Volume 10, Number 2
This week, my wife and I said farewell to our family dog of 14 years. He has battled hip and intestinal problems for a number of years and we just couldn’t watch him suffer any longer.
Buddy was a mixed breed. Half Shepherd and half yellow Lab from what our vet could determine. When you looked at him, you’d swear you were looking at Yoda from Star Wars (his ears were oddly flat and protruded from his head like the movie character). While he was not a thing of beauty, he was protective and loving. Buddy always stood ready to lick your face and show you his appreciation for life. This dog even sang a little “doggy howl” when we came home after work, that when translated, plainly stated, “I know you’re here. It’s time to greet and eat.”
We made the decision to put Buddy down because we were knowledgeable of his life span, current condition and the typical problems that dogs of his size and breed face throughout their lives. We anticipated this day would come and we talked about it often. We were emotionally and intellectually prepared.
Although my story is sad, it’s important to transfer the subject to your cell group. Do you know that your group has a life span? Do you know that your group is in one of four phases of growth or decline? Without this vital information, you won’t be able to make good decisions, serve your members effectively or reach your goals.
In this issue, Dr. Don Tillman discusses the life cycle of a cell group in great detail. If you’re like me, you’ll have to read the article two times to glean all it offers. It’s deep stuff, but worth the time investment. When you learn about the mechanics of group life, you will naturally work differently to achieve better results.
Jay Firebaugh wrote the feature article about relational evangelism that made me wince more than once. He hits the nail on the head when he states, “Most established Christians don’t know any lost people.” What a sad thing to say . . . I don’t know one American believer who would argue the point.
This article will challenge you to schedule your time differently, pray differently, and look at your neighbors, co-workers and your church differently. I hope it makes you wince too. That, my friend, would be the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Together we must make friends for Jesus.
One last thought. If you have a pet, take a minute to give it a hug of thanks for making life better and being so faithful. We have a lot to learn from our pets as we serve our own Master, who loves us so much more! (end of issue)
Randall Neighbour is the Senior Editor of CellGroup Journal and the President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries, The Cell Group People.
Worship - By Gerritt Gustafson
Family worship: True worship begins at home.
When people hear the word “evangelist,” they usually think of a preacher before a crowd. They rarely envision the more common picture of the everyday “evangelist” sharing his faith with his co-worker or neighbor. In the same way, the term “worship leader” is usually reserved for the “ones up front,” and almost never applied to fathers who daily lead their families in worship. Let’s change that!
Worship leaders, let’s multiply our numbers by helping parents understand and fulfill their roles as worship leaders. Cell life will be enriched, and thus the worship life of the whole church. Also, involve those singles in your church and cell that do not have a Christian household in which to worship.
By family worship, I am referring to a family activity with three traditionally recognized elements: 1) reading and explaining Scripture, 2) prayer and praise and 3) discipline.
In Hebrew worship, the fathers were the worship leaders. For example, the Passover feast was a family feast led by fathers and observed “in all your habitations” Ex. 12:20. Fathers had the primary responsibility to teach their children (Ps. 78:5-8 & Deut. 6:4-7), and weekly Sabbaths were focused on the family and observed “in all your dwellings” Lev. 23:3.
Early Protestants emphasized family worship. In Reformation Scotland, if a father was negligent in leading daily family worship, he was first to be “gently admonished,” then “gravely reproved” and finally, if there was no change, excluded from the LordSupper. Eighteenth century Americans Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were vigorous advocates of family worship.
Today, however, the call to family worship is heard more convincingly from parachurch leaders and home schoolers than from the pulpits of our churches.
Leading your family in worship may seem a bit intimidating. But don’t despair; you can do it! Just focus on these three elements: 1) Word, 2) Worship and 3) Application. Here are some tips.
• Schedule a regular time in the day. In today’s busy world, this may be the most difficult part. A surgeon, who has practiced family worship for many years, told me that when his job required that he be at the hospital at 6 a.m., family worship was held at 5 a.m. Don’t let a scheduling challenge keep you from the benefits of family worship. If your job “just won’t permit it,” you may have the wrong job.
• Be brief and keep the communication simple. Aim for 15 or 20 minutes. One main point from Scripture is all you need. Storytelling is especially effective with children. Make it interactive by asking questions, and don’t let it get too heady. Sing a couple of songs, then pray together.
There are many resources for teaching the Scriptures and disciplining children. But many parents don’t know how to get started with the worship and prayer elements of family worship. The following suggestions should help.
• Practice your own personal worship. Do what David did: “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth” Psalm 34:1. Practice this in the shower, on your way to work or as you are washing dishes. Sing the Scriptures; sing your prayers. Move from thinking about God to praising God.
• Worship and pray with your spouse. Persistently work through self-consciousness in this special laboratory of human relationships. Practice moving from natural conversation with one another to spiritual conversations and worship. These segues may seem unnatural at first, but that’s true of most first-time experiences. As you practice, it will become a wonderful blessing!
• Fill your home with worship music. One of the best ways to keep God’s truth before us is through listening to worship music. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” Colossians 3:16.
• Help your children experience worship and prayer in natural settings. Singing the blessing together at a meal is one of the best ways to give your children an appreciation for worship. Sing a blessing over them when you tuck them in at night. When you are talking them through a difficult situation, conclude with prayer. Help them talk to God in their own words.
You are modeling a lifestyle of worship they will never forget. With family worship, your children will naturally become worshippers in church.
• Choose songs and hymns that can be sung without accompaniment. It’s great if you or one of your children can play guitar or piano, but it’s not necessary. If you want to use recorded accompaniment, don’t forget about WholeHearted Worship collections of songs and hymns designed for family and group sing along. For more information call 1-800-950-7288.
• Finally, just get started! Like so many things, family worship is learned by those who do it.
The New Frontier in Worship
Over the years, I personally have been involved in many aspects of worship, both in the church and in the music industry. I have been to many worship conferences, and I have taught and heard countless messages on worship. But in my mind, there is an exciting new frontier coming into view in the development of worship. It’s family worship.
One of our pastors recently said, “If we succeed in all other aspects of the Church’s ministry and fail at home, have we really succeeded?” Listen . . . do you hear God saying to the worship movement what he said to Zacchaeus? “I want to come home with you today” Luke 19:5.
If we gladly welcome His worship into our families, we’ll be doing the best thing for building strong worshippers and worshipping communities. (end of article)
Gerrit Gustafson founded WholeHearted Worship and is a seasoned man of worship. He works with small groups in Nashville, TN.
Cell Leadership - By Billy Hornsby
The destiny of a leader: What level of maturity have you achieved?
Your identity is your destiny. The Apostle Paul had one of the most life- changing revelations during his years as a God-given leader, “But, by the grace of God, I am what I am” 1 Cor. 15:10a. He went from a life as one who severely persecuted the Church, to its most powerful advocate. Paul experienced the destiny-changing power of the new birth after his Damascus Road encounter with Christ. What happened to him there? What could have turned his life around with such eternal significance?
The adoption of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostleship of Paul was the work of the resurrected Jesus coming into Paul’s life. This work gave him a new purpose, direction and destiny that would have eternal benefits. Let’s look at how God’s grace is at work in us, as leaders, to bring about similar results.
Existence has different levels of meaning to each of us. It also effects what kind of impact we have on the world around us. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” Though his peers regarded him as brilliant in his day, this philosopher only touched the outer rim of the importance of existence.
To say, “I play football, therefore I am,” or “I go to church, therefore I am,” is to miss the point. Existence carries with it the reality of identity and therefore destiny. For example, “I am John, a Christian, therefore I am Christ’s. I am going to Heaven.” I don’t just exist. I am part of something and am going somewhere significant, though not always far.
What I believe and what I do make me what I am. Daily, I express who I am. The most basic expression is in my daily routine. I wake up, I eat, I read the Word, I pray, I work, I interact and so on. This is level one.
Level one is the “therefore I am” level. It simply proves that we are human and on planet Earth, along with every other human. It entails what I believe about God, life and myself. Many people live here, and are content to do so. Churches are filled with attendees and well-wishers who are satisfied just to occupy space, fill their pew and breathe their portion of air. There is much more to the existence that God has created us for.
Level two is the level of productivity. I create. I build. I contribute. I produce. This level that gives existence a great deal more importance. It speaks of our contribution to the overall scheme of things. It takes us beyond basic, necessary involvement in the matters of life and brings us into the realm of contributing to the processes of life and growth of the things around us.
Leaders are productive members of the church. When we build, produce and contribute, our life becomes more meaningful. We gain appreciation for the little pleasures in life and feel that we help shape our environment and make our world a better place. Here, we sense a level of satisfaction for having left our mark on the world around us by the things that we contributed to it.
I personally know scores of people who are at this level and are precious to the Lord and a great blessing to the Church. They have moved from the pew to productivity. They are the ones that make the wheels turn at the local level.
Every pastor appreciates the contribution that these people make to the ministry and couldn’t advance the purpose of the local church without them. Productivity is an important level to achieve, but there are still greater levels than this.
Next is the level of influence. At this level, we find ourselves involved in the lives of others for their good and for the good of the Kingdom. We are no longer just producing our share; we are helping others get to a place of productivity by leading them into a position of contribution.
This is the level of cooperation, leading, encouragement and mentoring. Along this road, we find ourselves reaching out to others, ensuring they are producing fruit and developing their God-given gifts. In short, we replicate what God has given us in them. This is the secret to exponential growth and our significance as human beings in God’s economy. As leaders on this level, we are the “equippers” of the saints for the work of the ministry. Influence defines the ultimate role of a leader.
What joy it brings to lead others into fruition and see them store up treasures in Heaven.
Bringing others into a place of productivity and teaching them to do the same for someone else, ensures that the next generation will be effective for God’s Kingdom.
Finally, level four is the level of individual destiny. It simply says, “I made a difference, to the people, to the plan and to the process!” Further it says, “I meant something to someone else.”
Knowing that I finished what God created me to do gives me an overwhelming sense of joy. Because Christ chose me and changed my destiny from that of a destructive sinner to an agent of godliness, my whole life has purpose, fulfillment and meaning. When all is said and done, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have finished my work!”
It is the feeling of accomplishment that a general feels when he wins a war, a doctor has when his patient is healed and well again, and a parent feels when a son or daughter gets married to that special person. You know that you have done your part to make these things happen.
What a sense of direction and clarity of purpose I feel when I know my destiny is in the hands of God. When I know that by God’s grace, I am what I am, and that by His grace I will accomplish what He sent me to do. It is then that my life is full and content. (end of article)
At the time of this publication Billy Hornsby was the director of Billy Hornsby Ministries, The International Director of the Association of Related Churches, and Director of Missions Training of Indigenous Pastors. See www.missiontips.com.
Toolkit - Practical tips and testimonies written by Cell Leaders For Cell Leaders
Mel is a dedicated cell group leader. He loves his group and has a loving heart for people. Yet week after week, he drags home from his cell meeting frustrated and discouraged over the way he’s facilitated. He has an uneasy feeling that during the Word time he isn’t connecting with the members of his cell group. Their minds seem to wander and they do not make eye contact. He doesn’t know what to do.
Mel doesn’t know it, but he is making a mistake many facilitators make. He has failed to capture the attention of his cell members before moving into the body of the discussion.
Most facilitators will study, pray and think about their subject. They are prepared for the topic to be discussed and can focus on the dynamics of facilitating the group.
The same can not be said for the group members. They arrive at the meeting worried about their health, job, bills and family. The wise facilitator is aware of these distractions and creates a way to capture the attention of his members before moving them into the discussion. Like a cowboy throwing out a lasso, he wants to encircle their minds before “herding” them where he wants them to go. To do this, the wise facilitator uses an attention-getting tool that has been called a “hook.”
A hook is a clear, concise question or sentence that captures your cell’s attention and gets them thinking and talking about the topic to be discussed.
Suppose your topic for the meeting is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. The main theme for the evening is “Love Is a Decision,” and you want the group to start thinking about the concept of love.
Three ways you could “hook” your group are:
1. Buddy Nudging: Tell the people in your cell to turn to the person sitting next to them and describe the most loving person they ever knew.
2. Sentence Completion: Have everyone go around the circle and complete this sentence: “Love is…”
3. Take a Vote: By a show of hands, how many in your cell think love is a feeling? How many think love is an action?
As the facilitator, you set the pace and tone of the group. Your cell members are watching you to see how they should act and/or react, so it’s better if you respond first. This will demonstrate how long to speak and create the appropriate atmosphere for the topic.
One of the major goals of a cell group is to help people build relationships. But it takes time to develop the trust and openness needed for a relationship-building environment. A wise facilitator creates a “safe place” and uses his hook to help the group feel more comfortable with each other. You can accomplish this by asking your cell members to share their stories, their testimonies, and their opinions.
In a non-threatening environment with a clear purpose, your group will feel more secure about opening up. Help the group find common interests and experiences. Give them that “Oh, you’ve experienced that too?” feeling!
When using a hook in this capacity, it is better to generate your own. As a facilitator, you can create a hook based on the unique personality of your group.
One tool to use when creating your own hooks is the “Big 6” questions:
Who . . . was the most influential person in bringing you to Christ?
What . . . was your first real job?
When . . . did you decide to get serious about God?
Why . . . is it difficult for most Christians to lead people to Christ?
Where . . . do you go when life gets to be too much and you need to get away?
How . . . did you come to have a saving knowledge of Christ?
After your members have responded to the hook, you’ll want to use a transition sentence as a bridge to move the group from the opening hook to the main body of the discussion. For example, still using the topic of love, you could say, “Thanks for sharing your thoughts on love. Let’s turn to 1 Cor. 13: 4-7 and see what the Bible has to say about love.”
Though it takes some planning and work, an attention-getting device is well worth the effort. It encourages your cell members to start talking and gives you insight into their personalities and belief systems. As you become more experienced in using hooks, you will leave the group sessions feeling that you have been the Lord’s instrument in helping people really connect with you and with each other. And that’s one of the joys of being a facilitator.
–George Hoherd, The Springs Community Church, Colorado Springs, CO
You Are Normal!
We had no idea what to expect when we moved to the other side of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a population of 12 million people. We knew that we wanted to start a cell church among the upper-middle class group of Brazilians that were invading the Barra da Tijuca area.
We started with a small group, and we were surprised by joy. Soon thereafter, a lady in her mid 40’s began attending our group faithfully after being brought by a friend. Even though she invited him several times, her husband, who was not a Christian, would not consider coming to the group. One day, after her usual invitation, Eduardo, her husband, surprised her by saying, “I will go.”
Eduardo sat quietly and listened during our meeting. When the gathering was over, he asked if he could say something to the cell. He said, “I thought you all would be a crazy group of some kind. I thought you would be doing weird things, but you are all normal. You pray, study the Bible and share. You are normal people.” He then shared that he was a “Catholic-spiritist,” a mixture of two national religions.
Then in God’s amazing timing, a retired military man and born again believer from our group named Alvaro, said he was exactly the same thing before he converted. They immediately started up a conversation that was very helpful to Eduardo. I later suggested that Eduardo and I meet and chat since we lived in the same condominiums.
A few days later, we met and I asked Eduardo if anyone ever explained to him how he could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. After answering “no,” he heard for the first time how Christ could give him peace, joy, forgiveness, salvation and a new life. Because the friendship started in our cell group, the seed was planted and watered. Eduardo has not yet become a Christian, but the Lord will give the increase. Please pray with me that Eduardo will come to know Christ.
– Eddy Hallock, Church, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
UNSOCIABLE? (Q & A with Randall Neighbour)
Question . . .
Is it okay to feel forced or obligated as a cell leader if you are not naturally sociable and spending time with your members is more of a personal effort for you? How do you overcome this? Do you ever overcome it?
Answer . . .
Actually, the quiet, seemingly “unsociable” cell leader is usually the best kind! This shy person is usually a great listener and is sensitive to other's needs. The difficulty comes when a shy leader sees needs plainly but does nothing to help.
There are two important things to remember if you are a shy, unsociable kind of cell leader:
1. God has set you apart for a special purpose. Do not let your personal fear of interaction keep you from enjoying what God has for you.
2. A good cell leader does not necessarily translate into “being the life of the party.”
Should you overcome being shy and anti-social? Yes and no. God made some people to be lion tamers, and others to be quiet and reserved. But, He never wanted the lion tamers to be offensive and obnoxious or the reserved person to be so inward that they look as if they don’t care about others. There’s a balance with each personality type. Recognize how God made you, and ask yourself, “What issues or fears keep me from being all that God has designed me to be?” Working through these issues with others in your cell group will help you grow and enjoy a new ministry you never knew existed.
After you’ve found the root of any issues or fears that keep you back, begin to pray for each of your cell members daily. Force yourself to call each person weekly by telephone and ask them how they are doing and how you can pray for them. These current specifics will increase your prayer life.
As you pray daily, ask God what he wants you to do with each person, and how it should be done. You’ll receive very specific marching orders if you pray fervently and listen to your Master. It’s so much easier to be bold when you know for sure it’s God’s will! He wants you to love and serve with action, so petition the Lord and He will answer you.
If God has made you a quiet, shy person, praise Him! I thank God for people like you, because you show me how to listen and care for people in a way that is not natural for me (as a headstrong lion tamer). Together, we can win the world for Jesus.
–Randall Neighbour, Editor
Our Home Group’s Planning Team recently planned what we called “Chili-Fest 2001.” Our entire church – including children – was invited. The fellowship hall was jammed with 250 people in attendance. We used a Mexican theme to decorate the hall and each of our 13 home groups’ tables. Each home group provided two crock pots of chili and a vegetable tray. This meant that we had 13 servings per table that the crowd could visit to get their food. We created tickets and this allowed us to know how many people were coming. To encourage visitors to come, we promoted prizes based on tickets drawn. Gag gifts were also presented to the three best chili recipes and the three best desserts.
To top the evening off, we gave people the opportunity to sign up for new small groups for our “Experiencing God” study. Our “Chili-Fest” helped us connect with 40 people who expressed interest attending a small group. God is awesome! Consider this idea for your cell group!
–Pastor Ray E. Wahl, Hillside Wesleyan Church, North Street, MI
A Tiny Rosebud
A young, new preacher was walking with an older, more seasoned preacher in a garden one day. The young preacher was feeling a bit insecure about what God had for him, so he asked the older preacher’s advice on the matter.
The older preacher walked up to a rosebush, handed the young preacher a rosebud and told him to open it without tearing off any petals. The young preacher looked in disbelief at the older preacher and tried to figure out what a rosebud could possibly have to do with his wanting to know the “will of God” for his life and ministry.
He had a high respect for the older preacher, so he proceeded to try to unfold the rose while keeping every petal intact. It wasn’t long before he realized how impossible it was to do so. The older preacher, noticing the younger preacher’s inability to unfold the rosebud while keeping it intact, shared the following poem. . .
It is only a tiny rosebud, a flower of God’s design;
But I cannot unfold the petals with these clumsy hands of mine.
The secret of unfolding flowers is not known to such as I.
God opens flowers so sweetly, when in my hands they fade and die.
If I cannot unfold a rosebud, this flower of God’s design,
Then how can I think I have wisdom to unfold this life of mine?
So I’ll trust Him for His leading each moment every day.
I will look to Him for His guidance each step of the pilgrim way.
The path that lies before me, only my heavenly father knows.
So I’ll trust Him to unfold the moments, just as He unfolds the rose.
Evangelism - Making HIm Known - By Karen Hurston
Just step out and do it!: Four principles in Victory Christian Center’s evangelistic cells.
What would it be like for your church to have more than 900 cell groups? That is no longer a distant dream for Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the first quarter of this year, Victory passed the 900 cells mark.
Senior Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty places high value on leadership training. From 1983 until October of 2000, Victory has trained more than 4,000 people who have started cell groups. By July of 2000, Victory reported more people in their weekly cell groups (7,344) than in their four Sunday worship services. Many in their cell groups are not Victory members and may not yet have attended Victory.
Have Victory’s cells been effective in reaching the lost? Most definitely. During the 12 months of 2000, there were a reported 6,149 salvations through Victory’s cell groups. In June of 2000 alone, Victory’s cells reported 512 salvations and 32 healings.
What are some principles that help explain Victory’s cell success? What insights can we use in our own groups? Consider these four.
ALLOW FOR VARIETY
When Victory first started cell groups in 1983, all of their geographically mixed-gender cells met in homes. But before long, they realized that those cells were not reaching several segments of people in Tulsa.
Victory’s cell system expanded with a new and needed emphasis on diversity and reaching specific untouched segments of people. Victory added target cells of all types, which target a particular type person, as their new and growing focus. Target cells sprang up in shelters for battered women and in homeless shelters, in American Airlines, in downtown high rise buildings, in factories, in athletic involvements and in different specific professions.
Target cell leaders also went into new areas such as businesses and factories with the goal of targeting the people in that area. All types of people attended the newly established “target cells,” rich and poor, with some groups reporting participants as different as Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, and atheists — each given an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
Currently, Victory has 35+ varieties of cell groups, with a wide variety of meeting places –– all teaching at least a nugget from Victory’s designated cell lesson for that week –– which fit Victory’s common definition of a cell group.
PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!
No matter which Victory cell one examines, each has a strong focus on prayer. Victory challenges all leaders to have strong daily devotional and prayer lives, to pray fervently before a group meeting and to make prayer and ministry core activities in cell meetings. Victory even has “prayer fellowship cells” which meet weekly, with many spotlighting specific concerns like missions, praying for outreaches in other nations and for prayer requests sent in by missionaries.
Daugherty explained Victory’s view this way: “You can have a beautiful car, but unless that engine has fuel in it, you’re not going anywhere. You can have a perfect model for your cell system, but unless you have the fuel of prayer, your groups aren’t going anywhere.”
GROW YOUR OWN DEDICATED AND UNIFIED CELL LEADERS AND STAFF
Pastoral staff members are the vital “link” who largely determine whether the vision will become reality. They do the actual hands-on training. They carry out the daily grind that make or break the “cell church dream.” Victory currently has 31 full-time pastoral staff members, each of whom oversees or helps with the cell groups in his department or area of ministry.
If you talk with Jerry and Lynn Popenhagen, the dedicated directors of Victory’s Pastoral Care Department, it won’t be long before they mention the term “house vision.” They repeatedly stress that the cell leaders and staff are not to have a separate agenda but are to stay in line with the vision God has given their senior pastor. Much of this is made possible by Victory hiring staff members who have “grown up” in ministry through successful experience in their cell system.
Consider the Shouses. For the two years Howard and Cheryl Shouse served as area coordinators (both leading their own group and supervising others), they multiplied their group 19 times. During that time, the Shouses saw five marriages restored, nine people without transportation given cars, multiple salvations and healings, and 100 people find jobs. They were later brought on Victory’s staff as “Care Pastors,” serving 359 families and 55 cells involving 700 people.
JUST DO IT!
Ruthie –– Billy Joe and Sharon Daugherty’s second daughter –– has been in groups much of her life. When she was asked how to start a cell group, this ‘next generation’ female explained, “Sometimes you have to aggressively recruit people to come to your cell. But often there are people around you so hungry for God and something more in their lives that all you have to do is simply invite them. If God has put a particular cell focus or location on your heart, just step out and do it.”
As a cell leader, you may wonder how all this applies to you. Think for a moment. Do your outreach cell events need to be more targeted, focusing on reaching a specific kind of person? Consider these ideas:
– Superbowl parties for men.
– “Anointed shopping” for women.
– Prayer groups.
– Play days at the park for parents.
Challenge your cell members to “think outside the box” and launch their own groups. Rise to the challenge of full-time ministry when the time is right! If you sense God has put something in your heart, respect leadership, then just step out and do it! (end of article)
Karen Hurston is an international consultant to cell churches based in Gulf Breeze, FL. She is currently writing a book on Victory’s cell system to be released by TOUCH Publications. Visit her website: www.hurstonministries.org
Cover Article - By Don Tillman
LIFECYCLE OFA CELL
“My cell is stuck!” the man said to me. “Can you tell me what I’ve done wrong and how to fix it?” As a presenter at a TOUCH sponsored cell leader conference, I was supposed to have an answer for him. The truth was that I had cells in my own church in the same situation.
Getting stuck is easy. Discovering why you are stuck and what should be done about it is much more difficult.
I’m afraid I didn’t have much helpful advice for the stranded cell leader that day. But the experience caused me to do a lot of thinking and praying. One day I read something that brought a concept to mind I had learned years before about group dynamics. I did some research, processed some ideas with a few friends, and did a lot more praying.
HERE IS WHAT I LEARNED
Living organisms progress through natural life cycles: birth (germination for plants), followed by growth and development, reproduction, and eventually, death. It is God’s order of things.
Even an individual cell within a living organism has a life-cycle. It begins life with its parent-cell’s multiplication, it serves its ordered function within the organism, and it finally repeats the process . . . it too multiplies, producing two identical daughter cells. The only alternative to a cell’s eventual multiplication is its death. If it remains healthy, it will reproduce.
Just as elements of organic life possess natural life-cycles, so do cell groups of God’s people. They are birthed, they grow––serving the body as they do––and, if healthy, they multiply. If a cell remains healthy, it will reproduce.
You can help your cell remain healthy and multiply. To do so, you need to gain an understanding of a cell’s life cycle and learn to facilitate your cell’s movement through the various phases of that cycle.
Proclaiming that the body of Christ should grow and multiply naturally does not make it do so. However, it is a daunting, yet worthwhile endeavor and there are some specific steps we can take to move in that idealistic direction.
In this model, cell life is seen in three phases: Birth, Growth & Development, and Multiplication. The Birth phase occurs as a parent cell multiplies itself, resulting in two daughter cells. The Growth and Development phase occurs over a period of time, normally ranging from six to eighteen months. The Multiplication phase transpires over a period of several weeks. The three phases together constitute the life-cycle of the cell.
All three phases are important to the cell’s life-cycle. Each has dimensions that must be addressed to ensure that healthy daughter cells are produced who will be capable of future multiplication.
In the mid 1960’s, psychologist Bruce Tuckman studied the dynamics of small groups. Using the terms forming, storming, norming and performing, Tuckman defined a process of development most groups experience on their way to productivity. This process has been studied and further defined over the years since Tuckman’s original work. I want to merge this understanding of group dynamics with the Life-Cycle phases just discussed. Here is what the model looks like having done so.
Theoretically, a cell-group’s Birth Phase is the culmination of its parent cell’s Multiplication Phase. The two phases blend together. Plans made during the parent cell’s Multiplication Phase are implemented in the new cell’s Birth Phase. Leaders set apart earlier now assume their places of responsibility. Preparations made in anticipation of birth profit the newly forming group as it steps out on its own.
As with each aspect of cell development, your group’s Formation stage must be facilitated. Some groups form in healthy ways, some in unhealthy ways. Careful attention paid to the formation of the group will greatly enhance your cell’s growth and development as well as its prospects of healthy multiplication.
What can you expect from this stage?
– Excitement and expectancy.
– Anxiousness: Can I do this? Do I really want to do this? Where do I fit in? What if it doesn’t work?
– Superficial relationships: Individuals are guarded in expressing their own opinions and generally reserved.
– Conflict will seldom be confronted directly.
– Low commitment level (to the group as a whole and to one another).
Actions to take for this stage:
* Make good use of icebreakers in each gathering.
* Clarify expectations and desired outcomes in relation to community, personal growth and life transformation, body-life, life-style evangelism, pastoral care, and eventual group multiplication.
* Spend lots of time discussing and praying over the goals and dreams for the group.
It’s important to agree on the group’s focus. At the outset, a cell group needs to form around a clear purpose and then get focused on the best ways to accomplish that purpose. This is an excellent time to bring in new people.
GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT PHASE
The Birth and Multiplication Phases of a cell group’s life-cycle involve substantial change. Little energy is available for anything else. Fortunately, you will find them relatively short-lived compared to the Growth and Development Phase.
A cell group will experience three specific stages during its Growth and Development Phase: Storming, Norming, and Performing.
Forming a new group is usually fun for those involved. What follows formation is often not fun at all. Yet, if you do not guide your group through each stage, it will likely stagnate or die.
This is not to say that each stage will look the same from group to group. It will not. Some groups you lead will struggle more than others with interpersonal conflict. Some groups will do a better job at ministry or evangelism than others. Every group can become useful in Kingdom work in its own unique way if offered skilled and wise leadership as it progresses through these growth stages. Let’s look at each individually.
What can you expect from this stage?
– Disappointment with one another and with the group’s progress toward achieving its goals and objectives.
– Apathy toward the group’s goals and objectives, attending group meetings and personal spiritual growth.
– Rebelliousness toward the cell group and other church leaders.
– Spiritual warfare: you can count on Satan taking advantage of our tendency toward self-centeredness!
All of this is involved in a group of people’s efforts to gel into a community. It is normal to experience such things, especially if the group members are relatively unfamiliar with each other. Storming, to some capacity, will normally occur even if only one new member is added to a group. It is the process your group goes through as it moves from a group of individuals to an individual group.
For a group of individuals to become an individual group several things must occur:
1. Individual prejudices must be surfaced and addressed to some degree of satisfaction.
2. Members must work past the surface irritants possessed by others in the group and see each person as an individual of worth.
3. Members must come to a place of humbleness and recognize that he or she also possesses surface irritants with which others must deal.
4. Members must come to a place where individual ambitions, desires, goals, etc. defer (at least to the extent required) to group goals and objectives.
5. Your group must rise above all that threatens to destroy it and do together what can only be done by the group collectively.
Having a clear group focus and mission will sometimes reduce the intensity of the storming stage, but the fact that your cell group is made up of people will normally ensure the necessity of a storm.
Actions to take for this stage:
* Don’t be surprised at the storm’s sudden onslaught.
* Meet the stage expectantly and with confidence that God will guide you through it.
* Take good advantage of the situation pastorally. Issues will surface in people’s lives that indicate their spiritual growing edges. Your job is to help them grow in Christ, not just be happy with one another.
* Pray (alone and as a group).
* Get help from church leaders.
* Attempt to focus the group on an outside ministry task — something to get their focus off themselves.
* Confront lovingly, yet boldly.
* Deal with issues, not personalities.
* Act out of proper motivation. Your goal is reconciliation and spiritual growth, not setting someone straight.
What can you expect from this stage?
– Dissatisfaction is replaced by harmony, trust, support, respect, and even love.
– A growing intimacy.
– A growing inclination toward loving accountability (giving and receiving).
– Generally accepted group norms.
This can backfire on you. If the group comes out of the storming stage believing outsiders are bad for the group, for instance, the norm will be to remain closed from that time on. Also, the perceived need for one another can be so strong after surviving a serious threat to the group’s life that any future effort to multiply the group is tenaciously resisted.
Keep in mind the more intense the struggle experienced by your group, the more intense the resulting peace. Why? Because superficial struggles do not demand much in the way of personal humbling. Deep struggles cause people to wrestle with internal issues which produce personal humbling and deeper acceptance and love toward others.
This doesn’t mean we intentionally stir the pot to provide a better fellowship. Interpersonal conflict always stands the chance of blowing up beyond our ability to handle it. On the other hand, there are times that a little intentionally-created dissonance is not out of order.
Actions to take for this stage:
* Make every effort to turn the group in the right direction as they leave the Storming Stage and enter the Norming Stage.
* Remind group members of the original goals and objectives.
* Invite your pastor or other church leaders to visit and share the church’s vision.
* Spend extended times of prayer together focusing on submitting to God’s purposes.
* Encourage right behavior every time you see it.
* Create opportunities for members to serve together in two’s or three’s.
* Celebrate God’s awesomeness in your group with examples.
* Encourage members to work through your church’s equipping track materials if they have not already done so.
* Take advantage of church-sponsored supplemental equipping opportunities. This is the best time to get your members involved in training experiences.
* Allow ample time for personal ministry in your group meetings during this stage. Members may be feeling raw in some areas of their lives and need the healing ministry of the group and the Holy Spirit.
* Begin sharing leadership responsibilities with other group members.
* Utilize the Blessing List to bring a concerted emphasis on lost friends and acquaintances.
* Use group-sponsored parties and events to cultivate relationships with lost friends and acquaintances.
At this point, you should treat each member of the group as if he or she is a future group leader. In some cases, all of them will be. In many cases, some will go on to be leaders, others will not. During the Norming stage of Growth and Development, you are wise to avoid predetermining what will take place in the future in this area.
What can you expect from this stage?
– Members work collaboratively and individually to accomplish group goals and objectives.
– Confidence and competence is demonstrated in ministry and outreach.
– Leadership responsibilities are shared with a growing number of responsible future leaders.
– High degree of support and trust among members.
– Several salvations through the specific ministry of group members.
It’s important to note that performance is more than just outreach. It involves the total ministry perspective of your group: individual spiritual development of the members, pastoral care within the group, compassionate ministry outside the group, growing concern for the lost, personal and group prayer, etc.
Actions to take for this stage:
* Plan several group harvest events focused on reaching lost persons.
* Take advantage of Church-sponsored harvest events that may coincide with your Performing stage.
* Recognize and encourage risk takers.
* Begin praying in earnest about the group’s future multiplication. Spend time discussing member’s feelings and anxieties concerning multiplication.
* Spend time with those demonstrating potential for leadership. Pray and talk together about the possibility of them leading a new group upon this group’s multiplication.
Storming, Forming, and Performing will generally be experienced by most small groups. They will be experienced to differing degrees from group to group. Unless your group is guided through each stage, there is danger it will settle in that stage and go no further.
Some groups will not make it out of the Storming Stage. If that occurs, try not to be so discouraged that you give up. The best course of action is to reorganize under the guidance of church leaders and try again.
There is no definite time frame for these stages of growth and development. One group may skip through the Storming Stage and camp for a while in Norming. Another group might experience just the opposite. The one thing that seems to hold true is that the Performing Stage is relatively short lived. When your group starts living quality group life, performing exceptional ministry, and seeing new converts regularly, it quickly outgrows its ability to maintain the same quality.
You must be prepared to multiply, or face eventual plateau, decline and then death. If your group does not multiply, it may become one of the many cells meeting every week who, for all practical Kingdom purposes, are quite dead.
The Multiplication Phase is the culmination of your cell’s life-cycle. The period of time spent in this phase is relatively short, a matter of weeks, actually. Leadership and multiplication preparation has been ongoing since your cell’s birth. Once your members realize their cell desperately needs to multiply, all that is left is to commit one another to the Lord and make it happen.
I realize what I have just said sounds terribly naive and fanciful. To be honest, it has never worked like this for me. In my experience, group multiplication has been one of the most difficult things to bring about. But I think we need to see how it ought to work so we can determine why it is not working. In a perfect world, group multiplication would be the very natural outcome of an ideal birth and exemplary growth and development phase.
Perhaps the most important step in successfully multiplying your group is to have done well the steps involved in birthing and growing the group. If . . .
. . . multiplication has been part of the goal since the beginning
. . . interpersonal conflict has been successfully handled in a Christ-honoring, spiritually maturing manner
. . . value has been sown into the heart of the group that declares disciple-making a primary objective of the group
. . . leadership development has been given a place of prominence
. . . then multiplication of the group will seem most natural.
Cell multiplication does not necessarily mean cell division. Just because a biological cell reproduces by precise division does not mean this is the only way for a spiritual cell to reproduce. There are a number of alternatives:
1. You can leave the current cell in the hands of your newly prepared leader and leave with two or three to start a new group.
2. Several newly prepared cell leaders (Interns) can be sent out to start new groups.
3. Your newly prepared cell leader (Intern) can take two or three from the group and start a new group.
4. One or two from the group can join one or two from one or more other cells to form a new group.
My favorites is the Cell Planting method. It follows similar paths as a church might take in planting a daughter church. Over the course of time, the cell prays for God to raise up a small core group from within the cell which eventually departs to start a new cell. Group members commit to being part of that core if God calls them to it. I call it saying “Yes” to God before knowing what He will ask of you. The eventual multiplication is the outflow of a committed group of God’s people seeking to follow God’s design for their own participation in His work.
The point of multiplication is the facilitation of growth. Ample proof is available demonstrating that a group of fifteen or so has reached its growth capacity. Exceptional groups will sometimes defy the norm, but not for long. To effectively reach the lost for Christ while keeping the ones we have already reached, room needs to be provided. As difficult as group multiplication sometimes seems to be, it is an absolute must.
Someone said that if a cell group does not reform it will deform. Your challenge as a cell leader is to guide your group through the stages that lead to reformation. It will never be easy, and it will seldom look the same from group to group. Just when you think you have it down, something brand new will come along that will send you straight to your knees. The prize comes when people are lead to precious faith in Christ and the Body spreads its tent in order to welcome them in. A carefully-facilitated group life-cycle will help you win the prize. (end of article)
At the time of publication, Dr. Don Tillman was a pastor and cell-church planter in Reno, Nevada and the Director of Conferences for TOUCH Outreach Ministries.
Callout Box (Cell leader’s worksheet)
Ask yourself the following questions and place the answers in the space provided. Remember to be honest with your answers.
1. How long has your cell been meeting?
2. How often does your cell meet?
3. What stage is your cell currently in and how long have you been there?
4. Do you meet regularly with a coach or staff pastor to discuss your cell? How often?
5. Have you discussed and prayed with your cell members (individually and corporately) regarding the vision and goals for the cell?
6. Have you and your cell members helped bring a lost person to Christ within the last 6 months? Is this part of your cell’s stated vision and goals?
7. Are you meeting weekly with someone, other than your spouse, for a personal time of accountability? With whom are you meeting and is it beneficial to your walk with God?
8. How often do you review your cell’s stated vision and goals? Are you holding your cell members accountable to the them?
After you have finished the questionnaire, discuss it with your coach and cell group.
Feature Article - By Jay Firebaugh
Reaching Lost People Through Relationships
Last week, I went to a local hardware store. When I was ready to leave, I couldn’t find anyone to process my purchase. Despite a proliferation of employees, nobody seemed to feel it was their job to finalize my purchase! Finally, I left in frustration. Though this store claimed they were in business to make sales, they certainly weren’t staffed to do so!
Many cell groups struggle with this same issue. We want to be in the business of reaching lost people, but we don’t have a real plan for reaching these people who are headed to a Christ-less eternity. Even though we say we want to see people moved from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light, we don’t have a plan. Our cells just limp along, hoping their members will witness and invite lost friends, neighbors, and coworkers to a church service.
As I look at this situation and mindset, I see four major problems that stand in the way of successfully reaching lost people for Christ.
Most established Christians don’t know any lost people.
We live in a society that is starved for genuine relationships, yet we don’t have time to invest in relationships with the lost people around us. Most Christians are busy keeping up schedules with “church stuff” and Christian friends. To be honest, a majority of American Christians don’t have time for any more relationships.
We’ve become so saturated in our Christian culture that we’ve lost the ability to reach out to the people that don’t frequent our Christian world! Instead, we ought to have the mindset of a missionary who enters a different culture. This mindset adopts the purpose of studying the new culture in order to connect with those who live there . . . to enjoy the ultimate purpose of bringing Christ to them.
In contrast, many Christians are so comfortable in “holy huddles” that we think, “There’s only so much time. Why would I want to waste any of it with people whom I have nothing in common?”
We must go into a lost world to spend time with people. Take a computer class, help coach a little league team, and look for opportunities to begin conversations with your neighbors. Find lost people to begin relationships with! Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
When Jesus was criticized for spending too much time around lost people, He responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13 If Jesus’ example teaches us nothing else, it is that time spent with the lost is time well spent!
Most Christians don’t understand how to connect.
I was recently in a cell where one man shared of his struggle to “persevere for Christ” on the job. He said he was hoping the other men he worked with would see something in him that would cause them to want a relationship with Christ. I asked if he tried to establish a relationship with any of these men by eating lunch with them or trying to talk with them as they stood around on break.
“Oh no,” he replied, “At lunch I go off by myself to read my Bible. And at breaks they cuss and tell crude stories too much. I try to avoid mixing with them as much as possible.”
Do you take a similar approach with your co-workers? You need to realize that rather than “seeing something” in you that would cause them to want Christ, they will merely think you are just weird. They will think you are out of touch with their world! Don’t be so concerned with protecting your righteous standard that you fail to have any compassion for the lost.
Matthew’s heart for his lost co-workers and friends was much different. In the ninth chapter of Matthew, he throws a dinner party at his house for the sole purpose of getting fellow tax collectors together to interact with Jesus. The Pharisees criticized this activity. Matthew 9:11 shows they were more focused on their own righteousness. “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Jesus was at the party with the “sinners” rather than socializing with the “righteous” Pharisees! It was His heart for lost people that led Him to do so.
Connecting with lost people begins with compassion and a conviction to do so. It’s easier to stay contained within your Christian culture . . . enjoying your Christian friends who have more in common with you. But Hell is a real place and people all around us will spend an eternity there. This burden must cause you to break out of your comfort zone to do something about it. This is where a lot of Christians over-react and think the only option is to single-handedly become a “witnessing machine.” This rarely produces fruit that lasts. The key to success is to work within a strategy that will effectively allow you and others to work together to reach the lost.
But for now, recognize that the reality of people going to Hell doesn’t allow you to be passive. You must step out of your comfort zone for the sake of establishing relationships with lost people, in hope of influencing them to Christ. You learn to build relationships with lost people by desire and then by stepping beyond what is comfortable or natural in order to make it happen!
Most Christians don’t know how to establish a relationship.
A few years ago I woke up to the reality that I didn’t have any real relationships with lost people. I was so busy doing “church” work that I had to honestly admit I didn’t make time to help men and women come to know Christ.
This isn’t a problem that only applies to preachers! Many Christians I’ve known over the years have come to the same conclusion. We hope lost people are getting saved, but if the truth be known, if we aren’t reaching the lost, who will?
When I woke up to this fact, I realized I had lost people all around me. My son and daughter are on community sports teams, but I would merely keep to myself when I went to watch them play or practice. I recognized that these were opportunities to begin building relationships with lost people if I was burdened enough by their lost condition to push me out of my comfort zone. So, I went to practices and struck up conversations with other parents. If we hit it off, my wife and I would invite them out for ice cream after the games.
I started looking at the people in the neighborhood differently too. Rather than just thinking, “I wish they would cut their grass” or “I’m sick of their dogs barking all the time,” I started looking for chances to say “Hi” and to do things with them.
A bunch of the neighborhood guys were in my neighbor’s driveway drinking beer and talking. I felt very awkward, but I grabbed a can of Diet Pepsi and headed over to joke and laugh with the boys . . . not because it seemed fun to me, but because I wanted to establish relationships with them. I missed my Sunday afternoon nap, but it was worth it.
If you stop to consider it, the most exciting part of evangelism is your whole family can be involved. Pick a neighborhood family and invite them to go with you to a sporting event, the zoo, or a circus. You’ll have fun spending time with your family and be doing Kingdom work simultaneously. In reality, it’s not that hard, but it does force you to think differently. Allow Christ to create His heart for lost people inside you so that you birth a new willingness to share your life with the lost.
Most Christians don’t have a systemized plan
Those that have overcome the first three problems often see little success because they are out there on their own trying to make things happen. However, the beauty of being in a cell church is that we are not on our own. In fact, I believe that a cell is the optimal place for partnering together to make effective evangelism happen. Cells provide a strategy that allows everyone to be involved in the process of loving lost people into openness to Christ by implementing these six steps:
Step #1 is to target. Ask everyone in your cell to target one person or couple that is lost (and within their scope of being able to build a relationship). The person might change as the overall relationships you are seeking begin to cultivate. However, the key is not to take responsibility for seeing the whole world come to Christ, but rather just one person or couple. Your mission isn’t to witness to or win this person to Christ, but to work at establishing and building a relationship with them.
Step #2 is to pray. I personally believe that prayer is the most underutilized resource for evangelism. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that the only reason a person doesn’t recognize their need for Christ and His loving forgiveness is because the evil one has blinded their eyes! Helping them to “see the light of the gospel” is a spiritual battle that can only be fought in a spiritual realm. After I target someone and begin to work at building a relationship with them, I battle for them on my knees.
Step #3 is to pray together. This is where your cell comes in. The cell keeps a list of the people you are trying to reach and you’ll routinely review it during the “works” time of your weekly cell meeting and pray for these people by name. Often, my cell prays as a whole group, in pairs or generically. Other times we pray very specifically . . . naming the roadblocks that we perceive stand in the way of each person seeing their need for Christ and being willing to surrender to Him.
Step #4 is to increase the level of relationship with your target person. Go to lunch, go golfing together or ask them to go shopping with you. Search out opportunities to just stand around and talk. Often, we ask people to come to a church service or some evangelistic event and they say “no.” It’s important to get to know them well enough to know if they’re open to a church service or a cell meeting.
So you’ll know, I don’t believe it is my responsibility to see anyone get saved. That’s the work and responsibility of the Holy Spirit. But it is my job to care. It’s also my responsibility to get beyond my comfort zone in order to establish a relationship.
Step #5 is to do events as a cell. As a group, plan fun things to do and invite the people with whom you have been building relationships. These events can be game nights in one another’s homes; Meeting for dinner or appetizers in a local restaurant; Having a party or holiday celebration, etc. The best cells in my church do several of these monthly. Usually they try to do one group-wide event each month, as well as just the women or men getting together.
When we do these events, we know our focus is to invite the people with whom we’ve been striving to build relationships to meet our other friends. Everyone in the cell knows that their roll is not just to invite his or her person, but on the night of the event to work at establishing a relationship with others.
Rotating homes is very valuable in this process. Your friend is more likely to come the first time to your home. As people come to a second and third event, the location isn’t as important as the people. This is why the cell is so effective. A key thing happens over the course of several events. The people move from being my friend to being our friend. It’s the whole cell operating together that makes it work. After a while, people who had zero spiritual interest begin to think, “These new friends of mine, who genuinely love me, go to church together. Why shouldn’t I be inter-ested in checking this Christian thing out?”
Step #6 is the cell working together to love them into an openness to Christ. We put so much emphasis on the presentation, but it’s really the last step of evangelism. The key isn’t saying the words perfectly or presenting the “sales spiel” just right. Rather, the real work is doing the things that precede the actual presentation of the Gospel to bring down the barriers. Then they will open to Christ. My experience is that once the barriers are removed –– through a person being loved and prayed for –– seeing people receive Christ is like catching an apple as it falls from the tree!
Cells are the best place for working together to love people into openness to Christ. It provides a systemized plan that really does work! The evil one tries to keep us trapped in our fears, but the truth is that by simply learning to practice these six steps we can learn how to establish relationships with neighbors, coworkers, and others who are all around us. As we do this, our hearts will change and we will grow to be more concerned about the eternal condition of people’s souls. This propels us out of our comfort zones and into connection with others. We cannot continue to be satisfied living our Christian lives while remaining oblivious to the lost condition of people around us! As Christ’s heart overtakes our heart –– we are changed –– and as a result, our groups and our whole church will change. (end of article)
Jay Firebaugh is the lead pastor at Clearpoint Church, an 11 year old cell church in Pasadena, Texas. He also teaches several TOUCH seminars. He’s married to Janet and has 2 children, Joanna and Joel.
Editorial - By Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.
Honeycombs without honey: Are you living out God’s priorities in your cell?
Jonathan was unaware that Saul, his father, had ordered his army not to eat. He dipped his staff into the honeycomb, raised it to his mouth and his eyes brightened. A soldier quickly reminded him that he was violating the orders of the King. Jonathan remarked that his father had given a wrong command. He said, “See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey?” (1 Sam. 14:29).
Consider this: cell groups are formed by the Holy Spirit to contain Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). He is the honey in the honeycomb. He is the Source that brings brightness to the eyes of those who “taste Him.” Those who are spiritually blind need to observe Him operating in the honeycomb, the Basic Christian Community.
When cell groups exist that are not filled with Christ, the New Testament witness is lost. Evangelism is then reduced to little more than a cognitive description of the “wonderful plan God has for your life.” But that is not honey!
True transmission of the Gospel should not provide the unbeliever with information, but incarnation. That is what the passage in 1 Cor. 14:24-25 clearly portrays. We describe this as “Body Life Evangelism”:
“But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’”
The honeycomb reveals the Honey by showing the inner life of Christ. The unbeliever is impacted by His presence. As He speaks through one cell member to build up another cell member, the unbeliever says, “God is really among you!”
This means that if your cell is to reveal the Honey, all your cell members must be mentored to become priests who represent God to man and man to God. For Christ to be revealed, two things must take place: First comes a confession of need by your cell members. Not until the need for Christ's healing is viewed will there be manifestations of spiritual gifts.
Second, once a need is discerned, your cell members must all be mature enough to receive His gifts and minister to the needy member. The observation of this by the unbeliever is “Body Life Evangelism.”
“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
The source of these manifestations is Christ, dwelling in His body. He is the Honey. The cell is the honeycomb. Consider how pathetic it is to have a small group meet together and not celebrate the presence and power of Christ in their midst! That is why a small group lacks honey if their only purpose for meeting is to study the Bible or socialize. A true cell is always sensitive to its relationship as body members to the DNA, Christ, dwelling in them.
Preparing cell members to exercise ministry gifts must be a part of their initial orientation into body life. It is absurd to think that one discovers “giftedness” by taking a written inventory or quiz. The only place the true manifestation of spiritual gifts will be discovered is in the context of a need. In all the New Testament, every time the power of God was manifested there was a need. Lazarus was dead; the leper was diseased; the blind man could not see. It’s why your cell group must begin with a need in the body before the gifts will flow. It is when this is authentically taking place in the cell that the unbeliever “tastes the honey” and decides to receive the Christ and become part of the honeycomb. (end of article)
Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr. is the publisher of CellGroup Journal and author of 35 books. He is planting a hybrid citywide cell-based church in Houston, Texas.
Intergenerational Cell Groups - By Daphne Kirk
Instituting a cell agreement
The importance of boundaries.I was recently in a cell meeting which was having a fantastic time of fellowship and everything appeared to be going well. Both the children and the adults shared about their week. The interaction and peace was wonderful. I glanced across the room and saw the host quietly talking to a seven-year-old child who was standing on her new sofa. The mother of the child saw what happened and suddenly the peace of our time together was shattered. The mother took her child and announced that they “would leave the cell forever.”
This may seem to be an extreme reaction to an appropriate request. However, you must realize that we all react strongly to situations that we believe are important. These reactions come from “Life Commandments.” When the mother was visited later, it appeared that she was strongly adverse to other people correcting her child. Simple communication through a cell agreement would have avoided this situation.
A cell agreement is an important element of your cell. It establishes mutually-agreed upon standards and boundaries for the cell. All families live out of their own standards and boundaries. Sometimes, these are found along the way, and at other times are decided through discussion.
When a couple marries, they each bring into the marriage different “life commandments.” These ways of life are important to each person and often where disagreements begin. If the husband believes it is okay to leave the toothpaste lid off and the wife believes it should be replaced, then this will lead to daily irritation which in turn leads to open hostility over the issue. A healthy relationship will discuss these issues and reach mutually agreed upon decisions.
Just like a marriage, your cell is also composed of families and singles who are bringing their own life commandments into the community. A healthy community will have times when these commandments are discussed and an agreement is made.
How should you facilitate a cell agreement?
First, everyone from your cell (adults, young people and children) needs to be involved. Each of your cell members will have an opinion that makes a difference in how the cell agreement comes together. So, make sure everyone knows when you plan to discuss the agreement so they can be present.
A common way to facilitate this is for the children to go in one room with someone who is able to assist them, writing down their agreed proposals while the adults do the same in another room. After the proposals have been discussed separately, the two groups come together, discuss the proposals and reach the agreement jointly.
Ask your cell members to be faithful to the agreement. Tell them to keep in mind that they are given the opportunity to dispute and make adjustments when the agreement is reviewed. This also allows for new members to give their input.
What should be included?
The following are examples of questions that might be useful for your adults to discuss:
1. How will we involve, care for and take an interest in the children?
2. In what ways can we be positive role models for the children?
3. How can we make this cell a priority?
4. How can we make this cell a safe and trustworthy place for everyone?
5. In what ways will we respect each other’s homes?
6. How will we address issues of discipline?
7. What do we expect from each other in the cell meetings?
The following are examples of questions that might be useful for your children to discuss:
1. How can we be kind and helpful?
2. How can we take our full part in the cell meeting?
3. How can we encourage others in the cell, young and old?
4. In what ways do we need to respect our parents and other adults in the cell?
5. How should we behave towards each other?
6. When we go to other people’s homes, what do we need to be careful of?
7. What would we like to ask of the adults?
How do I resolve conflicts?
When your whole cell comes together to listen to each other and review the agreement, it is essential that you are looking for the place of peace.
Example #1: Most of your cell does not mind whether shoes are worn in the house, but one member would like shoes to be removed upon entry. Look for the place of peace! If everyone takes his or her shoes off in every home then the problem is resolved. It is difficult to remember to only take our shoes off at a particular member’s home. In the end, your cell members will forget and the homeowner’s feelings will be hurt.
Example #2: Most parents don’t mind if any members of the cell lovingly disciplines their children. But there is one parent that prefers the members go directly to her and allow her to discipline her child. Again, look for the place of peace! If the whole cell agrees to always go to the parent directly, then everyone is happy.
Why should we review the agreement?
It is vital to regularly review the cell agreement. If it is scheduled for a set date –– for example the first cell meeting in alternate months –– then any changes or revisions are made by routine, not by crises. This helps the agreement to remain depersonalized and predictable.
It is always better to prevent problems than to sort them out after they have happened. I have had cell leaders say to me, “We don’t need an agreement. We are not facing problems in any of these areas.” My response is always, “Then now is the time to make an agreement. When conflict comes, making an agreement is much harder!”
Without a cell agreement, it is guaranteed that sooner or later you will face unnecessary conflict arising from differing standards and boundaries within your cell. At the heart of this is a commitment to maintaining relationships between children and adults alike. It is the vehicle that will enable the cell agreement to be most effective. (end of article)
Daphne Kirk is an author and staff member of Ely Christian Fellowship in Cambridgeshire, England.
Leading Student Cells - By Randy Riggins
Help! There’s an adult in my group! Why the adult in your group is invaluable.
A few months ago, I lost something really important . . . my paycheck! I searched my house, car and office for a week, refusing to accept defeat. I finally gave up and decided to ask the business office to cancel the check and type out a new one. Dejected and a bit embarrassed, I continued with my weekend plans.
I later opened my wallet to look for a receipt and guess what was staring at me? My paycheck! For a week, I had taken that paycheck with me everywhere. It was closer to me than I realized! It was a resource that I needed, but I didn’t know I had it.
The adult in your cell may be the “paycheck” you never realized you had. I’m not saying they are the answer to your college fund, but they do have the potential to be one of the greatest resources for your group. You see, the act of actually locating my paycheck didn’t help me out financially. In order to benefit from the discovery, I had to cash the check. Let’s look at some ways to cash in on the participation of an adult in your group.
Student leaders may encounter difficulty keeping an objective view of what is going on in their group or in assessing leadership style. We all need people who can walk beside us and give us an honest evaluation. Adults can both encourage a student leader’s strengths and help discover and work on personal areas of weakness. Adults can also help a student leader learn the skills of delegation and empowerment. If the adult in the cell is not acting in this capacity, talk to your youth pastor about ways in which an adult can give you this type of support.
It is common for groups to get stumped on Bible passages. I’m sure you’ve discovered that every question doesn’t always have an easy answer. It’s okay to answer a difficult question with, “I don’t know, but I’ll do a little research and get back to you.”But, it makes sense to let your adult know they have the freedom to offer their insight.
The Book of Titus makes it clear that maturity in the faith should be passed down. This means allowing adults the freedom to help out when the conversation seems to be aimless in its goal. I’m not saying that adults have the freedom to lecture for 45 minutes or that you are relieved of your duty to come to group fully prepared. What I am saying is that, during group discussion, adults can provide helpful and applicable Biblical insight. Draw on the knowledge of your adult.
Authority, control and support
Adults can be very effective when dealing with difficult people in your group. In Texas, we recently had seven inmates escape from prison and evade capture for a month. When the last two were finally cornered, they asked a local news reporter to give them an interview before they surrendered to the authorities. When the interview was over, the reporter let them know that it was time to surrender and they obeyed. What if the inmates had decided not to honor the agreement? It didn’t matter! The situation was under control because the authorities had the power to make the arrests and backed up the reporter who was facilitating the interview.
As you facilitate the discussion in your group, there is the potential for things to get “out of control.” It is doubtful you will see prison escapees in your group next week. But, in the event the night does get crazy and you feel incapable of gaining control of the situation, an adult can help. It is very negative for the adult in your group to be seen as “the enforcer,” but he or she can easily and lovingly persuade difficult people to contribute instead of disrupt.
I expect our groups to have events throughout the year that occur in addition to weekly meetings. Adults can help with many of the logistical nightmares of group life by securing transportation and working out the details for these events. Also, parents of cell group members are comforted knowing their students are attending a group outing with adult involvement.
EXPERIENCE AND WISDOM
The adult in your group can be a great resource because of their past experiences. It’s a simple equation: More days lived = More life experiences. When used at appropriate times, adults can add an invaluable level of depth to your group.
Here’s an example: A group member tells you they have been diagnosed with Dyslexia. You know the adult in your group has Dyslexia. You are able to match up the adult and the student, creating an empathetic relationship, grounded in prayer, encouragement and support. This fulfills what Paul wrote concerning the way we relate to one another within the body of Christ in 2 Corinthians 1: 4, “Comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
MENTORING AND GUIDANCE
Finally, your adult can help oversee the mentoring that needs to take place within your cell. At this level, the adult in your group works to ensure that your cell members are becoming fully devoted followers of Christ. Some need to be directed to discipleship tools to help them in their faith. Others need to be challenged to meet with another student each week for accountability. Whatever the case, an adult can partner with you to help oversee a mentoring strategy for your group.
LET’S GET PRACTICAL!
Take time to get to know your adult. Pray together. Share your vision and values for the group and plan for the coming year. Go through cell group training times together and divide up responsibilities within the cell so you both clearly understand your roles. The effort you place into effectively using adults in your cell can bring success and maturity to your group. F
Randy Riggins is a seasoned youth pastor at Clearpoint Church in Pasadena, Texas.
Just for Pastors - By Douglas Vaughn
Confessions of a dancing Baptist: Practical leadership steps of a swingin’ soul man.
My name is Doug Vaughan. I’m a Southern Baptist pastor, and I dance!
Since childhood, I’ve admired men like Dick Van Dyke, Gene Kelley, and Fred Astaire because they made dancing seem so effortless and fun. Deep down, I wanted to dance, too. As a teenager, I never learned any genuine dance steps, even though I felt like John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever whenever I went to the occasional high school dance.
All that changed last year when my wife and I decided to take dance lessons. In three month’s time, we learned the basic steps for the Night Club Two-Step, the East Coast Swing and the Big Band Swing. During our time in class, we met some interesting and fun people. We’ve had such great fun that we continued our lessons. For two hours each Friday, we forget the cares of the week and focus on the task at hand: learning and improving our dance technique.
Not only have I learned some fantastic new steps, I’ve also considered how dancing relates to leading a congregation of God’s people. With this in mind, I offer you five leadership steps of a swingin’ soul man.
Step One: Hear the Beat
Hearing the underlying beat is essential to dancing in step with the music. Similarly, hearing God’s beat is paramount for pastors. I’ve learned that to hear God’s steady voice –– to tune into God –– I must nurture our relationship.
How? I keep a journal of prayers and reflections on Bible passages. The times I write out my thoughts and prayers are when God’s distinctive beat comes through loud and clear. I also read from The New Living Translation during daily devotions. God continues to use the freshness of this translation to get my attention. Make certain you hear God’s unmistakable voice. Nurture your relationship with God each day to keep in step with the Song of Life!
Step Two: Take Risks
Learning to dance can be risky business. You could fall down and feel like a hopeless case. But where would the great dancers be if they hadn’t risked ridicule?
You may be thinking, “The last thing I want to do is take more risks!” Continual risk-taking is essential to personal and professional growth. I view risk-taking as “calculated recklessness:” setting realistic, stretching goals and working to achieve those goals with complete abandon.
Five years ago, I undertook a huge venture as I left familiar, traditional church territory to assist a cell church start-up. I didn’t let that big risk keep me from taking smaller risks along the way. Over the past five years, I began and completed my doctorate, refined my preaching skills, began to plan and lead corporate worship, learned how to in-line skate, and took a dance class! I believe that my small risks have enhanced my contribution to the big risk of establishing a cell church in our city. What risk will you take?
Step Three: Love What You’re Doing
My dance instructor really loves what he’s doing, and this makes him an excellent teacher and leader. He’s passionate about dancing, and it shows.
People will follow confident, passionate leaders more readily than insecure, lukewarm leaders. I feel that most of us pastors truly want to love what we’re doing, but sometimes we lose our way. Honestly answer the following questions to gauge your love for pastoral ministry.
1. Do you enjoy what you’re doing and do others enjoy watching you work?
2. What does your face show about your love for pastoral ministry? Are you stern-faced or smiling?
3. Do you have a spring in your step or are you dragging your heals?
4. Are you still enthralled with your call?
5. How do you restore your passion?
Step Four: Learn from Your Mistakes
My wife and I have experienced our share of missteps and mishaps during the past year of dance lessons. Most of the time we laugh about our mistakes, trying to learn what went wrong so we can correct the problem.
Feedback is the key to improving our deficiencies. After our instructor shows us what to do, he asks us to perform the same move and tells us how we did. Why? He wants us to learn from our superb steps and our horrible mistakes so that we can reinforce the good and eliminate the bad.
In what areas have you been doing great in your ministry? Celebrate it and reinforce it! What is the most recent mistake you made in ministry? Learn from it! Receive feedback from your leadership team.
Step Five: Keep Dancing
Frustrated and embarrassed, I wanted to quit after our first dance lesson. Three things kept me going. One, I paid for those lessons and I didn’t want to lose my investment. Two, my wife encouraged me to keep going because she believed in me. Three, I finally realized that I was not the only one learning how to dance. Most of the students were novice dancers.
Keep the following in mind as you continue your cell church journey. First, you are not alone in this adventure. A great crowd of dancing saints surrounds you. The people of TOUCH and other cell church organizations, along with a host of cell church pastors, are available to help. Second, put aside all the stuff that hinders your progress, and put on your ministerial dance shoes. Third, do not grow weary and give up. The lessons have just begun.
Finally, “take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong” Hebrews 12:12-13, NLT. (end of article)
Douglas Vaughan is the Co-Pastor of Crosspoint Community Church in Reno, NV. He and his wife, Debbie, have two boys, Dustin and Derek.You may contact Doug at email@example.com.
Missions - Go Ye Therefore - By Sam Scaggs
Global missions at home: Reaching foreign college students for Christ.
The rented room in Jakarta was packed with 2,500 believers who gathered for the 4th Annual Global Cell Church Missions Network (CCMN) Summit.
The topic that evening was “Having a Heart for the Nations of the World.” The pastor’s message was clear, “unless you have a heart for your own nation, you will never have a heart for the nations of the world.”
It was as though the Lord sent an angel to spear my heart with a holy javelin. I wept and repented for the remainder of the service. I came to the realization that in my zeal for reaching the lost in other nations, my heart had grown cold toward my own country. I became so focused on “the ends of the earth,” I lost sight of my own Jerusalem.
That night I made a commitment to the Lord to be faithful to what I call the “Acts 1:8 Great Commission.” I added action steps to this new commitment to target the unreached in my own nation and city. Maybe this journey can help you to walk out your own “Acts 1:8 Great Commission” in your city or local college campus.
Window of opportunity
Recently, Bob Logan shared something that stunned me: “The United States is the third largest unreached nation in the world with 195 million unchurched Americans.”
Many believers only glance at this incredible “window of opportunity” that exists in cities throughout the U.S.A. where a state university is located. There are over 453,000 international college students studying in our country every year. They represent approximately 211 countries, 67 of which restrict traditional missionary activity. Gopar Kanan, a student leader at a local international student ministry shared this: “The U.S. State Department estimates that 25% of the world’s future leaders are studying here in our country.”
These men and women usually arrive with the mindset that this a “Christian” nation only to find blatant sin, humanism and ideologies that exist in their home nations. International student ministries are crying out for us to help them. We have turned our backs on these future international leaders for too long and it is time to report for duty.
Where to begin
This is where is gets exciting. Your cell group can contact one of the international student ministries headquarters given at the end of this article to see how you can get involved in an existing ministry. If there is not one in your city, start your own at any local college by contacting the international student office at the university and volunteering to host international students. Learn what the needs are and then pray, asking the Lord to show you how you can network within your cell group, church and other churches to reach out.
How can you penetrate this community of students? Host them in your home. Serve them by taking them places that are wholesome in your city and region. Help them find doctors and dentists. Now you can help and rise to the challenge.
Most of all, become their friends so they can see Jesus through you. Many of them will open their hearts and invite Christ into their lives. They will go back to their own nations, plant churches and maybe even change the destiny of their own nation. Now this is global missions at home! Go for it! (end of article)
Student ministry information:
International Student Christian Fellowship
Gopar Kanan; Phone: (757) 366-5988
Sam Scaggs provides direction for the Cell Church Missions Network, USA. Visit his website at: www.stragetgicnetwork.org.
Nucleus - By Larry Kreider
Guarding against cell group rigor mortis: What does the Father want to do in your cell?
It’s amazing how quickly cells and cell meetings become boring! Why does this happen? We stop asking the Father to renew our vision and end up doing the same old stuff every week. New traditions can crystallize quickly. When we neglect to hear a fresh word from the Father to see what He wants to do among us, cell group rigor mortis sets in.
Rigor mortis is the stiffening of the body after death. If we are careless, our cell groups can slide into the first stages of spiritual rigor mortis. Jesus told the Pharisees that He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). He was in constant relationship with His Father in heaven, listening to His voice.
Listen to God’s voice
When I was a new cell leader, a young couple in our cell phoned me an hour before the cell meeting, “We can’t come tonight, we have to do lawn work.”
I muttered to myself, “Isn’t our cell more important than their lawn work?” With a complete lack of compassion and hefty dose of pride, I continued mumbling, “If they were committed, they’d get their priorities straight.”
Then the Father got my full attention with an innovative thought. “Let’s take the entire cell to their home and help them!” Working together, hand-in-hand, on their lawn was a blast! We followed what the Father was doing in the lives of this young couple (building a relationship with them) and the Lord honored our obedience.
One of the cells in our city recently realized they were spending too much time focused on themselves rather than on serving hurting people in their community. So, they decided to meet every other week at a local coffee shop, hang out and talk to people in the community. They are enjoying this time at the coffee shop because it is what the Father is doing among them.
Understand your cell’s “season”
Healthy cells will focus on prayer, evangelism and discipleship (spiritual parenting). There are seasons when you will emphasize one above the others. Which season is your cell in now?
Two times during the past eighteen months, our cell sent out its members to help start a new cell. Now the remaining members of our cell feel we are in a season of personal transition. We are praying for everyone to find the next step for his or her life. This is something the Father is doing in our cell! We love it! There is a sense of the life of Christ among us.
Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit
A cell in Canada, sensitive to the burden they were feeling for unsaved relatives and friends, began to pray for these loved ones. Upon returning home after a cell meeting, one woman found her husband in deep repentance. He told her he was sitting at the kitchen able and found himself under such deep conviction that he fell off his chair, onto the floor, repenting for his backslidden condition. The cell followed what the Father was doing among them and reaped the fruit of their obedience.
At a cell meeting where some people were feeling sick, the cell leaders wisely discerned what the Father wanted to do. . . to move as a healer. Hands were laid on those who were sick and prayers of faith were verbalized (James 5:16). What happened? The Lord stretched out His hand to heal. After all, this is what the Father wanted to do. They simply gave Him the opportunity.
Develop your cell’s personality and focus
Each cell family has its own personality and focus. Remember, without a progressive vision, God’s people perish (Prov. 29:18). Without a clear vision of what the Father is doing, there is a tendency to become lethargic and spiritual rigor mortis sets in. Do not allow it to happen! Honor your leaders and then watch to see what the Father is doing among you. Share what you see with your cell leaders and your cell. Expect to experience the life of Christ among you! Sounds like the book of Acts, doesn’t it? (end of article)
Larry Kreider is director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a world-wide network of cell churches.
(end of issue)