How widespread is the Cell Church movement at the present time? Is it just a loud "flash in the pan" by small group fanatics? Is it here to stay? Will it penetrate America, or is it only an Asian phenomena? Is it simply a movement created and sustained by Ralph Neighbour's efforts?
The Cell movement is unlimited in its scope and I am convinced that it is God's wineskin for the coming harvest. Here are just a few examples of what God is doing:
The list could go on. Our victorious Lord is up to something. Praise God that we can be a part of His mighty works! Will you do your part or sleep through this Second Reformation?
I heard a squeak under my house about two months ago.
Not the squeak of a floorboard, but the kind that little rodents make when they are a part of a family-a BIG family. I have never experienced a rodent invasion like the one in which I am in the midst.
I was reading in bed the other night, and a little furry friend ran over to my shoe on the floor just a few feet away from me and hopped up on it. On hind legs he sniffed the air as if to say, "I am hungry, bold, and I will go to any extreme to get a snack." This mouse and I are quite a bit alike! Needless to say, the rodent-killing began. Any mouse who has the guts to tangle with me and two seventy-five pound dogs sleeping in the hallway deserves my undivided attention. One well-placed trap nabbed eleven mice in a week's time.
As I reflect on this experience, I realize that we in the church
often have the nasty habit of cleaning our household of unwanted "guests." Those
who don't conform or perform in our spiritual household are forced out, one way or
another. While this may be the proper procedure when dealing with a rodent infestation, in
our spiritual house this often leaves alienated hurting Christians, undeveloped new
believers, and unreached pre- Christians. Let me explain.
From time to time we have all run into someone who has a plethora of problems, and they never seem to go away-the problems or the person. We put up with him until we see what is going on, at which point we conveniently introduce him to some unsuspecting friend (preferably another Christian) and run like mad.
In the cell church, avoiding ministry to this person is virtually impossible. He will be in your cell for six months, and you must help him! This is one of the main priorities of the cell, caring for the wounded Christian.
This Believer needs to be lovingly confronted with the root of his problem. He may reject help, choosing to cling to pain because of its familiarity. Or he may acknowledge this root issue and begin to grow through it. As we help this wounded Christian get better, we must help him understand that the cell is by no means a hospital. After all, you check out of a hospital as fast as you can when you're on the road to recovery, don't you?
As he is going through the healing process-and we are all in this process to one degree or another-he must demonstrate this freedom from sin to other hurting members, and offer guidance. His experience will be a great teacher, both to himself and others. Rather than killing off our wounded, we have the challenge to make them into disciples!
In much the same way, new believers that you have led to the Lord should be considered a personal priority in cell life for the first year of their conversion. This first year is both the most exciting and the most difficult time for them. Satan often tries to squash their new found joy with old sin habits, and you must be there for support and accountability. Help them catch the vision of cell multiplication by reaching into their oikos (those people with whom we spend at least an hour per week) and ministering to those in need.
Teach these previously dysfunctional Christians and new believers to cultivate friendships with pre-Christians that are based on common, long term interests. "Success" for the Believer is bringing The Light to a dark heart. A common interest like sports, school, or a hobby will give long-term ways for the Christian to love and serve. Remember-God convicts the heart, we must first deliver the lifestyle. The pre-Christians in our lives will be attracted to the Light because they first see and experience a functioning, healthy Christian.
The trap was empty the last time I checked. I pray that people in my oikos never feel like rodents. Have you a mouse in your house?
As you grow in grace, I challenge you to love someone through the problems to the root, through the infancy of their faith, and through the darkness into the Light-no matter how long it takes.
In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the Light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the Light, he came only as a witness to the Light. The true Light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.-John 1:4-9
I had tasted "program-centered" success! For one decadel period during my 16 year pastorate, my Houston, Texas church was cited as being in the top 50 fastest growing churches in the Nazarene denomination. I had shattered all denominational records by receiving new persons into membership for 198 consecutive months. On the outside, things were impressive.
The underside of this "success" was that most of the evangelism was done by me, the pastor, through "pulpit" and personal (confrontational) evangelism. Only a few others were involved in direct ministry; the rest were busy, sincerely busy, in maintaining the "programs" of the church. Most of the converts experienced isolation from the "regular" members. Only a limited number were accepted as part of the church family. It was during such frustrating days that I felt a call of God somewhat similar to Abraham's-going but not knowing-alone. Totally unaware that anything called a "Cell Church" existed, I gathered a small band of courageous pioneers who willingly committed themselves to develop some kind of a church that would use small groups as an evangelistic tool. Then we discovered Dr. Ralph Neighbour's materials. It was as if they had been tailor made for our objectives.
Eleven of us committed ourselves to forty weeks of on-the-job training, teaching ourselves how to use "share groups" as a ministry tool and a way of life. Our ages ranged from late twenties to early sixties. All of us were long-time program centered, institutional Christians. Could we be deprogramed from our "Christians vs. the world" mindset and our "present Christ, decide right now, or die and go to hell" type of evangelism? Could we change our lifestyle patterns and be retrained to use God's plan of Oikos/friendship evangelism? None of us knew for sure.
Petrifying fear is perhaps the most descriptive way to vividly describe the common feeling of this nucleus group. Multiplied doubts haunted us. Most, at best, only saw this as another "program." All, however, were willing to give this "cell thing" an honest try.
Marty, an aggressive businessman, said, "I first saw it as another evangelism program. You know, the kind where you pump everybody up to get involved in it and then have to keep them pumped up just in order to keep it going for a while." He figured it would be "the kind where one starts off with a big bang, then fizzles out leaving everyone feeling guilty." Bruce, another aggressive businessman, admitted thinking, "I'll try to do anything once and get it going but I'll fade out in the long run, because this is just another program."
Elmer, our group's skeptic, had a "wait and see" attitude. "It sounds good but..." while Gail, my wife, shared that her involvement "was difficult because I couldn't see past my own feelings. At that time I was filled with resent-ment over some unhealed hurts. Besides, I was angry because I felt I had to participate." She did admit later that probably the real reason for her resistance was that she "was afraid to learn 'another' soul winning process."
Others were somewhat more positive. Wilma, a recent widow, was just beginning to emerge from her dark prison of depression. Deep within was a burning desire to "once again be used of God." Not knowing all she was getting into, she openly, though hesitantly, pursued this open door of opportunity. Ann, a mother of two pre-school children excitedly exclaimed, "I felt it had the seed of what I had been looking for for several years, both for myself and to share with others."
As pastor, I was eager to see some of my long-time dreams become molded into a workable plan where every member could see themselves as a minister. My big question was, "Can I myself make the needed leadership and lifestyle changes that will be necessary for success?"
We started with two Fellowship (Share) groups. They grew and soon multiplied into four. People were being won. Now the responses of the core were different.
Leon, the most socially shy one of the original eleven, declared, "My first impression was that it was only a social function and the church would not derive much benefit. I was afraid it would remain only a social function. But I found that as I became better acquainted, closer relationships developed. I've grown closer to people than I ever have before during my life. I now see the use of the Fellowship group as a great outreach tool." Another said, "This will never work" because he viewed these meetings as purely social, not evangelistic. "I thought," he said, "a Bible study, information-centered program would be better. I admit that I was wrong. Evangelism does happen in these Fellowship meetings. They have surpassed all of my negative feelings to positive."
As a church, we have matured over that past several months of our existence. Our Family-life home groups (Shepherd groups) have become the "Basic Christian Community" of The Open Fellowship Church. This small cell group becomes one's spiritual family. Pastoral ministry and nurture takes place within this cell life as well as it being the launching pad for our outreach Fellowship (Share) groups. The only way to become a member of The Open Fellowship church is by joining one of these "Families." They are the church!
Last February (1991) we began two additional congregations- North Houston [Spring area] and Southwest Houston to more effectively serve the greater Houston area. Another congregation in far East metro- Houston (Pasadena) is in the early stages of development and should be in full swing by the end of this year (1992). Our strategy is to encircle Houston with little pockets of New Testament love -our Family-life [Shepherd] and Fellowship [Share] groups -and then begin to work inward to reach the many "hidden" people of our metropolitan area. We have had one Super Sunday, an all-church, Jesus Celebration, last September in the leased facilities of our West Houston congregation. Our next Super Sunday celebration is scheduled for March, 1993 at the Bellaire Community Civic Center, located in Southwest Houston. It really works! 24 persons have been baptized in the past eight months (10 in Lake Livingston, 10 in a backyard pool, 2 in a hot tub, 1 on a sick bed, and 1 in a plain old bathtub). The West congregation received six new members last month through their "Family-life" home group cells and more are expected soon. It really does work!
Pastor Terry Curtis, The Open Fellowship
3834 Westheimer Place Drive
Houston, Texas 77082
Then it came about when they entered, that he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him."
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen these." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are these all the children?"
And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep." Then Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he." (I Sam. 16:6-12)
Finding and training cell leaders has often proved to be as exasperating an exercise as Samuel searching for the next king. We go into the process having incorrect preconceived notions about what a future leader looks like, and then are all set to anoint the wrong man having the wrong heart. This has certainly been our history lesson at Faith. We used to look for things like maturity, zeal, knowledge and experience. None of these things are wrong. They are simply of secondary importance. We discovered through bitter experience that we can have Kinship leaders possessing these traits who then gather around themselves their own followers, build their own kingdoms, divide the flock, and ultimately resist the direction of the Lord given through those in authority. Being knowledge-able mature zealots with experience, they of course think they know better!
So what do we look for in those who will be our future Kinship interns and leaders? We have learned to begin where God begins, with the heart. We believe God has H.I.G.H. standards for the heart. We look for a man with a Holy heart, a heart of Integrity, a heart of Gratitude, and a heart of Humility. Out of what fills the heart, the mouth speaks and the feet walk. So we look at a man's walk and talk. Is there a sensitivity to sin and a heart that walks in repentance? Has the man proved trustworthy in the small things? Is there honesty in his dealings with others? Do murmuring and complaining fill his mouth? Does he come as a master, or as a servant? Does he have proven ministry?
But what of other skills? Should he not be outgoing with a charismatic personality? Should he not have the kind of personality others are drawn to? We have discovered that if a man has the right heart, God will, over time, take care of all the rest. Glenn Moen is a case in point. Glenn and his wife Kathy became interns in the Kinship my wife and I were leading during the summer of '91. I might mention at this point that, in all our groups, our married leaders and interns function in team ministry together. Though the final responsibility for the Kinship rests with the husband, the wife may be involved as actively as the two of them desire. Glenn is a very quiet man. While his wife, Kathy, is very outgoing, Glenn is far more withdrawn. He barely said anything in our group. When he did speak, he came across very precisely in what he spoke, giving great forethought to the words he chose. This was perhaps because of his strong teaching gift. Spontaneity was not his strong point! Glenn worked as a construction estimator, sometimes with long overtime. So questions flooded in when God said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he." Kathy would be a great catalyst in group, but what about Glenn? Would Glenn be able to facilitate a discussion, or would he simply function as a teacher? How would he be able to function in a pastoral capacity? Being so withdrawn and quiet, would he really be able to relate to the other men? He had three small children at home and was already working long hours. He and Kathy were already performing pre-marital counseling at the church. Would he even have the time? His heart was never an issue, nor his desire to serve the Lord, but his abilities and social skills definitely were. Yet, even as God transformed a simple shepherd with the right heart into the greatest king of Israel, so I have seen God transform a simple estimator having the right heart into a capable and skilled Kinship leader. In late '91, Glenn changed jobs, taking a cut in pay, so that he would have greater time for his family and ministry. Before our multiplication, I observed Glenn as he led Kinship. Often he led better than I had! Over the months, I saw God knit the hearts of the other men to his. In March of 1992, our Kinship multiplied. Glenn has skillfully led their group as it was birthed and as it moved through a congealing and conflict stage into outreach. They have almost completed training new interns and will be ready to multiply this January. When the heart is pure, we will be able to say with David, "Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle."
Assuming we have individuals with the right heart, how do we accomplish their training? I believe a key element is TIME. Over the years I have made it my priority to meet with all those directly in leadership under me for a minimum of 1.5 hours per week. This is in addition to any family social get-togethers or other meetings we may have.
This is time where I am able to share my heart and vision with those God is developing as leaders. As a leader, I believe it is imperative that they know my heart. They may misunderstand my actions at times, I may not communicate clearly with my words, and may even offend, but if they truly know what is in my heart, the offenses and misunderstandings can be overcome.
I see the time I spend with my leaders as crucial to developing trusting relationships between us. It is a time for me to model trans-parency and openness. It is a time to model vulnerability. It is also time to get to know them. I learn about their fears and hurts, their strengths and dreams. I find out about their marriages, and their children. It becomes a time for both relational building and ministry.
This is not time to discuss the Kinships, but to meet the individual leader's needs. I have found through experience that by investing that kind of quality time in my leadership, we have been able to weather all sorts of conflicts together. Where I have not invested that kind of time, or have slacked off, the enemy has been able to drive wedges.
In like manner, each Kinship supervisor is expected to spend time weekly with those Kinship leaders they supervise. In addition, our Kinship supervisors meet at least bi-weekly with those they are accountable for in order to discuss specific problems and the progress of each group. While weekly written reports are submitted by Kinship leaders, they do not replace these one-on-one times. As part of their on-going training and development, Kinship supervisors are also involved in specific training (Strengthening Your Marriage by Dr. Wayne Mack) geared toward the enhancement of their marriages and family life.
I believe it is foolish to think that one can minister effectively to others if they are not able to function biblically at home. Further, our Kinship leaders are also expected to spend time weekly with their interns. There is to be time spent both in developing relationships of mutual ministry, time for discussion of group problems, progress and dynamics, and specific time for training using The Shepherd's Guidebook. Our Kinships have not at this point begun any concerted evangelistic outreach. We may have a few members beginning Knocking on Doors, Opening Hearts in January. However, in the past 12 months, we have seen six individuals saved through the ministry of one Kinship's outreach. In October of '91, Eugene and Sheryl visited our Kinship. That night we were to begin by sharing briefly the time of our salvation. During a lull in our sharing, Eugene blurted out that he did not have what everyone else was talking about, but wanted it. Within minutes he was praying and received Christ. While he prayed, his wife began to cry. When he was done, Sheryl looked up and said that God had showed her she was lost also. She immediately followed her husband into the Kingdom. Needless to say, the rest of the agenda was scrapped that night and we fellowshipped and praised! Five months later, that Kinship multiplied, with Glenn taking a majority of the group.
Over the last six months, this new kinship led by Glenn and Kathy has seen four more individuals come to the Lord. One night during worship, Glenn received a word of knowledge about three of the individuals present. He shared the words with the group, not telling them who the words were specifically for so as not to place anybody on the spot. The first two people responded, and the Kinship gathered around them for ministry. The third word was concerning "belonging to God." Interestingly enough, everyone present was supposed to have been saved! However, in very short order, one of the young ladies present spoke up. She admitted to knowing it all in the mind, but being dead and cold in her heart. She was on the outside looking in. As the group shared and prayed with her, she received Christ that night.
We are seeing that, as we accept and love people in our Kinships for who they are and where they are, as we allow ourselves to be transparent in our sharing, as we center on Christ in our midst, then God is using those groups through His giftings to add men and women to His Kingdom. Even as I was preparing this article, another young lady was saved. Eugene and Sheryl began bringing their neighbor to group. Because of her Mormon background she had struggled with the deity of Christ. God used what she experienced and saw in Kinship to overcome her background and false theology, and to draw her into the Kingdom.
God looks on the heart in selecting leaders. He continues to look at their heart response as He develops them. I believe He looks at the heart of those He will use to minister. For too long the Church has placed the emphasis where Samuel did, on the outward things. The lesson we are learning at Faith about leadership development and evangelism training is to cease looking merely at the outward appearance or qualifications, and to allow the Lord to first show us the heart. Then, as leaders, we spend whatever time is necessary to develop heart relationships with those God has selected.
In 1981 my wife Sophia and I accepted an interim pastorate at a declining Mennonite congregation near Broadway, Virginia in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Being a rural area, it was not the kind of place nor the kind of church where significant growth seemed likely to happen. Our intention was to be there for a short time and then move on to a place of greater potential. But God had other plans. Little did we know that God would raise up a ministry for His glory that would exceed all our expectations. Even after eleven years we stand amazed, realizing it was only by His grace. But it wasn't without pain and struggle. In the beginning, as the church experienced revival and new believers started coming, everyone was excited about the growth. We experimented with small groups, formed triads for prayer support, and started training the people to minister. But, as so often happens in traditional churches, tension began to develop which grew into a conflict situation that threatened to destroy the ministry that God was raising up.
After working for a period of time at resolving the differences, it was discerned by our conference leadership that a new congregation had emerged within the original congregation and that each had a different vision. It became evident that trying to continue together was counter productive. New wine was being poured into old wineskin and it was placing the body under a lot of stress. Had it not been for wise leadership that helped us work through the situation, the wineskin may have broken and the new wine lost. In order to preserve both the new and the old, a decision was made to separate. Working through the conflict and separation was painful, but by the people responding in a spirit of love, acceptance and forgiveness, God was able to restore a broken situation to wholeness. As a result, Cornerstone Mennonite Fellowship was born April 1, 1986. Established as a program based design church, our journey into cell life was a gradual process over a six year period. We had no cell church model to follow. All we had going for us was a burning desire to follow God with our whole heart and to stay open to the leading of the Spirit. Our first attempt at organizing small groups was to divide the entire congregation into groups of ten families and assign a deacon or deaconess to each group. The purpose was not to add another meeting, but to simply provide a way for keeping in touch. At that time, we thought the Sunday morning service provided for worship, the Sunday School for teaching, and various fellowship groups for building relationships. We also had a program of Stephen Ministry that provided for peer counseling. Discerning that something more was needed, we decided to form groups that would meet together.
We replaced two Sunday evening meetings a month with small group meetings. Again we divided the whole congregation into groups and assigned a leader to each group and made the leaders elders. While this was a definite improvement on the former plan, it still left much to be desired. The groups became little congregations trying to duplicate everything we were doing on Sunday morning. It was another program which we added to a growing list of programs and activities we were developing. When schedules conflicted, it was usually the small groups that got canceled. Furthermore, due to making the leaders elders it was difficult to find persons willing to lead. The responsibility seemed too frightening. As a program it simply wasn't flowing. More changes were needed. First, we separated the eldership from the small group leadership. Second, we gave opportunity for people to sign up for groups instead of assigning everyone to a group. Third, we gave the option of meeting on Wednesday nights instead of Sunday. Fourth, we provided training for the cell leaders. And fifth, we followed up the training with regular meetings for supervision and encouragement. Almost immediately the number of groups tripled and the level of ministry increased. But other programs continued to compete with the small groups. We were still operating as a program based church. It was during this phase that we attended a Fuller Church Growth seminar on developing cells in the local church. It turned out to be a divine appointment that helped us take the next step. We came to realize that if cells were ever going to be what we envisioned we were going to have to stop competing with them by planing other programs. Up until this point we were saying cells were important but then we would turn around and plan programs that competed for the time of the people. We were faced with a decision to continue as a program based church with small groups or to become a cell group church. We decided to do the latter. To emphasize the priority of cells we, discontinued Sunday School for adults, all Sunday evening services, and other programs that would compete with the cells. We gave freedom for cells to determine when they would meet and what they would study. We emphasized publicly that the only two meetings we expected people to attend were a Sunday celebration and a cell group. Again, we saw a marked increase in participation and effectiveness. But some pieces were still missing. Through a footnote in Beyond Church Growth by Robert Logan we were introduced to Ralph Neighbour and Touch Outreach Ministries. We called for information and ordered materials including the book Where do we Go From Here? It was exactly what we needed at the time. In reading the material we realized that even though we had adjusted our structure to become a cell group church we had not yet embraced the theology. Most of our cells were still "meeting" rather than "ministry" centered. The focus was on study materials rather than people. We spent about a year absorbing the concepts that Dr. Neighbour shared in his book. It seemed radical, but we were ready. God had prepared our hearts and placed a deep desire in us to experience true New Testament church life. We did away with the crutches and made the Lord Jesus the focus and the people the agenda. For those of us from Mennonite background, it was like rediscovering our Anabaptist roots. Embracing the New Testament model outlined in Where Do We Go From Here? was the culmination of a journey that for our church started six years ago, and for me personally, started over 30 years ago, when I had my first small group experience. At that time a fire was lit that never went out. I knew there had to be more to experiencing church than what I saw around me. Looking back, I realize now that my life and ministry have been a search for what we are experiencing right now in our church. For the first time I feel we are experiencing church on a consistent daily basis as it was intended to be. The people are being cared for and discipled. The priesthood of all believers has become more than just a concept. We are experiencing it and the Lord is adding to the church those being saved. Thanks to Dr. Neighbour and Touch Outreach Ministries, we are experiencing the New Test-ament church both publicly and from house to house.
Established April 1,1986. Average attendance in worship celebration has grown from 160 to 1075. At present we have 72 cells in five zones (four geographical and one youth) plus 23 leadership cells. We have four levels of cells.
The senior pastor, associates, zone pastors, and their spouses form one cell. The zone pastors, associate zone pastors, coordinators, and spouses each form a cell for a total of 5 cells. The coordinators, cell group leaders and spouses each form a cell for a total of 17 cells. The cell leaders and cell group members each form a cell for a total of 72. All together we have 94 cells. Most leaders are in two cells, one they are responsible to, and the other they are responsible for. The leadership cells meet twice a month. The others have the option of twice a month or weekly. The focus of all the cells is relationships and ministry.
Pastoral staff includes senior pastor, two associate pastors, five zone pastors, and six associate zone pastors for a total of 14 staff pastors. We have 19 coordinators (supervisors), and 72 cell leaders.
We have a worship location in each geographic zone. Zone pastors help with preaching. The same themes are preached on in all four locations. Sermons are coordinated with material we recommend for persons to use in their quiet time. At present we are taking everyone through the book Survival Kit II-Living Your Christian Values.
Missions is a very important part of Cornerstone. Our annual missions budget has grown from $15,000 to $160,000 in six years. Associate pastor Sam Scaggs serves as the missions pastor. Plans are under way to plant cell churches in Italy and Albania next summer. We have a Bible College (Cornerstone Bible College) that we started as part of our program based designed church. We are in the process of adjusting the structure to fit into our present cell group model. We also have a christian elementary school, K-7 (Cornerstone Christian School). Our vision is to establish 20 congregations and send 20 missionaries overseas by the year 2000. We call it our 20/20 VISION 2000. Our goal is 200 or more cells by 1994 and 1000 cells by 2000.
We refer to our church as Cornerstone Church of the Shenandoah Valley (official name is Cornerstone Mennonite Fellowship). The four congregations are Cornerstone Church of Broadway, Cornerstone Church of Elkton, Cornerstone Church of Mt.Crawford, and Cornerstone Church of Augusta. We are exploring the possibility of opening a new one, which would be Cornerstone Church of Woodstock. These are all small towns located within the Shenandoah Valley area.
Cornerstone is affiliated with the Virginia Conference of the Mennonite Church. However, the nature of the ministry is not denominational but rather transdenominational. We focus on the Lordship of Christ and we try to function above denominational lines. Members of our church come from many different denominational backgrounds and a significant number from no church at all.
In his book, Laity Mobilized, (page 127), Neil Braun suggests developing a leadership POWER COUNT. This "power count" he defines as "the amount of talent, time, and energy a believer is (actually) or could be (potentially) devoting to church leadership." In other words, Braun is asking the question: Is there a way to identify the type of leadership that "counts" the most in accomplishing the task of the church?
Jesus was the most effective developer of leaders that the world has ever seen. He spent the majority of His three years of ministry in preparing a rather ordinary group of men to implement His extraordinary Kingdom strategy. Using any criteria for judging leadership these leaders were successful. They "turned the world upside down" with a spiritual revolution that changed the social, political and economic landscape. There-fore, the most logical way to decide upon a leadership "power count" is to determine how Jesus did it. What did He see as the most important leadership functions that would contribute to the fulfillment of His goals? Did Jesus have the same leadership "power count" as we do today? How did Jesus develop effective leaders?
Effective church leaders must be developed in relation-ship to the purpose of the church. In many churches there is a major disparity between the stated purpose of the church and the actual purpose of the church. The stated purpose is written on paper at the top of the church constitution. The actual purpose is lived out in the daily activities, programs, buildings and financial state-ments of the church. Any evaluation of leadership effectiveness must be made in reference to the actual purpose, not the stated one.
What if the majority of energy, time and resources of a church is being used to run the activities that take place on Sunday? This, then, is the actual purpose of the church. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 "where your treasure (time, energy, resources, priorities) is, there will your heart be also." If this is true, then administrative, promotional and organizational types of leaders would be best suited to effectively maintain such a purpose. The highest leadership "power count" in this situation would be assigned to the staff and workers responsible for maintaining the Sunday program. However, if the primary purpose of the church, as a cell church maintains, is to make disciples within the context of small groups, then the leader who is actively involved in nurturing a Basic Christian Community would be assigned the highest numerical "power count".
What kind of leadership "power count" do church nominating committees use when assigning leaders to positions in the modern church? Do nominating committees give the same value to leadership roles as in the New Testament Church? In all honesty, most of us would admit that leadership priorities are not the same in the modern church as in the New Testament one. Many of the leadership jobs given top priority in yearly nominating committee meetings would rank very low on the New Testament leadership scale, or might not even show up on it at all. In fact, some leadership jobs in the traditional church may actually have a negative rating because they involve people in secondary tasks that sidetrack them from the primary purpose of the church. Such roles are not necessarily bad but are just unrelated and irrelevant to the primary New Testament pur-pose as defined and modeled by Jesus.
Why this difference between the New Testament church and the church of today in determining leadership priorities? Priorities of leader- ship differ because the actual purpose of the church has changed over the years. Jesus' primary purpose, making Kingdom disciples, has become one among many compartment-alized organizational purposes.
It is essential that the church today rediscover and implement Jesus' Kingdom purpose of making Kingdom disciples. Focusing on this purpose will produce leaders who "count" in terms of spiritual power.
Jesus knew that a structural wineskin is essential in the development of leaders. Effective leadership must have a framework or context in which it can lead, be trained and fulfill its assigned purpose. Some structures are just not effective in accomplishing some purposes. A chain saw fits well into the context of a forest, but is out of place in an operating room. Some church wineskins are simply inappropriate for containing and preserving certain spiritual purposes. Most churches with a Sunday program structure have little success in producing effective New Testament leaders. Jesus designed the perfect wineskin to contain and preserve His Kingdom purpose. Jesus set His Kingdom purpose of making Kingdom disciples within the context of His Kingdom structure: a Kingdom community of small groups through which He lived and worked.
In the First Century, Jesus had a high leadership success rate because His leaders were developed in direct relationship to His presence, power and ministry as He lived with them for those three years in spiritual community. Little wonder that ordinary men and women were transformed into dynamic leaders. If the kind of leaders Jesus developed in the first century are to be developed today, Jesus must continue to have an active part in developing them. Apart from Christ, you and I can never develop His kind of spiritual leaders. He has designed His church in such a way that He can continue to "make fishers of men" who will "feed His lambs and sheep."
The genius of Jesus' structural design of the church is that Jesus can continue to develop His leaders personally within the framework of His spiritual Body, the church, in every age and every culture.
The small group ("where two or three are gathered together in my name") is Jesus' gift of Himself to the church and the world ("there I am in their midst") in every age. Jesus' design of the church is the way the task He assigned can and will be accomplished, if the church will just operate within His structural context. The small group is the "delivery system" through which the purposes and promises related to the church can be delivered. Leaders are trained and developed in the small group context, resulting in both numerical and spiritual growth.
If the church today is to produce effective leaders who "count," then the church must focus on the New Testament purpose of the church and must operate within the New Testament structural wineskin.
Jesus trains His leaders within the context of
HIS LIVING PRESENCE
"Lo, I am with you always"
HIS SPIRITUAL POWER
"all power is given to me"
HIS MINISTRY PURPOSE
"to preach the gospel to the poor; to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free those who are downtrodden; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
How do I know if my leadership "power count" is the same as Jesus'? How can I tell if I am assigning the same degree of value to the same types of leaders as Jesus? We can compare our leadership approach with His:
The church of the 20th century desperately needs Jesus to develop leaders with First Century power.
Touch Publications will be releasing a book by Bill Beckham in mid-1993 entitled "The Second Reformation". This release will give practical steps toward planting or transitioning an existing church to the cell model.
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