Years ago and just days before the New Year, I was in a barber’s chair receiving a haircut. I asked the barber if he had any New Year’s resolutions, and he said “Yes. I have two. The first is not to drink any more.” I congratulated him on this important decision and inquired about the second. With a deceivingly ‘sober’ look, he said “Oh, that’s easy. My second resolution is not to drink any less!”
Sadly, most every New Year’s resolution I’ve made has turned out the same way. I make them, then break them, then make new ones, or renew old ones, then break the renewed resolutions. This has gone on for years and as my mother says, “has gone the way of all flesh.” What a way to begin each year!
My final New Year’s resolution, which I am truly confident I can keep, is not to make any more resolutions. They’re a waste of my emotional energy. If I truly need to make a change, I shouldn’t wait until January to do something about it. There’s no time like the present!
By the time this issue reaches you, it will be mid January. You’ll still be going to the gym as you resolved to do, or cutting down on sweets, or watching less television. Good for you. If you’re still in the mood to do things differently in 2003 as a cell leader to get different results, then we have what you’re looking for in this issue.
Our cover article is on relational evangelism and the myths surrounding how people truly come to Christ. While you may not be surprised with Jim’s findings, the information he shares will help you better understand how your cell members may feel about sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ to family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Use this information to fuel your cell’s efforts to connect, relate and minister to people who have yet to encounter a loving Savior!
This issue, we’re privileged to feature a new writer who has been a great blessing to our ministry in our publication area. Brandy Egli (she’s Jim’s daughter-in-law) has written a clear message on the importance of food in cell life. Yes, it’s Christ-like to eat with your cell members, and we’ll give you tips on how to do it more often, even in the midst of a busy schedule.
While we’re on the subject of food, I want to mobilize all the cell group cooks out there! The ladies on our staff will be compiling recipes and cell group stories for a cookbook we will sell in the future to support church planters. What they are looking for are testimonies of how God used a meal to bring people together in cell life and quick-and-easy recipes that would be great to serve at a cell group meeting or take to someone’s home mid-week for a meal. See the callout box on page 17 for details, and send in your stories and recipes!
May 2003 be a wonderful year of community, servanthood and relational evangelism for you and your cell group!
Randall Neighbour is the Senior Editor of CellGroup Journal and the President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries, The Cell Group People.
Cell Membership – by Brandy Egli
Recipe for Success: How food can change your cell group!
Do you eat with your family every night? Every other night? At least once a week? Most people will agree that it’s best for families to eat together regularly. According to one nutritionist and author, “If families aren’t sitting down and eating together, they’re less likely to know what's happening with each other.” And the same holds true for cell groups.
Cell group members to belong to a spiritual family, but most do not take the time to sit down and eat together. I have rarely attended a cell group meeting that didn’t have some food or at least some coffee. But standing around and chatting while sipping soda and munching on popcorn isn’t enough.
Why don’t cell group members eat meals together? Some say that there won’t be enough room around a table. Others complain about the work involved in cooking for 15 to 20 people, especially when there are children. Many think about holidays with relatives, the squabbling and the petty fighting that goes on in some families, and they say, “No thanks!”
Jesus and Food
Jesus demonstrated the importance of food in bonding together. He regularly took time to break bread with His disciples; on the night of Pentecost, He made sure that they had a place to come together in community and eat together. Jesus even went so far as to eat meals with His disciples after the resurrection. He appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 and left only after He broke bread with them.
In John 21, Jesus asked the disciples to trust Him and cast their empty nets into the sea, as He did long before. They do so, and they catch a huge amount of fish. This time, however, Jesus didn’t call them to His service. Instead, He made them breakfast! Even in His last moments on earth, Jesus finds the time to eat with His disciples.
More from Jesus
Jesus didn’t just take the time to eat with His disciples. He also went out into the city to meet people, like Zacchaeus, in the marketplace. After spotting Zacchaeus hiding in the tree, I can imagine Jesus saying, “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree! We’re meeting at your house this evening.” And what did Zacchaeus do? Luke 19 doesn’t say for sure, but here are my thoughts. After giving money to the poor and repaying the people that he has cheated, Zacchaeus prepared a feast. He knew instinctively that Jesus wanted to share a meal with him, to share community with him and his household.
This is the way Jesus operates. He goes out into the city with His disciples and finds tax collectors and sinners. He looks for anyone who is willing and invites them to share a meal with Him. Notice how threatened the Pharisees are by this. They use this as one of their constant accusations against Jesus: He fraternizes with unworthy people; He eats with them. To the Pharisees, Jesus’ eating with sinners is a mark against Him, because they believed that the people with whom He ate revealed His true character. Ironically, they are very close to the truth.
We Are Who We Eat With…
Jesus reveals His true character in two special ways. The first is compatible with the Pharisees’ view of Jesus, but somehow the Pharisees fail to look at the people that Jesus ate with every day, His disciples. While the disciples were at times less-than-perfect models of how to lead good Christian lives, they nevertheless tried their hardest to be worthy of the investment that Jesus put into them. In the end, all Jesus’ work paid off when his disciples went out into the world to reach thousands (and eventually millions and billions) of new people with His message.
But what about the sinners then? Jesus knew that people could be influenced by those they ate with. Like the Pharisees, He recognized this as a profound human truth: there is power in sharing a meal together. But unlike the Pharisees, Jesus used this knowledge to throw open the gates of ministry. Jesus saw that in order to reach people, He had to build community with them. He realized that sinners could not become children of God unless they ate with children of God. Jesus ate with tax collectors so that they will become like Him, not the other way around.
A Modern Adaptation
Your cell group must learn to operate the way Jesus did. If you are going to reach out to people in the neighborhoods around you, you cannot be afraid to interact with others who may be very different. Your cell group members must not hesitate to reach out to people and invite them into their homes and lives. The question then becomes: how can you reach out to those who might not otherwise listen? The answer: food!
It my sound trite, but food has a powerful impact on the way people perceive an environment. Just as candlelight and music can make a dinner more intimate, so can a meal shared among cell group members create a strong sense of family and of unity. The amazing thing is that it really does work. Even if God hasn’t told you to break loaves and fishes enough to feed five thousand people, He has provided you with enough to touch the live of those around you.
A Personal Example
Once every couple of weeks, our friends Mike and Amy come over to our house for dinner and games. It's not a formal thing, but we’ve been good friends since college and we try to spend time together now that we’re all in “the real world.” The first order of business is always the food; sometimes elaborate meals, sometimes stew or even chicken noodle soup and bread. Mike and Amy aren’t Christians, and if anything, Amy is about as anti-Christian a person as any I’ve ever met. I once saw her punch a guy (she’s a second-degree blackbelt) when he insisted that there was a God and she was going to hell for not believing in Him.
Still, they come over, and they say grace with us. They even go so far as to reprimand my husband if he tries to sneak a bite of food before speaking a blessing! I’ve found that these simple moments of quiet prayer have more impact on our two nonbelieving friends than hours of preaching. Mike and Amy know exactly what to expect from Christians who walk up to them on the street, and they deal with such people abruptly and aggressively. But somehow a quiet pause for prayer can reach into their hearts. They still won’t let us pray with them at other times, but lately, requests have started cropping up at dinner. One of Mike’s uncles recently underwent major surgery to remove a tumor from his pancreas. Mike may not yet be ready to pick up the phone and ask us to pray with him for his uncle, but he was willing to put in a specific request while we sat around the dinner table.
When Mike shared this request, I was flabbergasted. While we normally ask for prayer requests before beginning grace, we weren’t expecting to be taken up on our offer quite so readily, nor were we prepared for the thanks that followed. That’s when God started prompting me to observe what He was doing. By sharing meals, my husband and I were becoming a part of Mike and Amy’s family. They were beginning to let us peek into their lives and offer prayer where we could.
We also get together with other people from our cell group on a rotating basis, usually once a month, and invite non-Christians to join us for meals. This enables everyone to take a turn in the kitchen, and keeps people from feeling bored or bothered. Getting to know new people over dinner, or even a working lunch, can be an awesome opportunity for sharing God’s grace and love.
Make a Plan
If your cell groups members don’t eat and share together, they will have a hard time eating and sharing with others. The first order of business is to make a date with your fellow cell group members, or in smaller groups, for a meal that’s a bit more than a snack before the meeting.
After your lunch or dinner, have a brainstorming session and try to think creatively about new ways to use food for building relationships with each other and with nonbelievers. Make sure you include children and young people if your group is intergenerational. Children have a great sense of what will work, and many love to get involved by helping to prepare the food or even making placemats. Including them also models the importance of reaching out to friends who don’t know Christ.
Do It Now!
Although the plan is important, it’s essential that you actually go through with it. Assign tasks. Who will call people? Who wants to take charge? What kind of food? Think about a roaring outdoor barbeque or an indoor potluck, an event where people can come together and enjoy one another’s company with a hamburger in hand. Make sure the tasks are spread around, because everyone doing a little to help will make things go more smoothly and also keep individuals from being overwhelmed. And make sure that everyone sits together (or at least relatively close to one another) at an event like this. Nothing hinders community like letting people form cliques in the living room while God’s work waits to be done in the dining room. Whether it’s over a bowl of salad, stir-fry, or hot dogs, you just might break through! (end of article)
Brandy Egli is a
freelance writer and at the time of publication, was
the Assistant Editor at TOUCH Outreach Ministries. She and her husband reside
Student Led Cell Groups – By Randy Riggins
The Key to Youth Evangelism: (Hint: It’s not a tool!)
If you were to make a list of the things you would like to see happen in your cell groups during the new year, what would you write down? Surely one thing at the top of your list would be a desire to see more students come to faith in Jesus Christ. But how? As a youth pastor, I know I can count on dozens of things coming across my desk this year promising to help me and my students reach out. There are conferences students can attend, bracelets, tracts, and videos they can purchase…or I can purchase for them. There are strategies to memorize and books to read. The list is endless! But the hottest tools of 2003 are not the key to youth evangelism. I’m not saying they are wrong or without merit. What I am saying is that without one irreplaceable ingredient, many dollars will be spent but few results will be seen.
Finding that key ingredient
“John” is a football player and graduating senior at one of our local high schools. John’s girlfriend started bringing him to church in March. He got hooked up with a cell group, went to camp with us over Spring Break, and got saved the day after camp while eating dinner with a bunch of students at Joe’s Crab Shack. A week later, John’s sister was saved. Currently, his mom is attending our services on Sundays and is a part of a family cell group during the week. Today, John is growing in his faith and actually shepherding one of our high school guys’ cell groups.
I first met “Doug” on a Tuesday night at our church. We had just finished our large group time and were about to break up into cells when Doug asked me if we could talk. I learned that he was being forced to attend by his father. Doug considered himself an agnostic but was searching for some answers. I gave him a book that I thought might help answer a few of his questions.
Over the next few weeks, I watched Doug’s heart soften. Later that month, a guy in Doug’s cell told me that Doug had been frustrated at his dad for not getting him to church in time for the beginning of the service! What a turn around! One September Saturday night, during a weekend retreat for our students, Doug called me. He just wanted to let me know that he had given his life to Christ!
“Marcy” is a high school sophomore. She gave her life to Christ last year. Over the last eight months, she has seen both her sister and brother profess faith in Christ. I had the privilege of leading her brother to Christ in one of the hallways of our church following our Tuesday night cell group meetings. In my conversation with him, he told me that a primary reason why he was ready to be saved was because of the change he had seen in his sisters. He knew that what He had seen was real and unmistakable…and he wanted it, too!
What it’s all about
It doesn’t matter what the combination, whether it is a friend-friend, child-parent, boyfriend-girlfriend, brother-sister, or youth worker-student, the truth is that relationships are the key ingredient to seeing people discover a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This idea has been around as long as the creation of mankind. People bring people to Jesus. It was that way with the crippled man who was lowered through the roof by his friends (Luke -26), and it’s true today for the student who brings his friend to a cell group to interact with other Christians and with God’s Word.
The reason these young people are all believers today is because someone in relationship with them cared enough about their current and future spiritual condition to bring them into contact with God’s Word and God’s people. As I look back, my heart is filled with joy. As I look ahead at the new year, I am challenged. I am challenged to pray that our student ministry will continue to cultivate an atmosphere where saved students have hearts that burn with a desire for their friends and family members to know Christ. Is it really a surprise that the key to youth evangelism isn’t a particular conference, strategy, tract or bracelet? The answer is as old as what we can see in the lives of the very first followers of Christ: “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon…(John ).” (end of article)
Randy Riggins is a
youth pastor with a growing youth-led cell ministry at
Editorial - by Ralph Neighbour
Body Life Evangelism: Let Christ shine through you
The most awesome fact about a cell group is that it is the literal physical body of Christ on the earth today. The cell, also called the “basic Christian
community,” is composed of hands, feet, inward parts, etc. Each one of these body parts is already separately incarnated by Christ.
According to Gal. 2:20, all body parts have been crucified with Christ. Paul says, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ in me.” We must understand that becoming a Christian is not a matter of believing in Christ, but receiving Him.
When He enters our lives, Col. 2:9-10 informs us that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (NIV). Even as God created the first Adam out of the dust, so our earthly forms are inhabited by the fullness of the Deity!
It doesn’t stop there. Once we possess Christ, the first official act of the Holy Spirit is to unite us to form a new body for Christ, the Second Adam: “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (1 Cor. NIV) Thus, a true cell group is not man-made; it is Spirit-made (1 Cor. ).
Why is this new body so important? It is because Christ had three tasks to perform when the Father sent him to live on the earth, and only two of them could be completed as He lived in the body of Jesus. Through Jesus,
1. He revealed that the
2. He atoned for the sins of mankind on
But the body of Jesus limited His capacity to fulfill the third task. In John 18:37, He explained He had to bear witness to the truth to the entire world. He could not do that while limited to one human form. Therefore, after the body of Jesus ascended, Christ returned to indwell a new body—the “called-out ones” who would first receive His Spirit and then be joined to others to form a new body. That body is the cell group. It is small enough to penetrate families, neighborhoods, villages, cities, and nations. His command to His new body was to “go into the entire world,” to every nation, and His promise was that He would be present wherever they went (Matt. 28:18-20).
His presence and power, dwelling with His new body, makes it possible for a form of evangelism to take place that far exceeds the traditional methods of “sharing the gospel.” The “good news” is infinitely more than usually expressed. The Gospel is not sharing information, but revealing the incarnation.
Consider these incredible passages:
2 Cor. 3:13-18 reminds us that His presence in us is The Shining: “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory.” When the basic Christian community gathers, the radiance of His glory must become the source for our proclamation. The activity of all the cell members must be to show forth His Presence. They do that by “prophesying.” The use of this word is as a verb, not a noun. It is not an office—it’s an activity, and Paul says specifically all should do it (Acts , 1 Cor. 14:1 and 24). The passage in 1 Cor. 24-25 specifically describes body life evangelism. Get the picture: your cell group is meeting. Nonbelievers are present. They observe all manifesting Christ’s presence. A nonbeliever says, “God is really among you!” With that he falls down and worships God.
I want to challenge you to pursue this form of evangelism. It requires your cell group to become so transparent that the nonbelievers in your midst see right through you—and see Christ! (end of article)
Ralph W. Neighbour
Jr. is an author and local church planter in the
Cover Article – By Jim Egli, (Author of Relating Jesus)
Loving your friends to Christ: How Evangelism REALLY works
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you
hear the word “evangelism”? I have put that question to thousands of people in
cell training seminars across the
I always follow that first question with several others. Who was most influential in leading you to Christ: was it a friend, a stranger, a relative, teacher, pastor, etc.? What did that person do that influenced you? How many times did you hear the good news of Christ before you responded to Him? How many people were involved in the process? How long did it take?
Again, people consistently give the same answers. Almost everyone (75-90%) is brought to Christ primarily through the influence of a friend or relative who loved them, prayed for them and modeled a Christian life for them. Most of the remainder were led to Christ by others close to them: people like pastors, teachers or co-workers. Occasionally, someone will say that she came to Christ by reading a book, listening to a radio program or watching a Christian television program. Less than 1% of Christians were brought to Christ by strangers or through evangelistic crusades. Few people report responding to the Gospel the first time they heard it. It takes time and multiple exposures to the good news before most people are ready to say “yes” to Jesus. Some people respond to the Gospel after hearing it three or four times. Some hear it dozens or even more times before surrendering to the claims of Christ. Often the road to Christ involves a series of commitments. Progress does not always move forward, and many individuals report that their journeys to commitment involved both times of progress and times of regression or falling away for a time.
Exploding the Myths
I see a sharp contrast between people’s mental concepts of outreach and how people genuinely come to Christ. There are five dangerous evangelism myths that must be overcome in order to mobilize our groups in outreach to others.
Myth #1: Evangelism means reaching strangers. The predominant image of evangelism is one of talking uncomfortably to strangers who don’t want to listen. But the reality is that, of the thousands of people I have surveyed in my seminars, only a handful came to Christ through the influence of strangers. Overwhelmingly, people report that they were led to Christ by friends, relatives, co-workers and classmates. Cell members must be taught to pray for and reach out to those who are most open to their witness: those in their networks of family, work and social relationships.
Myth #2: Most people are reached by one person. Even though there is often one key person that has an especially strong influence in bringing someone to Christ, almost always people say that multiple people were involved in sharing Christ with them. Teach your cell members to introduce their Christian and non-Christian friends to each other. Introducing nonbelievers to several Christians is important because it accelerates their journey to Christ. The more disciples they know, the more clearly they can see Christ's love.
Myth #3: Evangelism means saying just the right words. Somehow we tend to think that sharing the gospel is like giving a verbal karate chop. If we say just the right thing at just the right time (“Hiii Yaa!”), the person will automatically respond to Christ. Reaching others is far more than what we say, however. When I ask people what others did to bring them to Christ, they usually relate attitudes and actions that the person communicated to them. “The person accepted and took a personal interest in me.” “They cared about me when no one else seemed to.” Etc. The words that are shared are very important, but cell group members must also realize that their actions speak loudly and are often the most important initial witnesses.
Myth #4: Conversion is normally instantaneous. Somehow we think that people should respond to the gospel the first time they hear it. Although this occasionally happens, it is rarely the case. Understanding the good news and saying “yes” to Christ takes time. This is extremely important for cell group members to realize. If they have unrealistic expectations when they share their testimonies or bring someone to a worship service or cell group, they will give up too quickly. Perhaps they will mistakenly conclude that the people they have shared with are not open to the gospel. Or they might conclude that they personally did something wrong. (“I shared the four spiritual laws with her, but she didn't respond. Maybe I blew it. Perhaps there are five spiritual laws.”) Cell group members must give people time and multiple opportunities to hear the gospel. I am very glad that people repeatedly reached out to me and didn’t write me off after I failed to respond initially!
Myth #5: Most people are reached by professional evangelists. Only 5% of those surveyed say that a pastor or other religious professional led them to Christ. The most powerful evangelists are ordinary people like you and your group members. Your cell group is filled with just the kind of people that God uses to bring others to Christ.
Jesus said, “One sows and another reaps” (John , NIV). Those four words convey much of what I have seen in my surveys. Evangelism is a process that takes time. And it involves multiple people playing different roles.
A Simple Pattern to Help You Reach Others for Christ
Reaching others for Christ isn't complicated. It basically comes down to one word: friendship. What does caring friendship mean? In the groups in our church, we emphasize six action verbs to encourage group members to reach out to those around them. Those six words are:
1. Pray. Making Jesus real to others begins with the simple step of writing down the names of 3-6 non-Christian friends and learning to pray consistently for them.
2. Serve. Perhaps you have heard of Yoido Full Gospel Church of Seoul, Korea. It's the largest
church in the world and has over 23,000 home groups. Perhaps you don’t know
that the church began with four people in a US Army tent left behind after the
Korean War. One motto of the church is, “Find a need and fill it.” Is someone
in the hospital? Go visit him. Did she just have a baby? Take some food or
flowers. Are they lonely? Share a cup of coffee or take them to a ball game
3. Cooperate. When Jesus told His disciples, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark , NIV), they pictured net fishing, where a team of people work together to bring in the fish, not pole fishing, which is an individualistic venture. In the same way, cell group members are called to reach out together. My non-Christian friends can see Jesus in me, but they can see Him even more clearly if I introduce them to my Christian friends. There are several reasons why. First, different believers reflect different aspects of Christ’s character. Second, my Christian friends may actually have more rapport than I do with with a certain non-Christian friend. Perhaps they both like to golf or maybe both of them have lost a child or struggled with a common addiction. Finally, non-Christians are often attracted to the genuine caring that they sense between Christians and want to get in on it.
4. Listen. Just last month I asked yet another group what others had done to influence them to follow Christ. I was somewhat shocked by the most common answer that I received from the group. Numerous people said, “The person that most influenced me did it by listening to me.” Think about that. When you think of evangelism, is it listening or talking that spring to your mind? Almost all of us think first of talking. Yet listening is a very powerful way to communicate God's personal interest and care. Proverbs (NIV) says: “He who answers before listening that is his folly and his shame.” Likewise, James 1:19 instructs us to be “quick to listen’ and ‘slow to speak.” God has given us two ears and one mouth. It is important to share the good news of Christ, but first we must listen. When cell group members take time to hear people's hearts, they will discover the felt needs of others and can share the good news of Christ in the best way and with the best timing.
5. Share. In 1 Peter we are encouraged to “always be ready” to give an answer for the hope that is in us. One of the best ways to help your cell members to be ready is to teach them how to share a two-minute testimony of how they came to Christ. It is helpful for them to prepare and practice a short testimony. Two-minutes may not sound like a long time, but is important for people to be able to share their story briefly. If non-Christians are more interested, they will ask questions. Personal testimony is one of the most effective ways to share the gospel because it comes from the heart and no one can argue with the evidence of a changed life.
6. Invite. On average people hear the gospel seven times before responding. Because it takes multiple exposures for the message to sink in and take root, cell group members should invite their friends to different venues where they can hear the Gospel. In your cell group continue to highlight special events of your church encouraging members to pray about who they might invite. Holidays are a great time to extend invitations because churches often have special high-quality events and individual’s hearts are often more open then. Perhaps your church also has other special offering that might address the felt needs of your non-Christian friends: things like parenting classes, marriage enrichment seminars, sports teams or recovery groups. Highlight these ministries to your cell group members as things to invite their friends to.
Just Do It!
That’s it. It's really quite simple. Pray, serve, cooperate with one another, listen, share and invite. The principles work and if you consistently apply them you and your group will see results. I want to encourage you with Paul’s words: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).
In time you will also discover the most powerful evangelistic ingredient for cell groups. After leading groups and serving as a cell pastor for many years, I can tell you that there is one thing that accelerates cell group outreach more than anything else: new Christians. Because they are so excited about what God has done for them and because they still have so many non-Christian friends, new Christians in a group do more than anything to move evangelism into high gear.
If you reach even a few people, those few will reach many more who will reach still more.
But it all begins with you deciding to “just do it.” Where are you at right now? Are you actively reaching out to those around you or are you content to keep Christ to yourself? Are you encouraging your small group to extend Christ’s love to others or are you just coasting? Why don't you take some time right now to talk it over with God? Let him know where you are and where you want to be. Ask Him for His heart for others and then generously love those around you.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NLT): “Remember this: a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” In the same way, I want to encourage you to sow generously into the lives of non-Christians. If you sow generously and consistently, you will see a wonderful harvest. (end of article)
A Lost Goat and a Restless God
It was a cool winter evening in our African mountain village. Across the river valley from our one-room hut, the setting sun slipped below the hilltops. Outside I heard a gentle rumbling noise as dozens of sheep and goats were herded past to the pens just behind our home. Just as in Jesus’ parable, the goats trotted into a corral on the left and the sheep took their place in a pen on the right.
I walked outside to talk with Ntate Machedi. He was our landlord and the local pastor. His family lived in the huts next to ours and it was his flock of sheep and goats. I could immediately tell that he was upset. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied, “The herd boys are very careless. They have lost a goat. They are so irresponsible that they didn’t even count the animals this morning when they left. So I don’t know if the goat was stolen last night or whether they lost it today when the animals were at pasture.”
The evening air was getting cold and dark but he immediately threw a wool blanket over his shoulders and headed out to look for the goat. He returned empty-handed several hours later.
Early the next morning I went to talk with him but his wife said, “He got up while it was still dark and returned to search for the missing goat.”
Mid-morning I saw Ntate walking down the path. Beside him pranced the missing goat, now found, and over his shoulder he carried an adorable baby kid. The mother goat had hid herself away the day before to give birth and now not one but two goats returned to the fold.
All of a sudden Jesus’ words tumbled into my mind: “Suppose one of you has one hundred sheep and loses one, will he not leave the ninety-nine and go to search for the missing one?” Jesus tells this story in Luke 15 when the religious leader of his day are criticizing him for spending time with deplorable sinners. In effect, Jesus is telling them what God is like. He is saying, “Aren’t you concerned about your own lost sheep? That is how God feels about lost people.” Like Ntate Machedi, God is restless and searching until every lost one is brought home.
Have you ever lost something extremely valuable: your wallet, a purse, a diamond ring? Remember the sense of urgency, the passion to recover what was lost or out of place? In an even greater way, that is how God feels when even one person is out of relationship with him. It is that passion to recover the “lost” that took Jesus into the highways and byways, into the large towns and small villages, declaring the message of a new kingdom. Are there any lost in your community, your workplace or your school? Are you willing like Christ to become a friend of sinners?
Jim Egli has
recently finished his Ph.D. in Communications from
Just for Pastors – By Bill Beckham
The Principle of Small Churches: Six Barriers Many Small Churches Face
Mobilizing small churches is an important part of worldwide revival in the twenty-first century. Praise God for the dynamic large churches across the world. God has set the cell church movement into motion through the transition of some of these strong, creative churches.
However, large churches cannot carry the burden of exponential multiplication in the twenty-first century. These churches represent a small fraction of the churches and the Christians around the world. Eighty to ninety percent of all churches in the world have fewer than 100 adult members. God cannot reach the billions being born just by mobilizing large churches to reach more people. Large churches are doing as much as they can.
Therefore, God will use new and smaller churches to complete the exponential expansion that accompanies twenty-first century revival. To reach the masses, God must mobilize churches of 50, 75 and 100 adult members. These churches don’t have to grow to thousands. By increasing from under 100 members to 300 or 400 members, smaller churches will bring a significant number of new believers into the church. These churches will also become strong enough to begin new churches. But most churches with fewer than 100 members never break through to contribute to the harvest. Year after year small churches, whether stagnant or new, face the same six barriers to growth. To succeed, these churches must develop strategies to break through the following barriers.
The Fragmented Vision Barrier
Many small churches are small because they have no vision, have a small vision or have multiple visions. Any one of these will paralyze a church, but the problem of multiple visions is probably the most frequent and dangerous. One church might have visions for Bible study, women’s work, worship, discipleship, children’s work, youth work, prison ministry, marriage ministry, particular gifts, and political or social causes. These many good visions keep small churches small and ineffective churches ineffective by standing in the way of a unified vision.
Each vision establishes its own kingdom, and each kingdom has a king or queen. To encroach upon another kingdom means war. Or the church allows all kingdoms to stake out territory and for the sake of peace control that particular part of the church. This is the “balkanization” of the church. This multiple kingdom—multiple vision approach keeps a church fragmented and weak.
Jesus said that a true kingdom must not be divided against
itself. Yet that is exactly what the twentieth century church has done. The
local church with multiple visions is the
Successful churches have one vision. To get out of the multiple-kingdom nightmare, all leaders must die to their personal kingdoms. There is only one Kingdom and that is God’s Kingdom. If a small church wants to grow, it must sacrifice all visions and kingdoms but God’s. Then all the individual visions are united in one, significantly more powerful vision that God can and will use.
The Ineffective Leadership Barrier
Many churches hit a wall at 70 to 80 members and are unable to break through to growth. These churches may have one of the following leadership styles:
One-man-show leadership. Typically in a small church, several or all of the primary roles of leadership are concentrated in one person. Consequently, the church cannot grow beyond the time, ability and energy of that one leader. The answer is to mobilize more members for leadership. A church must develop an effective leadership structure that functions on four levels: coordination, support, supervision and implementation. Smaller churches often stagnate because one or several of these leadership principles is lacking.
Ballot-box leadership. Some churches have leadership by committee or by congregation. There are so many people giving their opinions and directing the vision of the church that a church becomes paralyzed. To break through this, a church needs to unify its leadership into one voice. That one voice may be a team of leaders, but the team must speak with one voice and one vision.
Medicine-man leadership. In this situation, leadership is separated into religious activities and business activities. The “medicine men” carry out the religious duties but the “tribal chiefs” actually control the church, often in the form of the governing board that has veto control over church vision and actions. This leaves the “medicine man” to shake holy water over activities and chant impressive rituals but with little power over the real vision of the church.
Shepherd leadership. A church leader needs the heart of a shepherd. However, a church doesn’t need a shepherd leadership system if it wishes to grow. A team of leaders should function as ranchers rather than as shepherds. The shepherd model means knowing all the people by name and doing everything for them. A rancher model means that the sheep are cared for within a system of leadership. The main difference is who takes care of the sheep. The shepherd must do everything personally. The rancher empowers others to share in the care.
The Unpredictable Systems Barrier
A predictable system is required for a small church to break through to growth. An unpredictable system is often found in smaller churches with a fragmented vision. Multiple visions result in multiple methods, and multiple methods destroy predictability.
A system is a wineskin for containing the wine: the spirit and life. Wineskins by themselves are just empty containers, and life without wineskins is wasted. Christ’s wineskin system works when God’s people are joined in a predictable design of small groups and large groups.
Predictability is not the opposite of freedom. In fact, predictable components enhance the possibility of freedom of action. A person unwilling to submit to a predictable plan is demanding the right of anarchy. This never results in true freedom.
Therefore, in a cell church the most basic unit, the cell, must be predictable. Without a predictable cell pattern, leaders cannot be trained, materials cannot be developed and methodology cannot be standardized. Materials help unify visions and systems.
The cell unit is predictable because all cells use one agenda that the church’s leadership team receives from God. The theme of each cell meeting is predictable because it is tied to the teaching in large group worship. Predictability is possible because leaders meet together for coordination and ministry to each other and everyone uses the same equipping track.
The Unproductive Members Barrier
Every person in an endeavor must be mobilized in order to maximize efficiency. The New Testament church is a classic example of this principle at work. Jesus was able to mobilize every member to do basic tasks. In Jesus’ system, there are no spectators. He created a producer system, not a consumer system.
A successful organization involves every person in the task, from the highest executive to the newest employee. This eliminates dead wood. For a volunteer organization like the church this may be a dream, but it is a dream worth pursuing. A special system is necessary so that every person can participate.
Churches must mobilize every member in the following eight areas to generate and maintain momentum:
• Community. Every member lives out the Christian life of holiness and harvest in a dynamic small group community.
• Equipping. Every member is prepared for Christian life and ministry through intensive and extensive training.
• Contacting the lost. Every member is encouraged to contact nonbelievers in his or her geographical and/or social context.
• Leadership. Every member is prepared for spiritual leadership within a simple and transferable system of ministry.
• Large group supporting the cell system. Every member is supported with an effective training, administrative and celebration system.
• Spiritual power. Every member is taught to pray and depend upon God’s presence and power, not human effort.
• Expansion. Every member expects to participate in multiplication of the gospel.
• Time commitment. Every member is able to manage time in such a way as to be an effective cell leader.
The Dead Celebration Barrier
Some small churches remain small because they fail to tap into the growth potential of the large group meeting. Properly used, the large group meeting contributes to the stability and growth of a new cell church or to the transition of an existing church into an operational cell church. However, two extreme attitudes toward the large group meeting can harm a cell church in its early development stages.
Over-dependence on the large meeting. Producing inspiring worship can consume so much of the time, energy and resources of leaders that little time remains for developing effective cell life. New members that are attracted by high maintenance celebration and quality children’s programs may never catch the small group values of the church. Therefore, the best leaders are required to keep the large group activities running and to service the expectations of the members attracted through the large group meeting. Leaders must learn to balance celebration and cell life in order to establish both.
The absence of an effective large group celebration. Leaders beginning a new church often fall into this trap. These leaders are convinced that community cell life is essential for the church. Therefore, they focus totally on developing the small group system and neglect the large group meeting. Often the new start refuses to begin any kind of large group expression until 100 or 200 members are living in cell life. In trying to correct the problem of over-emphasis on the large group, this approach neglects celebration and consequently loses an important tool for developing momentum.
Jesus solved the problem of the large group and small group with His public and private ministry. Jesus’ ministry ran along two parallel tracks. He taught and prepared the crowds in a public ministry and he taught and prepared His leaders in His private ministry. Jesus recognized the importance of a large group public ministry that could support and coordinate the private ministry.
The proper kind of celebration offers many benefits, the most important being:
• Celebration in the large group helps build momentum and supports the cell system through which growth will happen.
• Effective celebration promotes unity and casts the vision.
• The celebration part of the church provides an opportunity to continue to contact and assimilate new members while developing a working model.
The Ordinary Evangelism Barrier
In order to complete the cell church systems and give credibility to the strategy, a significant number of new members must be brought in. In the case of Jesus’ church, the 120 or even the 500 could not have maintained the momentum of the movement. The 3000 and 5000 that came into the movement after Pentecost guaranteed the movement’s success.
In order to reach the number of members required to model the system and generate growth momentum, a church must intensify and multiply evangelism. Ordinary types of evangelism done with ordinary enthusiasm and intensity will not succeed in creating enough momentum. In order to achieve optimum size for growth, a church must do super evangelism that will gather a significant number of followers.
A strategy for “super evangelism” will be characterized by the following:
• A broader range of evangelism methods will be used.
• Greater priority will be given to evangelism in the calendar.
• A larger number of members will be mobilized for evangelism.
• More intense passion will be applied to evangelism.
Super evangelism differs from ordinary evangelism in degree and focus more than in substance. The same methods of evangelism are used in “super evangelism,” but with greater intensity. Every method of evangelism must be used: relationship evangelism, group evangelism and mass evangelism.
Super evangelism means that every member must be involved in contacting and cultivating the lost. Relationship evangelism is not enough to break through by itself. A church must continue to contact friends, relatives and acquaintances. Multiplication of contacts is required to break through. This means that some kind of group and mass evangelism strategy must be developed in order to reach viability as a cell church.
The objective is to gather enough members to reach critical mass of at least 120 committed adults. Realistically that means that a larger number than 120 must be connected to the effort. In order to break through stagnation and build up to critical mass, a church must embrace a purposeful strategy to multiply contacts with the unchurched.
Many small churches have adopted the cell group strategy under the pretense that the new strategy will help them escape life as a small church. While cell groups will help, many small cell group churches have remained small because they have not been able to overcome some or all of these six barriers. In order for small churches to participate in the coming revival, the pastors and the leaders of these churches must identify the barriers that hold them back and then seek God’s face about how to overcome these barriers. Anything less will lead to the continuation of a limited church that cannot accomplish God’s revival vision. (end of article)
(This article was excerpted from Redefining Revival.)
William A. Beckham
is a world-wide church consultant and strategist. He and his wife Mary live in
Nucleus – By Larry Kreider
Grace, grace! Release divine energy in your life!
A zoo in Germany purchased a great brown bear from the traveling circus. Prior to this, the magnificent but abused bear had lived in misery, locked up in a tiny circus cage about twelve feet long. All day, with its massive head swaying back and forth, he took twelve steps forward and twelve steps backward in his narrow prison. The water given to him was stagnant; the food was rotten garbage.
And then one day he was sold and transferred to the German Zoo. The zoo had a bear compound consisting of acres of lush, green grass. There were trees to climb and sparkling pools of fresh drinking water. The bear would be fed three meals each day and have other bear companions.
The zoo-keepers wheeled the bear’s cage into the compound and opened the door to freedom. The bear continued his march—twelve steps forward and twelve steps back. He would not move from the cage. The only solution left was to place burning rags through the bars. This scared the bear enough to jump from the cage onto the ground. The bear looked around, and to the zoo attendant’s amazement, he started pacing twelve feet forward and twelve feet backward—the exact dimensions of his cage! And then it dawned on the attendants—the bear’s prison was not a metal one, but a mental one! They could do nothing to help him out of his prison and finally had to put him to sleep.
Some Christians find themselves in a similar dilemma. Having become so accustomed to certain thought patterns of defeat and failure in parts of their lives, they convince themselves that things will never change. They become locked in invisible, mental prisons.
Precious, born again, Spirit-filled Christians who love Jesus with all of their hearts are susceptible to this kind of mental trap. Some, upon facing incredible obstacles in their lives, become weary and settle for far less than the Lord intended for them.
What is grace? Our first glimpse of grace occurs when God offers salvation to us even though we do not deserve it or work to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9). This aspect of grace is sometimes defined as the free unmerited favor of God on the undeserving. But the aspect of grace explored here could be defined as “the power and desire to do God’s will.” The grace of God is literally “divine energy” that the Holy Spirit releases in our lives.
Here is a clear example from the scriptures. When Cyrus the king allowed the Jews to return to their own land, he appointed Zerubbabel to be the governor. One of Zerubbabel’s first responsibilities was to lay the foundation for the new temple. However, due to opposition from the enemies of the Jews, the work on this project soon ceased.
Doesn’t that sound familiar? We get a vision from the Lord or begin to take a direction in life, but before long we encounter opposition and become discouraged and quit. Or maybe we don’t quit, but we seem to find it impossible to complete the task that we believe the Lord has laid before us. This is where grace comes in!
One day an angel of the Lord gives Zechariah the prophet a message for Zerubbabel. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord of Hosts. “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of Grace, grace to it!” (Zechariah 4:6-7 NKJ)
The work on the temple was resumed and completed four years later. The Lord gave the people “divine energy,” and the circumstances supernaturally changed for them to complete the entire project! That which seemed impossible literally happened before their very eyes. They no longer trusted in their own ability, but in the grace of God. As they released divine energy by shouting, “Grace, grace,” the mountain before them became a great plain. They were convinced that the temple was built not by political power or human strength, but by the Spirit of the Lord. They had experienced the grace of God!
We can only do God’s work if we are enabled by the Holy Spirit. I dare you to apply this scriptural principle to your life. The next time a mountain of impossibility stares you in the face, shout “Grace, grace” to it. See the mountain leveled as you take an act of simple faith and speak “grace” in the face of the devil. You will find your focus changing from your ability (or lack of ability) to His ability. As we proclaim “grace, grace” over our life situations, we receive divine energy to fulfill the purposes of God for our lives. (end of article)
Larry Kreider is director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a world-wide network of cell churches.
(end of issue)