This weekend, my town lost a battle with the second wave of a tropical storm. The same freeway I use to travel to work each day was 18 feet under water. Thousands of homes and vehicles were flooded with tainted water overflowing from our bayous and creeks. The $1 billion in damages Houston suffered pales in comparison to the lives that were lost. At last count, 17 people fought to stay alive but didn’t make it.
My heart goes out to the many that have lost their property and loved ones. As you read about the devastation in San Salvador described by Pastor Mario Vega, I know you will be impacted. What struck me is that his church sprung to action to help thousands while the government pondered what to do in the hours following the earthquake. Because of their strong, cell-based communication skills, this church ministered to the hurting and saw a huge harvest of souls. It’s comforting to know that cell churches are equipped to minister and serve. When the going gets tough, the tough cell churches get going!
Before you turn the pages to read Pastor Vega’s article, I want you to know that I was also greatly impacted by Paul Ford’s cover article on spiritual gifts. For many years, I have operated under the impression that my spiritual gifts were those that came so naturally to me and were comfortable as I ministered to others. After reading his article, I now know that’s not completely true. So as not to spoil the impact of the article itself, I’ll not go into details here. Be assured that it will challenge you to adopt a new paradigm.
Friend, our lives here on earth are fragile and will be completed all too soon. As I fearfully approach my 40’s, I see my life speeding up. Whole months pass in a blur of activities, meeting and appointments. While I can’t prove my theory, I believe my birthdays arrive more frequently as my hair turns gray and then drowns in the shower pan drain. Boy, I have a lot to do before I get elderly.
The older I become, the greater my sense of urgency to help churches band together to minister to the lost and help them find their way to the cross. God has called us to lay down our differences, deal with our personal issues, join a team and storm the gates of hell. I challenge you to embrace urgency and join me.
My hope is that you never experience a disaster. I also hope you never undergo spiritual persecution as we are seeing among the believers in Indonesia. But, because of declining world conditions, there’s a high likelihood that you will experience one or all of the above in your lifetime. Don’t be frightened. Just prepare for revival.
God has brought us into a unique time in history. Minister to others powerfully as a cell group and in His giftings given to you! (end of article)
Worship - By Gerrit Gustafson
Worship & the visitor: How to be sensitive to visitors while maintaining an intimate worship experience.
“I will praise You, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.” Psalm 108:3
An American church planting pastor in Japan told me this story. Two Japanese, who never had any previous contact with Christianity, came into a tiny Christian gathering. The worship that day, he said, was especially good. After the meeting, the two visitors eagerly approached the pastor with this question: “When you were singing those songs, we felt something. Was that God?” The pastor explained how God dwells in the praises of His people and how they could know Him personally.
The Universal Itch
People are looking for spiritual reality. In previous decades, secular rationalism created antagonism toward spiritual expression. Currently, there is a broad reaction to that worldview and an unabashed hunger for spiritual experience. For the most part, however, the church is surprisingly uncomfortable with its transcendent nature.
In his book entitled The Contemporary Christian, John Stott makes this observation:
“This quest for transcendence is a challenge to the quality of the church’s public worship. Does it offer what people are craving –– the element of mystery . . . in biblical language ‘the fear of God’ . . . in modern language ‘transcendence?’ My answer to my own question is ‘Not often.’ The church is not always conspicuous for the profound reality of its worship . . . No wonder those seeking Reality often pass us by!” (InterVarsity Press, 1992, pg. 223)
We shouldn’t assume that the visitor has no capacity to comprehend spiritual phenomenon. After all, each one is made in the image of God, and, as Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, He has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” The worship experience corresponds to that universal “itch.” This explains the recent finding of the largest study of American congregational life ever undertaken: “vibrant worship is at the heart of church growth.”
Let’s look at some principles of how animated worship can help you in your cell and congregation communicate the Christian life to visitors.
Principle #1 - Worship Gives a Picture of Kingdom Life
A man I met at a conference told me the following story. At a time in his life when he was far from God, he was hurrying through a hotel lobby and glanced at a television broadcast of a large gathering of people worshipping. Less than a minute later, he stopped in his tracks, went back to the TV and watched intently through his tears, knowing that God was drawing him back. God apprehended this man through a picture of worship.
Jesus said that loving God totally and wholeheartedly is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:30). Cells and congregational meetings should be living pictures of the society of those who have exchanged self-centered living for God-centered living. The act of corporate worship beautifully demonstrates this new life style where God is the center. A visitor needs such a picture.
Principle #2 -- Mean what you sing and sing what you mean
The biggest hindrance to visitors is not that they encounter something they don’t immediately understand, it’s encountering something that is not genuine. Mahatma Ghandi, after several years of studying in London, said he would have become a Christian if he had ever met one. Whatever version of Christianity he saw, he didn’t see the real thing.
One study concluded that 55% of all communication is nonverbal. The visitor is not just listening to what you say. He is intuitively observing how connected you and your group really are with what you espouse. He’s looking for emotional and intellectual honesty, depth of conviction, and heartfelt compassion. How we worship reflects these things more than we know.
The discipline that worship leaders and worshippers must learn is to mean what you sing and sing what you mean. This will affect not only what you sing, but how you sing it. Worship leaders, choose songs that are appropriate to your group’s experience . . . there is no place for meaningless expression. And learn the songs so well that they are literally part of you. Then when you lead, the songs will effortlessly spring out of your hearts.
Also, work on making natural transitions between songs and between the segments of your meetings. It’s like taking a tour through various rooms in a house. Brief explanations along the way will help the visitors know that you want them to be part of the tour.
Principle #3 -- One Size Does Not Fit All
What I love about small group meetings is how flexible they can be. People who come to our meetings will be at many different levels of spiritual experience. And since the Holy Spirit knows and loves each one so deeply, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit is the best thing you can do for the visitor.
Sometimes we’ll sing mostly fun songs; other times, the songs may be more thoughtful. Sometimes we’ll sing one or two songs; other times, four or five, or maybe none at all. To some, Jesus revealed mysteries; to others He veiled His message. In the same way, we need to discern the level of hunger among those who are visiting.
Do unto others...
Why is it so important to me that we not try to hide our worship from the visitor? It’s because I was once the visitor, as you probably were too. I can still remember that meeting in Tallahasse, Florida in 1968 when I saw people abandoned to God in worship. Like the Queen of Sheba when she was the visitor observing Israel’s worship (2 Chron. 9:4), I was “breathless.” I’ll never be the same. Don’t you think that those who visit us should be given the same privilege? (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
Does my cell need a strategy? Strategic thinking for cell leaders.
If you are asking yourself, “You mean to tell me that as a cell leader I need to have a strategy?” My answer would be, “Only if you desire results!”
Strategy is defined as “the science of using all forces available to execute plans as effectively as possible to achieve desired results.” The very definition of strategy presumes that there is a goal and that plans to reach that goal are in the making. Therefore, to strategize is to actively pursue the attaining of all goals according to the plan in force.
No Strategy, No Accomplishments
Not having a plan for your cell is the biggest mistake you can make as a leader. Not having a strategy to follow in order to carry out those plans is the second biggest mistake you can make.
It is not “unspiritual” to set goals and make plans to reach those goals. As a matter of fact, if you don’t make goals for your group, don’t expect to accomplish much of anything for cause of Christ. Why do I say this? Because satan has a plan and a very detailed strategy to keep your group from growing or even existing long-term! Let’s look at how we can use strategies to accomplish all that God desires for our group, and rob satan from retaking territory.
In Isle of Palms, South Carolina, I am part of an area populated with retirees. Many have relocated from all over the U.S., building retirement homes and making a new life for themselves.
The desire of my cell was to reach this group. Our goal was to get them involved in our cell group and then in our church. Our plan included an invitation to meet with them in a host home in their neighborhood, but the strategy had to be such that the people would feel welcome and know we were genuinely interested in becoming friends.
We began by involving every cell member in prayer for the people on the island. Each member prayed daily and we prayed as a cell group every week in our meetings.
Next, a list was obtained containing the names of each person that visited our church from the island. A letter was composed and sent to the 200 names of the people on the list, informing them of what God was doing on the island. We asked them to fill out a questionnaire inquiring about their church attendance patterns and interest in our cell group.
After the letters were mailed, a few forms were returned, but the remaining unresponsive residents were contacted by phone to personally invite them to a group meeting.
How To Employ A Strategy In Your Cell Group
For our Isle of Palms group, the first step was to create a list of what needed to be done. Our plan required that we obtain a list of names and addresses, create a letter to the residents listed, prepare and send the mail-out and make phone calls. Then, each person that attended needed a follow-up visit or phone call.
First, you must create a set of operational objectives (your “to do” list). Identify what needs to be done and ensure that each step is described, understood and properly executed. This is best done as a group, with you as the facilitator.
Second, involve every member of your group to bring ownership to the strategy. Doing this in my group required listening to each member give feedback on the best way execute our plans. After we all agreed how the plan should be done and by whom, I realized some of our members would require training to be successful in their role.
Consider breaking your group into “units” and assigning each unit a specific responsibility that matches its gifting. Good communicators in our cell manned the phone, others that meet people easily did the visitation, and the balance were responsible for creating, printing and assembling the mailing. Working in teams of people with similar gifts will create synergy and energize each individual to get involved. Many people are not comfortable doing something like this alone, so build teams that will work together.
Third, make the strategy everyone’s daily or weekly job. Once your list has been made and assigned, proceed with your plan. Don’t let it hang out there without accountability and a firm deadline. If you do not set a time limit or schedule of events, there will be no sense of urgency to get it done.
Each member of my group understood the time frame and worked to complete his/her task within the time allotted. If a task is to be done weekly, then weekly accountability from you will be necessary. If it is a daily task, then daily accountability is necessary until the goal is reached. As you hold people accountable, don’t become a pain to your group! Keep it fun and rejoice in the small wins along the way. When you are done, celebrate the results!
Fourth, develop tools to get the job done. For example, our members needed a telephone script to stay on track. As you begin to execute your plans, coach your members until they feel comfortable and confident in what they have been asked to do. If some people just can’t do what’s being asked of them, work as a team to create a system or a workable process.
Last, keep the group mobilized through leadership. It will be vital that you maintain a course of action and continuously cast the vision. Each week in your meetings — and when you speak with members individually — share your excitement for what God is going to do and how lives will be changed. As others catch your anticipation and enthusiasm, ask them to share.
The sweet smell of success
Everyone loves success, especially in kingdom-building efforts! In the case of my group, the results were awesome! Out of 200 names that were contacted via mail and phone, 35 people visited the group. Today, our group is preparing to multiply into numerous new groups!
Because of our group-designed plan and strategy, we enjoyed our teamwork and achieved super results. The experience took our group to a new level of intimacy. We worked as team to complete the plan and didn’t stop until it was finished. Everyone felt a great sense of unity and accomplishment!
When your group sees the success of such a venture, they are more likely to repeat it or create a new strategy to reach out or serve others. If you give up or fail because of the absence of effective strategy, it may be difficult to try it again with the same group. Strategy and delegation will help ensure success and will empower people to do great things that before they never thought possible. If you want results in ministry, you just have to have a strategy! (end of article)
Billy Hornsby is 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
It is Larry’s month to host the cell meeting and he is excited. The cell meeting is supposed to start at 7 p.m. so he has the food and drinks ready by 6:45 in eager anticipation. By 7:20 everyone has finally arrived, is settled in and ready to start.
Larry is now concerned. His kids need to be in bed by 9:30, at the latest, and he has a feeling the meeting will exceed its time limits again.
At 9:30, the meeting has ended and the cell members leave, but a few are still hanging around. By the time everyone has finally left, it’s nearly 10:30.
Larry feels exhausted and abused. He doesn’t want to continue hosting the meeting in his home, but he committed to a full month. As he tucks his kids in bed, he thinks to himself, “I am never volunteering to have our meeting here again!”
Do your cell meetings exceed their time limits or begin late? If so, you may be unknowingly pushing your cell members away. You may think it’s hard to control how much time is taken during the meeting, but if your meetings are constantly running over or late, your cell members will grow tired and weary. You could potentially lose your entire cell!
How can you ensure your cell meeting is not overflowing by an hour or more?
1. Arrive Early. As a cell leader, you should be at least 15 minutes early to the meeting location. Use this time to pray and help the host get the meeting area ready. Encourage your worship leader and intern to be early as well. This gives you a chance to meet with your intern and gives the worship leader time to tune an instrument and pray before the meeting begins.
2. Begin on time. Do you have at least one person who runs late to the meeting? Do you wait until everyone arrives to start the meeting? Yikes! If you wait on those who are late, you are modeling to your cell that it’s okay to be late. Start your cell at its scheduled time. It will save you from conflict later.
3. Make a schedule and stick to it. Set up a time to meet with your coach –– or a mature, seasoned cell leader –– and your intern. Discuss making a schedule, giving each part of the cell meeting a set time limit. Here is an example for a cell that starts at 7:00:
Welcome: 7:00 - 7:10: Ten minutes is plenty of time to greet each other, grab some snacks/drinks and get comfortable in a seat. Be sure to include an icebreaker and sharing time.
Worship: 7:10 – 7:25: Three songs at five minutes per song. If you have some extra time here, pray with your group.
Word: 7:25 – 8:00: Thirty-five minutes may not sound like enough time, but this is not a Bible study. Emphasis should be placed on ministry to one another with your topic based on a brief Bible passage.
Works: 8:00 – 8:30: Thirty minutes is a base time from which to work. You may take more time in prayer if needed, but be sure to inform your cell that less time will be available for fellowship afterwards.
Fellowship: 8:30 – 9:00: Leave time for fellowship after the meeting. If you exceed the allotted time for a specific part of the meeting, make time adjustments to the other parts so you stay within your schedule.
4. Take care of your cell members outside of the cell meeting. This does not include Sunday morning. If the only other time you see your members is at your church campus on Sunday, you are cheating yourself and your cell members out of quality time together, due to convenience. If your members feel they are cared for outside of the meeting, they won’t carry so many of their burdens to the meeting.
How can you spend quality time with your members?
~ Call your cell members on the phone, just to say hello and visit.
~ Make regular prayer visits to your cell member’s homes.
~ If a cell member wants to talk after the meeting is over, take them out for coffee and discuss it outside of the host’s home.
6. Be fully prepared for the meeting before arriving. Study your topic of discussion so you know it well. Memorization is not necessary as long as you know which scriptures will be used and the basic idea and point of the topic. Also, ensure your intern and worship leader are fully prepared.
7. Work with your host. Contact your host at least three or four days before the meeting. Explore their needs and expectations for the meeting. Confirm their schedule so there are no conflicts and then share your needs and expectations. If have properly communicated with your host, each of you can be prepared before the night of the meeting.
If you put these seven steps into action, your cell meetings will run more smoothly and end at the scheduled time. Your cell members will appreciate your timeliness and your hosts will be more than happy to host again.
–Tiffany Symmank, Toolkit Editor
Worship & Children
0ne of our Deacon Intern Families was placed into leadership over their LifeCell group. The Lord laid on their hearts to have a night of worship before the Lord. The wife, Lori, shared a dream the Lord gave her the night before. She dreamed that Jesus was at their front door digging up dirt in their flower bed. When she asked Him why He was digging in the dirt, He explained that we were formed from the dust of the ground and that He wants to take every part, every inch of our lives (if you will - every speck of dirt that makes up who we are). Jesus wants to take our lives, molding it and handling it with His great love to ensure our soil is fertile for all that He has planned for us.
After Lori finished explaining her dream, we began to praise and worship. Before we knew it, an hour and a half had come and gone, but it felt like 15 minutes! The presence of the Lord was so strong. Whole families were on their knees weeping before the Lord. The children were dancing before the Lord and watching their parents worship. This is the very nature of cell life . . . the children follow the example of their mentors, their mom and dad.
In that moment, God spoke to me and showed me a picture of golden gates and He said, “Some never pass through these gates into My presence.” The Lord wants to takes us, as His church, through the gates and into His power and presence. My exhortation to you as cells and cell leaders is “Don’t forget the importance of worship in the cell. Don’t forget the importance of the example parents have on their children in cell life”.
– Pastor Lee Brockinton, Life Celebration Center, Highlands, TX
TOP TEN Icebreakers
1. What is your favorite time of day?
2. What occupation did you want as a child?
3. What is an unusual fact about yourself?
4. What would you like to be known for?
5. What is the first thing you do in the morning?
6. In what way are you like your mother/father?
7. Describe your week in the form of a type of music.
8. What’s the craziest thing you did in senior high school?
9. What has God been talking to you about this week?
10. What do you think delights God above everything else in your life?
Reaching the hungry
“I really feel that there is no better way to show folks Jesus with “skin on” than to appear on their doorsteps with food.” These are the words of Christy Golema, coordinator of the food pantry at New Horizon United Methodist Church in Champaign, Illinois. New Horizon is a growing six year old church that was founded on the twin pillars of small group and prayer. The senior pastor is Roger Ross, whose passion for small group ministry has helped to create over fifty small groups and serving teams.
Each month we receive referrals from The Empty Tomb, a non-profit Christian organization in our community. One of their jobs is to help match-up requests for food with churches that are willing and able to help. The families that need help are referred to Empty Tomb by various social service agencies, schools, or by personal requests. After screening the referrals to determine need, the church is contacted, and within 24 hours food for one week is delivered to the family in need.
Christy is the contact person for New Horizon. She first phones the family to determine if they have any special needs, and then contacts the small group that is scheduled for that month. Food that is non-perishable is obtained from our food pantry, located in the basement of an apartment house owned by a member of our congregation. One of the best ways to collect this food is to “charge admission” to the small group meetings. Members are asked to bring a single non-perishable item for the food pantry, or perhaps contribute one dollar that can be used to purchase the perishable items from the store. Usually a couple of small group members — armed with about $40-$50 — will head for the store to pick up the perishable food, and then make the delivery to the needy family.
I think Christy puts it best when she says, “This is a great way to reach out to the community, and provide a small amount of respite in our harsh world. I have personally seen empty refrigerators in houses with five children under the age of six. Last week, a team member made a delivery to a medically homebound diabetic woman. The team member himself is diabetic, so it was easier for him to reach out to her. There is nothing like seeing others in need to make you realize you are so blessed. God provides us with all that we need. It’s worth the effort to stretch that to someone who doesn’t know Jesus.”
As New Horizon continues to grow and move into a new building in the fall of 2001, we have greater resources available to continue our efforts to reach the least, the last, and the lost. We are so thankful for the many people who are serving Jesus by offering practical examples of His love to the community and beyond.
–Chuck McNeil, New Horizon UMC, Champaign, IL
One of the books which God seems to be using these days is The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. This book gives an in-depth look at a little known man’s prayer recorded in 1 Chron. 4:10. This man’s name was Jabez. In the first nine chapters of I Chronicles, hundreds of names are listed. Nothing is said about any of the names except Jabez. It’s God saying in the midst of all these names, “Stop! See how this man prays.” This passage says, “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.”
That prayer became a part of my daily prayer life. I even gave copies of the book to the zone supervisors in our cell ministry. Later, one of the zone supervisors and his wife attended my cell. That evening they shared their testimony of how God increased their territory (influence) to their unbelieving family and friends.
In that moment, the Spirit said to me, “Every cell member needs to have their influence (their ‘territory’) increased among unbelievers.” We all need to pray and ask God to increase our influence in the lives of lost people so the Holy Spirit can help to discover and meet the needs in their lives. He will provide opportunities to meet them, serve them, find out about their needs and meet those needs in the name of Jesus. Then they will listen to what we have to say about Jesus’ love.
From that concept the “Jabez Meal” was born. I prayed about what the cell ministry should do for an Easter Harvest Event and the Jabez Meal was the result. Each cell was asked to sponsor as many “Jabez Meals” as possible. The goal: Serve a lost person by inviting them to a meal. It could be in a home, yard, or restaurant.
We wanted our cells to spend time and “get into the boat” of a lost person. A meal is a non-threatening way to start a relationship with an unbeliever. There’s no agenda in a meal. It’s just getting together with unbelievers and loving them in the name of Jesus.
Our cell members invited unbelieving friends, neighbors, family and work associates. The results have been phenomenal! One college cell set up a grill at their apartment complex and had 30+ in attendance. One cell made up of senior adults invited their senior citizen gated community to a lake for ice cream. Another cell invited a whole subdivision to a resident’s home for a cookout. The leader reported that his cell is once again excited about the possibilities of reaching the lost because of the number of non-cell members in attendance. One woman sponsored an Easter Egg Hunt for her neighborhood. These are just the early results of how our cell members’ influence and territory has been increased in the lives of lost people. Just imagine what God can do for your cell and the influence you will have on the lost people you know if you just give Him a chance!
–Bill Tharp, West Mobile Baptist Church, Mobile, AL
A Waste of Time
An established church member wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. He wrote, “I’ve gone for 30 years now and in that time I have heard over 3,000 sermons. But, for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. I think I’m wasting my time. I think the pastors are also wasting their time giving sermons at all.”
This started a controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. For several weeks, people wrote in giving their opinion. Finally, one man wrote a letter to the editor with the following explanation, “I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time, my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. Unfortunately, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals. All I know is that they nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today.”
No further comments were made on the giving of sermons and their contents.
Evangelism - Making Him Known -By Karen Hurston
You must be present to win! Attitudes and practices of soul-winning groups and group members.
Ever enter a drawing? You write your name and contact information on a slip of paper, and insert it in a bowl or box. Then, on a given day and time, someone picks one of those slips, and the winner gets the prize. It’s a simple process, but there is often one rule: you must be present to win. If your slip is picked and you are not present at the time of the drawing, you lose.
The same is true if you and I (and our cell groups) are to win people to the Lord. No matter how busy we might be in other good and noble activities, know this: we cannot win unbelievers to the Lord from a distance. Instead, we must be present in their lives to win them.
How can believers be present in the lives of the lost with the presence of Christ?
To find out, I asked pastors and staff of cell churches to interview people who have been won to the Lord through a cell group. My helpful friends included: Al Jennings, senior pastor of Summit City Christian Church, a multi-racial congregation in Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Mark Kraybill, cell group coordinator of Hopewell Mennonite Church, pastored by Vic Dunning in Elverson, Pennsylvania; Susanne Kuttruff, a zone pastor with Christliches Zentrum Buchegg, pastored by Werner Kniesel in Zurich, Switzerland; Carey Robertson and Newman Tye, senior associate and district pastors of Brownsville Assembly of God (my home church), pastored by John Kilpatrick in Pensacola, Florida; and Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea, pastored by David Yonggi Cho.
Through ten interviews from five diverse cell churches, I discovered four basic attitudes and principles of “winning” people.
BE PRESENT WITH GENUINE CARE
Dawn was an attorney in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and felt apprehensive about “church people.” Her cousin invited her to a cell meeting he was hosting. Dawn accepted, knowing she would be “safe” in her cousin’s home.
As Dawn frequented the group, she felt they cared about her, describing them as a family with everyone made to feel a vital part. This was most evident when Dawn’s aunt died. The group cared for her and made her grief much easier to bear. Dawn not only committed her life to Christ, but is now involved with Summit City Christian Center, which she states “has taken me to another level of happiness and success in my life.”
Janelle’s friend invited her to a group meeting in Elverson, Pennsylvania. Even though Janelle was a single mother, she felt the group “enfolded” her and made her feel important and valued. “There was just a lot of love there,” states Janelle, now a strong Christian. Four years later, Janelle and her husband are cell group leaders at Hopewell Mennonite Church.
How can your group show genuine care for an unbeliever? Take him or her out to lunch, do something together that you mutually enjoy, and make frequent “just thinking of you” phone calls. When asking personal questions, listen to their responses and be slow to criticize. These are just a few ways to let your unbelieving friends know you value them and you are a real friend.
BE PRESENT WITH TRUE CHRISTIAN INTEGRITY
Few things have hurt the Gospel more than hypocrisy. In reverse, few things have helped the Christian witness more than true integrity. Several of those interviewed said they appreciated that the leaders lived real and consistent Christian lives.
Ariane said of her friend Brigette, a new Christian in Zurich, Switzerland, “What really impressed me was Brigette’s changed character. She was much more patient than before, and our talks were no longer superficial.”
Later, when Brigette and her husband became cell leaders, Ariane visited the group and found that though the cell members did not always have the same opinions, each person was given the chance to share his or her point of view.
BE PRESENT WITH PRAYER
Of those interviewed, several were greatly impacted by the prayers of others. Nicole recalled of her former life, “Over the years a deep emptiness and senselessness developed in my life.” Yves, a member of the church in Zurich, recognized Nicole’s situation and prayed for her. He later invited her to his cell group, where she made a life commitment to Jesus. After, Nicole wrote a thank you letter to the cell group for praying for her.
How can you pray for your unbelieving friends while keeping up with your busy life? Pray while getting ready in the morning, as you drive to work, before you eat your lunch, or every time you go to church. Once a week, fast a meal and pray for your friend’s salvation, and most importantly, rally others in your cell group to join you in prayer for your friend.
BE PRESENT WITH FRIENDLY PERSISTENCE
Another consistency among those interviewed was the friendly persistence of those who invited them. Such was the case with Justin, a fourteen-year-old boy who was especially shy around adults. Rusty and her husband Dean, members of Pensacola’s Brownsville Assembly, continually invited Justin to the youth cell they oversaw in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Justin finally decided to go, and during a group meeting, he gave his life to Christ.
One of the greatest stories of friendly persistence comes from Dr. Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea. Yunhu made weekly drop-in visits for two years (that’s more than 100 visits) to Mrs. Lee and her husband before they came to her group and to the Lord. Mr. and Mrs. Lee are now praying for the salvation of their adult children.
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
God loved us so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, to be present in our lives. Since you have been blessed with the gift of salvation, will you now bless others? Consider who God would have you and your cell group target. Then, be present in that person’s life with prayer, genuine care, true Christian integrity, and friendly persistence. Then stand back and watch God’s Spirit use you and your group to help others win an eternal prize! (end of article)
Karen Hurston is an international consultant to cell churches based in Gulf Breeze, FL. Visit her website: www.hurstonministries.org
Cover Article - By Paul R. Ford
Your Cell Group: The Best Place to Discover and Use Spiritual Gifts
“Spiritual gifts are not where we are good or even talented... they’re where we are powerful!”
Ten years ago, I was convinced that the best place to discover your gifts was in the cell setting. Body life released in the body being built up and multiplied. It just made so much sense.
After watching and participating in body life ministry in hundreds of different settings in eight different cultures, ten years of experience has revealed the same result. Without question, spiritual gifts are best discovered in a place where ministry among the members is shared and where the Great Commission is fulfilled through a strategic relational investment. Sounds like cell ministry to me!
1 Peter 4:10-11 sets the tone for affirming a cell ministry value. Picture your cell as the place this biblical reality is lived out, “Each one should use whatever gift he [or she] has received to serve others, as faithful managers of the grace of God in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should speak as if he were speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”
Gifts were Given to Serve and Build up Others in Body Life
“Each one should use whatever gift he [or she] has received to serve others . . .” Training Christian leaders in many cultures has revealed some disheartening realities for me about the West, most specifically the United States. The most disturbing, while not news to many of us, is the challenge of individualism. I call this the “glorification of the I.” While God designed us to be a “we,” so many American Christians cannot get past the “I.” Whether it is narcissism, where I am the center of my universe; or entitlement, where I deserve whatever it is that I want; or dissatisfaction, where I am not happy with what I have or with my friends or with who I am. Whichever form of self-indulgence affects Americans and American believers, the reality is still the same. What “I want” appears to be more important that what the group needs.
But God gave gifts first so that believers could serve one another in the Body of Christ. That is quite different than the individual being glorified or self-actualized! The reality is that you and I are organically interwoven into the Body, now living to serve others whom God has given us in a local setting. Helping believers come together and live this out in a culture where the individual is glorified is a tall order.
Russians may have struggled under communism, but when a Russian comes to Christ, one thing he understands almost automatically is the concept of “we.” The group is more important than the individual. He knows that when a brother or sister is in need, you help because that is what Jesus said. And since he knows what it is to be in need, he helps, even at great cost. On a number of occasions, Russians who have absolutely nothing materially have shared with me in ways that I seldom see in my own wealthy culture. These rookie Christians constantly teach me new lessons about body life and serving one another in committed relationships.
God’s context for our growth and ministry of spiritual gifts is in the same context of relationships, the so-called “We.” When the “I” comes to serve the “We,” the group becomes a team process of shared relationship rather than a group of individuals each trying to meet their individual needs.
Cells are designed for building up one another. We need help in the transformation of the “I” concept to the “We” lifestyle and cell life provides the perfect setting for building up one another. Can you think of a more powerful way to serve one another than to encourage each other with each one’s spiritual gifts? Cell ministry is the natural place for gifts to be released for the sake of one another! Edification of the body is the fancy name. Dynamic, life-changing encouragement is the practical result.
While training church planters in Kazakhstan in Central Asia two years ago, I learned a new distinction about spiritual gifts. Kazaks have twenty words for sheep but no word for “supernatural,” which made talking about spiritual gifts very difficult! So I had to formulate a new way to talk about spiritual gifts.
I came up with this: spiritual gifts are where God is powerful in you! As I began to use this illustration daily with the Kazaks, my whole training approach to spiritual gifts was transformed. Spiritual gifts are not where we are good or even talented . . . they are where we are powerful. It is where the power of God is revealed in our lives in specific ways on a daily basis. There may be many things I do well, but only two or three where I am dynamic in the Spirit on a regular basis.
So then, if my gifts are where I am powerful, when I use my gifts to serve you in our cell group, the power of the Spirit is revealed relationally as we build up one another and share the Word of God together. The power of God is revealed! Words of wisdom from Sam reveal breakthrough answers to Sally’s painful dilemma. Chantel’s teaching insight from Scripture brings clarity to the parents’ disciplining of their children. John’s gift of mercy creates a safety net for Jose and Marti to weep freely about their loss. Spiritually gifted believers build cell life supernaturally because they are all designed to fulfill organic, body life functions.
This is cell life at its finest. This is distinctly different from the model where one leader dominates the teaching and the leading and the building up. That type of teaching may actually be a selfish or self-seeking style strongly influenced by culture. The cell grows and “. . . builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16). Such is the aim of effective, intentional cell life. Each part doing its powerful part breeds life-giving ministry one to another!
Gifts were Given to Reveal God’s grace in its various forms . . . Faithful investors
Peter continues: “. . . as faithful managers of the grace of God in its various forms.” You and I were saved by grace –– it is not you or your works –– it is the gift of God. We are now the ones called to reveal His grace to the world. The question is, how do we do that? And what is it about cell life that could enhance this process?
Not only were we saved by grace but now we have become stewards of His grace with the portions of grace we have received. Come again? We have been saved by God’s grace and now, amazingly, we become the ones who show His grace to a lost world. But He did not just tell us to be good stewards of His grace . . . He gave each of us portions of His grace, or spiritual gifts. His touch saves us and now, with portions of His touch in each of us, we touch others. And we touch others so much more broadly and powerfully when we do it together as a cell group. The reaching hand of God with many fingers touches so powerfully and yet so gently!
Cell life is defined best as the place where God’s grace in each member is revealed in their relationships. God has prepared things here as well! He has given each of us an “oikos,” a network of relationships including extended family, friends and associates just as He planned. As the New Testament Christian lived out his faith in his oikos, or network of relationships, so are each of us called to be faithful stewards of our relationships. In fact, Peter, actually uses the word oikonomos, which literally means “relationship manager” in the Greek. We are called to be faithful stewards of those whom God gives us.
Here is God’s remarkable plan for humankind, simplified into your cell group setting: He pours out His grace on our lives unto salvation. Then He gives each of us a portion of His grace so that together we can build up one another and reveal that grace to a world of lost souls. Finally, He gives each of us relationships with non-Christians and fallen away Christians, challenging us to be good stewards of those strategic relationships by investing our grace gifts.
I cannot save the world, but I can invest who I am where I am . . . and cell life and cell multiplication is where we can live it out in our daily lives.
Cell Ministry is Body Evangelism: Investing in Your Oikos Relationships!
Peter Wagner, one of my most valued mentors over the years, was the first to coin a phrase so important to cell life. Body Evangelism was the phrase and by it Peter meant the Body of Christ evangelizes most powerfully when all the members are using their gifts in the context of their relationships. Cell ministry fits perfectly with what Peter envisioned at this point: every believer investing his gifts in the lives of those whom God has given him. That is still the only way the world will ever be reached with the Gospel.
Christians are likely to remain afraid of the “E” word, fearful of having to act like Billy Graham or Benny Hinn. But God’s grace gives opportunity for evangelism to have many faces . . . as each of us uses our gifts. God has made each of us powerful, investing in the lives of those whom God has already given us. I call it investing your spiritual gifts in your network of relationships.
That’s right: be an investment broker! Invest in those whom God has given you at home or next door, at work or school, or the grocery store or your workout class! Invest what? Your gifts, because that’s the only place you are powerful on a consistent basis. You may make a poor evangelist, but you are a powerful encourager! Whenever you encourage people through who you are in Christ, people usually start sharing their heart issues openly. Why? Because of the power of God revealed in you through your gifts!
But don’t do it the American way –– that is, as an individual doing your own thing. Do it cell style, where you are bound together with other believers, investing your combination of gifts in your oikos network of relationships. Multiplication means more lives touched and new Christians drawn in and built up. Many fingers reach so much farther and more powerfully than one finger! Get a grip on this cell principle and watch God touch and change lives. You will eventually birth new cells because so many Christians are learning to be good stewards of their oikos relationships!
I remember my all-time favorite combination of cell members investing in non-Christians. It was the group with Peter and Debi, my wife Julie, Ken, Inga, and several others. Ken quietly served powerfully alongside Julie’s gift of hospitality at our “Oikos Nights.” They set the scene while Inga, Debi and I encouraged our invited friends, family and casual associates. Peter was the evangelist and worked the room like few I have ever known. We were a sight to behold as we invested in those whom God had given.
Individually each of us was unique and had much to offer. Together, though, we reveal the grace of God in its many forms time and time again. Together we can do so much more than the sum of the individual parts because of the organic unity and power that comes through the combination of spiritual gifts shared. Revealing His grace through His people is one thing God’s Spirit does best!
A Place Where God Lives…
We may have just come to the most important part of using your gifts in the context of cell life. Consider Ephesians 2:22, “And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
Your cell actually gives you a regular and ongoing setting where God can live and move and have his way in building you up and thrusting you out. The cell context gives you a dynamic place where the Spirit of God can regularly break in and speak to your hearts and minds! God has a place to corporately reveal His purposes for each believer attempting to be a good steward of God’s grace in their relationships.
Sometimes, He will ecstatically speak with a firm hand on a hard issue. Other times, He will mercifully touch and heal through words or a miracle. Who can know the mind of God?
After all these years, I will choose my cell as the most powerful place to discover and use my spiritual gifts. No question about it. Learn to be who you are where you are together . . . organic cell life at its powerful, multiplying best! (end of article)
Paul R. Ford is an accomplished author and public speaker with an extensive knowledge on spiritual gifts.
Feature Story - by Pastor Mario Vega
Cell Leadership In the Face of Tragedy: 45 Endless Seconds
On Saturday, January 13, 2001, I took my 10-year-old son shopping in San Salvador, El Salvador. The kind manager of the bookstore we visited opened the door for me, but immediately locked the door after I entered because there had been so many robberies in the area. Once inside, I greeted the manager and the person in charge of the stock room, who then left to find the sales person for me.
I looked down at my watch and noticed it was 11:35 a.m. At that very moment the earthquake struck. It began very softly, almost imperceptible.
In a country like El Salvador where earthquakes are quite frequent, a person develops a certain instinct to measure the intensity of a quake. I have developed this internal mechanism as well, and it is set off when the danger level passes a certain point. Although the earthquake was still very soft, I laid everything in my hands on a desk and immediately grabbed my son, who was unaware.
As the earthquake increased in strength, I looked for a solid structure under which we could find shelter, but I found none!
The manager returned, completely paralyzed by what was happening. I instinctively said to him, “Open the door!” These words startled him back to his senses. He took his key, opened the door and we fled the bookstore as I tried to calm my son.
As I walked through the street I could see the power lines shaking like a leaf in the wind and the cables were bouncing up and down. I leaned down and said to my son, “Look above you. Keep away from the cables that might fall.” My son was terrified and I could feel him trembling at my side. I continued walking, firmly grasping the hand of my son to avoid injury from the overhead cables. I found a place that seemed safe, but then the earthquake began to grow in strength.
Car alarms all around us were blaring and people were screaming as they ran into the streets. I looked up to see the house in front of me lose its roof and fall into the street as the house crumbled. My shocked son was looking around in every direction and clung to my side for security.
Just nine feet away, three ladies from a nearby company began to scream, clasping each other with their eyes closed.
As I turned to my right, I saw an apartment complex four stories high waving back and forth. Each shift produced loads of dust and I grieved for those who were on the fourth floor.
I expected the earthquake to diminish, but to my surprise, it gathered more strength. As the earth moved under my feet, I remember thinking what a strange feeling it was to feel the earth move so erratically. People were falling down because it was so hard to withstand the shaking.
In that moment, I grabbed my son in my arms. Then, the shaking diminished.
In those brief seconds, 1,262 people lost their lives, 5,565 were injured and 1,364,160 lost their homes.
Our Youth Building
A couple of hours after the earthquake, I received a phone call informing me that our youth center had suffered severe damage. Immediately, we headed for the building. Upon arriving, we found the roof had fallen inward, the electrical system suffered extensive damage, and 17 windows were shattered. Since the youth auditorium is next to the main sanctuary, I wondered about the additional damage that occurred to our entire structure. We all knew that the shaking was not finished. In fact, that same day, there were 365 light tremors. Could our buildings sustain any more damage?
The earthquake occurred on Saturday. Sunday we expected the normal attendance of the 35,000 people in our six celebration services. The Lord showed me that we could not have the celebration services in the main auditorium. It was too risky. But, how could we inform our church people?
One of our 74 pastors suggested that we hold services throughout the city, under each zone pastor who would be in charge of organizing their people to meet together. This was a great idea, but it was already Saturday evening, there was no electricity in the city, and the telephone system was barely functioning. What were we going to do with the 106,268 people who attend our weekly cell groups? How could we give them the information they needed immediately?
The Leaders Assumed Responsibility
By Sunday morning, after working all night, our engineers succeeded in getting our radio station and antenna working properly. We would be ready to announce our plan at 8 a.m., but our first service started at 7:30 a.m! When I arrived at the church, there were already people trying to enter the sanctuary.
Through the radio, I shared with our church the condition of our buildings and our plan to meet under each cell network throughout the city. I asked our leaders and pastors to organize services to communicate all the details through our station.
The section supervisors began contacting their leaders and together they stayed in contact with their zone pastors. In a matter of minutes, the leaders communicated through the radio, telling their people what to do and where to meet. Some cells formed congregational meetings in the street, schools, city squares or camp settings.
With the help of the radio, we were able to give information to the more than 106,000 people who attend our weekly cell groups. The people turned out in mass to each one of the respective services. The gospel was preached and hundreds of people gave their lives to Jesus Christ.
Balance of the damages
Our cell structure follows the model of David Yonggi Cho in South Korea. We use a geographical-care model, sometimes know as 5x5 or the Jethro structure. This model worked extremely well in communicating information and helping us to organize ourselves for the work.
Because of our care structure, we transmitted the information on Sunday morning, immediately following the earthquake. We identified the extent of the damage to each part of the city as the reports flowed from cell leader to section leader to zone pastor and finally to the district pastor.
In less than 24 hours we knew the results of the tragedy: 17 people from the church had died and 1,409 families had lost their homes, including six pastors.
The Church Mobilizes For Ministry Relief
As the information arrived, we announced it on the radio station. Upon hearing the news of the city-wide disaster, several suggested that we collect food, clothing, and drinking water for those affected. Over the radio, we asked people to bring the needed essentials to the church. When I left the radio station at mid-day, I discovered a huge mountain of donations!
Our aid was the first to arrive in the disaster-ridden areas of the city, even before the government arrived. Within 24 hours, we were ministering to the grief-stricken masses. This was only possible because of our cell structure. Our zone pastors, supervisors, and leaders were the key in passing along the information and ministering to the many needs.
During this time, the government was gathering information about the extent of the damage. While they tried to organize, our cell system had completed our survey and had gathered a huge amount of physical aid.
On February 13, exactly one month after the first earthquake, a second earthquake struck El Salvador. This second earthquake killed an additional 407 people and left an additional 252,622 people homeless.
As a result of both earthquakes, 20 of our church members died, 2,304 families were left homeless, including 7 pastors, and an undetermined number were wounded.
More than 5,000 tremors have been felt since January 13th. As I write this, there are five to six strong tremors everyday. This has put such a fear in the hearts of the people that many have flocked to the churches in our city.
There are so many people seeking God that many churches are not prepared to reap the harvest. Our situation has been different. We have increased our attendance by 11,366 people and easily absorbed the new believers because of our cell structure.
Without the help of our 1,100 cell leaders, it would have been impossible to assimilate and care for the thousands who have been added to the Kingdom of God.
The attendance has been so great that our auditorium of over 5,400 chairs has been insufficient to contain the harvest. In fact, before the earthquake we divided the congregation in two parts so that one part would attend the church on Monday and Wednesday and the other half on Tuesday and Thursday. But now, we must divide the church into three parts, using Friday and Saturday as well. We welcome this kind of challenge!
The Ministry Continues
Working together, we sent 208 tons of clothes, food, and coverings to the affected families. We are now preparing to rebuild the destroyed homes of our members. Through donations of our daughter churches, supporting churches, and Christian organizations, I believe we can initially reconstruct 500 homes at a cost of $200.00 each.
Once again, the work of distributing the material and aid will be through our cell system. According to CEPAL (The Economic Commission for Latin America), the damages in El Salvador for both earthquakes have totaled $1.25 billion dollars.
Our leaders knew how to confront the disaster. We were able to face the crisis with the help of each cell member. At the same, time we offered comfort and the hope that only the gospel of Jesus can bring. (end of article)
Mario Vega is the senior pastor of Misión Cristiana Elim Church in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Editorial - By Ralph Neighbour
Fathers, Mothers and Children What is your spiritual place in your cell?
“The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth—because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love. It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” 2 John 1:1-4
Have you ever realized how important the concept of family is when thinking about your cell group? In Gal. 6:10, Paul refers to the family of believers, and in the scripture above John writes to the “chosen lady and her children.”
A cell is a “chosen lady” with children! Jesus is referred to as the “firstborn” Son in this family and Heb. 2:11 reminds us “those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”
The concept of the cell as a family is seen again in 1 John 2:12-14, where there are children, young men, and fathers present. In Eph. 5:23, the ecclesia (“Called-Out Ones”) is seen as the wife of Christ.
Upon meditating on all this, I began to think about how much satan despises a true family where there is a loving environment, where there is both a father and a mother to nurture children. Today, half of the households in America have only one parent. Many of us grew up with only a mother, others with a mother and a stepfather, a few only with a father. Beelzebub inspired the first murder not between two strangers but two brothers!
As a cell leader, how do you see yourself as a family member? Are you a child, a father, or a mother? The role you choose will influence the way you minister to the others. Have you ever thought about this?
Paul saw himself as a mother to the Galatians as he wrote in 4:19, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you . . . .” Do you understand your role as a mother, carrying the cell’s children in your spiritual womb until they become birthed into mature believers?
How much time do you spend with the new converts in your midst? You must serve them as a mother, giving them milk . . . not from a bottle, but from your breast! The Christ who dwells in you must be imparted to them. This means you spend more time with them than just chatting before and after the cell meeting.
It is crucial that every new convert have a mentor. The one who “fathers” a new believer will usually be one of the members of your cell. It is important to ensure the mentor/protégé relationship continues unbroken. You are responsible to see that they meet weekly until they bond enough to become “partners” and together, harvest responsive unbelievers.
But you are to step into the family of that new babe in Christ also. You can be a mother figure, nurturing the little child even as the cell member “fathers” him or her. If this takes place, the convert is truly bonded into a family and will view the other members as brothers and sisters.
It is now that the precious verse in Phil. 2:4 becomes operative: “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” More and more in our culture, the cell church movement is recognizing that George Barna’s comments in his new book Boiling Point is important to us: “the Christian Church is struggling to influence the nation’s culture because believers think of themselves as individuals first, Americans second, and Christians third. Until that prioritization is rearranged, the Church will continue to lose influence, and biblical principles will represent simply one more option among the numerous worldviews from which Americans may choose.” (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
Separate but equal. Why your children should have a kid’s slot.
Have you ever lead or been a member of an intergenerational cell? If you have, then you know the hardship of trying to reach the children while keeping the adult’s attention or vice versa. You can’t help but feel you have left one or the other out. Maybe you’re discouraged because of this and feel that the children and adults should not meet together.
Don’t be discouraged. God wants to move differently among the different age groups. One of the ways for God to work in this capacity is to send the children to what’s called a kid’s slot.
What is a Kid’s Slot?
The kid’s slot is a time—shortly after the entire cell has taken part in the Welcome and Worship—when the children go into a separate room for the Word portion of the meeting. Some cells have also included the Works portion of the meeting in the kid’s slot.
The objective of this time is to focus on the children’s relationship with Jesus, as well as the children forming relationships with each other and the attending adult(s).
At an agreed time, the children return to the adults and both groups share briefly of how God has moved among them.
Who leads the kid’s slot?
Every cell member has the privilege of being on the rotation to lead the Kid’s Slot time. Remember that the children belong to the cell as a whole, not just to their parents. Your cell members must understand the importance Jesus places on children and their ministry (Matt. 18: 1-14). Once they understand, they will see what a privilege it is to lead the kid’s slot.
Each cell member—whether they are leading the time or not—will need to see the Kid’s Slot modeled by someone who is seasoned and confident when working with children in this capacity. Those cell members who are still uncomfortable can work with another group member until they are confident enough to work alone.
It is imperative that each person facilitating the kid’s slot come prepared, having spent time in prayer for the children and for themselves.
Things to consider when planning a kid’s slot
The following are ideas from which you may draw. Never forget that the objective is for your children to grow as they are empowered to love God, love one another and love those who are lost to Jesus.
~ Before your children leave the room, pray together as a cell for both meetings. This creates a sense of excitement about what God is going to do in both groups.
~ Use a variation of the same questions and theme as the adults. This helps to maintain a sense of unity and direction within the cell. Also, households can continue to share and pray for each other during the week.
~ For the Works, the children can pray for and share about their unsaved friends. It is important to keep the parents aware of who their children are trying to reach. It may be appropriate at times for your whole cell to organize a children’s event specifically to support the evangelism of their children.
~ If your cell members have a problem taking part in the kid’s slot, invest time during the cell meeting to help your members work through their problems. Our attitude towards children is an issue of holiness!
Someone in your cell will need to assume the role of Children’s Coordinator. It is best that the children’s coordinator and the cell leader not be the same person. It is too much responsibility for one person. Consider giving this responsibility to your intern or a willing cell member.
The cell coordinator is responsible for:
1. Organizing a member rotation to lead the kid’s slot, keeping in mind those who are still not 100% comfortable with working alone. They will need to be paired up with someone else.
2. Checking that each host home has a spare room in which to hold the separate meetings once the children break off from the adults.
3. Collect the relevant cell materials for the meeting (often written by the children’s pastor) and ensure that both the cell leader and the kid’s slot leader has them a week in advance. This gives the leaders time to ask any questions they may have and to adequately prepare.
4. If your church does not have a children’s pastor to prepare the children’s material, the cell coordinator needs to be capable of creating relevant cell material for the children from the adults version.
5. Creating a notebook for each person to complete. After each cell meeting the kid’s slot leader writes down anything that needs following through, such as problems that need addressing, prayer requests and encouragements or tips for the next week’s leader.
6. Take a large sheet of paper or cloth to each home to cover anything in the room that might be a distraction to the children! Also, remove anything that can be picked up or played with. If the coordinator does not have time to do this, ask the host to take care of it.
7. Schedule weekly meetings with the cell leader, keeping him/her informed of the children’s progress and/or challenges.
~ Don’t leave children in the kid’s slot once they are old enough to stay and interact with the adults. At this age, they start to feel the kid’s slot is too childish. Let them stay with the adults and build stronger relationships with those who are their role models.
~ Don’t ask the older children or teenagers to lead the kid’s slot more regularly than the adults. The older children need the interaction with the adults, but the children also need to have time with them. Let the older children go on the rotation in the same manner as the rest of the cell.
Giving the children time together will not only improve the relationships of the children with each other, but the relationships of the children with the adults. Select a children’s coordinator, plan accordingly and watch your children grow! (end of article)
At the time of publication, Daphne Kirk was a staff member of Ely Christian Fellowship in Cambridgeshire, England. Today she lives in Memphis, TN. Daphne is the world’s current authority on Intergenerational Cell Groups.
Leading Student Cells - By Randy Riggins
Sleuthing cell leaders: Using your detective skills to avoid burnout.
Do you like watching mysteries on television or at the movies? I do, especially when they are difficult to decipher until the very end. Currently, the most viewed TV drama in America is a show about a team of men and women who investigate crime scenes. Their main objective is to uncover clues that lead to the solution of the crime.
While solving crimes isn’t your goal, there are two important reasons for becoming a “sleuth:” for protection against cell leader burn-out, and the development of a healthy body of believers who understand how and why God gifted them for His service.
To help you understand, let’s take a look at a hypothetical cell group. Imagine yourself as the leader of a cell that is nine months old. Your cell meets together once a week, and you average about ten people in your meetings. But in spite of all that, you are tired. You just don’t have the strength, time or desire to prepare another group discussion, make another phone call, invite another person, or plan another outing. You’ve considered stepping down from your leadership position, but you don’t want to disappoint your youth pastor.
Look for clues
Let’s stop here for a minute. Maybe you are currently in a similar situation, or maybe you are a new leader and the thought of ending up in the same scenario is frightening. Regardless of where you are as a leader, one way to avoid burnout is to develop a leadership tool I call Detection. Detection occurs when you put on your “detective’s hat” and discover the clues your group members send out about who they are and how they’re gifted.
Let’s continue with our hypothetical cell group and meet some of its members:
Nancy is the quiet one in the group. You don’t know much about her, except that the notebook that she brings to group each week has been exquisitely decorated, inside and out.
Patty has faithfully attended the cell as long as you have and has been a Christian even longer. She understands the importance of prayer and consistently remembers the needs of the group. You’ve often relied on her memory when caring for the group.
Heather is one of your favorite group members. Why? She almost always brings the snacks and she really takes pleasure in doing things for others. She enjoys the discussions each week and gets excited when the next group “fellowship” is discussed.
Michael wants to major in music when he goes to college. He always asks if you’ve heard the newest praise or worship song that has become his favorite. About three months ago, he asked the group to pray for him as his brother taught him to play the guitar, and because he was struggling to get enough money together to purchase a guitar of his own.
Tammy is your talker in the group. When a question is asked, she is always ready with an answer. During the ice breaker question one meeting, she commented that during her free time she loves to talk on the phone.
And finally, there is Adam. Adam has been your unofficial “right hand man.” He is always there when you need him. When a question doesn’t come out right, he is there to rephrase it. When you need someone to get the conversation moving in the right direction, you can count on Adam. When you are a little less organized than usual, Adam is there to help put the pieces together. You know He loves the Lord, loves others, and he continually exhibits a servant’s heart.
A lightened load
Assuming you have discovered the clues around you, your load has lightened significantly. Let’s move forward two months in the evolution of our hypothetical group:
“Notebook Nancy” has become the groups’ publicist. She creates fliers that remind the group of upcoming events and has started a group scrapbook.
“Prayerful Patty” leads your prayer time each week and has created a group prayer journal. She is also responsible for an e-mail prayer chain that helps the members pray for each other as needs come up throughout the week.
“Hospitable Heather” helps brainstorm, plan and implement your group’s parties and she has organized a roster so a different cell member brings the snacks each week.
“Musical Michael” leads your group’s worship with the guitar that your group helped him purchase.
“Talkative Tammy” reminds everyone of group events, including time and location changes, etc. She also checks on group members throughout the week to see how things are going.
“Apprenticing Adam” has become your official apprentice or intern. He helps facilitate the group and you have talked to him about multiplication.
Becoming A Detective
Maybe you’re thinking that your real group doesn’t have any of the personalities mentioned in our hypothetical group. But, by understanding the tool of detection, you will discover the current and potential “Prayerful Pattys” and “Hospitable Heathers” that do exist in your group.
Let me give you a word of warning! Our hypothetical group members became ministering members because they were detected and empowered. Empowerment occurs when you intentionally hand over responsibilities to the group, ensuring you’ve given the resources and encouragement necessary to help them minister successfully. For instance, if “Talkative Tammy” is to be successful, she needs an updated list of group members’ phone numbers and you need to let the group know that she is now carrying out that responsibility.
I often tell my cell leaders that if they do everything for their group, they are leading ineffectively. The body of Christ has a variety of gifts given by the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, Moses was attempting to lead alone when his father-in-law, Jethro, reminded him that “what you are doing is not good . . . so the work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” He continued by telling Moses to select capable men who would help him serve the people. As a result of Moses’ future faithfulness, he was given this promise: “If you do this . . . you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied” (Exodus 18:17-23). Let’s clue in and lead on! (end of article)
Randy Riggins is a seasoned youth pastor at Clearpoint Church in Pasadena, Texas.
Just for Pastors - By Randall Neighbour
A Covert Operation: A sneaky little plan to develop new cell leaders.
Raising up leaders from within your church is a tough task, but it’s not impossible. I know of churches across the U.S.A. who raise up leaders to take over groups and launch new groups. But, these churches do not discover and develop leaders with a typical, traditional approach.
The average church employs the “volunteer method” of finding leaders, and it always provides a poor yield. For example, if you were to simply ask members of your groups to rise to the challenge of group leadership, you’ll usually receive a variation of “I just don’t have time. Besides, I’m not cut out for leadership.”
For the most part, they are right. The base problem lies in the value system of most American Christians. They’re sole focus is on family and career, with a side concern over debt. You can preach about it from your pulpit all you want, but they’ll never change. What is needed is a covert operation to shape new values and create a growing number of leaders in your church.
The Personal Touch
Recently, a group of staff pastors from a well-known church called me with a problem, saying they could easily populate groups with visitors from their Sunday services, but had simply run out of group leaders. What’s a mega church to do?
I asked them how often they visited their groups. After a long period of silence, I was told that visiting groups was too time consuming.
My next question was not intended to be inflammatory, but I had to ask “So how do you get to know the future group leaders of your church?”
The newest staff pastor said, “We invite interested leaders to join us for our monthly leaders’ meetings. We announce it on Sunday and publish it in the bulletin.”
“But, you began our conversation with a statement that invitations to leadership meetings didn’t produce much fruit.” I replied. Then, I asked another question to get these pastors thinking. “What did Jesus do to develop His disciples? Did He offer a printed invitation, or did He get to know each man personally and invest His life in him?”
With this in mind, the first step of your covert operation must be to visit your cell groups and get to know the people you pastor. If you’ve busied yourself with office work and meetings, change your schedule.
Fearful that your evening family time will suffer? Leave work at 3 p.m. on cell nights and spend the afternoon with your kids.
Does it frustrate you that when you visit cells, your presence destroys group dynamics? Boldly tell the cell that focusing solely on you makes you very uncomfortable and ask them to make eye contact with the rest of the group.
Too many groups to visit? Wow! That’s a great problem! If this is the case, you should ask seasoned group leaders or your coaches to join you for a few meetings, then send them out as leadership scouts.
The biblical approach is clear. If you want new leaders, you must go out and find them. The best place to look is in your cell groups as they meet each week.
After you visit groups, meet with the cell leaders and ask them to tell you about everyone in their group. One important question would be “What issue or situation is keeping this member from moving into a leadership role?” With this information under your belt, you now know how to work with the potential leaders.
A number of years ago, a new staff pastor visited my group and we got to know each other over snacks after the meeting. Although he had numerous responsibilities as a staff pastor, he knew spending time with the future leaders of the church was the most important thing he could do.
As my pastor, Greg enjoyed spending time with me. He cried with me when I was hurting and challenged me when I was stubborn. We became good friends, and I can easily see how his offer of friendship influenced me to become a cell leader.
When you visit meetings and meet those who could be great leaders, befriend them. They will jump at the opportunity. Why? Because you are their pastor and they love you! You have sacrificed a great deal to pastor a church, and being your friend is like giving back a little bit of what they receive.
The disciples were willing to do anything Jesus asked because He was a good friend and a strong link to God. Look in the mirror . . . you are that person to your members!
The Ride Along
A friend of mine is fascinated with police work. After making a few friends on the police force here in Houston, one of them took him along one night to cruise the streets and keep our city safe. Bleary-eyed and tired, he arrived at my office the next morning so excited he couldn’t sleep. “We cruised all night long, making arrests! I want to be a peace officer!”
The “ride along” sealed my buddy’s future, and it sealed my future too. Greg picked me up three or four times to visit others in my cell group or go to my cell leader’s home to pray and minister, telling me that riding along with him would give us time together. Later, he asked me to go with my cell leader and then with another member and do the same thing. While I had little confidence of my own, Greg had confidence in me and that’s all I needed. Soon, I was busy serving and praying for people in their homes.
All the time I spent with Greg visiting cell groups and members shifted my values. Previously, I watched hours of T.V. and lived for my sports car. Soon after I became friends with Greg, I didn’t care about the shows I missed and my car went without a wash three or four weeks at a time. Today, my “driving” passion is Jesus and raising up leaders.
The next logical step in the leadership development process is to model the look, feel and activity of a cell leader to your new friend. But remember, your intentions must not be shared with this person yet!
Invite them to join you on a visit into a home of one of their fellow cell members. Pray with the family and bless their home. After you leave, ask your friend if he saw, heard or felt anything that needed follow up. If you’ve chosen a good potential leader, he’ll share much of what you saw or surprise you with his own Spirit-driven observation.
The Power of Tag-Teaming
What your future group leader needs now is practical experience in all aspects of cell life and leadership, developed as covertly as possible.
For example, ask the group leader to give your friend a part of the weekly cell meeting. Every other week or so, he should be asked to carry a different part of the facilitation load. This will increase ownership and give your friend a sense of self-confidence. When you talk to him, tell him you’re hearing good things about him from the leader. Encourage him to do more, and ask him to share with you what he sees happening with the different members.
Then, give him a little test. Ask “If you were the cell leader in that group, what would you do differently?” Your friend will share more than is knowingly being volunteered. His answer will contain subtle or obvious issues that will give you clues as to his readiness or point of need as a future leader.
While there is not enough room in this article to overview each area of testing required, it’s important to help potential leaders develop a hunger for prayer, reaching the lost, repentance and fellowship with other cell members. If these items are not present, you must help your friend to embrace them prior to a verbal leadership challenge.
Stating the Obvious
At the right time, meet with your friend and his cell leader and tell him you’ve noticed something special. Does he see it too? Then, be specific and praise the person up one side and down the other. You cannot praise enough at this meeting!
Then, the challenge to take over the group should be extended. You may hear initial resistance, but if you’ve done everything right, the person will realize that he’s really up to speed . . . he just needs to drive on the road instead of the sidewalk.
Finding leaders can be impossible without solid relationships and experiences to bring the potential leader to a point of surrender. If you are willing to befriend cell members who have what it takes, develop them over a period of six months and then challenge them to join you in leadership, you’ll succeed. It’s leadership discovery the way Jesus would do it. (end of article)
Randall Neighbour is the President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries, located in Houston, TX.
Missions - Go Ye Therefore - By Sam Scaggs
Sports, games and the Bible: What’s getting the children of the world interested in Jesus?
There is a new wind blowing across the world. God is moving in a new way that is impacting an unreached people group that many have forgotten about . . . children! This movement is called KidsGames. This initiative is reaching children with the gospel in an innovative and challenging way. 10,000 separate events are anticipated in cities in over 30 countries on every continent. Many large and creative ministry organizations are involved in this simple method. It has been proven to be effective in some of the least-reached places on earth. KidsGames has the potential to connect with almost every child on the planet!
How it all got started
In 1985, a woman in Spain, Ester Rodriguez, had a unique idea to use sports, games and fun in the context of a community led mini-Olympics. Her purpose was to draw together different denominations and agencies in an evangelistic outreach. This is now an annual outreach event in Spain.
During the week, groups of churches are responsible for holding elimination trials in various sports events, combined with times of sports-related Bible teaching. On the final day, children from these churches, together with friends they have invited, gather in a stadium where the finals (a citywide or area competition) is held. Parents are always included in the programs and there is a strong sense of community presence.
Recently, sports ministry leaders from around the world have become excited about this opportunity. Statistics show that 80% of Christians come to faith between the ages of 4 and 14, yet only 20% of the churches resources go to this age group.
In 1999, leaders from various organizations and churches worked together to successfully implement this strategy in the Middle East and North African cities. By the end of 2000, various forms of Kids Games had also occurred in Soweto, South Africa, Kenya, India and Orlando, USA.
It is spreading all over the world and it is knocking on your door, looking for a visionary leader to pick up the torch and run with it in your city! It could start with one person like it did in Spain. Or, one cell group will catch the vision and light their city on fire with Kids Games! It is very simple. Here are the basic elements:
Kids – Kids Games helps local churches connect with local kids and their families. In Egypt and Sudan, the first Kids Games involved 40,000 children across 8 cities.
Sports & Games – Kids Games involves sports and games in a fun and energetic program. In Nairobi, Kenya, the churches experimented with unique new games alongside traditional sports.
The Bible – Kids Games incorporates a challenging Bible curriculum linked to sports and sports personality’s testimonies.
Ceremonies & Parades – Kids Games begins and ends with large opening and closing ceremonies or an energetic parade. In Orlando, every child was awarded a special medal.
New Life – Kids Games provides a unique opportunity for children to accept Christ. In six cities across one country, the Sunday Schools of 225 churches grew by an average of 30-50% as a result of one Kids Games.
This is a worldwide initiative to draw local churches together to reach out to children. You, your cell and church can be involved by:
~ Organizing Kids Games with the other churches in your city or town.
~ Funding part of the Kids Games initiative.
~ Praying for Kids Games.
“Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.” Matt 19:14 (end of article)
For information on Kids Games, go to www.sportsoutreach.com
Sam Scaggs provides direction for the Cell Church Missions Network, USA. Visit his website at: www.stragetgicnetwork.org.
Nucleus - By Larry Kreider
The Chinese are leading the way: What does the Father want to do in your cell?
A few months ago, I responded to an invitation to travel to Mainland China to minister to eighty key leaders of the underground church movements in their nation. I was utterly amazed by what I experienced during the few days I spent with these humble men and women of God. As I listened to the miraculous stories of the Lord’s faithfulness as they minister from house to house, I was deeply moved. They taught me so much more than I could have ever taught them.
Ninety five percent of these leaders—many who traveled four days by train to get to the leadership training seminar—had been in prison for their faith. One elderly Chinese leader had just been released from prison four days before our meetings.
During breakfast one morning, we asked one of the leaders seated at our table about his responsibilities in the Chinese church. He proceeded to tell us very humbly that he is responsible to oversee 10 million believers meeting in house churches throughout his homeland. I’ve never met anyone, anywhere in the world that oversees so many believers meeting from house to house!
Thousands coming to Christ daily
More than 25,000 people are coming to Christ every day in China. Believers meet together in their homes for teaching from the Bible, prayer, and sharing a common vision to reach the lost in their communities with the Good News of Jesus. There are over 80 million believers in these house churches in China today. The Chinese church has a vision to train 100,000 missionaries to go into the Muslim world to take the Good News to the millions in spiritual darkness. This is the most strategically organized church in the world! God has poured out so much grace on the Chinese meeting in these “underground” house churches.
They asked me to speak from the scriptures on the Lord’s call on our lives to become spiritual fathers and mothers. After some of the teaching sessions, these humble servants of the Lord stood to pray, repenting before the Lord for “missing the mark.” They felt the Lord revealed to them that they had been so focused on the work of God, they had not been concerned enough about the workers of God. They repented deeply before the Lord in prayer.
It was extremely convicting and humbling for me to be with them. These saints, who are probably experiencing the greatest move of God in the history of the world, have remained so open and tender before the Lord.
What can we learn?
First of all, for our Chinese brothers and sisters, meeting in small groups from house to house it is not just a Christian activity. It’s a way of life! They have already made a commitment that when freedom comes to their nation, they will continue on with house to house ministry. They are following in the footsteps of the early church, and they are intent on continuing on this path.
Secondly, the humility and dependency on the Lord these Chinese brothers and sisters are modeling is desperately needed in our lives and in the church in our own nation. We asked them to pray for those of us on our small American team. We often have so much pride in our “fresh initiatives” and our “new ideas.” They graciously laid their hands on us and prayed. We will never be the same.
I came home from China changed forever. The Chinese believers are leading the way as they practically minister the life of Christ from house to house. Let us learn from the humility and desperation for God that our brothers and sisters in China are modeling for us. As we serve in our cell groups and local churches, we also must quickly repent when the Lord reveals we have “missed the mark.” (end of article)
Larry Kreider is director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a world-wide network of cell churches.
(end of issue)