups of ten cared for the 250,000 attendees, but there are many coaches of 50s, 100s, and 1000s. David Cho jokes of playing “indoor golf” in his office because he doesn’t have much to do! Mario Vega can care for the 100,000 people in his church through the 10,000 cell groups.

But what if your church has 50, 75, or 100 (like most of the world’s churches). The critical issue, pastor, is to give more and more power and responsibility to your cell leaders and eventually your coaches. Envision yourself becoming a “rancher,” (caring for the leaders who are pastoring the sheep), rather than doing it all personally. Jethro’s advice is as relevant today as it was back then.