Your ideas about cell group churches killed my church. Actually, upon reading and learning about cell group churches, I killed my church. "Euthanasia" would be a better term. It was already dead; I just pulled the plug on the life-support machine.
In 1988, as a seminary student intern I inherited a freshly planted church that was really nothing more than a handful of undiscipled believers gathered together around the P.B.D. model. We have limped along since then, going nowhere, never really growing beyond about 35 people and seeing many people fall away without ever being made into responsible disciples.
I was ready to call it quits about two months ago, deeply
discouraged. But after much prayer and after reading some of your material, I am convinced
that the Lord wants us to try again. We want to let God resurrect a completely new church,
with a new name and a new vision, based only on cell groups.
Our denominational leaders are behind us in this 100%. Keep at what you are doing, God is speaking to people through these ideas.
-A Free Methodist Pastor
I recently received Cell Church Magazine and ordered the
recommended books. I finished reading The Seven Last Words Of The Church by Ralph
Neighbour last night and couldn't sleep. I was up at 4:00 a.m. reading Where Do We Go From
here? You have touched a deep nerve in me, deep enough to lead me to write you. I am
unclear why I am writing. Perhaps only to share my response under the conviction of your
I am in the third year pastoring a very stable church, which I came to hoping to renew. Many people have responded to the gospel, which they haven't heard in a generation. However, last Sunday at the Annual Meeting I tendered my resignation under duress. The old guard had circulated a petition for my dismissal. I have the remainder of 1992 to find another position...My prayers are with you and your ministry.
-A United Church of Christ Pastor
A cell Church is built on the fact that all Christians are ministers, and that there is no "professional clergy" hired to do the work of ministry. According to Ephesians 4, God has provided "Gifted Men" to equip "Believers Who Are Gifted to do the work of ministry. Such a church is not built around the assembly of all its members but the clustering of believers to become "Basic Christian Communities" which do the work of ministry from Cell Groups that meet in homes. These Cells then cluster for area Congregation activities, and assemble regionally for "Celebration" times. The life of the church is in its cells, not in a building. While it has weekly worship events, the focus of the church is in the cells. A detailed explanation is provided in the fast-selling book, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?", available from Touch Outreach Ministries.
During these first stages of the Second Reformation, it is good to think about the dynamics of change which accompanied the First Reformation. Martin Luther severely challenged the status quo. All the power of the establishment was thrown against him. He was attacked by the most powerful men in the traditional church. When he refused to bend, an attack on his life was planned.
Does this not remind you of Paul's experiences? Was he not also attacked by the Judaizers, who even sought to kill him? Luther followed in his footsteps from those who had previously been his associated.
I have just spent a few days with a well-known pastor who directs one of the outstanding cell group church movements in the world today. He has been under attack by churchmen who are so determined to destroy his cell group movement that they have actually reported to a hostile government that he has formed a "cult" and should be imprisoned. As I sought to minister to him, my heart went out to all the cell group pastors who are facing animosity from the "Establishment" as a response to the awesome harvest of the unconverted. Dion Robert has faced it in Africa. The Ichthus Fellowship in London was called a "near-cult" by an attorney who knew nothing about its ministry, but was certain that its significant growth made it suspect. In Singapore, we have faced the same thing. Paul Yonggi Cho was expelled by the Assemblies of God in Korea for supposedly "preaching heresy." It is sad, but true-those who see the hand of God move in a powerful way as cell groups spread across an area may well expect criticism and persecution-not from the Devil's crowd, but from the "turf protectors" with the traditional church. It goes with the territory.
The response of Cell Group workers must be loving and meek to such attacks. We must never, ever forget that the traditional church gave us our life in Christ, and that it is a part of the work of the Spirit on the earth. The fact that God is moving to effect change in the ecclesiology of today's church should not be a reason for men of God to reject, criticize, and even persecute fellow Christians. As I pray over this issue, the Father prompts me to believe that, like Saul of Tarsus, those who persecute the work of God are simultaneously being impacted by what they viciously attack. Remember, when its your turn, that God told Israel, "The battle is mine, not yours. I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU!" Waste no calories defending your new ministry, nor trying to defend yourself, "Remember Joseph."
As I write these sentences the Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore has set a goal of 2,500 conversions for 1992. The Cell Group church is the most powerful tool available for today's harvest. May God anoint you for your portion of it!
CELL CHURCH MAGAZINE: Many years ago, you both left the States to serve as missionaries in Southeast Asia. What insights into cell group church life did this give to you?
BECKHAM; During fifteen years in Thailand I came to see small cell groups as an essential part of the very nature of the church. My experience in urban church planting taught me that the traditional approach of being the church through a Sunday based program is only half of the church structure, and alone has no hope of harvesting the billions presently being born
NEIGHBOUR: My time in Singapore showed me what could happen when Christians are 'flat out' for God. Most of those we used to form 'house churches" in the mid-1970's were first generation Christians who faced serious persecution from their families. The cell was, for them, the first authentic "spiritual family" they ever experienced. Rather than participating in "programs," they formed true bodies of Christ.
CELL CHURCH MAGAZINE; Both of you have returned to the States since you served overseas. What have been the contrasts in your ministries here as compared with Singapore and Thailand? BECKHAM; During 12 years as a pastor in the States and 15 years as a missionary overseas I enjoyed the support of a denomination. After returning to the States in 1989 all of my support "safety nets" which included my position, salary, retirement, health benefits, and network of relationships were taken away. My new ministry which began as a "tentmaker" has demanded a degree of faith and dependence on God that I never experienced before.
NEIGHBOUR; I came back after only 3 1/2 years in Singapore. For me, the contrast was in the culture of the U.S. The "skin-deep" Christianity I faced when re-launching "The People Who Care" in 1977 was tough to face. Many came to public services to "take," without any intention of "ministering." However, in a couple of years we found core groups that were superb in their commitments.
CELL CHURCH MAGAZINE: Many pastors are interested in making the "switch" from a traditional church lifestyle to the cell group church. What suggestions would you have for them?
BECKHAM: For the first thing, check your theology. Do you believe the church living in basic Christian community in small groups is the nature of the N.T. Church? Secondly, check your picture of the church. What part of your picture of the church you now pastor is historical and what part is biblical? Can you turn loose of the historical elements that do not reflect the biblical? Thirdly, check your motives. Are you interested in cells as another program to "jump start" your church? Or, do you see cells as the basic expression of the nature of God Himself? Fourthly, check your commitment level. Are you willing to see the transition through to the end no matter what the personal cost? Fifthly, check your support. Is there a remnant of creative and committed persons who will follow you? Sixthly, check your options. Will you begin a mission cell group church, develop a remnant cell group church within your traditional church, or try to transition your entire membership before beginning?
NEIGHBOUR: First of all, don't try to pour new wine in old wineskins unless you have the profound respect of every last church member. It's easier to start from "scratch." Second, change your preaching style as rapidly as you can. Each message must build a Biblical basis for the ministry of the cell group members. They are facing death, alcoholism, divorces, and a score of other crisis events in the lives of unbelievers. They need to be equipped by the sermons. Don't use your pulpit for your pet ideas, but to provide material to be discussed in the cell groups which meet the week following.
CELL CHURCH MAGAZINE:Is it realistic to believe that the amazing
spread of the Cell Group Church life overseas will be able to get a foothold in the United
States? Many are cynical of it ever fitting into this culture.
BECKHAM: "Cells won't work in America" is a "cultural cop-out" that is ridiculous for biblical, historical and social reasons. As recorded in the Bible a small group movement turned every culture it touched "upside down". Small group movements in history have periodically renewed the vitality of the church. And today all kinds of small groups are popular in America: therapy groups of all kinds, Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons exercise workouts, street gangs, new age seminars, and the popular TV series, "Cheers". Not only do Americans become part of groups but they even pay money in many cases to join them. It is not the resistance of the lost to small groups but the resistance of the institutional Church to change that hinders the growth of this movement in America.
NEIGHBOUR: Twenty years ago, I was frequently told, "You're 20 years ahead of your time." I never believed that was true. I feel that in the last 20 years two things have changed in America. First, we now have a majority of disillusioned, ex-churched Americans who have rejected traditional religious forms. This group is growing with every passing year. Second, for the first time in 1991, our TOUCH office began to hear from scores of disillusioned church leaders who are saying, "I can't stand this old system any longer. Where do I go from here?"
CELL CHURCH MAGAZINE: Do you endorse a Senior Pastor assigning the formation of cell groups to a staff member?
BECKHAM: In a Cell Group Church all of the tasks of the church (evangelism, discipleship, training, ministry, and education) find their unifying point in small group cell life. This simplifies the operation of a church to the point that a senior pastor can not only lead out in the formation of cell groups but can actively participate in cell life. Paul was never so busy that he could not be involved in the basic task of the church, and I don't believe he would endorse absentee leadership from a senior pastor today.
NEIGHBOUR: That's a "P.B.D.." attitude, if I ever saw one! Emphatically, NO! In the "P.B.D." church staff members have vertical assignments: one directs the Sunday School, another specializes in the choirs, another the youth, etc. The Senior Pastor specializes in sermonizing and steering the ship. When Dale Galloway shifted to a cell group format, he reassigned all the staffers to work with cell groups, and he did the same for the launching years.
CELL CHURCH MAGAZINE: But what about children in a Cell Group Church? Won't they suffer?
BECKHAM: The Cell Group Church has the structure to nurture children in a total Christian learning experience, not just in facts and knowledge as in the typical P.B.D. Sunday School. Through weekly Bible Study children learn cognitively. Within the weekly cell meeting (often held in their home) the child experiences affective learning as special relationships with Christian adults are established. At home the child is nurtured by parents in psychomotor learning skills as values are applied in daily living.
NEIGHBOUR: Not if they are seen as the most important group in the Body! I've got chapters about this in both the SHEPHERD'S GUIDEBOOK AND WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? At this very moment, we are working very hard on the development of a curriculum for children in Cell Groups. The first item will be a follow-up booklet, and we are also preparing COVER THE BIBLE for children. They must be loved and affirmed in their faith.
CELL CHURCH MAGAZINE: Bill, you are about to release a book about how to launch a Cell Group Church. Why do you feel this book is needed?
BECKHAM: Since returning to the States in 1989 I have talked to
scores of pastors and church leaders. Invariably three reoccurring themes surface in these
encounters. One: "The traditional church is not hitting on all cylinders." Two:
"Cells must have something to do with restoring the power of the church." Three:
"how do I do it?" These encounters have convinced me that some practical answers
are needed at this initial stage of the cell church movement.
NEIGHBOUR: Since 1974, I have known that one of Bill's greatest gifts to the Kingdom was his ability to analyze and organize. He thinks more deeply than I am able to. I feel his new book will be devoured as a classic textbook on Cell Group Church planting for a generation.
CELL CHURCH MAGAZINE: What are each of you going to be doing
during the coming year?
BECKHAM; During 1992 I will continue to work with Shepherd Community in Houston. This second year should see Shepherd Community go through two multiplying cycles, establish a leadership ministry team, contact and cultivate unbelievers through target and cultivation groups, and train shepherds and shepherd interns for each multiplying cycle. Our goal is to proceed toward a strong congregational base of 20-25 cells (at least by the end of 1993). This congregational base will serve as the launching pad for exponential multiplication of cells and congregations. I will also be leading as many Cell Church Seminars as time will permit.
NEIGHBOUR: I'm deliberately living in Singapore to share in the formation of the "upper levels" of a Cell Group Church. At this time, I'm writing new materials as fast as I can type. We have close to 100 pastors on our staff at Faith Community Baptist Church, 9 Zones, and dozens of cell groups multiplying. Everything I write this year will be crucial to American leaders in three to five years, when they begin to build staff to expand their cells into the dozens. We saw 1,248 conversions in our fourth year of existence I can hardly wait until such harvests take place in America!
By Spencer Rogers, Pastor of New Life Fellowship Church, Willingboro, New Jersey. A strange but wonderful thing happened to me in 1982. I was walking down the hallway of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, which we had recently joined. Sid Hopkins, the Associate Pastor of Administration, came up to me and said, "Spencer, you and your wife Maria need to take Home Cell training." I was so excited about my new church that I agreed to take the training-even though I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how the church was going to sell homes. When my wife and I entered the classroom where the training was to take place, we were excited to discover that Dr. Charles Stanley, our senior pastor, world be leading the training. As he began an overview of the training, I was quite embarrassed to learn that the Home Cell Ministry had nothing at all to do with the selling of homes. Instead, it involved the establishing of small cell groups in homes. Their purpose was for Christians to minister to each other's needs, and to reach out evangelistically into neighborhoods.
I thought that I would die when the pastor stated that the
purpose of our training was for us to start a Cell Group in our neighborhood. My first
thought was that we couldn't do it. We had just moved to Atlanta from New Jersey, and we
didn't know anyone. Just as I had navigated my inner thoughts to a comfortable position,
the pastor said, "You may not be able to start a cell group now, but pray and ask God
to let you start one in His timing." Well, at least for the time being we were off
the hook! As the months went by, I did pray for the Lord to allow us to start a cell
Approximately six or seven months later, the Lord allowed us to meet a couple at the church who lived in the same apartment complex, in the building across from where we lived. I could hear the voice of my Master saying to me, "Spencer, here are your first cell group members."
We started a cell by faith, and the Lord honored that step with a growing cell group. The group grew to such a point that when my wife and I left for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas four months after beginning the group, the couple we started out with was able to assume the leadership of the group. Thus ended the most exciting ministry that I had ever been involved in up until that time. I vowed to the Lord that if He would let me, I would establish this type of ministry when I became a pastor.
Four years passed before I had the opportunity to think again
about a cell group ministry. I returned to New Jersey in 1986, and served a Baptist church
as the full-time Associate Pastor. Ten months later, I was called as its Pastor. Ten
months later, I was called as its Pastor. I thought to myself, "In a year or two (it
was now 1987), if these people accept a vision of ministry involving cell groups, we could
make an awesome impact on our community and beyond."
I knew within my spirit that I desired to develop a ministry that would have power like the early church had. I had returned to New Jersey, the place of my birth, in order to make a difference. I wanted to be on the cutting edge of what God was doing, but instead I had to keep the squeaky wheels of the "five star program" well oiled. If I didn't, I was told, "the church wasn't getting what it was paying me for." Unfortunately, the next four years were filled with serious strife and personal attacks upon me, their "hired holy man".
During 1990, as I read the Scriptures during my devotional time, Matthew 9:17 kept coming to me: ". . . nor do men put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."(NASB)
I knew God had called me to be new wine, but my church didn't wish to become a new wineskin. It wanted to return to what it used to be in the late sixties and mid seventies when it was at its zenith. I have to confess that I, too, wanted to return to "the good ole days" somewhere right at the day of Pentecost!
An amazing thing happened to me then, and at an unlikely place-Our State Convention Annual Meeting. I thank the Lord for Dr. Wallace Williams, our Executive Director, who invited Dr. Ralph W. Neighbour to speak at the special Twentieth Anniversary Luncheon in 1990. This was the first time I had the pleasure of hearing him speak.
Oh, the anointing that came upon me that afternoon! As he spoke,
the Holy Spirit was like fire running through my bones.
Finally, as Dr. Neighbour brought a close to his message, I did something that I just couldn't believe that I could do. I immediately got up and went to Dr. Neighbour, grabbed his hand and said, "I'm one of those ready for new wine and the new wineskins you were talking about." Little did I know what events the Lord would have in store for me.
It was now 1991. April to be exact. I was reading a book entitled Where Do We Go From Here? by Dr. Ralph Neighbour. I was reading it in preparation for attending a New Wineskins Seminar conducted by him on May 19th in Trenton, New Jersey. I became so absorbed in this book, that I couldn't put it down. I would read it until two and three in the morning. During the week of April, I told the Lord that if a church I was serving could transition into a cell group church; perhaps it, too, could become new. Therefore, I could remain as its pastor.
On April 11th, I prayed "Lord, I'll stop trying to reform my
church to be new. Instead, I myself would "be new, and that I would do whatever it
was that He wanted me to do." Psalm 42:1-2a express what I felt during the month of
April: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My
soul thirsts for God the living God." (NASB)
I wanted to take my place in the Cell Group Movement so urgently, that I dared to open my heart to that which I dreaded the most-church planting! The Lord spoke to me on May 5 very clearly. The answer was unequivocally, "No! You cannot remain the pastor of this church." The wisdom of Matthew 9:16 sank into my spirit: "But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results."(NASB) There was no doubt left in my mind about what I had to do. It was time for me to resign the pastorate of the church. By faith, I was to establish a Cell Group Church. This clear call from the Lord had first come in 1985, while living in Texas. The Lord had instructed me then to return to New Jersey, and specifically, the community of Wilingboro. I knew that His call had not ceased because I was resigning the church located there. Although I experienced some initial fear of what others would say about my remaining in the same town as the former church, our gracious Savior gave a word of knowledge and wisdom to my dear Brother Neighbour. I had not seen him since November 1990, but the moment that Dr. Neighbour saw me at a church service in New Jersey on May 18, 1991 (someone had informed him that I had just resigned my church), he said these words, "Don't be afraid of what others will say. You aren't the only one in the traditional church who feels smothered. People will follow you to the new work."
I was shocked, because that was the first question that I wanted to ask him. My wife and I were also encouraged by a statement that brother Neighbour made to us and others attending the New Wineskin Seminar: :It is the task of the Master to provide and care for that Servant. Therefore, the Servant must never be afraid.:
We have clung to Isaiah 41:10, which says, "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (NASB)
My wife and I proceeded on the conviction that the Lord did not want us to seek out members for His new work. Our task was just to be faithful, to share the vision He had placed in our hearts, and He would be faithful to bring the people. On June 7,1991, we held a picnic and vision-sharing meeting in our backyard for anyone who wanted to come. (after resigning, we had many requests from people to let them know that we would be doing.) I had expected 30 to 40 people to attend and to express their interest in the new work: 75 people came to the meeting that day. A total of 55 people committed themselves to becoming a Cell Group Church.
Our next step was to meet with those who had made a commitment, as well as anyone else who was interested, for the entire month of June, to model out what the Cells would be like. It was exciting to show a house full of people what it meant to become a "Basic Christian Community."
We divided 50 to 70 people into small groups, and had them
meeting in just about every room in the house: the living room, the den, the kitchen, the
dining room, the kid's bedroom, and our bedroom. It was great!
By the third week in June, it was clear that we couldn't delay launching a celebration service. We had tried to avoid launching it too soon, feeling that the life of the church had to be established in the cells, not in mass meetings. We were able to discern that, for African-American Christians, worship has always been an integral part of our lifestyle, and it had to be added quickly. We had sufficiently bonded together to launch a Celebration service.
My intention was to begin our Shepherd Groups (Cells) in July. However, the Lord spoke to me in my study at home, that we were not ready to begin the Cells. The persons that were interning to be Shepherds would not be ready until September. Therefore, my wife and I met with our potential Shepherd Servants every week, sometimes twice a wee, modeling and training them in what they would do.
Let me share an important observation with you. I would not suggest that Cells be launched as soon as we did. We were able to launch early because we had been working with these individuals over the past two to three years in an intensive theological/ministry training course. (The course takes three years to complete.) It's important that you begin your groups well, so that, when they are ready to multiply, you will be in the position to multiply quality groups rather than inferior ones.
I did two major things before launching Shepherd Groups on September 11, 1991. On the Saturday before the Launch, I took all of our Shepherd Interns to a local motel meeting room, and conducted a Shepherd Intern Formation Weekend, followed by an Ordination Service on Sunday for all of the Shepherds. Both of these events were spiritual highs for the entire church. We had our highest attendance during the Ordination Service-158 people!
At the time of this writing, (November 1991) we have 12 Shepherd Groups. Ten are adult groups, and two are youth groups. We have also developed what we call our Kid's Shepherd Groups, which meet during the time the parents are in their Cell meetings. Our approximate weekly attendance is 123 people. The groups keep growing each week. We are looking forward to march, 1992, when we will multiply our groups. Pray for us.
If you were to ask our fellowship what has been the most significant event so far in the life of the church, I am sure the people would say, that it was when our Shepherd Groups gathered at homes all over Willingboro for a half night of prayer. We had 136 people participating in activities such as agape feasts, the Lord's Supper, and hours of prayer an praise to our Mighty Savior-Jesus!
We are still an infant church. We will have been together for
only six months as of December, 1991. However, the Lord has provided for all of the
church's needs by allowing us to rent the local high school auditorium, which seats 900!
The Lord has provided for me and my family as well. I am not on a salary (at my request), but serving on a love offering basis. The Lord has provided through His people, and He continues to affirm us with Matthew 6:33: ". . . but seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (KJV)
Q: I have read Where Do We Go From Here? and now I want to know where I go from here! How do I implement cells within my church? A: As the senior leadership you must first recognize your responsibility to nurture and cultivate those who can "catch the vision", who can work along-side of you to fulfill the vision God has given you.
Begin to pray for and stimulate these leaders by exposing them to the cell concepts (let them read Where Do We Go From Here? or the Shepherd's Guidebook or attend one of our conferences or listen to some of our tapes). Remember that God has been working this vision into your life for a while; it's brand new to them. During this time begin to find ways to free these leaders from other responsibilities that will interfere with their involvement in cells. They must focus on doing one thing, and doing it well.
As God directs you, begin a leadership cell with those who catch, model all aspects of cell life. Pour into these leaders an understand g of community, edification, leadership development, and God's power. This is the "hands-on" training time for you as well as your leaders. Be sure that you are training leaders for the various aspects of cell life (cell leadership, relationship evangelism, intense discipleship, share/care groups).
You will be excited to see God work out the vision that He has given you, as God's ministers actually get to experience ministry. As the leadership cell grows(focus on growing by adding others who are potential LEADERS), it may be necessary to multiply into 2 or more leadership cells (keep your groups at 10-15). This is healthy and should be encouraged. Seek to involve as many as possible in this leadership community.
When the time comes to launch out into actual cells be certain that you form up into strong cells. Others who have heard about what you are doing will have their view of cells shaped by the success or failure of your first generation cells. If you desire to continue in this cell lifestyle avoid the temptation to begin more cells than you have leadership for. We recommend starting first generation cells that have an overabundance of leadership. Take some of your leaders who potentially could be shepherds or interns and form them into share/care group teams within the various cells that you launch. These "reserve troops" insure that you have enough interns and shepherds to carry your cells through their first multiplication (approximately 6 months).
8-10 months after launching your first generation cells (most of your groups will already have multiplied once) plan a church-wide retreat at which you will reorganize and restructuring and strengthening for the first 2-5 years, your cells will grow rapidly, until they reach the point at which your leadership base is working at its full potential. At this time your groups will begin to stagnate and your leaders will begin to experience burnout. These retreats will allow you to preserve the leadership that is crucial to the life of your Cell Church. Eventually the cells will sustain their own growth by raising up leaders from within, but until that time, the senior leadership must guard and protect those that minister out on the front lines. -JPB
Q: Have Cell Church models in the U.S. had innovative ways of integrating children into their cells?
A. Oh yes! Recently I visited a cell that had a great program for kids. Two of the families of this cell were home schoolers, and viewed cell life as another family experience; most important for their children. The children shared in the ice-breaker questions, praise and worship time, prayer for others, and every fourth meeting the cell focused on a topic that met the needs of the children. These parents realized that, for the most part, children rarely get to see their parents involved in ministry. They are always off in a different room or in a class for kids, shielded from the most effective way of learning, seeing someone do it!
As a society, we have often neglected to model for our children what we feel is right. It's just another case of "do as Daddy says, not as Daddy does." The church was never meant to become a religious baby-sitter for its members, either. This obviously shifts the responsibility for the children back on the shoulders of their parents, allowing the Church to fulfill it's calling as a support for Godly parents. Pastors will most certainly be met with some opposition on this issue, but our children need an opportunity to learn by example, from their parents. This attitude adjustment does not absolve the church from it's responsibility, but allows the Church to be a place of ministry for parents who are willing to "raise their children in a manner according to the Lord:, as well as a place for those children without Godly parents (or parents at all).
In this child-rich cell I attended, there were grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and parents; adopted by the kids. This cell completed the family unit for children from broken homes, while also including the children in ministry.
During special times of deeper prayer and ministry, an adult would slip the children into a side room for refreshments or a time of Bible teaching and prayer on a level in which they could easily participate. What we found there was interesting. A nine year old boy shared his fear of a new kid on the block that seemed to be a bully. His twelve year old sister asked it they could stop and pray for strength on his part, and salvation and a new attitude for the bully. They opened their eyes after their prayer knowing God was real, and that the little boy down the street was now a "pre-Christian." You see, one of these children told me all about his new term. "They're non-Christians until you start to pray for them, and then they're pre- Christians after that. We learned last week that the Holy Spirit was at work now, and it's just a matter of time before that bully will ask Jesus into his heart like I did."
These are words of great wisdom; truth from a child. Children have such a special way of understanding things without making them complicated. We could only consider ourselves foolish no to let them experience what we do, and to do our best to learn a simple faith walk such as theirs.
About two years ago, I purchased a cellular telephone for my car. I thought it was a neat new toy, and it did help with my sales job, but it was mostly a novelty. For the first few weeks I had fun with it calling friends and my wife with nothing to say, I just wanted to talk (and spend big money doing it). The first phone bill helped me realize that this was an expensive toy if used improperly. Two years have passed now, and when my car is in the shop I am constantly reaching for a non-existent phone much the way you might look for a missing shifter on the floorboard. It has become part of my daily driving habits. Turn on the radio, call the office, check my messages on the answering machine at home, turn on the windshield wipers. . . it's just a natural part of the car.
When I first started attending my Shepherd Group, it was new and
innovative. I could wear my favorite blue jeans and get another cup of coffee when I
liked, and freely share with other Christians. As the weeks passed, my attitudes began to
change. This Cell meeting is "church" to me now. My cell members know me
intimately, and love me despite all my zits and bruises. We don't hesitate to stop what
we're doing and pray for someone. My Type B "pre-Christian" friends are becoming
type A's, and we are seeing folks come to know the Lord through lifestyle evangelism. The
novelty of the new way of church has worn off just like the car phone. Rather than just a
toy, it has become a vital part of my life.
This "cellular" lifestyle has helped give this gum-chewing back- row preacher's kid a new perspective on being a part of the body of Christ.
Just last week one of my pre-Christian friends asked me why I was
so happy and without blinking I told him that a gal we had been praying for at my cell
just became a Christian. Do you think he cared? Maybe not! But he now knows my motivations
and what brings me happiness in life. I never would have shared this with him before my
Shepherd group became a comfortable change in lifestyle for me. For you see, before the
cell church, I spent most of my time away from the hurting world in a building where they
wouldn't come, busy with church activities.
Many who read this are pastors who have lived on the front lines loving pre-Christians for who they are and not what they do. I had never experienced this.
It was so wonderful to find my real mission. I display a Christ- centered life to the world, pray for those with whom I come into contact, and let the Holy Spirit begin a work in their lives. The Lord has never failed to keep up His end of the plan. Every time I pray for pre-Christians, God begins to work, and helps me grow in faith and in His Word. Adding something newfangled to my spiritual transportation gives me natural opportunities to be someone I never happen to your cell church members. Now THIS is fun!
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