Throughout my lifetime, I’ve verbally referred to a year by its last two digits(ie. “I was born in sixty-two.”). Last week, I attempted to say “Let’s work on publishing plans for oh-three and oh-four.” It sounded so odd that I had to stop and rephrase the statement and sound out the “two thousand” part as well.
It occurred to me to ask someone who was around at the last turn of the century and say it the way they did. Well, it’s not easy to find someone who’s over a hundred years old. And if I could find a wise, elderly person who lived way back then, they probably wouldn’t have the presence of mind to give me a good answer. Besides, this is the computer age and language has become very techie indeed. I need a modern solution.
There is no public standard for how to actually sound out these years in an abbreviated fashion. If there was, we’d have been taught it by now or at least heard it used on television. One thing’s for sure. I’m already tired of saying “two thousand” all the time. There’s too many syllables.
With this in mind, I’ve crafted a two alternatives, one of which is bound to catch on and be a big, abbreviated hit.
The first way would be to replace the “oh” sound with the more accurate “zero”: “I’d like to see a cell group multiply every calendar day of zero-three.” The second way would continue to embrace the whole Y2K concept with a slight modification: “I’d like to see a cell group multiply every calendar day of two-K-three.” More complicated, but still an abbreviation. What I like about it is that it really sounds techie, and we could use it through the teen years, which is another akward verbal issue with which we have yet to grapple!
I don’t know if we’ll ever have a standard abbreviation. But, it’s good to stretch our minds with some out-of-the-box thinking, don’t you agree?
In this issue of the Journal, we’ve attempted to do just that—stretch your mind a bit to think in new ways. From my article on keeping your meetings from becoming mechanical to the cover story on how to minister to hurting people in your group, the content is not typical. We try to look at common cell group issues in a refreshing, unique way and give you as many practical ideas as possible.
The next issue of the Journal will hit your mailbox in January of ‘03 (Zero-three or two-k-three. You decide how to read it aloud!). While we may never agree on how to verbally abbreviate next year, know that we’re hard at work on the next issue and we’ll continue to bring you practical solutions for stuff that really matters! (end of article)
Intergenerational Cell Groups - By Daphne Kirk
The Intersection of Truth and Life: Asking good questions
When interacting with children we often find ourselves on the receiving end of good questions and very often crying out for good answers, rather than the other way round! However we need to become as skilled as they often are!
Children are naturally open and vulnerable in an environment where they feel safe and unconditionally loved. This, however, should not lead us into complacency; we need the skills both to question and respond in a Godly way.
Their minds are like butterflies; they land, and then quickly move on to another resting place. Children’s natural chatter will take the conversation into many areas, but when we are aware that the Holy Sprit is leading in a certain direction we will need to have the skills and sensitivity to bring them to rest in that particular area. Our aim is normally to help the children to apply the Word to their own lives, just as we do with adults. Keeping them on track by the questions we ask will be key to the progress of the group. While it is important to listen to them as they share things that have happened in the day, and things that come to mind it is also important to help them stay focused.
Perhaps one of the foundational principles is to understand that children are concrete thinkers. Whatever you say they will take literally. A child who hears about the man who built his house on the sand / rock might think it is a story about house building unless, through questioning, we discover that their interpretation is very different from ours.
If you were to ask whether they had asked the Lord Jesus into their hearts they might be confused as to how he could possibly have got inside them without them actually eating Him! Simple questions can reveal whether they have actually understood what is being shared. For example, “Can you tell me what it means to have Jesus as your very special friend?” Or “Why is Jesus very special to you?” can help to reveal whether the child has understood concepts and basic doctrine, so giving an indication of whether they are actually understanding the hidden truth or completely missing any meaning.
By asking questions such as “What do you think Jesus is saying to you as you listen?” will help them to independently hear the Holy Spirit and think through from their own personal rhema. Similarly by asking what they think Jesus is saying could open up a depth off understanding that we might never have considered.
Children also need a setting in which to relate the question. They need to understand a context and be able to apply it to their everyday walk. In this way they will be able to answer freely and usually with complete honesty. Asking, “When do you need Jesus to help you?” might bring a long thoughtful silence. Asking, “When you are at school what do you find difficult?” and then exploring the issue raised, before bringing Jesus, and anyone else who might help them, into the situation will help us to use greater wisdom and the child to be more specific.
This vulnerability can lead the questioner into deep waters; simple questions can lead straight into areas that were never thought of. “Is there anyone you find hard to forgive?” could bring the response “I can’t forgive daddy/ mummy for hitting me so hard” Every small group leader, every cell member, must have a clear understanding of the church’s child protection policy and how to deal with such responses. I cannot emphasize this too much. If your church has no policy then this should be implemented as a matter of urgency. The more skilled you are in asking questions the more open you are to discovering areas of child abuse. Don’t be complacent. It is happening in just about every church.
Children’s natural ability to ask good questions can be channeled to each other. As a child asks, so another child can be encouraged to answer. The questions they ask may often be far sharper than those of the adult. They understand each other’s lives and language better than we do. I was in a group once when we were considering the price that Jesus paid for us. One child immediately said, “How often do you cry about what Jesus had to do for you?” The children then began to talk about what it cost Jesus and why it did or did not affect them as much as other things. I was certainly left very thoughtful at the end of the meeting. We need to have our ears open to mobilize their questions for the good of the group and then have the skills to develop the discussion that follows.
I often give cell demonstrations at conferences. The children never cease to amaze everyone by their simple and honest responses even in such a large forum. For example I have used the incident where Peter denied Jesus and then asked them to tell me about times when they found it difficult to stand up for Jesus. In front of hundreds of adults they relate through their tears incidents of bullying, times when they were afraid of being laughed at and times when they spoke up and were teased for days afterwards.
This has been a revelation for many parents listening who were completely unaware that their child had suffered such things. During the rush of life many of these questions never get asked, and so little time taken to listen. It is so important that parents are told about problems the children may say they are facing, parents are their protection and need to be involved in finding answers.
Adults have learned the art of denial, of avoidance, of not being vulnerable. Children have the precious gift of being open to us and to the Holy Spirit. We have the responsibility of respecting their responses, of taking their answers seriously and of knowing how to handle the problems they face.
Jesus said they would be a role model to us (Matthew 18), as we consider questions lets also pray for ourselves that we would have the grace and wisdom in listening to nurture and not crush their simple openness and to cultivate the same spirit in ourselves. (end of article)
Daphne Kirk is an author of numerous resources for children, parents, cell leadership and families. Daphne, along with her children, travel and consult churches around the globe.
Cell Leadership - By Randall Neighbour
Are your cell meetings mechanical? Here’s the cause and five not-so-simple steps to correct the situation.
Each Saturday during the summer months, I drag out the yard equipment. I cut the grass, edge the sidewalks, use the leaf blower to clear the clippings, and then sit on the front porch and admire my work. I have a simple process, and the grass has never complained. My yard never looks different, just tidy. It’s obvious that I have no dreams for expansion or a new look with seasonal flowers.
I recently visited a cell group meeting that was equally mechanical, with the goal of basic maintenance at its core. The cell leader led the group through the exact same process each week. While I had not visited this group for six weeks in a row, the blank, emotionless looks on everyone’s faces were a sure indication that the group was in a rut and completely bored each week. I didn’t need to attend more meetings to know that this group was in trouble!
The meeting began with the leader sharing a tired icebreaker that wasn’t interesting enough to bring the group together for the evening. I noticed one lady’s expression —she rolled her eyes and exhaled loudly. Then we sang four songs without a break. No one sensed God’s presence or leading strongly enough to step out of the routine. No one prayed differently, waited on the Lord to speak, read a revealing or exciting scripture, or shared a testimony of God’s incredible grace or answered prayer. We were simply singing songs to exercise our lungs.
After worship the leader took a set of questions the pastor had prepared and read the questions for the group to answer. It was obvious that, although he had read the questions beforehand, he had not prayed through the questions with his members in mind. He had not searched God’s heart to see what needed to be modified to make this part of the meeting powerful and life-changing. The discussion among the group members revealed what the passage and the pastor’s sermon were about, but it didn’t move people to a revelation of what God wanted to do in their midst and in the days to follow.
We closed the evening by praying for each other’s needs and for the non-Christians we knew. Although I expected this to be the most powerful time of the evening, it lacked the impact and the uniqueness I have seen in my own group and in other groups I’ve visited. After our closing prayer, we made small talk over soft drinks and snacks.
Whew! Another weekly cell meeting was out of the way. The group had done its duty and everyone could go home. I must admit I was relieved the evening was over as well. I had not seen God’s power or any excitement in the eyes of the group members. I thought the time could have been better used by watching summer reruns on TV.
Am I describing your meetings?
It may not be that every part of your meeting is as cut and dried as the one I’ve described, but from week to week, different parts have become routine and boring. While entertainment may not be on the list of things to achieve each week, your cell members (and the Lord) expect your weekly meeting to move them into a deeper level of community, one-another ministry and their personal relationships with God. With this in mind, here are five steps you can take to see your weekly meetings come alive with anticipation and personal ministry that’s powerful and fruitful.
Step One: Prepare Your Heart
You cannot confidently lead others to an unknown place. If your daily time with God is non-existent or sporadic, it will reveal itself in many ways, especially in your weekly meetings and in your relationships with cell members.
Find a place and time for God each day; make it the most important thing you do. Pray for yourself, sharing your personal dreams, goals and desires with God. Ask Him to reveal His will for you through His Word when you read it and to give you a fresh revelation each day. Then, pray for your spouse, children and family as a whole. Now, sit still and be quiet. Let God speak to you. It may take some time at first, but soon enough you’ll be hearing Him clearly.
Next, write down the names of your cell members and their current needs. If you can’t recall a need for each person, ask God to give you enough of His love for them to learn more about them and to become true friends. As you pray, don’t neglect to pray for yourself. Ask what God wants to do in and through you as you interact with your members. Use this list each day to cover each member with prayer.
Finally, take time to read God’s Word. I suggest doing this last because I have found that a half hour of prayer makes my Bible reading far more powerful and I am not as prone to fall asleep or to allow my mind to wander.
If you’re as undisciplined as I am with my daily time with God, tell your coach or pastor about the problem and get some accountability. Give your leaders permission to call you at 6 a.m. to ensure you’re out of bed, on your knees and in the Word.
Never forget that excellent cell meetings are a result of an outflow of a personal, ongoing discovery of God’s love and power. If you’ve become shallow in your spiritual walk, don’t expect God to reveal Himself in power when those you are shepherding come together.
Step Two: Make Friends
By taking time each day to get plugged in to the Power source, you’ll find that your interest in your members will grow. You’ll begin to call them mid-week, just to hear their voices, and without an agenda. Your conversation will move beyond where the meeting will be, what refreshments to bring, if they’ll lead worship or ministry time, etc. Exciting cell groups have leaders that focus on building friendships, then deep relationships with each cell member. If your cell members feel that the only reason you want to converse with them is because you like potato chips after the meeting and it’s his or her turn to bring them, you’ve prioritized insignificant tasks.
Much of your success in this step will grow out of a conscious decision to make every member of your group a close friend. We all have close friends with whom we like to spend time. But God has put the people in your group together for a unique and temporal purpose. You must seize the opportunity to befriend them and pray for them; allow them to pray for you. This requires trust and depth, so the way to begin is to involve your cell members in your everyday life. I know you’re busy and probably don’t have time for much more interaction, but it’s our spiritual purpose in life. Godly interaction must become more important to us that the priorities the world forces upon us.
The culture in which we live is often too busy for the level of effective, life-changing community described in the New Testament. Does this mean we should give into it and write off the challenge to live within a counter-culture for the sake of the Great Commandment and Commission? New Testament Christians lived very differently from both the religious Jews and the Romans. We need to do the same.
The best way to change the way you live your life is to sit down with your calendar and make a plan to do things differently. Strategically invite a different couple from your cell group over twice a month just to hang out with your family after dinner and play board games together. You’ll find that your family will enjoy the time and learn that while “just us” is fun, coming together with another family can be even more rewarding.
Another item to try is a call to a different cell member each day of the week to encourage them and to catch up on the ebb and flow of their daily lives. During lunch or while you’re sitting in traffic, call to see how they are doing and how you can pray for them. Then, briefly tell them how you’re doing and ask them to pray for you in one way or another. This is what real friends do… love enough to invest in each other on a daily basis.
The combination of inviting cell members into your home regularly and calling a cell member each day to build relationships will have immediate results in your upcoming meetings. Members will begin to arrive at the meeting with an open heart. They’ll be far more open to share deep issues during the meeting, and they’ll begin to call each other mid-week because you’ve modeled this for them.
Step Three: Give Away Your Meetings
Mechanical cell meetings are usually facilitated by the same people or person each week. The members can usually guess what’s coming next and from whom it will come. This produces a boring, “ho-hum” environment. The key to making each meeting unique and interesting is advance planning. In an odd sort of way, you must plan in advance to appear spontaneous!
Meet with your intern(s) and start to plan the next six to eight cell meetings. Give away responsibility for various the parts of the meeting if you’ve been doing everything each week as the faithful yet overworked cell leader. Then, go to each cell member, and show them the schedule and ask them if they will carry the part of the meetings listed, and if they have a different preference. Take their input and change the schedule if necessary.
The simple dynamic of having a new believer or even a regularly attending nonbeliever share his or her own icebreaker (approved for use beforehand) can make for lots of fun. A non-musical person who leads worship with the reading of a Psalm and some praise music on CD will dynamically change how your group worships. Breaking up into groups of three for Bible application and ministry, versus staying together as a complete cell group amortizes the ministry to more people. Walking around your neighborhood block in pairs to pray for your non-Christian neighbors with the last 15 minutes of your meeting time will give people a tangible view of the lost people all around them. These ideas are but a few you can employ to vary the flow of your meetings. Get creative!
Step Four: Find a New Host Home
When I visit with a cell leader who has held the weekly meeting at only one or two host homes all the time, I fear that the group is in a rut. My cell group meets in everything from small apartments with no furniture, homes with noisy kids, birds and dogs (not to mention a teenager’s phone ringing constantly), and we do quite well. It really doesn’t matter if a host home is large enough or has enough furniture. You are there to enter into Christ’s presence, power and purpose… move the meeting to every member’s home.
In my previous church and in the one I currently am a part of, we move host homes once per calendar month, versus every week in a different home. This way, our conversations with each other do not begin with “where are we meeting this week?” Everyone knows that in October, we’re meeting at my house. You might think this would create a mechanical meeting, but I’ve never experienced it this way. When it meets at one home for a solid month, visitors know where to go and are comfortable enough to show up if they don’t get a ride with a member.
Step Five: Invite Vistors!
While we’re on the subject of visitors, know that your cell meeting will rapidly become mechanical if there are no new personalities in the room. For heaven’s sake, invite new people to come to your cell meetings every week! Work with each of your members to determine the unchurched friends, relatives and neighbors they could invite and get to know in a social situation. My cell group has a game night once a month for the friends and family members of the cell. We have a pot luck meal and play dominoes, Monopoly, card games, etc. We end the night with 30 minutes of a large group game such as charades, and leave at 9:30 so that the host home can go about the evening chores or prepare for school and work the next day. This breaks the ice with visitors and prepares them to more readily accept an invitation to a cell meeting when an invitation is made.
If you’ve been treating your weekly meetings like I do my yard work, then it’s time to abandon the idea that cell meetings are on a maintenance routine. It’s time for a radical change—which must begin with you. Allow God to pour Himself into you, and receive a new passion to love the people in your group. Give away responsibilities to others. Allowing them to learn and grow and take ownership of the group. Employ some of the practical ideas I’ve offered, and get creative by planning meetings with your interns and then your members with one goal in mind—to experience Jesus’ presence, power and purpose through each member of your group.
By doing these things, your meetings will become much more fun again, and you’ll be developing new leaders with good habits. Soon enough, it will be time to multiply your group and start all over again! (end of article)
Randall Neighbour is the editor of CellGroup Journal and along with his wife, lead a cell group in an inner-city church plant in Houston, Texas.
Editorial - By Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.
Should the megachurch be your goal? Big meetings and showmanship don’t invite transparency or body life.
[Author’s Note: Let me assure you I am totally committed to the New Testament Church flying with two wings: the large group wing and the small group wing. The large group wing is not only valid, but required for balance. The issues I discuss here relate to “big churches” that attract attention because of their size.]
Why are we Americans so impressed by “big” churches? Where did we get the notion that if a church swells in membership it is extremely “successful” and should be copied? I cannot find a “successful megachurch” anywhere in the New Testament!
Christian workers flock by the thousands to attend “Successful Pastor” seminars, learning how a megachurch gets so big. But they know nothing of a two-winged church that gathers the cell groups for the large group celebration.
I once went on visitation with a pastor of one of the largest churches in America. I observed his charming way as he dazzled the young couple who were awed to have such a famous man in their home. Both accepted Christ. As we drove back to the church, he said to me, “Ralph, the contrast between us is that you have a shepherd’s heart. You would spend a great deal of time with this couple, helping them to mature. I am not like you. I know how to practice “churchianity.” I know how to attract a large congregation. From now on they will just be members in the pew.”
I will never forget the sadness his comment triggered in me. Seen everywhere on billboards and on television, selling books compiled from sermons, and admired by the “lesser lights” in the ministry, he practiced “churchianity” (His word, not mine!) He didn’t have a clue about life in basic Christian communities.
Have you ever looked at Christian television and realized how you are transported from one huge crowd to another? Consider what this describes to the viewers who are unchurched. How many of them gave up on “churchianity” that gave the impression that big meetings are all Christ has to offer?
The large, impersonal patterns of the ornate buildings providing country club luxury for the “joiners,” is a far cry from the ecclesia (called out people) portrayed in the New Testament. Our generation is imprisoned by “churchianity” values which are a light year—plus two galaxies—from the Body of Christ described in the New Testament!
True body life creates a community of people who are baptized by the Holy Spirit to become hands and arms and inward parts for the Incarnate Christ. They do not gather by the thousands to listen to sermons. They meet in small groups.
They live in total transparency. By “transparency,” I am not talking about “honest confession of all our faults” to one another. Transparency is not necessary to reveal what we are inside. That’s already transparent! All of us have sinned. All of us have throats that are like open sepulchers. All of us have departed from obedience and have become depraved. That’s transparent without “transparency.”
No, something much more important is involved here. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Aha! That is what total transparency reveals—the Incarnate Christ, manifesting His inner Presence as we edify and prophesy and pray for healing and deliverance. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 explains that when the true church exists, it will always be a small group of people who are formed to become a Body for Christ. Then, when the unbeliever or ungifted one is present, the transparency of every single part of that body reflects the Lord’s glory. Note that “all are prophesying!”
A cell group is the true body of Christ, not five thousand sitting in rows observing one man’s charismatic activity. It is a gathering of transparent people empowered by Him, revealing Him to observers!
When those cells cluster, they can fill stadiums. Elim Church in El Salvador will congregate 150,000 people in a service in November of this year. But that meeting is composed of cells!
Do you know how many people in your community are longing for that? They are countless! It is far more important that we ask, “How small must we become to become the authentic church of the New Testament?” (end of article)
Ralph W. Neighbour Jr. is an author and local church planter in the Houston area.
Cover Article - By Steve Prokopchak
How to Minister to a Drowning Cell Member: Dealing With the Hurt and Wounded in Your Cell
How could she possibly take control of another cell meeting? Cell members sit with eyes rolling, eyebrows furled, arms crossed and heaving sighs, trapped into listening to Gerry’s problems once again. In Gerry’s world, her pain is more significant than anyone else’s, or so she thinks. But why can’t she just move ahead, mature, grow up—something, anything?
As a cell leader, you know this scene all too well. You have been there as I have, and if you have not, you will be. The Gerrys in our cell meetings can be like clogged sinks; they drain us very slowly. The resolution of their problems takes so long that often it feels like nothing is being done, nothing is going anywhere.
Sometimes, however, I think we expect new Christians to act like mature Christians after too short a period of time. When I helped my children learn to walk, I was patient, knowing that one day they would take off on their own. But we often expect new Christians to go straight from crawling to running hurdles. As a cell leader off and on for fourteen years, I know that it is not unusual to have Gerrys in our cell groups. But perhaps they are a blessing, after we learn how to work with people who are hurting. That is what this article is about: helping the Gerrys in the world find freedom.
Two core needs: Security and significance
As cell leaders, are we called to counsel others? The answer is both yes and no. “No,” in that we are not called to be professional people-helpers. Answering “yes,” however, defines our roles and our purposes in helping hurting individuals within our cell groups. The key is in Colossians 1:28: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”
This verse could be succinctly paraphrased “to build the life of Christ.” The Apostle Paul calls us to labor in this way, and we must spend our energy in following his wisdom. Our goal must be to build the life of Christ into a Gerry rather than take on the role of her therapist.
But where do we begin? Christian psychologist Larry Crabb states that there are two core needs all of us are attempting to have met in our lives: security and significance. Think back to that last cell meeting when a cell member was pouring his or her heart out with a need. Often, at the core of his or her very being is a need for security: knowing that he belongs, is accepted, approved of without condition, and loved. Or she has the need of significance: knowing she is important and that what she does in life is important to her cell family and others.
Here’s the really great news: Jesus is the “wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6), and when we have Him and His Word, we are armed with the truth. Colossians 1:12-22 and Ephesians 1:4-14 describe our security and significance in Christ. Perhaps a parent rejected him, a husband abandoned her, drugs and alcohol stole years of his life, or abuse wounded her soul. Nevertheless, as cell members begin to speak the love of Christ, the approval of Christ, the redemption, the adoption, the grace, the forgiveness, the reconciliation and the justification of the life of Christ, a Gerry can begin to be put back together again.
Our need for security and significance is tied into our relationships. Unhealthy relationships are those in which one person constantly strives to receive from another or from a group. The hurting person’s quest is for a particular need to be provided for, healed, and supported. A healthy relationship occurs when two people are offering the good to one another. The question they are asking is, “What can I do to support the other person, love him, serve him, and provide for his needs?” This is the act of building the life of Christ.
If a relationship is built on what someone thinks she can receive to build herself up, the relationship will eventually die. Unhealthy cell members want their needs to be met by those in the group they perceive as healthy, but most of the those who seem healthy need healing themselves.
Following are some very specific biblical tools that will enable you to help hurting people. In my booklet, Thinking Right in a World that Thinks Wrong: Change—How Does it Happen?, I mention six ways to build the life of Christ. We will look at three of them here.
The Rule of the Spirit
First Thessalonians 5:23 reveals, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through, may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We feed the flesh three or more meals a day. We feed the soul with years of schooling. But we often neglect the spirit. I believe the change that everyone desires comes from the Spirit of God. Our flesh and our minds cannot be in charge of our spirit. Our spirits must lead the way to change.
Hurting individuals often want someone else to relieve their pain or be their cure. If you let yourself become the medicine, you can create an unhealthy emotional dependency.1 Jesus must become the source of security and significance—there is no other Savior. Paul reminds us in Galatians 1:10 that our identity does not come from man, but from God. “Am I now trying to win the approval of man, or of God?” (See also 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6).
Romans 8:5-7 is a very clear and helpful scripture that exposes the battle between the soul and the spirit. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.”
Change begins when the Spirit of God is given control of our spirits, souls and flesh. Ryan had no boundaries in his life. He spent hours on the phone or at the houses of unsuspecting cell members. His neediness drove him to those he thought could fill his emotional cup. But his emotional cup was insatiable. The Ryans and Gerrys in our cell groups must be taught and modeled that our spirits (controlled by God’s Spirit) must teach our minds—not our minds teach our spirits. The intellect and the emotional self must submit to the rule of the Spirit.
A second key to building the life of Christ is providing boundaries or limits. Often these limits have not been instilled in those whose lives revolve around their self-esteem needs. Boundaries are all around us: doors, walls, fences, sidewalks, yellow lines on the highway. Personal boundaries are harder to see but just as necessary to a person’s overall well-being.
Help a hurting person identify appropriate and sometimes new boundaries. Jesus had boundaries for His disciples. (See Matthew 6.) In John 4, Jesus did not rescue the woman at the well. He instead revealed to her that she was attempting to get her needs met in men. She was even living with a man who was not her husband. She had crossed a boundary that had been set in scripture, and she needed to live within the boundaries set by God before she would be ready to accept Christ’s offer of salvation. She could say the words, but her promises would melt away.
Boundaries are limits, and when God imposes these limits, they are healthy limits. Help people to identify within scripture those guidelines their heavenly Father is lovingly providing for them. Within the cell group, people may need help setting practical boundaries: who they can visit, how long they can stay, how often they can phone, how many times they should expect others to baby-sit for them, and how much the cell gives when there is a financial need. Boundaries will help needy people and provide limits for people who want to help.
Challenging False Beliefs
Our thoughts stem from our beliefs. Some of our thoughts will be true and some will be lies. It may take Gerry five or six cell meetings to become comfortable enough to share her thoughts, but they will eventually surface.
When this happens, you will be given the unique opportunity to hear her story, and by listening intently, note some of her false beliefs. Approach her later one-on-one to discuss.
One evening in our cell, a couple shared a tragic experience they had in a former church and how it hurt them deeply. While the experience was their feelings were real, they spoke something from their belief about this church and its leaders that was very hurtful. I made a mental note of their poisonous comment and confronted them before they left for the evening. The husband received my input and acknowledged that the comment stemmed from their hurt. The wife refused to hear me or retract her statement. A belief had formed from her life experience, and she was unable to let go of the feelings and reactions to her thoughts.
You may eventually hear comments like: “The last church I was in gave up on me and you will too,” or “I’ve been in three rehabs and two psych wards, and they told me I was a hopeless case,” or “My parents kicked me out of the house when I was fifteen.” There may be some partial truth found in these statements, but I guarantee you much of what people presently tell themselves stems from major false beliefs.
Wellness: Everyone’s Choice
How can a hurting person be healed? By the truth—because the truth sets us free. Consider Jesus’ ministry. When Jesus confronted the invalid at the pool of Bethesda in John 5, he asked the man an interesting question. John 5:6 states, “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time (38 years), he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ”
Visualize this; the lame man is at the pool where all of the disabled—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed—are hanging out. They are most likely discussing the usual stuff. One of them is wondering if they would have barley soup for supper again. Another is complaining about how few times the angel shows up to “stir” the water. Perhaps a young boy is lamenting the fact that he will never play sports like other kids. The paralytic of 38 years is just commenting about how tough it is to find someone to help him to the water, and if he does find someone, it is always too late—another needy one reaches the pool before him.
Life is rough around that pool; then again, no one has to work. Perhaps they are guaranteed several hot meals a day. They have their friends. There is a certain amount of security being a part of this disabled bunch. They have a lot in common.
Then the Savior comes along and asks that controversial question. To the invalid he is really asking, “Do you want to change?” Consider the ramifications: the invalid would have to leave his home of 38 years (perhaps he is somewhat of a peer leader); he would need to become productive and provide for himself; he would no longer have excuses to not make changes in his life.
Jesus confronted this person's beliefs with the opportunity to begin a new life through a healing of his physical body and a transformation of his beliefs. There are or will be cell members who do not want to be well. They only know how to live life by walking within the world they know. While change seems inviting, it is so unfamiliar to them that it is a place of insecurity they fear. They decide to remain in their present state as broken as it may be, experiencing what some call the “tyranny of the familiar.”
You Can Do It!
You and your cell members can be involved in helping people by infusing the Spirit of God in them, creating and setting appropriate boundaries with them, and challenging any false beliefs with the truth of God’s Word.
We must pray for the hurting, believe for them, and know that there is always hope. We serve a life-changing Redeemer. Do you recall walking through very troubling times early in your Christian life? What helped you? How did others reach out to you? Be assured that some of these very same helping principles will also help the Gerrys and Ryans in your cell.
Problems are a part of our Genesis 3 world
You and I were created for a Genesis 1 and 2 world, but find ourselves living in a Genesis 3 world. It is a world where we experience firsthand the fallen nature, the world of selfish desire, pride, lust, and self-preservation. Problems are a part of the Genesis 3 world. There are many reasons why people deal with problems in their lives. Here are a few of them.
~ Problems help to cleanse us (2 Corinthians 7:9,11).
~ Problems can produce a healthy dependence upon God (2 Corinthians 1:8,9).
~ Problems help us to learn perseverance (Romans 5:3).
~ Problems can help produce a spiritual humility (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
~ Problems will force us to find solutions.
When problems are faced, rather than denied or avoided, we grow in our walk with the Lord. Problems will either force growth in our lives or reinforce dysfunction. (end of article)
1 Emotional Dependency, Steve Prokopchak, (Ephrata, PA: House to House Publications).
Steve Prokopchak, a Christian family and marriage counselor for twenty-two years, ministers worldwide, training believers in biblical counseling principles, giving them tools to be equipped for ministry. He is the author of several books, including Called Together, a pre/post-marital workbook; Counseling Basics for Small Group Leaders; In the Pursuit of Obedience, and a series of booklets for small group study.
Just for Pastors - By Scott Boren
Is your church on mission with God? Four questions people find answers to in cell groups
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others.” Jesus as the incarnate Son of God came in a physical body to redeem the world. The church, the Body of Christ through the work of the Spirit, is now the body that God breathes life into to redeem the world.
Cell groups are cells within this body. Cell groups are only truly cell groups in His Church when they exist for others. They must give life to receive it. Without this giving, cells grow static and stale. The flesh seeks to withhold the power of the Spirit from others and keep basic Christian community to itself. The flesh resists expansion. Yet expansion is the way of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit never allows the church to contain His presence. He is only experienced as the church moves out in an ever-expanding way. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit is on the mission of expansion. The mission of cell groups is to join Him.
People will make time for cell groups when they like what they experience. If cell groups help them, they will come back. If they don’t, then they won’t. There are four basic questions that people ask which cell groups are uniquely qualified to answer. If the cell groups and all the other expansion strategies developed answer these questions, people will come back. If they fail to address them, people will look for answers elsewhere.
“Who am I?”
The identity of human beings has been a core question for hundreds of years. The philosopher Descartes determined that the essence of man is thinking. Freud concluded that the center of identity lies in the subconscious. The economist Adam Smith found the key in competition. America’s founding fathers determined that the pursuit of happiness is the key to identity.
In the past, people banked their identities on family or heritage. They knew who they were because they knew their fathers. But this is no longer the case. Some call this generation “fatherless.” The normal family now has divorce somewhere in its history. The normal child is the one whose father lives in a different state or whose name is unknown. Even for those who live with their fathers, the relationships are often so strained that children question their ability to do anything in this world. Today, life is characterized by a loss of identity.
People are silently screaming, “Who am I?” They are waiting for someone who can tell them. The cell group on mission has an answer to this question, an answer that does not come in the form of words alone but in the form of action. Cell groups on mission have the ability to surround people with the truth of who they are and show them their names: Son of God, Daughter of the Most High, Loved of God, Beautifully and Wonderfully Made. This is the kind of truth that no book can communicate. This is the kind of reality that requires impartation from one life to another. People answer the question “Who am I?” when they are surrounded by other people who love them and edify them with God’s Word, revealing their identity in Christ.
“Where do I belong?”
The average family moves every 11 years. Most people will change their careers four to five times before they retire. The beginning of the 21st century is a transient age. This unstable state of life causes people to protect themselves. They do not trust people they do not know and people are not around long enough to get to know them. The only option is to hide behind alcohol, television, work, activity, even religion. As a result, people’s lives are full of acquaintances but few friends. Relationships are shallow.
People need a place to call home. Cell groups have the miraculous ability to provide this home to the homeless. A man named Terry visited my church. He lived in a house, but he had no home. He was lonely and had no friends. Then he arrived at church, and shortly thereafter, he joined a men’s group. He never misses a meeting. He shares freely about his former struggles and the men pray for him. Terry has finally found a place to belong.
“What do I do?”
I grew up on a farm. As a result, I was able to spend a lot of time with my father. At first, I would watch what he did on the farm, asking him why he did things the way he did. With anticipation, I waited for the day that he would allow me to hammer a nail, drive the tractor, or put out hay for the cattle. I knew that if I had something to do, I would grow closer to my father.
The same is true in church. At first, people might like being entertained. But deep down they want to contribute something. One Chicago church has enlisted a “techie” to run the sound and video even though he is still on the journey to Christ. One man in a Houston church played the drums on the worship team even though he and the mother of his child were not yet legally married. Because he felt he could contribute something, he was given the room to work through his questions and his pain. One day, he stood before the entire church and his wife walked down the isle to officially marry him.
Cell group members also want to contribute to the mission. They want to help organize an outing, lead an icebreaker, host the meeting, make a hospital visit, and reach out to someone outside the group. They want to know that they can do to help.
“What is my destiny?”
Today’s life is filled with a lack of hope. Drugs, physical abuse, divorce, and depression all stem from an absence of hope. Cell groups enter God’s mission by providing hope for those without it.
Hope is not found by attending a cell group as a faithful member. It is found as cell group members discover that they have God-ordained destinies, that they have a purpose that extends beyond the mundane routines of life. God did not create two kinds of people in the church, those with a call to minister and those who will receive ministry. He called everyone to live out their destinies as a part of the body. “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5).
Many have concluded that some people have special skills to lead a group, while most are just not the leadership type. Research has found this conclusion false. Cell group leadership is not limited to those with outgoing personalities, more education, or verbal giftings. In fact, research shows that these things have no impact on a person’s ability to lead and grow a group. In other words, God has not set some apart to lead and others to follow. If people are willing to allow God to do whatever He wants in their lives, they can be trained to lead a dynamic group. A person’s destiny is not limited to watching other people minister.
As people answer these four questions in cell groups, they will discover their gifts and callings. The creativity of the Holy Spirit will stir normal people to start unique ministries to reach out to hurting people. Such ministries grow out of the values of cell group life. This allows them to grow organically, rather than programically. Door of Hope Church in Anchorage, Alaska has seen cell members and leaders catch a vision for developing unique ministries. For instance, a single mother reached through the ministry of a cell group felt compelled to reach out to other single mothers. She started with one interest group. From there, she now oversees several groups and has started a non-profit organization to minister to the needs of single mothers.
The ideas for such ministries are endless. But the leadership of the church need not make these ministries happen. They only need to cultivate the cell group life, which allows the Holy Spirit to speak to people and then watch what He develops through those people.
These four questions help to create life that leads to cell group expansion. Stage 8 of my new book Making Cell Groups Work, highlights various practical ways that churches across North America have guided their cell groups into expansion. (end of article)
Scott Boren is the Director of Research and Development for TOUCH, The Cell Group People, based in Houston, Texas. He is also an assistant pastor at Hosanna! Church, and is married to Shawna and has a son, Deklan.
Nucleus - By Larry Kreider
God’s Secret Plan - Christ Lives in us!
I am going to let you in on a divine secret. It is the secret to living a victorious life. “For this is the secret, Christ lives in you” (Colossians 1:27).
How did we receive Christ as Lord? By faith. How do we live out our Christian life each day? By faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, and without faith it is impossible to please God.
Faith is our first response to God. We put our trust in Christ by faith and by faith alone. We cannot depend on our abilities. We must depend on His abilities. We can never gain acceptance from God by our own morality or good works. Our efforts to “try harder” at being a better student, a better spouse, a better cell group leader, or a stronger Christian witness can never gain for us more acceptances from God. Placing our faith in God alone for everything is the only way to please Him. We place our faith in the living God and serve Him for one reason, because He is God. He is worthy of our praise and our complete allegiance.
When we received Jesus as our Lord and placed our faith in Him, something drastically changed! Christ is now actually living in us. Galatians 2:20 tells us clearly...Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Why is this so important to understand? Because when I realize that Christ lives in me, I begin to see life from a different perspective. I see it as it really is. Christ actually lives in me. The same Holy Spirit who dwelt in Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, who gave Him the power to live a supernatural life, is also in me enabling me to live a supernatural life. When I lay my hands on someone to pray for him, it is actually Christ praying for him through me. When I encourage someone in my cell group, Christ is actually encouraging her through me.
Romans 4:3 tells us clearly...Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. The Lord credits our account with righteousness when we believe Him! Imagine someone depositing money in your account at the bank each week. You may say, “I don’t deserve this.” But your bank account would continue to grow whether you deserved it or not! That is exactly what God does. The Bible says that if we believe God, like Abraham, the Lord puts righteousness into our account! So, being right with God and living a victorious life in Christ does not depend so much on our performance as it depends on our faith and trust in Him.
Christians often make the mistake of relying too much on their feelings. One day we feel close to God and the next day we don’t feel Him. We cannot trust our feelings. We have to trust the truth of the Word of God. When we are tempted to be discouraged or depressed by our mistakes and failures, we must make the decision to replace those thoughts with the thoughts that God thinks about us. See yourself as God sees you. Remember, Christ lives in you!
It’s like this. If you’re in the hospital and they take out your almost-ruptured appendix, what are you going to concentrate on? The pain? The stitches? Or are you going to say, “Praise God! The poison’s being removed. I’m being healed!” We choose to think of one or the other, the pain or the healing. If we keep our eyes on Jesus and on His righteousness, then God is free to allow the abundant life that He promised to permeate our lives.
It is only by Christ living in us that we are able to do anything. We have absolutely no chance of obeying God with our own strength. We must have faith in Christ living in us. Paul the apostle found the secret when he tells us in Colossians 2:2 “God’s secret plan, … is Christ himself.”
Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. I talk to myself all the time. The Bible says David talked to himself; he “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6 KJV). We should be doing the same thing. I encourage you to get up in the morning and say, “I am righteous through faith in Jesus. I am a man or woman of God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me today” (Philippians 4:13). Christ lives in me! (end of article)
Larry Kreider is director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a world-wide network of cell churches.
(end of issue)