As some of you know, my own journey into the Cell Church began 23 years ago. I left the security blanket of a denominational position, to form an "experimental church" called The People Who Care in Houston, Texas. My closest friends treated me like I had a disease. It was lonely! Even worse, there were no Cell Church models here in the U.S. to copy. We had to hammer out every Cell Church concept from the start. After 20 years of pastoring, writing, consulting, and persuading, I came to the conclusion that I would never see the breakup of Program Base Design power structures in the United States. I sadly bid farewell to my native land and migrated to Singapore to enter into a most exciting Cell Church ministry. Since 1990, the Holy Spirit has touched the hearts of many and planted seeds of change.
The outlook for the Cell Church movement in the United States has significantly changed in the past three years. Evidence that the "Second Reformation" is taking place is now obvious. The stranglehold of the Spirit of Religion that gripped the church is being shattered. The day of transition to the Cell Church is here. Consider some of the signs that are obvious:
Book after book has been published, pointing out that we are all ministers. The use of the word "Laity" is more and more being looked upon as theologically untenable. Thus, the Cell Church has started to make sense to those who were previously blind to its cry to equip all believers for ministry.
Recent seminars I have conducted in the U.S. have shocked me. Three years ago, pastors attending my Cell Church seminars were like calves looking fearfully at a new gate crossing. Many played "ping pong" with every idea. Some brought along their shotguns to blast the concepts they heard. The major thought was, "Should I implement this?" This is no longer the case! Now dear pastors at seminars are asking, "How do I implement this?" This is a paradigm shift!
Old structures are collapsing. Sunday School is seen more and more as a structure that has lost its usefulness for evangelism and equipping the saints for ministry. Churches are replacing cognitive Bible studies with lifestyle application of Biblical principles. Church leaders as well as members are seeing the need for New Testament intimacy and community.
While I truly believe the Cell Church structure is a pure work of the Holy Spirit which is exploding worldwide, there are fascinating American stopovers for those who cannot make the complete shift in a short time. I rejoice over every single one of them! The "seeker service" approach is a sort of halfway house for those who think the world might be won by drawing men of peace into a non-threatening low key service. I am now meeting pastors who have invested a couple of years in this pattern of church life. They needed this stopover on their journey toward Cell life. Even more significant is the Meta-Church model. It has great value for those who cannot yet see the heaven and earth difference between a church with small groups and a pure Cell Church. But once again, the trend is clear-many will step into the reality of the Cell Church, where the Cell is not simply an appendage, but the lifeblood of the body! Full Blown Models are Now Appearing
With greater and greater frequency, entrepreneurial pastors and churches are making the transition in the U.S. to a pure Cell Church structure. A California church has designed the exciting CellTrak software for a Cell Church to keep computerized records of its activities. The Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, Louisiana, is constructing their own TOUCH Center to house District Offices, patterned after those at Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore. Hundreds of churches have already signed up for CellNet's database which will help network U.S. Cell Churches. It's a new day! I'm glad the Lord let me live long enough to see it. The family of God in America is slowly leaving its grave clothes behind. The resurrected church will be a beautiful Bride, properly adorned!
by Scott Boren; Victory Assembly, New Orleans, LA-by Joey Beckham
"Successful" is a word often used to describe Bethany World Prayer Center. How else could you describe a church with 5000 people attending on Sunday mornings, a strong influence in the local pro-life movement, 500 prayer warriors, and a 1.5 million dollar missions budget? Despite their obvious success at developing a "Program Based Design" church, Bethany is committed to risking it all, and is in the process of transitioning into the Cell structure. As I attended their recent missions conference, I wondered why they would risk all they have accomplished to move into this new type of structure.
I believe their willingness to transition lies in a fundamental burden for the lost. This forced the leadership to look beyond all the positives and ask why 4500 visitors a year were slipping through their system of ministry. It also gave them the strength to evaluate their "success" against the testimonies found in the book of Acts.
In April 1993, Bethany began their journey into Cells with 54 groups and 455 people. In just 8 months, they have grown to 155 groups and average 1500 people in Cell attendance! As I visited the church and talked with its leaders, I found three key reasons for their great start. First, they drew their first Cell leaders and members from a group of intercessors called "Gideon's Army." Next, they have a rotating Cell format for edification and evangelism. Finally, the character and wisdom of the leadership team provides an effective training process for the Cell Leaders and Interns.
The first strength predates the actual launching of Cells at Bethany. God had providentially laid a strong foundation through a core group of servants so the Cell strategy could effectively move forward. For approximately one year, a group of 500 intercessors met as Gideon's Army every week to intercede for the lost and the churched. This group formed the foundation on which they have built the Cell structure. After spending several months working with these disciples, they started 54 groups, comprised solely of men and women from Gideon's Army. These people had already begun to implement key Cell values: a commitment to prayer and spiritual warfare, an evangelistic lifestyle, ownership of ministry, and openness to the leading of the Spirit.
By December, 1993, they grew to 155 Cells, a growth rate of 275% during the first 3 cycles. Church members make up nearly 60% of these new Cell participants, while the rest have come in as new converts or previously unchurched Christians. This incredible growth relates directly to the fact that they began with a strong core group that could adapt to the new lifestyle and structure.
Aside from this strong base, Billy Hornsby, a District Pastor, credits their unique Cell format as another reason for their success. Using their own style of meetings, Bethany blended what they learned from Mission Elim in El Salvador with what they saw at Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore. They alternate the meeting format each week, providing an edification meeting one week and an evangelistic meeting the next. During the edification meeting, they focus on forming relationships, strategy and intercession for reaching the lost and body ministry. A typical meeting will include:
Get Acquainted Time-30 minutes
Worship-5 to 10 minutes
Body Ministry-40 minutes
Strategic intercession-10 minutes
While most Cell Churches move their Cells from house to house each week, Bethany rotates to a different house on a bi-weekly basis. This provides for an evangelistic meeting in every neighborhood on the alternate week. These meetings focus on reaching the lost. They differ from edification meetings by limiting the prayer and spiritual warfare time and by targeting felt needs (i.e. loneliness, anger, bitterness). A typical evangelistic meeting will include refreshments, sitting in a circle, introduction of guests, sharing of ground rules, an ice breaker, optional worship, topical discussion, and a closing prayer. Over 300 people have made first-time decisions for Christ through these meetings. Even with this evangelistic focus of the Cells, Billy points out that the Cells need nourishment from other activities of the church. All those who receive Christ in the Celebration meetings are directed immediately to a Cell through the district offices. New families that visit the church are contacted during the week by Cell Leaders meeting in their area and invited to Cell groups. These people learn quickly that Cell life is a priority.
The church also targets some specific events for evangelism. These include a booth at the state fair, an annual 4th of July event and an open community counseling center. These activities are provided as a support system for the Cells. In no way do these events or Sunday worship service replace the Cells as the primary means of outreach. We can learn from their emphasis on evangelism and spiritual growth. They do not want the strong Christians in these groups to enter into a closed fellowship: evangelism runs high on the priority list. Their growth lies in using a core group operating with a value system based on New Testament principles. They received an evangelistic vision from the very format of the meeting and began walking in it immediately.
The value of Gideon's Army and a Cell meeting format that rotates between edification and evangelism meetings cannot be disputed. The third key however, that of wise leadership, has been their greatest asset in this transition.
This leadership strength begins with the senior pastor, Larry Stockstill. I am impressed by the fact that Pastor Stockstill knows that his job is in Baker, Louisiana, and not in a ministry that would take him away from leading the flock. God has called him to pastor the people of Bethany, and therefore he has little exposure in the larger church picture. He also walks in holiness before his flock. "Pastor Larry brings many assets to the church and no evident liabilities," says a fellow staff member. Because of his strong and consistent presence before the people, they know he is committed to seeing this vision through and will not head off to another congregation when things get tough.
Although Pastor Stockstill has great credibility and authority before the people, he has not driven the flock into the Cell vision. Just the opposite is true. The leadership has allowed the excitement and the testimonies from the Cells to spread the news of the vision. The leadership does not force people who attend on Sunday morning, or who still participate in an old fellowship group, to start attending a Cell. They have focused on transitioning with new growth and have allowed the Lord to lead others from the church body into the Cells. This church has strong, unified leadership that is patiently helping their members grow into new values that will allow them to move into successful Cell life. The leadership is not trying to transition the whole church in a single heartbeat. Bethany also demonstrates leadership strength through their philosophy of team management. Billy Hornsby finds that team decisions are 30-50% better than individual decisions. Although Pastor Larry makes the final decisions for the church, a team of leaders come together weekly to prayerfully give input into these decisions. Consensus decisions lead to greater trust by those who follow.
Along with the team of leaders who oversee the entire church, they have effectively delegated authority throughout the Cell system. I saw this in the layout of their district offices. In these offices, located next to the sanctuary, members and visitors alike find pictures of one of the four District Pastors along with the Zone Pastors, Zone Leaders (Zone Supervisors) and Cell Leaders. These rooms are used for ministry and to network with Cells after the Celebration services. They also provide a home base for the leaders of each district. They are presently constructing their own TOUCH Center to house these district offices. As I viewed the Districts, Zones and Cells in each office, I saw that Bethany has the right number of leaders at each level of authority. This assures the Cell Leaders will have direct supervision for support and direction. Of equal importance, they have made sure that all of their Cells have Interns. This keeps the Cell Leader from having to do all the work and gives a structural plan for multiplication. This pattern keeps them from compromising and forming Cells without proper leadership. Without Interns and the proper support network, Cell Leaders would have a greater struggle and quickly become overextended in their ministry. While they do have sufficient leadership for today, Bethany realizes that training must continually take place to maintain the present level of leadership and develop future leaders. Pastor Billy recognizes the importance of teaching others how to develop leaders and believes this is one of Bethany's greatest strengths. A system for developing trained leaders is much more effective than one that must wait for born leaders to emerge.
Leaders receive training through two primary avenues-continuing education for current leaders and introductory groundwork for Interns. The first happens every week on Wednesday nights. At this meeting, pastors Ted Long and Bill Ollendike teach every Cell Leader on various topics of Cell life. These topics may include dealing with strongholds, building community, or strategizing to reach the lost. Brother Larry follows up with a personal touch as the Senior Pastor. He shares the scriptural topic for the following week and inspires the leaders to press on in their mission. This direct involvement and time commitment by the Senior Pastor communicates the vital importance of Cell life to the church. To train up new leaders, challenged members commit to eight weeks of Intern training with Billy facilitating. This training covers such topics as facilitating a Cell meeting, qualities of a healthy community, the shepherd's lifestyle, and how to heal the hurting. Bethany believes that the ideal place to find these Interns is within the context of the Cell itself. They look for Interns who walk in submission at the lowest level of identity, not those looking for position or recognition. We Must Learn to Pray Even if churches follow the exact path and pattern of Bethany World Prayer Center, none can duplicate what God has done there. We can look at Bethany and learn, but if we want to be successful, we must insert one key ingredient over any other-prayer. In reality, Bethany began with a dynamic and fruitful prayer ministry. If churches do not value listening and depending on the Lord through prayer, they will miss His voice and the vision He has for them. If God walks you into this exciting model for His church, you may say what Pastor Larry has said: "People can't say to me anymore `It doesn't work in America'-I know Cells work in America!" -Bethany World Prayer Center, 13855 Plank Road, Baker, Louisiana 70714 (504) 774-1700, Fax (504) 774-2335
(Side Article on Victory Assembly...)
Two hours south of Baton Rouge, on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain, another Cell Church is rapidly developing. Victory Assembly began in 1979 with 90 people and a vision for the Cell model. Today, they have grown to over 2,000 members and 200 Cell groups. While there are many similarities today between Victory and Bethany, they have taken very different roads to get here.
After attending a Church Growth International Conference with Dr. Cho in 1979, Pastor Frank Bailey, at the ripe old age of 26, returned to his home town of Metairie, a bedroom community of New Orleans, to implement what he had learned. Without any other models to study and no experience in a Cell Church, much of what he learned was through trial and error. For those of you who are just beginning in the Cell model, he shared 2 key principles for the startup: leadership and vision.
According to Pastor Bailey, there must be a good foundation of training for leaders if a Cell Church is to develop properly. This helps the leaders develop confidence in their ability to lead the groups. The pastor must give lay leadership the authority and responsibility for the people in their group. Once leaders have been properly trained, they must be trusted to care for the people in their groups.
Pastor Bailey also feels it is critical that the Pastor clearly impart the vision to the people on a regular basis. Without this vision, leaders will lack motivation and lose their focus. This lack of motivation and focus quickly leads to stagnation and confusion in the Cells. By 1986, Victory had grown to over 150 groups in this predominantly Catholic area and had committed to a building program to house their Sunday morning services. At this critical juncture for the church, the Swaggart/Gorman controversy rocked the Christian community in Louisiana. The ripples caused by this explosion hit Victory during a time of great potential and great vulnerability.
Pastor Bailey had the following to say about this difficult time in the life of the church: "Victory Assembly is physically situated between Jimmy Swaggart and Marvin Gorman's churches. In fact, Marvin Gorman's church was located on the same street as Victory. It especially hurt us because people knew the men's names, but not necessarily their church's names. We had many, many people confuse us with their churches." With the help of other churches, Victory Assembly was financially able to weather the storm, but not without great cost. Their Cell structure had been severely weakened, as people became disillusioned with the Assemblies of God churches in Southern Louisiana. Pastor Bailey feels the church would have been impacted far worse than they were if they had not been structured in Cells. In 1987, they effectively began building the Cell structure all over again.
Today, Victory has more than recovered from the difficult times of the mid-80's. The church has 200 Cell groups in the following areas: family, singles, women, youth, and children. Over 180 of these groups are adult groups, with the youth and children's Cells just getting off the ground. The Cells meet weekly and focus on worship, prayer, ministry, Bible application and fellowship.
Victory has also developed a strong base of leadership for these Cells. Most of the leaders have been led to the Lord and developed within their Cell structure. They are nurtured through weekly leadership meetings and intense mentoring. Victory currently has 7 full time staff pastors, 40 area leaders who supervise 4-5 groups each, and 200 Cell Leaders.
Pastor Bailey discussed several keys to growing a Cell Church. He states that the foundation on which everything must be built is prayer. Without this communion with God, Cells will quickly become another program within the church. Discipleship and body ministry are critical for the development of maturity within the Body. Out of this communion with God and one another will flow true Christian fellowship and evangelism. Undergirding all of these keys are pastoral care and leadership development, providing the skeleton for what God is doing.
On April 15 and 16, 1994, Victory Assembly will host a conference on the Cell ministry. At this conference, you will have the opportunity to hear from Pastor Frank Bailey, Pastor Larry Stockstill, Dr. David Sumrall and Dr. Karen Hurston. This is a perfect opportunity to visit Victory Assembly for yourself and learn from their experiences. v
-Victory Assembly, 5708 Airline Hwy., Metairie, Louisiana 70003, (504) 733-5005, Fax (504) 733-1939
In the previous issue of CCM, Dr. Jenkins wrote of a conversation with George, a children's ministry leader. They met at a conference, where he had many questions concerning the nature and purpose of the Cell ministry to children. Following is an account of another meeting with George, the searching children's leader.
I was not surprised when I heard George's voice on the end of the telephone. After our conversation at the conference, I expected his call. Over lunch the next day, we talked further.
"Lorna," he began, "how do you communicate this new concept to the children's leaders? We have many leaders who have been teaching Sunday School for years, and I think they would be fairly threatened by all this." "That's true," I replied. "They're probably also threatened by the whole concept of a Cell Church. Yet, to be fair, it's more than that. Many of these people look back on their own Sunday School days with a great deal of nostalgia, and they want to re-create the experience in their teaching today. They will resist a new model. The sad truth is that even their own Sunday School may not have been as successful as they think. When we begin to trace the children who went through Sunday School together, we often discover an alarming dropout rate-sometimes as high as 80-90%"
"I can verify that," George answered ruefully. "I'm the only one of my classmates who walks with the Lord today. I often wonder what went wrong."
"The other reason why leaders feel threatened is that Cell groups for children sound too unstructured. Leaders like to feel that they are in control of the children. They feel better when they do the speaking, and the children sit and listen. To open up the group for conversation and discussion sounds scary.
Many leaders fear the obscure questions children can ask, and they don't think the children really can say anything very significant." "Are they right? Do the children get out of hand? I mean really, how difficult is it to lead a children's Cell group? Is it for experts only?" George looked worried.
I smiled. "Actually I find it easier than leading a traditional Sunday School class. When the children relax and know they have freedom to talk, they make some very helpful contributions to the group. I don't have to struggle for attention and quiet all the time. I use my eyes to rove across the group, ready to encourage the next speaker or to respond to the child who chooses to speak next. If a child loses attention, I direct a suitable question towards him or her to bring them back into the discussion. Most children like to participate and eagerly desire the leader's recognition." "Not all children want that," commented George. "I know some children who get terrified when asked to speak in a group of children." "Yes, some children feel shy at first," I replied, "but I have found that they follow the conversation quietly, and slowly they begin to participate. I never try to force a child to speak, but when they do, I encourage them and approve them no matter what they have said. Often the quiet ones think deeply, and they often minister well to other children."
"Of course some of the other children will dominate and control the discussion. What do you do with them, Lorna?"
"I usually ration the number of times they can speak, or I might throw them a really hard question and get them to think about it for awhile. We also have a rule in our Group Agreement that says the children should wait for another person to finish talking, and that every child should have a turn if they want one." "A Group Agreement!" George leaned forward. "That's interesting. Tell me about that."
"Well it's much the same as an adult Group Agreement," I said. "Some time near the beginning of the group, you have a discussion with the children to decide on some rules of behavior, and everyone agrees to keep them. I usually ask the children to make a poster of the Group Agreement so we can hang it on the wall." "But suppose a child breaks the Group Agreement," asked George, "what do you do then?"
I smiled sadly. "I have to prepare for that. When we make our Group Agreement, I make enough copies for every child. I give each child a copy, and we pray about it together. Then I ask each child to write their name at the bottom of the page to show that they agree to the rules. If a new child joins the group, they need to do the same thing. I do not let the children keep their copy of the Agreement. I collect them and put them away, hoping I will never need to refer to them. But if I have an especially rebellious child who consistently breaks the Group Agreement, I schedule a time to meet with the child when he or she has no audience. I like to take him or her to a fast food restaurant. While we are eating and relaxing, I might say something like this:
"Mike, you're a great kid, and I really enjoy having you in the group. I would hate it if you were not there. But you know when you joined this group, you did sign your name to an agreement. Look, here's the page. Let's go through it together." After we work out the problems, I ask him to sign his name again on the page to show that he really meant to honor our agreement. I pray for him and let him know he is my friend." "Wouldn't that make every child in the group want to break the rules?" laughed George.
"No, I make sure to invite every child to a personal outing at some time, and they never know what I have on the agenda. By the way, never underestimate the power of prayer when you try to control children. If the group gets out of hand and inconsiderate, I stop and pray for a spirit of peace upon the group. I also pray for the children by name and ask a blessing for them."
"Does it ever?" I answered. "I've seen one person quiet three hundred noisy children by praying aloud for them. You should try it." "Lorna, what sort of qualities do I look for in leaders then?"
"Very much the same as you want in a Cell group leader except they also have to be able to relate to children. I like leaders who can be open and transparent, letting the children see a Christian life from the inside. I want someone with a pastoral heart who alertly looks for signs of pain in the child's life. One with an evangelistic vision, who not only wants to introduce these children to Jesus, but wants the group to multiply. I guess leaders need to see themselves as "kinfolk" to the children. It's not a Sunday chore, but a bonding relationship." I paused for breath. I can get quite passionate on this subject.
George looked thoughtful. "You're asking an awful lot. Everybody seems so pressured these days. How can they find the time?" I sighed. "I know. It's a matter of priorities. But I often wonder, if Jesus led a group of children, how would he work out his priorities? If only we could plan our lives according to the values of the Kingdom, what a difference it would make! Of course, the other option is to have the children as part of adult Cell groups. Then the whole Cell group can get involved."
George sat back. "Now that's a really scary idea. I want to hear more about that, but I can't continue right now. Would you mind if I called you next week so we can take this further?"
-to be continued
You will need a few things apart from your reading glasses or adequate light to make this article truly meaningful. Get a cup and a tea bag. Now, fill up the cup with warm water from your tap. Don't get the water too hot, just warm enough to know it isn't cold. Now put the tea bag in the water. What happened? Did the bag float or sink? Did you successfully make tea?
When I tried this experiment, I needed a spoon to submerge the tea bag, and then it really didn't make tea; it just clouded the water. The only recipe for a good cup of tea is quite simple-dunk a tea bag into a cup of boiling water and let it steep. Likewise, God works best in those of us who walk as prepared water for His tea bag of flavor, aroma and color. In the last few months my Zone Pastor helped me see some deeply rooted problems in my life that have limited God's work. These problems cooled my spiritual waters and I became lukewarm in my response to God's plan. I thought I had found a nice contented level of commitment to God. My pastor presented me with a spiritual challenge-he said, "Are you a weak Christian, or a Christian who chooses to be weak?"
I cognitively know that God wants to complete the good work He has begun in me. But what God desperately needs is a willing heart! I know you would join me in saying, I would do anything for God-but Luke 6:45 says ". . . out of the abundance of the heart the voice speaks." I know that my voice does not always give evidence of a heart that is walking in purity. With this in mind, I have made myself accountable to believers who listen carefully to my words and observe my actions to help me find the true nature of my heart. Now I can see the truth about the spiritual strongholds that keep me from experiencing an active, challenging and victorious life in Christ.
My weekly Cell meeting was the very place I found another one of my strongholds. During a time of prayer, God revealed to me that an area of pride was keeping me away from an effectiveness in ministry, which I desperately desired. As I struggled with the release, I confessed this area of my life and asked for prayer from my Cell family. Then I asked for assistance from my accountability partner to help me walk in the light of what God showed me. I now feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders!
(Important Note: Personal accountability is a fundamental part of successful Cell life.)
God will continually challenge us to grow and mature in our faith. I boiled the waters of my heart by confessing that I was a sinner and I asked God for entrance into the Kingdom. Because of the provision Christ made for me, I have become a new creature-what a great swap! My failures, guilt and hopelessness in exchange for the fullness of God through Christ. Many believers stop the process right here-only to lead a life filled with frustration and ineffectiveness due to residual strongholds.
I recall a story of a little boy whose father gave him five dollars to go into town by himself to see the circus for the first time. He arrived just in time to see the clowns leading elephants and monkeys in a street parade. He shouted "Hurray!" and was simply overwhelmed with the sights and sounds that were so foreign to farm life. When the procession had passed, he gave the last clown his money and went skipping home-thinking the parade was the whole show. He only found out about the real thing after his allowance was spent and the circus had left town. Many times we miss our part in the "greatest show on earth" because we think our part in God's plan is limited to watching the parade leading toward our eternal home. Satan uses strongholds in our lives that make us spectators instead of participants! Will you miss out on the fullness of all God has for you because of a stronghold? Take some time right now to ask God to reveal areas of your life that keep you from experiencing His power, presence, and purpose. When these areas are realized, confess them to God and to your Cell. Lean on a Christian brother or sister to help you walk in the Light-and you will surely experience God's aroma in your life!
By Bill Beckham
I want to put you in the driver's seat of a Cell Church and give you eight simple operating instructions. You don't need to be a trained professional to drive it. Get your head out of the mechanic's manuals and get behind the steering wheel! Here are your instructions:
Last issue, I shared an article called "Cell Church: Complex or Simple Design?," in which I discussed the issues that complicate the development of a Cell Church. These issues center around three areas: Approaching it from a mechanical rather than a functional perspective. Trying to use old operational procedures to make it work.
Failing to distinguish between essentials and nonessentials.
In order to simplify the operation of the Cell Church, I have broken down the process into eight working parts. Other parts may be helpful, but if you get it right in these eight areas, you will move forward as a Cell Church. The illustration of an automobile may help us better understand how the Cell Church functions.
A car consists of hundreds of working parts. However, a relatively small number of its components cause the car to perform the primary function of moving from one place to another. For instance, if the transmission goes out, the car will just sit there even if all the other hundreds of parts are working. Likewise, a Cell Church has essential working parts that must operate before the Cell Church will work. Therefore, we must give our attention to installing the essential moving parts of the Cell Church.
The Cell unit is the frame that integrates every other part of the Cell Church. As each car has a basic form that gives it identity, so the Cell gives the Cell Church its identity. If it does not work here, at its most basic level, then the Cell Church will not work at all. The basic life of the church exists in the Cell. The Cell itself acts as the primary unit around which the entire church centers. Without this priority, the Cell will become just another attached program, not the integrating element of Cell Church life.
Priority must be given to the dynamics of Cell life and not just the mechanics. Make Christ the DNA of Cell life: the life source, force and power. Focus the Cell meeting upon Christ, not on techniques, leaders, materials or gimmicks.
Group dynamics, effective leaders, celebration events, evangelistic campaigns, meeting mechanics, warm community or spiritual experiences will not sustain and drive the growth of God's work in the world today. Only a Cell that allows Christ to actually move in the midst of the group can be His instrument in the 21st Century for "turning the world upside down."
Vision turns on the Cell Church like an ignition switch starts a car. Vision creates the electricity that ignites the rest of the body. From my own experience, I describe vision as a call, a passion, a commitment, or even an obsession. If a church's vision does not work properly, everything will shut down, and the Cell Church will end up beside the road waiting for a tow. Leaders are responsible for clearly communicating God's Cell Church vision. A leader in a church outside of Washington D.C. shared this word: "When the vision is unclear, the cost is always too high." An unclear vision will result in a cost that proves too high, and the church will inevitably waver from the original call. Only a clearly communicated Cell Church vision will keep a Cell Church moving. Maintenance of an unclear vision will always become too costly. When this happens the leadership or the people will abandon the effort.
On the flip side, "When the vision is CLEAR, the cost is never too high." A clear Cell Church vision furnishes the necessary power and commitment to work till the end against all obstacles. The leadership structure steers the work of the Cell Church. Just as we have a steering mechanism that directs the car, so does the Cell Church. Most Cell Churches follow Jethro's advice to Moses and develop workable leadership units through which God can direct the movement of the church. Generally Cell Church leadership is arranged into the following four categories:
This kind of leadership structure, integrated around the Cell, allows Ephesians 4:11-12 to operate."And He gave some as apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." When leadership works properly, Ephesians 4:16 begins to work. "The whole body being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." Servant leadership provides a way that primary care can take place closest to the primary need. At long last, Ephesians 4:12 can operate the way God designed it in the New Testament. God gives leaders to His church in order that He can steer the church in the proper direction. The Cell Church will simply not operate unless these leadership units are in place.
The Bible anchors and protects every aspect of the Cell Church like seat belts do passengers. Because the graded Sunday School is not the primary program in the Cell Church, some claim the Cell Church is a dangerous model without adequate biblical safety features. In actuality, the Cell Church releases the Bible to become part of every aspect of Christian life. The traditional way of doing Bible Study is not enough for the Cell Church. Many who have sat in our Sunday School classes, "hearing" the word for thirty years, can not even pray in public. They have not been taught to be "doers" of the Word. The traditional church's teaching of the Written Word has limited its application to cognitive understanding and little life transformation. However, in the Cell Church, members study the Bible in a way that teaches not only "hearing" the word, but "doing" the word. In the Cell Church setting, Bible Study is a lifestyle seven days of the week, not a study on just one day. In the Cell Church we find: Christ, the Living Word applies the Written Word through Cell life.
Every member is equipped in a systematic self-study of Scripture. The I Corinthians 14:26 pattern (everyone has a hymn, word, psalm, etc.) operates.
The Word is read, sung and shared during worship times. Gifted teachers & preachers share the Word. The Word is consulted for planning and problem solving in all leadership meetings.
Members are prepared to apply the Bible daily to their lives. Pastors, church planters and missionaries receive special equipping in the Bible.
Youth & children learn to be "hearers" and "doers" of the Word in this pattern.
The Bible acts as the safety system that protects those traveling in the Cell Church from both doctrinal error and program deadness.
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Every member enters a specific gear to receive equipping and then shifts on to the next gear of training. The Cell Church will not operate properly unless an effective Equipping Track exists so that each member is discipled and becomes "part of the solution rather than part of the problem." The equipping track systematically raises up healthy Christians who can move into the role of Cell Interns. Without Cell Interns, the Cells cannot produce leaders, will not grow and cannot multiply. A Cell Church must set up a system of equipping gears that prepares each person for ministry at full-speed. General areas of training that seem to be common in such systematic equipping tracks are:
Cell Church equipping has three unique features: self-study, with a sponsor, and in a Cell context. Equipping done through self-study proves most effective in teaching a new Christian "how to fish" rather than "giving him a fish." Through self-study with a sponsor, each Cell member will enter into an accountable relationship with another person in the Cell. Also, on the job training within the context of Cell life accelerates the personal growth through each gear of training. The Cell Church will not operate without an effective equipping system.
Evangelism moves the church forward into the lost world. There must be something inherent within the nature of the Cell itself that will overflow out into the world in witness. The higher a Cell enters into worship in Christ's transcendent presence and the deeper a Cell enters into community in Christ's immanent presence, the broader the Cell will go out in witness and ministry in Christ's kingdom presence. This car will not move without the wheels of evangelism. The Cell provides the delivery system of the gospel out in the world, and is the church out beyond the parking lot. The Cell offers a way that the church can become an exponentially multiplying force out in the world. The lost are contacted out from the Cell at three points: We know them. We know our oikos where relationship evangelism takes place.
They come to us. Seekers and "men of peace" come to us. We go to them. We directly contact them at the point of their felt needs. Evangelism in a Cell Church is incarnation evangelism. We drive forward to meet the lost instead of just inviting them to come to us. God established this model for evangelism when He left the comfort and glory of heaven to go into a lost world to seek and save that which was lost. The Cell must not become just another "come structure," where we invite the lost to come to us. God has designed the Cell as the ultimate "go structure," in which Christ continues to penetrate the kingdoms of this world by using each person in the Cell.
Worship fuels the body with energy that flows from the presence of the Lord. In worship, the Cell Church experiences God both as the Most High God (Celebration) and as the Most Nigh God (Cell). God expresses Himself as the transcendent God and as the immanent God, the great God and the close God. Within the large and small group dimensions of the Cell Church, true celebration worship fuels and waters the life of the Church. Worship takes place in several contexts in the full blown Cell Church:
As the life of Christ in the midst flows out of the Cells, dynamic and meaningful celebration worship will naturally overflow into the life of the larger corporate body. Celebration worship will then flow back into the Cells, fueling their life and ministry at the basic Cell level. The old kind of Sunday worship operates out of balance and will hinder the movement of a Cell Church. Dynamic worship in every Cell Church context must exist if it will work properly.
Prayer is the engine that empowers the church to move forward in His work. Jesus said: "I will build my church..." Our part in Christ building His church takes place through prayer and communication with the Builder. Because the Cell Church will not work without Christ building it, the Cell Church depends totally upon prayer. The Cell Church must continually come back to the presence of God in order for the church to work. Prayer in a Cell Church focuses on both the personal and corporate encounters with God in His greatness and closeness, in His transcendence and immanence. Between these two ways that God expresses Himself to His church there develops a flow of prayer. The more we experience Christ in our midst, the more we appreciate the glory and greatness of God in His transcendence.
Prayer takes on a new meaning in a Cell Church. Prayer during Cell meetings. Prayer in leadership meetings. Prayer in the body life of the Cells. Prayer in the "whole" church. Prayer in the family. Prayer as individuals. The Cell Church prays because it experiences the incarnation expression of the Most High and Most Nigh God. The Cell Church prays because it experiences what it means to be the Body of Christ on earth. Without prayer this car cannot move. The pistons that empower the Cell Church are only turned over through prayer.
Is the Cell Church simple or complex? It depends on how each one of us assembles it. Certainly God did not make it to be complex! If God has called us to be part of a Cell Church, He will provide a simple form of operation. Our success with the Cell Church does not depend upon our knowledge or expertise. (Even those early church leaders were considered novices.) If we try to understand every part of it mechanically, then it will look complex. If we let God put us in the drivers seat and operate the Cell Church, it becomes simple.
There is nothing so practical as a correct theory. The Cell Church is a "correct theory" because it is God's theory. Let's allow it to work in its simplicity and power by getting out of the library and into the driver's seat.
For five years I had followed the standard structure of a typical youth group. We had singing, crowd breakers, lots of fun, and we spent a little time talking about Christ. Somewhere between wiping egg off the floor from the latest gag and dreaming of the time when I could buy a video projector so I could start doing "big time" youth ministry, the question occurred to me, "What am I doing?" At this point I realized our youth program was not imparting to kids the things that were essential to their spiritual growth. I also realized that my relationship with Christ was much more like some distant relative vaguely remembered than a dynamic relationship between best friends. I was burnt out from a program-based ministry that was having little effect on kids' lives. During May 1992 I called my adult leadership staff together, and we started brainstorming. The structure we decided to go with was a small group approach. We divided our kids up by grade level (7th-12th), and each adult couple took responsibility for one grade level as their minister. We felt pretty funny at first, since none of us was quite sure what to do. We stumbled around, using various small group materials, but they just didn't fit. We began getting to know our kids, and we thought the format was good, but we still were not leading them into a deeper commitment to Christ.
By January of 1993, I hit my wit's end. I couldn't remember the last time that I had spent time with the Lord. My youth ministry, though growing, was comprised of nothing but a bunch of carnal kids. It felt totally ineffective; I was broken. During this time, I realized I must rekindle my first love-I needed to focus on Jesus.
At a youth pastor's breakfast, I confessed to my friends that I had let my spiritual life fall to a dying ember. They prayed for me, and I prayed also. God started to awaken within my heart a deep hunger to know him once again. The very next week, while in a Christian bookstore looking for youth ministry resources, I saw a book called Successful Home Cell Groups by Dr. Yonggi Cho. Dr. Cho pastors the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea, which currently has a membership of 750,000. I remember thinking to myself that this had to be some weird cultural phenomena. I almost passed it by. But the Holy Spirit seemed to give me a little nudge and say, "You really need to check this out." I took the book home, opened it up, and could not put it down until I had finished it.
I got hooked! I found the answer! All my past experiences flooded back to me. Why did I grow as a Christian? Because I operated as a minister. I had a responsibility to proclaim the gospel, and I had a close group of friends who held me accountable and prayed for me. I knew the church had something missing, but I never realized that my fear of personal vulnerability with my youth was the heart of the problem. After reading Dr. Cho's book, I went on to read everything Dr. Neighbour had written on the subject. Since then, I have become certain that God will use the Cell structure to bring about the next great movement of his Spirit.
When I could define what we were trying to accomplish through our small groups, things started to really move. Each week we took our groups one step closer to the true Cell structure. Today I can say we have successfully made the shift.
Currently we have eight Cells and will multiply two more groups, bringing us to ten. We call our Cell groups I.C.U. groups (Intensive Care Units). We keep our Cell groups on the church campus currently, but I know eventually we will run out of space and move into homes as well. Since moving to the Cell structure, we have gone from a youth ministry of 35 to 96 active kids in a period of 18 months.
We run our I.C.U. groups on Sunday nights. A typical Sunday night will begin with a big group time at 6:30 p.m. During this time, we have Praise and Worship, a crowd breaker, announcements, drama, and devotional. After the big group time, the kids go into their I.C.U. groups. We have a time to introduce the first time visitors. Then we go on to a time of sharing in ministry. The kids talk about what God has been doing in their lives, what in their life they struggle with, who they are currently reaching out to with the love of Christ, and areas of personal joys and concerns. After this time of sharing and ministering to one another, we pray. The sharing and prayer times combined last 45 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of group time, the group shares creative ways that they can reach out in love to one another during the next week. At 7:55 the big group gathers again for a benediction.
Every area of the our youth ministry points back to Cell life. We have designed our Sunday School program as an equipping time for ministry inside the Cell. Hurting and new kids are taken through a class that grounds them in the basics of the Christian faith. We offer a curriculum to the Growing Christians that teaches them to reach out to "type A" non- Christians (those who have a belief in the God of the Bible, but have never entered into a personal relationship with him). For the Disciple level kids, we offer a training course for reaching out to "type-B" non-believers (those who are hostile or ambivalent to the gospel), and a shepherd class where we lead them in the "how to's" of shepherding their I.C.U. groups. We also offer (during the 11:00 o'clock hour) Bible courses that take kids through the Bible, or in-depth studies of actual books. Our youth choir serves every Sunday in the 8:45 a.m. service, which has become a youth- oriented worship service. On Wednesday night, we offer even more training in Discipleship as kids work through Barry St. Clare's Growing Towards Maturity series.
The time I have with these teenagers is much too precious to waste. God is raising up an army of young Christian men and women who will not be satisfied with anything less than the intimacy and growth that Cell life provides. In the book of Acts, Luke pictures a church that meets in small groups, that live in community with one another, and serve the Lord with passion. I have never seen that in a Program-based design church, but I'm watching God's Spirit work a wonderful miracle in the life of my teenagers through Cells.
by Hank Marion, Associate Pastor
Reflection is essential to understanding the hand of God. Without His understanding of where we have been, we would have little understanding of where we are going and probably less ability to get there. In 1983, Bammel Baptist, located in the suburbs of Houston, was being surrounded by commercial and industrial properties as the city incorporated more real estate. With industry comes people, and with people comes the need for Jesus. We were a congregation of 450 attending members, and we could see that in order to reach our new community, our methods were going to have to change. We began to seek God for direction, and He led us to start home groups. Being a traditional Southern Baptist Congregation, we naturally assigned the home groups to a time slot among all the other programs. Those that attended the meetings loved them. A dynamic took place in those gatherings of believers that could not be found or duplicated anywhere else. We did not understand what was going on-namely community; we only knew that God was moving in our midst. We were family!
It did not take long for us to learn some valuable lessons. The first of these proved very costly. The people that were teaching in the Sunday School program, singing in the choir, staffing the committees, showing up for prayer meetings, and working on special programs were the same ones who were attending the home group meetings. They would show up in their suit or work uniform, straight from work, excited about the things of the Lord. And what did we do with this awesome resource and the most valuable asset God had entrusted to us? We burned them up! We fried 75- 100 young couples that love Jesus. Committed people in leadership left the church, unable to continue in the ministry that they had taken on. We learned many things during this first stage of home groups, mostly from doing it wrong and watching it blow up in our faces. The tendency, after such an experience, is to believe that Cells or home groups will not work. This is the easy way out. But in reality there were some key factors missing from our original attempt at Cells. Some of the mistakes included:
We were in one of those "pits of failure" in September 1989. We saw that it was time to go back to the Lord for new direction, thanking Him continually for the things He was showing us. We had been fervently seeking the Lord for three weeks and were asking Him to give us the vehicle that could support the harvest of souls that we knew He wanted to send. We also wanted the ability to equip new converts without anyone falling through the cracks. (We learned of times when someone had been in the hospital for surgery, was released to go home, and we never knew it!) We were desperate!
It was at this point that God gave us a divine appointment. Supernaturally, God put us in contact with Ralph Neighbour, Jr., and we received our answer. It was the most detailed answer God had ever given to us: 463 pages entitled Where Do We Go From Here? This propelled our transformation. God had planned that instructive period between 1983 and 1989 so we could gain some invaluable insight and preparation for the new vision and direction that He had planned for us all along. From this new insight we initiated a period of our church life we call "Doing Cells Correctly."
We trained leadership for six months. They had a steady diet of Where Do We Go From Here?; The Shepherd's Guidebook; Knocking on Doors, Opening Hearts; and The Survival Kit. As the leadership prepared, we kept the rest of the body informed as to God's plans. A date was set, March 1990, for the entire body to launch into "Cells." We became a Cell church, not just a "church with Cells."
We discovered there are "key ingredients" that must be present in a Cell Church. One ingredient is the structure. Another is the Cell. The Celebration service is an ingredient, as is the Equipping Track or what we call "Care Chain." Share groups are an element as well. These "key ingredients" make up the Cell System. There is a modus operandi that works best for each ingredient. But realize this! There can be perfect Structure. Cells can be ministering to the body. Angels can be singing at your Celebration Services, yet, the dynamism God plans to give may not be present. Let me explain.
The period of "Cell Life" between inception of the Cell vision and multiplication of the Cells throughout the body is very difficult. Members of our church visited Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Africa in August, 1992. While looking at a growth chart in the office of Pastor Dion Robert, we noticed an eight year period where their church started with a membership of 150 and grew to 350. The next year, membership went from 350 to over 5,000. We asked "What happened here? Revival? Move of the Holy Spirit? Miraculous healing?" The answer given was, "No, it just took eight years to kill the flesh." This period between inception and multiplication we call "Value Change." The moment we launched into the Cell Ministry our values began changing. Little did we know how far we had to go, and how much old dead flesh still needed cutting away. Whether you transition a church or start from scratch, you and those with you will go through a value change.
Survival Kit II explores the transition from the Old Treasure Chest of values to the New Treasure Chest that God has given. Three and one-half years into "Doing Cells Correctly," we have 20-30% of the congregation showing real progress in making the Value Change. They are moving into lifestyle evangelism. They go every-where looking for opportunities to build bridges into the lost community. They visit the prisons, start Bible clubs in their neighborhoods and share the gospel in grocery stores. The baptistry is being used almost every week. What will it be like when 75% or even 50% of the congregation take on this Treasure Chest which is rightfully theirs in Christ?
The lifestyle to which Jesus has called the church is greatly hindered by the values of a society that places great emphasis on personal rights. Our minds are conditioned to think and react when our personal rights are violated, and we have allowed this to leak into the church. Philippians 2:5-8 says, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." We are to have the attitude Jesus had. Jesus laid aside all His personal rights. He emptied Himself. This is truly death to the flesh. It is a Value Change for us. At Bammel, we are three and one-half years into it. It is not easy, but it must be done!
Not only have we had lessons learned the hard way, but also positive insights that have helped us and may help you lead God's people into healthy Cell life. First, Cell Leaders need sabbaticals. They have the pressures of job, family, finances, and many other things. Traditionally, the church has been their escape from those pressures. Not anymore. Their position as Cell Leader becomes another stressor on their life. So, to keep them from burnout we require that once a year they take a break. We do not allow them to attend our church or any other for three weeks. They are to take their family and, on Sundays, go fishing or something. After three weeks away from the body, they ease back in, attending someone else's Cell meeting for two weeks. They love it! They look forward to their sabbatical. How do we cover their group in their absence? With Interns. You must have Interns!
Another challenge you will have is the discouragement that comes with "those who won't." Often we hear the familiar words "What do I do with Tom and Sue, they just won't . . ." This requires continual encouragement by the Zone Servant and Zone Pastor. Remind the Cell Leaders that this is a volunteer army, and we must learn how to encourage one another to love and good works. We cannot drive our people, but we can lead them. On the other hand, never allow "those who won't" to stagnate the group. This requires God's leading into a delicate balance. A third challenge we face is holding to the course. We must take heed to what we have heard lest we drift from it. Weekly meetings between Cell Leaders, Zone Servants and Zone Pastors are proving essential. We repeat the same information for what seems like the 87th time. Then someone will say, "Oh, that is how that works!" There are also new challenges each week as we endeavor to minister to the body. The equipping of new believers and evangelizing their oikoses provides much to discuss and pray about.
One last discovery that has been life- changing deals with the area of spiritual gifts. We are seeing glimpses of the proper use of spiritual gifts. Certain gifts often are elevated and dominate large group gatherings. The preaching and teaching gifts seem to overshadow the others. But not in Cells! The gifts are on equal ground in the Cells if you allow them to be properly used. Let me give a personal example. I was depressed one evening as I left home to go to a Cell meeting. When I arrived at the meeting, I encountered someone with the gift of hospitality and another with the gift of service. It was like a fresh wind of the Spirit as these gifts from the Lord ministered to me in power. A revelation came to me: this is what God had intended. Somehow we had relegated those gifts to clean-up after church fellowship dinners. Not anymore! Since that night, I have repeatedly seen the gift of mercy bring healing and the gifts of hospitality and service dispel darkness.
Where has this pilgrimage of lesson after lesson brought us? When we started "Doing Cells Correctly" in 1990, 130 people committed to the vision. Ten Cells were formed. Today we meet as three congregations totaling approximately 375 people comprising 21 Cells. Sixty of the original 130 left for one reason or another. The primary reason for this exodus was the inability to make the Value Change. It is a hard transition for many to make. Bammel Baptist/The Christian Celebration Center has been called to make it. We have seen that Cell life is much more than a way of doing church or a method for reaching the lost. It is church itself! We have no desire to go back. We will press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher of history stated, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." In remembering our past, we are making corrections that will help us to "Do Cells Correctly." The key is that we did not give up on what the Lord was doing amongst us. We made many mistakes through the process, but we have tried to continually learn from them. The Lord is constantly in the process of building His church.
Where has He brought you in that process? I encourage you not to give up because the road seems too hard. You must press on, using your past as an encouraging springboard to the next step with the Lord. Learn from your mistakes, share that insight with your body, and keep on listening to the Lord. And as you go, never forget that learning from others mistakes is much easier than learning from your own.
by Donna & Jeff Pack, Belmont Church, Nashville, TN
If our high school had a yearbook category for "Most Likely to Lead a Cell Group," I don't think Donna or I would have been nominated. I grew up as a Catholic and Donna a Baptist. Then we both became Episcopal (i.e., preppie Catholics). To us, "pressing in" meant standing too close together in the wine and cheese line after mass. Therefore, walking into the Cell- based Belmont Church two years ago proved quite different.
The Cell Church idea sounded good to us since we didn't know many people at Belmont. We felt comforted by the invitation to our pastor's Cell group because we knew he could handle anything. "Anything" just so happened to include asking us to lead a Cell group.
At first, we responded like most folks-"No way, Jos."Cell Leadership belonged to those on the ministry team or those who spoke in tongues and prophesied. We did not meet these preconceived qualifications. But through our prayers, we felt called to lead a Cell and started one at the beginning of this year.
Now that the Lord has brought our Cell near multiplication, we have tried to figure out what we could share as Cell Leaders. Aside from what we have learned from ministering to one attempted suicide, five broken marriages, fourteen sick children, one complicated birth, one cancer patient, two alcoholics, one drug addiction, and one person just out of prison, we also found out the following:
We have experienced the difficulty as a Cell Church of not moving fast enough to get everybody into Cells. We need a great amount of leadership for all the Cells. In addition to our own local growing pains, we've seen that many pastors watch the Cell Church movement to see if it is "just another program."
We don't have ten suggestions for these problems-only one: prayer. We need to pray in the vision for the Cell strategy across the world, especially in America. We need to pray for specific churches in key cities to "catch the vision." We need to pray for new leaders and Interns to continue to rise up. And maybe, just maybe, when our kids reach high school, they just might have an award for "Most Likely to Start a Cell- based church!"
by Dr. Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.
When children catch a disease like measles or mumps, the source remains a mystery. We only know the child picked up these germs "somewhere," from "someone." We develop our values much the same way. Value systems related to the use of power, wealth, sexual conduct, honesty, work ethics, etc., vary greatly from person to person. We seldom know where we got them or why we choose to keep them.
While the truth remains that at the moment of conversion we pass from death to life, the "old things" that pass away do not necessarily include the years of values that have piled up. In the Program Base Design church, Christians do not have to expose their value systems to any great extent. For example, in the area of stewardship, it is common in the American church for 15% of the congregation to provide 85% of the income. Occasional sermons about the importance of tithing produce few results. Some wise church leaders have created "Money Management Seminars" which help the believer consider the whole area of using wealth properly, but these "elective" courses permanently impact very few lives.
In the Cell Group Church, a major goal is to challenge and transform the value systems of each person. The weekly Cell Group format we recommend digs deeply into personal values. For example, the seemingly innocent Ice Breaker surfaces those who do not want to be transparent about their lives. The Worship time reveals those who sense the real presence of God, and those who do not. The Edification time exposes those who can truly minister in the power of the Spirit to the group, as well as those who have no "Listening Room" in their lifestyles. The Share The Vision time reflects the values of those who have a burden for the unreached and those who have none.
Most find it difficult to hide in a Cell Group. The sensitive Cell Leader can "read" the members' value systems during the meetings and can pray against the strongholds in each member's life. The weekly sharing will often reveal strongly held convictions among group members. The members react to specific situations that come up and challenge each other.
An example of this took place recently in the Cell Group I lead in Singapore for business men. One of the members told about renting a house to a short-term tenant after he had sold it under contract. Legally, he had no right to do this since the buyer reserved all rights to the building from the date the earnest money was paid. While many commonly practice this, he could receive serious consequences if caught. He shared this report openly in the edification time, and we realized that he considered it an insignificant matter. Two other men in the Cell challenged him, and in the edification that followed, the man recognized for the first time that he was still operating in his pre-Christian value system. He ended up as shocked as the two men who challenged him when he realized how he was disgracing his Lord.
Because of the need for the surfacing of values in the Cell Group, I strongly discourage the concept of having a "Bible Study" time in the weekly meeting. The teaching of the scripture should always precede the actual Cell meeting. I recently visited a huge Cell Church where the Cell Leader delivered a carefully printed presentation given to him by the central office. We sat in a silent circle while he taught like a teacher to a Sunday School class. By the time he finished, any warmth between the members had cooled off and little discussion transpired. I was very sad as I thought of the scores of people in that church who never exposed their value systems. The Senior Pastor told me he did not trust the members to manifest spiritual gifts in the Cells-that they were not "spiritually mature enough" to do that. True-and the pattern for the Cells he had created will guarantee they will never get there!
After many years of studying this matter, I was strongly impacted by the discovery that we each learn through three domains: COGNITIVE: the domain of knowledge, requiring a teacher to transmit information to the learner. Logic exists in this domain. Values are only peripherally shaped here.
PSYCHOMOTOR: the domain of skills, requiring an instructor to "show and tell" the way to master a task. Values are only peripherally shaped here. AFFECTIVE: the domain of values, requiring a facilitator to provide experiences which expose convictions and belief systems. This should be the thrust of every Cell Group meeting. Values are greatly impacted here. For this very reason, the four Gospels are packed with accounts of the way Jesus served as a Facilitator with His disciples. One can read aloud all his teachings to them in about one hour. The rest of the Gospels record their exposure to the events He provided for them. The miracles, the nights of prayer, the ministry to broken lives were His way of clarifying their values. Thus, the Cell Group must focus on providing experiences.
Many years ago, I wrote Living Your Christian Values to help provide structured learning events in the Affective Domain. I created it primarily for the P.B.D. environment, during a stage of my own pilgrimage when few true Cell Church structures existed in the world. With the explosion of Cell Groups around the world, the Lord has given me a special anointing for the writing of The Arrival Kit, which is now available in the U.S. and other English speaking countries and will soon be released in Chinese, Japanese, and other languages. I wrote it specifically for the use of Cell Churches, so each incoming Cell member-not only the new Christians, but all incoming members can go through it. It is designed to be used for 11 weeks, five days per week, and should lead to a one-on-one weekly session with another member of the Cell called a "Sponsor." I have included the agenda for this weekly meeting in the back of the book.
If all incoming members use this during the first quarter in Cell Group life, values will surface that have no place in the Kingdom of God. Then they will receive Christian values necessary for the journey. Not only does it deal with a Christian view of power, wealth, sex, etc., but it goes on to discuss strongholds which many believers carry for years after their conversions. It explains "Soul ties" as connections to people in the past who have taken control of our lives (e.g., the connection that is formed by involvement with a prostitute), and "Idol Worship" as a wrong love for a possession or a reputation.
Breaking these strongholds is not something that can be done all alone. For this reason, the Sponsor within the Cell Group structure plays a crucial role. Here's an effective method we have found in Cell life:
After the completion of this stage, the Sponsee is assigned to become a Sponsor of an incoming person and accepts the responsibility of taking someone else through the same material. This step proves a potent reinforcement of all they have experienced. As the Sponsee becomes a Sponsor, the materials take on a brand new dimension because they surface the value system in another person.
The original Sponsor and Sponsee then continue to work together as "partners." The backup provided by doing this means that the former Sponsee, now a Sponsor, has reinforcement in the responsibility for another person's growth.
The Year of Equipping continues with three more stages: first, learning to reach "Type A" unbelievers through sharing The Way Home and second, learning how to be a part of a Share Group team. The third stage is attendance at an annual Training for Ministry Teams, which explains how the Cell member ministers to those who need prayer and healing of the body, mind, or emotions. After this course has been completed, the Cell Member joins his or her Cell Group in serving during ministry times at the close of Celebration services.
The one year Cover The Bible course runs parallel to this. The new Cell Member takes this course by listening to 5-minute-per-day audio taped messages delivered by the Senior Pastor.
The goal of The Year of Equipping is to provide every incoming Cell member with a journey into the values related to Kingdom living. The development of Cell members through this equipping procedure is dramatic! Test it in your own Cell Group system. You will be delighted with the results.
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