Last year was a lousy year for me. I repeatedly thank God it’s over. I know many of you feel the same way, so I’ll be honest and get it right out in the open.
In March, my four-legged friend Buddy was put down due to old age. The week before Christmas, my other dog Pal could no longer walk and had to be put down as well. September 11 rocked my world. The recession chopped my retirement nest-egg in half (heavy on bio-tech funds). And to top it all off, one of my unbelieving friends decided to become a Buddhist. Ugh.
Sounds like an old country-western song. At least my wife didn’t run off with a muscle-bound trucker from Muskogee. That would have been the last straw.
Praise God, it’s all behind me now. The new year is filled with promise and opportunity, and I’m happy to be alive and well on planet Earth. Despite the fact that our country is at war, that bodies are still being recovered from the rubble in New York City, that the end of the recession is still speculation and life isn’t getting easier, I have high hopes for the future.
I believe the best reason for this shift in my perspective comes from a renewed knowledge that Christ’s love for me was the same last year, this year and all the years that follow. His example of how to live, stay connected to the Father, reach the lost and disciple others is a better reason to get out of bed than any I will ever find. I have a purpose in life and the ultimate mentor to show me how to do it right.
As you read the cover article by Pastor Scott Hagan, think about your life as a leader and how it mirrors that of our Savior. If you only focus on the basics of Christ-likeness this year, you’ll see more fruit from your group than ever before. This year can easily be the one you remember as the time you took your ministry to a new level and set the standard.
I am equally impressed with the other articles in this issue. Scott Boren’s article, The Wow Factor, had such an impact that I emailed an unedited version to every member in my group, not wanting them to wait until it was printed. Daphne Kirk’s article about decision-making in an intergenerational setting was quite illuminating — I never realized how segregated I was in my thinking. And in Toolkit you’ll find one of the funniest testimonies I have published in 10 years.
As we begin yet another year of ministry to others, make a few goals and share them with your pastor and your group. I’m not sure what 2002 will have to offer, but I know that when I accomplish my goals as a cell leader, the year will be positively memorable! (end of article)
Cell Leadership - By Billy Hornsby
Is your ministry flourishing with growth? Master these five growth areas and you’ll weather any cell life storm.
Every Christian in leadership needs a plan for personal growth and maturity. Life itself offers many opportunities for us to grow, but having a plan and living out that plan is a much better option for the challenges that leading others may send our way. Let’s look at how we can design our growth as leaders in order to get the most out of our cell leadership experience.
In Psalm 92:12, we read “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” The term “the righteous” speaks of a relationship with God that is a prerequisite for personal growth. In a direct way, your walk with God will determine your leadership effectiveness. Your prayer life, devotion to scripture and spiritual vitality will overshadow your human skills and talents. Your service to God as a leader is spiritual. Let me explain.
As a leader, you must exercise spiritual authority that has been delegated to you from God and your local church leadership. To miss this distinction is to miss the spiritual sap from the branches of God’s Kingdom. Therefore, you must walk with God in a passionate and submissive way in order to lead members of His church into paths of truth and spiritual renewal.
Areas of growth in any leader’s life will be based on qualities of integrity, competence and passionate spirituality. Leaders must be inspired to do the work of God, honest in dealing with people, able to perform tasks and remain forward-looking in order to know where to lead next. These qualities are the basis for effective leadership and must be maintained during the life of the leader.
Five Important Areas of Growth
To carry out the duty of cell leadership effectively, there are at least five areas in a leader’s life that must increase or grow. As you read each growth area, challenge yourself with the question, “Am I constantly reviewing this area to ensure that I am becoming all God wants me to be as a leader?”
1. Character Development – Shaping your character is accomplished by giving attention to punctuality, honesty, attentiveness to the needs of others, thoroughness in carrying out responsibilities, and humility. When I look back at my day, I ask myself “Did my character live up to the expectations of the Lord and those I lead?” Then I consider the answer and make resolute decisions to improve. My failures are so obvious. But, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I did it right.
I have worked with leaders who never considered the gravity of their actions or lack thereof in a particular area of their lives or ministries. They assumed that they would not be held accountable by anyone, and their actions were inconsequential. Their group members soon tired of the abuse — or neglect — and moved on to other groups or just quit cell life altogether. Character makes a great difference in how well your group grows and produces fruit.
2. Create Authentic Relationships – Without developing relationships that give me feedback on how I’m doing and allow me to be transparent about my failures, it is difficult to get an accurate report on my progress in character and as a leader. With this in mind, it’s vital to your growth as a cell leader that you are transparent with your cell members. Ask for their honest opinions about your leadership style and what needs to change.
Challenges face me every day as a leader. There are times when I meet with resistance from those I lead. I can choose to just roll over them over by using my authority, or I can use my relationship to build a cooperative spirit. The latter will certainly be slower and more challenging, but will yield far more fruit.
3. Skill Building – It takes a certain set of skills to be a good leader. The great news is that skills — unlike talents or gifts — can be learned. We are not limited by our personalities or current abilities.
There are always areas in which you can grow. Learning how to motivate various personality types, working with cell members to resolve conflict and overcoming roadblocks in cell development are all examples of skills you should seek to possess. As you build relational skills of your own, help others build their skills too. Transferring skills is also a great skill!
4. Learn for Life – When I was in high school I thought, “I can’t wait to get out of school. Then I won’t have to learn anything else, I can just live.” Well, the learning has not stopped. As matter of fact, the learning has just begun. Just when I thought that I knew all I needed to know about growing churches and training leaders, new and better information came on the scene and the learning process started all over again.
Make a personal decision to learn something new every day about God, His Word, your cell members, your lost friends, your kids, etc. Never let a week go by without learning and incorporating something new about cell leadership. It would be wise to journal and share what you’ve learned so you can keep track of your progress.
5. A Ministry Focus on People – Where is your focus? Is it primarily on people or on process, structure and the meeting? As a cell leader, you must focus on the people that God has brought to you. Every need your members bring into the group is a test of your ministry prowess. Knowing how to be singled-minded and focused on the target of God’s will for your life is critical.
The group that I lead has a cross-section of men from different walks of life. Each has an incredible and unique life story to tell. Though planning and structure are important, my focus is on each of these men’s individual needs. I want to see them grow and become leaders in their own right as a direct result of the ministry that I provide them through our cell group relationship. Learning about events that shaped who they are helps me know how to minister more effectively to them. By knowing their life stories, I know where to focus and learn ministry skills that benefit the whole group.
As you create your life plan for growth as a cell leader, build your base like the palm and cedar trees mentioned in Psalms 92. Palms find water in dry places. Cedars drink deeply and their wood has a fragrance like no other.
Put your roots deep into God’s Word and devote yourself to Him. Then, add the five growth areas I’ve mentioned here as well as any others you feel are vital to your life’s calling. With this plan, you’ll flourish in ministry! (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 for more info on his ministry.
Toolkit - Practical tips and testimonies wriiten by cell leaders for cell leaders
“I wish someone else would lead tonight . . . Quitting would be a relief . . . It seems like no one really cares or takes this group seriously . . . I wonder if what I do makes a difference.”
Have any of these thoughts entered your mind? Lots of cell leaders get trapped in self-discouragement. Or, the lack of response from those you are trying to lead can also dragged you down.
Welcome to reality! Everyone gets discouraged and weary from time to time. Learning how to rise up from it and find refreshment for the difficult days ahead is an important skill for any cell leader.
The word that I’ve come to embrace in times of discouragement is “Refocus.” When my perspective gets clouded, I’ve learned that it’s time to refocus on four key areas. If you’ll embrace these four principles of ministry, you’ll be ready for action again in no time.
Refocus on the Lord
This is the key to refreshment. What we really need the most in the middle of discouragement is the presence, power and perspective of the Lord. It’s so easy to get so busy in ministry that time with the Lord gets squeezed out.
Here’s some practical things that have helped me over the years to refocus on Christ:
• I have a set time for meeting the God. If I leave this unscheduled, I find everything else will crowd this time out. The when is not as important as simply making the time. For me, the best time is early in the morning.
• I have a time goal. Sixty minutes each day is the ideal time for me. I’m not rushed and can spend time relating to God. That’s what this meeting is all about and what I really need. If you can’t fathom this much time with God each day, just start with 10 minutes and increase it by five minutes each week until you feel you’ve spent enough time with Him to be able to say God communicated in response to your praises and requests. The goal is two-way interaction. You’ll get there if you invest enough time with Him.
• I have a place free of distractions. I’ve found that my office is the best place to meet God. If you can find a place “off the beaten path” free from televisions, telephones, magazines and anything else that distracts you, you’ll be able to focus on Him fully.
• I have a plan that engages all my senses in meeting God. This plan includes a time of worship, usually listening to and singing along with a praise and worship CD. I also read a portion of the Word according to a plan that will take me through the Bible in a year. Then, I spend time journaling and praying. I close this time by sitting before the Lord, asking Him if there is anything He wants to say to me in the area of my relationship with Him, my wife, my children or my ministry. Then I’m careful to record any impressions I receive from Him in my journal. Design your own plan to meet God in numerous and various ways in the same day.
Refocus on Your Cell Members
There are many things I can do in this area, but I usually focus on just two:
• I pray for the cell members daily. I go to each cell member asking them to give me their top 5 five personal prayer requests on a monthly basis. Then, I faithfully pray for them and communicate with them about these requests and God’s answers.
• I meet regularly with them. Most of the time my agenda is simple. I want to enter their lives and hear what God is doing and where they might be struggling. I also want to affirm them and dream with them about their physical and spiritual future.
Refocus on the Lost
Part of the change in perspective that comes from a refocus on the Lord is a fresh awareness of His heart for the lost. This leads me to do a couple of things:
• I pray for the lost in my sphere of influence. I ask the Lord for wisdom to see the key to open their hearts.
• I seek to serve them in a practical way. I ask the Lord to reveal a need and show me how I can serve them in ways that will demonstrate His love.
If you will take time to pray for and serve the lost, you’ll find that God will increase your faith and give you His heart for a lost world. This kind of passion drives out discouragement!
Refocus on your dreams and GOD’S vision FOR YOUR GROUP
Having a dream or vision for my future motivates me to keep going and growing. It allows me to focus my energy and direction in a constructive way. I never want to lose touch with the dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying group!
I remind myself that great dreams often require great time to fulfill those dreams. So let me challenge you to write down your dreams and vision for your group and yourself. What’s the next step to give away your group to someone and launch a new one? Or is God calling you to give away your group and move into a coaching role? Dream a little! God is able.
Facilitating a cell group can be discouraging at times. It can also be the most fulfilling adventure on which you’ve ever embarked. Just remember to refocus on what’s important... spend time with the Lord and your group members each day and soon enough, you’ll be excited again.
– Pastor Mike Sove, Toolkit Editor
We began our first student-led cell group two months ago with Sarah, our one committed teenager and some hurting friends she knew. Recently, the cell was discussing the topic of parents when a young man said, “I am going to share something with you that only two other people know about.” He went on to say that he thought he had fathered a child in another state. He and his family moved out of the area before it was confirmed that the girl was pregnant. He tried to keep in touch by phone, but the young woman broke off all communication. She would not tell him if she was still pregnant, had aborted the child or had given birth. Before she stopped speaking to him, this non-Christian teenager offered to get an after school job and begin paying for the expenses of raising the child he thought he had fathered.
Since then, this young man has prayed to receive Christ as a result of our youth cell. But recalling those events broke his heart and crushed his spirit. Following the cell meeting, Sarah ministered to his broken heart and build him up in the Lord. The group then encouraged him and prayed for his healing.
God is doing a wonderful work in this young man through the unconditional love of these young Christians! As a senior pastor, it’s wonderful to stand back and watch young Christians edifying and ministering to one of their own. This thrills my heart and was the high point of my day!
— A senior pastor from Florida
I’m no doc . . .
On Tuesday I had the most hectic uncomfortable cramp or something . . . I dunno, I’m no Doc! Ja well, I didn’t let it bother me. You know, guys can handle it, but it was definitely uncomfortable.
Anyway, the day went on and it was still pretty sore, so my mate Lenni he offered to pray for me so sure, no worries. Anyway the day continued but by late afternoon, bro’er the pain she was going! The amazing thing is that I actually went to the pharmacy and the lady suggested something and when I got to the till I decided to rather not take it and trust God for a bit of pain relief and what do you know, wham bam thank you Lord, I was stoked! God had sorted out the pain and now I’m pretty cool. God Rips!
— Kevin Smit, Durban, South Africa
The power of prayer
I recently took a new job in a medical office. I made friends quickly and even began a time of devotion and prayer with a few of the women there. Not long afterward, I was suddenly put on probation and threatened with termination if I didn’t do a better job. However, my supervisor could not tell me any areas in which to improve.
There was a physician in the office that took a great dislike to me. I had shared with my cell group that there seemed to be a spiritual battle taking place. They surrounded me with prayer and laid hands on me. I felt a peace about my job — God wanted me there and I would not leave until He released me. I went back to work that week with a renewed sense of trust in my heavenly Father.
A few days after the prayer and support of my cell, I went to work and found out that an office-wide meeting had been called. I was unsure of what was going on, but apparently the doctor we had prayed about — practicing medicine there for seven years — was suddenly no longer at my office.
Wow! I knew that God had intervened on my behalf. I was later called into my supervisor’s office and told that I was doing better on the job. I felt sure that I had been under attack from the enemy and satan had been using this doctor as his source.
Although there are still difficulties at my workplace, I know God is busy taking care of His own. I praise Him along with my pastor and the others that prayed for me that night.
— Leelee Breeden, Cornerstone Church, Elkton, VA
How to handle Complaints
My wife and I work as missionaries in Poland and lead our own cell, comprised of young people age 20 - 25. A few months ago, we left the co-leaders to take over for us for a short period since we would be out of town. When we came back, the cell was ready to break up and collapse. Each member had written down what he or she thought was wrong with the group. My wife and I thought the cell was all but done!
We prayed together, and then listened to the complaints of each member. Some didn’t want the group to pray aloud in the group meetings; others wanted to close the cell to outsiders. For the next four weeks, our cell met, prayed and discussed the things we wanted to change. Although many of their complaints were rooted in a discomfort for worshipping in a new way, we listened and worked through their problems with them.
At the end of the month, I asked them what their roles in the cell would be. Each took a role, whether leading Worship or the Word time, etc. This was a huge step forward! Although we didn’t wholeheartedly agree, we closed the group to outsiders for three months.
After those months in a closed group and an Encounter God retreat, our cell has changed from an inward complaining bunch to an outward focused self-leading machine! One of those who didn’t want to pray started his own prayer group. Everyone started reaching out to the lost and the cell multiplied. God was merciful and gracious through this difficult time by changing hearts and breathing new life into our cell. Don’t despair — difficult times can be just what God wants for your cell!
— Jeff and Sarah Fry, Missionaries to Poland
Does your group have a “ready 5”?
On an aircraft carrier, the “Ready 5” is the aircraft sitting on the catapult with a pilot in the seat, already briefed and suited up, ready to launch within five minutes to assist the guys already flying.
We have a multi-generational cell, with seven young children . . . soon to be nine! Knowing enough about children and strategic “readiness,” we decided we needed a “Ready 5” for our group. Our cell-based “Ready 5” is an adult on call to assist the adults in charge of the children if the kids get too rambunctious. We dedicate two adults to the children’s time at each meeting. Sometimes the children have a worship time with us. Sometimes they go straight into kid’s slot and allow the adults to focus on Christ in worship with just adult songs.
Adding children was a big adjustment for a number of people in our cell. Dedicating this many people resources helps ensure kid’s slot doesn’t spill over into the adults’ time of ministry or disrupt it.
So you’ll know, we potluck frequently before our cell meets. It really helps the parents manage time and provides a great bonding experience for all the families!
— Name withheld upon request
Trash Bag Ministry
Our small group wanted to do something to help share the gospel on the local university campus, but the group was somewhat intimidated when I suggested that we go door to door. Here’s the twist to the suggestion that helped us follow through.
We paired up in teams of two. With trash bags in hand — and rubber gloves on as well — we proceeded door to door asking to empty the residents’ trash. Once the rubbish was deposited in our bags, we thanked each resident for his or her contribution and offered a post card picture of the sinking Titanic with a gospel presentation on the reverse. Not a single person refused our service or rejected the tract.
This ministry effort helped us deal with the fear associated with “cold” evangelism and helped the group work together and showed everyone that witnessing is is more readily accepted when you offer to meet a need. If your group is scared to share, give this a try!
— Dennis Wilson, Clarksville, TN
[Ed. note: I’ve heard of cell groups going door-to-door in neighborhoods cleaning toilets on a Saturday morning. People never forget extraordinary acts of servanthood. Get busy!]
Cover Article - By Scott Hagan
When most Christians consider the cross, they think of the debt paid, not the deposit. They remember with awe the body of Christ hanging in proxy for a fallen world while His blood paid off their massive debt of sin. It is a correct picture, but not a complete picture.
Those who trust in the cross do so because somewhere along the line they believed it was the unconditional payoff they so longed for. For them, it was like having a stranger walk into their bank and pay off every credit card and mortgage balance they had foolishly accrued. Suddenly, their longstanding balance of bondage and debt was erased. But as wonderful and true as that is, it is only a partial mirror of the cross.
There is much more to the cross than a sudden windfall and payoff. Why? Because the same stranger who paid your debt did one other thing before exiting the bank. Before leaving, He walked up to the counter and handed the teller a cash deposit earmarked with your account number, not His. And the amount he gave the teller to place in your account was so enormous that you now have enough to live like a king for the rest of eternity. You went from bankruptcy to royalty in one deposit.
That, my friend, was the cross!
As you can tell, I get excited about the cross. But to be honest, I have never looked to the cross for anything more than my personal reference point of redemption. I had never considered it as a way to define ministry. It certainly was at the core of my message, but never did I see it as an organizational map for ministry. That is until recently, when everything changed. The cross has now become the driving design behind my cell ministry. It has become the primary way to define the purpose of our church.
The Quest for a Simple Vision
After serving as a youth minister for seven years in San Jose, California, my wife and I planted a new church near Sacramento in 1990 called Harvest Church. During those twelve years the Lord blessed the work in ways that words cannot describe. We grew from nine people to over 2000 people. This year, we moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan and began pastoring Grand Rapids First Assembly of God.
A key component to the vitality of Harvest Church during our planting phase was the common vision and the vocabulary we used to express that vision. But as good as it was, I always felt that our church purpose was a bit shallow and at times looked more like a corporate business statement than a biblical pattern for ministry.
The Holy Spirit has recently shown me a new and exciting approach to capturing and casting vision that involves the cross as the central model. One of my goals as a pastor is to make the church vision so simple that it can be explained to someone on a piece of blank paper in less than five minutes.
Complexity may feel good to the person who invents it, but for those trying to grasp the concepts behind it, complexity is enemy number one. We need to keep things simple. Bureaucracy is the poisonous leaven of the church. It must be removed.
Word pictures are the best methods of communicating the vision. Hebrews 1:1 says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
The Old Testament was like a funnel. The wide end of the funnel is where the large amount of a substance enters. But just like fluid which streamlines toward its specific target as it travels down the funnel, so too has the revelation of God’s grace streamlined down through the ages so people can more clearly grasp it. God’s message through types, symbols and prophets became the streamlined message of a manger, a carpenter and a cross. These became the simple images that carried with them the simple and easy salvation message of Jesus.
Those responsible for communicating kingdom vision should keep the same goal in mind. What touches people is not the stuff at the wide end of the funnel, but the stuff that comes out the narrow end. Not narrowmindedness, but that which is purposed and effective. Volume doesn’t mean fullness. The openings into the minds and hearts of people tend to be small openings. In the church, we often spill more than we fill. We pour over, instead of pouring into people when we make things to complicated.
An “Aha!” Moment
Several months ago I was sitting with Scott Boren and Don Tillman of TOUCH Outreach Ministries. As they shared concepts for healthy cell ministry, Scott stated four simple words upon which TOUCH’s philosophy is built. Those words were upward, inward, outward and forward.
As he spoke, I was in awe because the Lord had also been showing me something about the cross that mirrors these four words. Sharing this with the group present that day, we sensed something explosive and prophetic in the model. It seemed as if a revolutionary new way of leading the church was forming before our eyes! Let me share it with you.
Picture the cross
To get this, the first thing I need you to do is recapture the scene of the crucifixion. It has become a scene familiar to millions inside and outside the church. I now believe that contained within that picture of the cross is everything we need to know about the heart of God and the mission of the church. The most important thing to remember initially about the cross is that Jesus was at the center. And that is where He must remain. He must be at the center of our praise. He must be at the center of our teaching.
Now I want you to draw your thoughts around the cast of characters surrounding the central figure of Jesus. There are four scenes. First, you have ‘God the Father’ above the cross whom Jesus addresses. Next you have the thief hanging to the right of Jesus. On the other side of Jesus, you have the second thief. Then at the foot of the cross, you have five mourners. That’s it. That is all you have to memorize to understand this model. The Father. Two thieves on either side. Five mourners at His feet.
The first purpose of the cell church is the upward relationship with God. This was powerfully illustrated by Jesus’ relationship with the Father. It was that strong upward relationship with the Father that sustained Jesus through His trials and sufferings on the cross. It will be that same upward relationship with the Father that will sustain believers through their trials and sufferings. Our first purpose as cell leaders is to help introduce and then grow believers into their own personal upward relationships with God. This happens through strong personal devotional lives of prayer, study and worship. Daily prayer. Daily Bible reading. Daily worship. These are the qualities of upward living.
Next, I want you to think about the first thief being crucified and his relationship to Jesus. He was the one who believed. He represents the second purpose of the cell church, which is inward love. In the book of Luke, Jesus told the thief “today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Those words hold the keys to the inward love of Christ. By those words, Jesus gave the man instant belonging (today) and inheritance (Paradise).
Our purpose as cell leaders is to cultivate the love of Christ to such measure that we flow in that same unconditional acceptance of people. Discrimination tells a person they cannot have. segregation tells a person they cannot belong. Jesus didn’t die so we can have things, He died so that we can belong! A healthy cell church makes people feel like they belong without having to jump through hoops or endure a trial period before being let into the ‘club’. A healthy cell church must create life-giving venue for belonging so that those similar to the thief can experience the inward and inclusive love of Christ on a moment’s notice!
Thirdly, I want you to picture the other thief being crucified opposite the one who believed in Jesus. He is the one who rejected the message. Yet He became the object of Christ’s outward love. That thief represents the lost culture around us who have not yet accepted the message of Christ. Jesus still loves them. He still has a message for them. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
Every cell group must ask itself, “How can I reach outward with the compassion of Christ to those who have not yet comprehended the love of God?” Whether it means praying for the lost, cleaning up neighborhoods, coaching youth leagues or volunteering in homeless shelters. A healthy cell group provides a constant expression of Christ’s love and hope flowing outward to an unbelieving and confused city.
Jesus didn’t abandon those who initially rejected Him. He kept reaching outward. Every healthy cell committed to being like Christ must do the same. To be a healthy cell church means to be the church “turned inside out.”
The final scene involved five mourners at the foot of the cross. These represented the future of the church. They were the forward focus of the cross. Men like John the beloved, women like Mary Magdalene, and others, were at the foot of the cross. They would soon be launched forward by the Holy Spirit into joyous personal destiny. They were Christ’s investment in the future. Your cell group must have an aggressive eye and hand toward the future by raising and releasing new generations into roles of influence.
Those around the cross would carry the message of Jesus beyond the complications of Calvary. They would be empowered and released with a mission to replicate their lives in others as Christ had replicated Himself in them. Without a forward mindset, cells, churches and denominations will die.
The Cross Gives Us Purpose!
As you can clearly see, the cross illustrates the four passions of kingdom living. Spiritual formation. Unconditional belonging. Passionate reaching. Mass multiplication. In other words, the upward, inward, outward and forward are expressions of the cross.
I am teaching our people how to draw a simple cross on a piece of paper and walk people through these four scenes. It has unlocked an entirely new season of purpose in our church! In moments of casual conversation, people have seen the heart of Jesus and His destiny for their lives. It has been awesome.
As you consider the cross, never forget the deposit Christ made for our lives and the four basic passions that we are to emulate to be truly Christ-like. (end of article)
Scott Hagan serves as the senior pastor of Grand Rapids First Assembly of God in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Married with four children, Scott is an avid writer and contributes regularly to Charisma, Pentecostal Evangel and Ministries Today.
Feature Article - By Scott Boren
The WOW! Factor: Focusing on the presence of Christ in your weekly meeting
Jesus told us, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” What a promise! It might be the secret element to leading a great cell meeting. And if that is the case, then the mark of an average or weak cell meeting is the absence of His presence.
The presence of Jesus changes people’s lives, heals people of sin, unites broken relationships and sets people upon a rock. Without the presence of Jesus, a meeting becomes a bland Bible study or a rehashed discussion.
With His presence, we see stuff most only dream about, things that exceed our expectations. Without His presence, we see normal stuff, things that maybe meet our human expectations.
What exactly is the presence of Jesus? I remember when I first started leading a cell group and my pastor made statements like “When Jesus becomes the agenda, all other agendas are realized.” He also said, “Focus on the promised presence of Christ in the midst, not on agendas, lessons, or even people’s needs.”
Listening to him state this repeatedly was frustrating. I wanted to know what to do as a leader! I felt like a freshman who had accidentally walked into a senior level class. I kept asking, “How do I lead people to experience the presence of Christ?”
When I determined that I had not grasped these senior-level concepts, I looked for some freshman-level training. For a time, I had to step down from group leadership and learn to follow another leader. Each week, my leader would facilitate the meeting, and I would observe what he was doing. I would think, “Is this right? This looks so easy. People seem to be having too much fun. What about the structure and the order?”
One day I realized we were not having “meetings” anymore. We were encountering the presence of Christ. It was like tasting my grandmother’s chocolate pie for first time. Each time we gathered, we saw God moving in a new way, moving through a person who had given up. This presence created such joy and deep friendship that we could only sit back and let it happen.
Finding Jesus in your cell group for the first time is like coming home after you have been sleeping on a dirt floor in a foreign country. You look around and say “Jesus is here.” You are tempted to ask, “What do I do?” But He stops you and says, “Watch and listen.” Then He takes over and lets you taste the life of the Lord. When this happens, there’s only one word that fits: “Wow!”
Why We Often Miss this “Wow!”
In Matthew 18, Jesus promised His presence. He did not say that He would show up when we say a special prayer, gather in a special place or ask the right Bible study questions. He told us that He would be present when two or three gather in His name. Yet groups meet week in, week out, without complaint, but miss out on the “Wow!” of the presence of Jesus.
Why is this so often the case? I believe that Jesus’ words “in my name” hold the answer. When groups meet in the “name” of something other than Jesus, they miss His presence. Here are some of the common names in which I see groups meeting.
The name of “work”
Many group leaders focus on a list of activities. They prepare the cell lesson. They call everyone. They get to the meeting early. Then the people arrive and the cell leader “works” to make sure everyone feels greeted. As he starts the meeting, he works to make sure that it flows well and concludes on time.
On the surface the group looks good. It is hard to criticize the cell leader because of the energy he is expending. But at the end of the meeting, he feels relieved that it is over and that he has seven days off before the next meeting.
Most people who minister have had this experience. When I find myself focusing on the “work” of the ministry, I can only do one thing, STOP. I go for a walk, pray or put on a worship CD. I stop thinking about what I need to do and wait upon the Lord. He fills me up and renews my heart. Then He reveals what He is doing in the group. This lifts the pressure, and I can start doing what He shows me to do, rather than trying to make everything happen.
The name of “self”
Some cell leaders gather not in the name of Jesus, but in the name of themselves. I confess that I have led too many meetings “in the name of Scott” because my focus was on how well I did. You can recognize a leader whose focus lies on herself when she feels like all of the ministry must flow through her. She has all of the right answers. She always leads in prayer for specific needs. She does not delegate parts of the meeting to other people. When she is out of town, the group does not meet.
Why do leaders meet in their own name? Maybe some feel like they are the only ones who can do it right. Or they are just so insecure that they fear someone else can do a better job than they can.
My father-in-law and pastor repeats a phrase to himself and our church: “It’s not about me.” Before he preaches, before he leads his cell group, before he meets to pray with others, he finds a quiet place to tell himself, “It’s not about me.” I have begun to make this a habit when I lead a group. The focus is not on me. The focus is on Jesus and what He wants to do. He wants to provide a great experience for your group more than you do.
The name of the “cell lesson”
When I first started leading a cell group, I took the cell lessons that my pastor gave me and followed them line-by-line. I soon realized that when I started the meeting with “The icebreaker for tonight is . . .” and then proceeded to read the icebreaker straight from the paper, I was creating an artificial environment.
I created more artificiality when I asked the questions as if we were answering test questions. This forced the group to fit the questions instead of letting the questions stimulate the group into ministry.
I soon discovered that cell meeting lessons are meant to be guides to help cell leaders facilitate a meeting to encounter the presence of Jesus. With this understanding, group leaders can focus on leading people to Jesus, not through the questions. Sometimes, you will see Jesus opening a door of ministry after the first question. Or the second question might stimulate thoughts that will lead to a new question number three. This requires the leader to listen to both what the group members are saying and to what the Lord is saying.
The name of “no disruption”
Someone once said that life is what happens while we are making other plans. This is often true in a cell meeting. We make our plans, then a child gets sick, someone arrives 15 minutes late, the meeting host calls to change plans at the last minute, or a questioning unbeliever shows up. There goes the perfect meeting.
In almost every cell group experience, God uses this mess to reveal His presence. His presence does not arrive when our lives look like a pristine doll house. We know His presence when we to work together as a group to clean up the mess of the child and pray for him, when we confront the chronically late workaholic, when we listen to the stressed out host and when we patiently love the questioning unbeliever. Instead of focusing on the way a meeting “should” look, leaders must learn to flow with the circumstances that arise and continually ask God “What do you want to do here?”
Are you encountering the presence of Jesus in your cell meetings? Are you saying, “Wow, that was unexpectedly good?” If not, Jesus wants to take you to a new place in your leadership: a place of dependence upon Him. This place of His name will transform your ministry from average to incredible and you will sit in wonder at the grace of God because you will see Him like never before. (end of article)
M. Scott Boren is the Director of Research and Development for TOUCH® Outreach and The CellGroup People™ and co-author of the best cell leader training we’ve found.
Intergenerational Cell Groups - By Daphne Kirk
Revolutionize your cell group! Adopt a simple little phrase and you will become the ultimate problem solver.
Cell groups often think that difficulties with children in cell life can only be resolved by having an “expert” on hand. In this article I want to give you a very simple tool that will enable you and every cell member in your group to facilitate the inclusion of children naturally.
The tool is very simple. Adopt a new paradigm that I have coined from my English heritage: “As with adults!” This simple, odd sounding statement can revolutionize your cell group!
Children have the same needs as adults in many areas of their lives. Most of the problems encountered with children are due to inaccurate expectations between the generations and a lack of interaction.
In many nations I have facilitated brainstorming sessions on what an adult needs as a member of a cell: Meet with Jesus; fun; friendship; encouragement; unconditional love; accountability; support in reaching unsaved friends, etc. Responses can be varied, but these are the most typical.
The next step is to look at the list and see how many of these a child would not need. “As with adults,” the needs are identical. I am not simplistically saying that it is true of every situation, but remembering this will help you overcome most of the difficulties you might encounter and give you a tool to help cell members.
Here’s a few examples of the principle in action:
Do not use big words, religious language and move too quickly so as to alienate the children . . . As with adults (especially new believers).
Children have a range of understanding that may not be reflected by their age … As with adults.
Do not have too many hurting children in one cell …. As with adults.
Ensure that no child is excluded from conversation and interaction or they will become bored … As with adults.
Children must learn how to win and disciple their friends … As with adults.
Ask for their opinions and ideas; follow up on any comments or problems they may have; check to make sure that they are not all sitting too closely together … As with adults! See? It’s no different than the way you’d approach the same with your “grown” cell members!
By applying this principle you can solve your own difficulties:
Question: What do I do if a child does not want to attend cell meetings?
Think: What would you do if an adult did not want to attend? Visit them, ask if there was any way the cell could make a difference, build relationship with them, etc.
Question: What would I do in a cell meeting if a child is reluctant to take part?
Think: What would I do if an adult was reluctant to take part in a meeting? Break into two’s or three’s so he can speak in a smaller setting, validate him, see if there are any reasons why he might not feel safe enough to speak out in the group.
Question : What would I do if a child is sick?
Think : What would I do if an adult is sick? Visit, pray and take them an appropriate gift to show you care.
Question : How can I build friendship with a child?
Think : How do I build friendship with an adult? Spend time with her, visit her in her home, remember her birthday, take an interest in things that are important to her, speak to her when you see her, sit next to her, etc.
Now it’s your turn . . .
Questions : What do I expect a child to gain by being part of my cell group?
Think: What do I expect an adult to gain by being part of my cell group?
I am aware that children do have areas where they have different needs from adults. But, if the “As with adults” principle is applied to your cell, you will immediately rise to a new paradigm and liberate every cell member to be able to respond, relate to and mobilize children. It can be fun! (end of article)
Editorial - By Ralph Neighbour
“I am spiritual, but not religious.” Today’s unbelievers are not interested in information-based services.
According to Barna Research, America has more unchurched people than the entire populations of all but 11 of the world’s 194 nations! Nearly 100 million Americans are unconnected to a church.
Here in Houston, my area has just over 4 million people and 3,000 church organizations. Dr. Walter Lumpkin, head of the Antioch Institute, has reported that 88% of our population is unchurched. That places 12%, or 480,000 people inside church buildings on an average Sunday. Another survey shows that the typical church member attends only twice a month. That drops the weekly attendance to 6% of the total population.
The 88% includes a large segment of ex-church attendees who quit the habit long ago. When interviewed, many have said, “I am spiritual, but not religious.” Think about that comment: the implication is that spirituality and religion are not identical. Participation in formal services is not considered a worthy investment of time.
Another comment often heard is, “I went to church for years, but never got much out of it. It was a waste of time.” Advertising is not going to overcome this attitude. The fact is, people do not attend because they do not experience God in these religious meetings!
We must return again and again to 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 to see why the cell is the only answer for harvesting the unchurched. The passage describes a cell-like group where everyone is revealing the presence of Christ. In their midst are two types of observers. Some are “unbelievers;” others are “ungifted ones.” These two categories refer to those who are not “spiritual” and those who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.” As the group is guided by the Holy Spirit, the observers fall on their faces and exclaim, “God is among you!”
That’s what those surveyed did not experience in organized church services! They were informed about God and the Bible, they were entertained with music and perhaps drama, but they did not experience God.
We must realize that the power of the cell group is the activity of the indwelling Christ as He energizes His body members. That is what I call “body life evangelism.” It does not share information — which is what church services do. Rather, the life of the cell reveals the incarnation of Christ.
If our cells are valid, we will recognize ourselves as the agents of God’s grace. We will seek to manifest the empowering Presence. The focus should be on transparent confession and sensitive edification of one another. Our cell members should see guests as observers. They should treat them like children who are looking through the plate glass window of a candy store, longing to taste the flavor of the chocolates. There is no “preaching” necessary! Allowing Christ to flow through their sharing should be as natural as breathing. When God is revealed, the observers will say, “I have watched religious TV programs and heard lots of sermons, but I never before have sensed the presence of Christ! Here in this small group, He has revealed Himself. That is what I have been looking for! These are my kind of people. They are not ‘religious.’ They are ‘spiritual!’
To provide what the unchurched are seeking will require us to be authentically in touch with the indwelling Christ. We must not forget that the unchurched are willing to consider personal involvement in an authentic faith community.
Because of September 11, we have suddenly become a patriotic nation. Instead of flag burning, we display flags everywhere. Today I saw a faded plastic flag on the window of an SUV. We have experienced a resurgence of “spirituality” as we sing, “God bless America.” But it remains to be seen whether the same plastic interest in the prayer/memorial services held around the country will also fade.
Before it does, the cells of Christ in the United States should be alerted to this special opportunity to infiltrate the unchurched. Cells should now be praying and planning to invite the searching to their meetings. They need a solid experience of observing God operating in our midst. (end of article)
Ralph W. Neighbour Jr. is the publisher of CellGroup Journal, author of 35 books and a church planter in Houston, Texas.
Just for Pastors - By Don Tillman
Mentoring: A Life Investment Strategy. Take the guesswork out of cell-based discipleship!
My friend and then co-pastor, Doug Vaughan, was working on a ministry project required by his doctorate program. He brought a group of people together of which I was a part and asked us to define in three words the term “mentoring.” I thought and thought. Defining the term was one thing, but in three words?
I finally wrote my answer: “Life Investment Strategy.”
I’ve spent a great deal of time since then thinking about it. Life Investment Strategy . . . what does it mean? To define it using only one word, it means “mentoring.” How is that for brilliance?
Mentoring through the ages
As Jesus completed His work on earth and prepared to return to His place in eternity, He commanded His followers to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Students of the Bible know the only imperative in Matthew 28:19-20 is the verb translated make disciples. The other phrases, as you are going, baptizing, and teaching are all adverbial. These words tell us how we are to go about the task of making disciples.
As a pastor, discipleship has always been important to me. Over the years, I have sought to provide my congregation with quality discipleship through programs. I must admit, though, that for a time I became disenchanted with discipleship. My quality discipleship programs seemed to attract only a few, and I saw little of what I would call real discipleship being produced. It wasn’t the fault of my disciples. After all, I was the discipler. As I reflected on my efforts, I saw a lot of going, baptizing and teaching, but very little disciple-making. Something was wrong.
Does Mentor = Discipler?
Mentoriig seems to be an activity that has caught on in our day. A trip to any book store will convince you — the shelves are full of books on the subject. Doug read many of them in his doctoral work, and since I can’t pass up an unfamiliar book, I breezed through many that he read. I was disappointed though, finding little substance in most of these books. Many authors write about mentoring, but few do a good job telling me how to mentor.
Is mentoring the same as discipling?
I remember reading Ralph Neighbour’s Where Do We Go from Here? and The Shepherd’s Guidebook several years ago. In them, Dr. Neighbour spoke of a different kind of discipling, the kind of discipling that involved walking through life with people. I immediately sensed the rightness of his teaching. It made sense!
First, it imitated the way Jesus discipled people. Second, it was natural, like a parent raising a child. Who has heard of a parent’s interaction with his or her child taking place only in a classroom setting? The process of maturing takes place in a dynamic environment filled with interpersonal interaction. There is a great deal of teaching, explaining, processing, discussing, and experimenting in such a relationship. The parent becomes not just a source of information, but a model to imitate or contradict. The goal is more than to teach information. The goal is to help a young person mature in his or her total person by walking through life together.
A Journey of Transformation
Neighbour proposed a style of mentoring that was person-centered, relationship-based, and that would take place within the body life of the cell. He proposed that cell members be paired with other cell members, with the more mature guiding the less mature. He asserted that every cell should not only have a cell leader, but an intern-leader as well. His idea was that every cell member should be seen as a potential leader and helped along a spiritual maturity continuum toward that end. This was to be done in a relational, mentoring fashion.
Basic Principles of Mentoring
The ideas postulated in Dr. Neighbour’s early writings are well known within cell ministry circles today. They have been tried, tested, adapted, and proven over the years. Many people, however, still struggle to mentor effectively. Here are some principles I have learned in my own mentoring journey:
1. Move from knowing to doing. Mentoring became more than reading books for me. Books left me wanting because mentoring is something you do, not something you know. The best way to learn how to mentor is to begin mentoring someone and learn from your own experiences and what you can pick up along the way.
2. Elevate mentoring to a life investment process. Mentoring is more than training or teaching facts. It is the investment of one life into another. You may invest the remainder of your life in mentoring another individual, or you may invest only a short period of time. In either case, do more than give a little time and effort to the opportunity. Impart your life! You may be mentoring another to do what you do in terms of task or responsibility, or you may be mentoring someone in a more general manner as a follower of Christ. In either case, you have the opportunity to shape a life. Give it your best effort.
3. Seek to reproduce yourself in others. Christians hesitate to imitate Paul when he said, “Join with others in following my example” (Philippians 3:17). We deem such an approach haughty and arrogant, missing the point. If we presume to be someone’s discipler, shouldn’t we point the disciple toward Christ rather than away from Him? Certainly we are not perfect, but our disciple doesn’t need to see perfection. He or she needs to see how a mature follower of Jesus handles imperfection. This, perhaps, is the greatest gift we have to offer.
4. Mentor the Mentors. Mentoring is a reproductive activity. Set your goals on mentoring a leader and you will get a leader. Set your goals on mentoring a mentor and you will get a maker of leaders. The mentoring process should never cease by design until the one being mentored is mentoring another and understands the process.
5. Mentor at all levels. One thing missed by many pastors is the fact that those they lead do things the same way. If you are asking cell leaders to mentor new cell leaders, you should be mentoring new “pastors,” modeling the lifestyle you want them to replicate. Model the way for the new believers mentoring newer believers, cell leaders mentoring intern cell leaders, coaches mentoring intern coaches, pastors mentoring intern pastors. The process is inclusive and systematic. The best situation is one where the senior leader has mentored others from the bottom up. All of those mentoring have been mentored in one successive line.
There is more to be said about mentoring as a life investment strategy. In Part two of this article featured here in a couple of months, I will share some stimulating principles seen in Jesus’ mentoring example and some practical steps you can take to become a “mentor of mentors.” Until then, strategically find someone and invest your life in that person. (end of article)
Don Tillman is president of Crosspoint International, a cell church planting missionary cooperative with a mission to plant cell-based congregations across the U.S. and around the globe. Information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at www.crosspoint.org.
Nucleus - By Larry Kreider
Let the rags go! We cannot earn God’s favor with good deeds.
There’s a story told about a beggar who was walking down the road one day when the king approached. The beggar was awestruck, especially when the king invited him to ride along with him to the palace. As they entered the royal residence, the king said, I have chosen you to live in my palace. I am going to give you new garments to wear and all of the food that you can eat. All of your needs will be met.”
The beggar thought for a moment. All that he had to do was to receive what the king promised him. This was too good to be true! He had done nothing to deserve this royal treatment. Of course, he accepted the wonderful offer. From that time on, the beggar lived by the king’s provision, but, “Just in case,” the beggar thought, “I should hang onto my old clothes if the king doesn’t really mean what he said. I don’t want to take any chances.” Therefore, the beggar hung onto his old rags.
Years later, the old beggar was dying, and the king came to his bedside. When the monarch glanced down and saw the rags clutched in the beggar’s hand, both men began to weep. The beggar finally realized that he had never truly trusted the king. Rather than living like a royal prince, he had lived under a cruel deception.
Sometimes we are guilty of doing the same. We give our lives to Jesus, but insist on hanging onto and trusting in our works and the good things we do, “just in case.” The Bible tells us that “. . . all our righteous acts are like filthy rags . . .” (Isaiah 64:6).
Paul chided the Galatian Christians because they had started out by faith in Christ, but were trying — through religious dead works — to gain spirituality: “You foolish Galatians! . . . Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? . . . After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:1-3).
If we place our faith in our human effort of witnessing, or Bible reading, or attending cell group or church meetings, these good deeds become “dead works.” Involvement in the church, helping the poor, being a great husband or an obedient child . . . all can be dead works if we are trying to gain favor with God by doing them.
The Lord does not receive us because of our good works. He receives us because of faith in Him and what He has done for us on the cross. We are righteous only by faith in Him. At the end of our lives, let’s not get caught clinging to our old rags. It would be a profound lack of faith if we found it too hard to believe that the Lord desires to bless us and fill us with His life, even though we do not deserve it.
I have met people who say, “I’ll stop smoking, and then God will accept me.” God does not accept us because we have overcome bad habits. He accepts us because His Son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins, and when we receive Him, we become His sons and daughters. When we give our lives to Jesus, He gives us the power and grace to stop smoking or discontinue any other habit that does not bring glory to God. He accepts us as we are and gives us the grace and desire to change.
Our goodness does not bring us favor with God. We already have favor with God! God wants us to do good works, but we do them because we already have His favor, not to gain His favor: “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
God has good plans for your life today. He wants you to reign in life through Jesus Christ: “. . . those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17b).
Kings reign over their kingdoms, and we can do the same. Rise up in faith and begin to reign in life through Jesus Christ and His righteousness! You don’t have to wait. You can start today! (end of article)
Larry Kreider is director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a world-wide network of cell churches.
(end of issue)