I write this column one week before the Third International Conference on the Cell Church, held here in Singapore for 1,436 delegates from 22 nations. While delegates represent Russia, Kazakestan, China, Germany and Spain, 75% are from East and Southeast Asia. Taiwan will have over 300, Japan 93, Hong Kong nearly 200, Indonesia about 150. In this part of the world, Cell Churches are becoming commonplace.
Registrations this year flooded in so fast we closed the door a full seven weeks in advance. Hundreds more have had their checks returned with our regrets. God's Spirit is fashioning new wineskins all over the world.
I recently took a quick trip to conduct Cell Church conferences at Cornerstone Church in Virginia and Gorden Conwell Seminary in Boston. It was obvious the Cell Church movement has caught hold in the United States. In total, over 600 attended these two events. The atmosphere there proved vastly different from the seminars I led in the 1980's in the United States. Pastor after pastor came up to tell me they had resigned from PBD pulpits to start over in the Cell structure. Scores were in the midst of the paradigm shift with their congregations intact.
Clearly, we find ourselves in the transition time of the Second Reformation. No longer are we talking about "Where Do We Go From Here?" although the book is still selling by the thousands. The question now to be answered is, "Help! How DO We Get There?"( I am reserving that title for my next book-don't steal it!)
As Bill Beckham works on his book, The Two Winged Church, which will assist those in transition, Jim Egli comes on the TOUCH staff in April to consult with churches in midstream. Life Basic Training is being used by pastors seeking to move the apathetic church member into ministry. Its copyright goes back to the early 1980's, but a desperate need for it is developing in 1994.
As I turn 65, I thank God that I have lived to see the day when his beautiful Bride is being properly adorned. 29 years ago next July , I bid farewell to my life in a denominational structure and moved to Houston to create an "experimental church" to find out how God wanted His ecclesia formed. It was lonely to be one of the first birds to fly out of the nest, but I can now say it was worth it all.
I am fascinated by the many "intermediate models" that have cropped up in the USA during these years of transitioning. Some of them have been used to break up the hard ground of the American PBD structures, allowing churches to break with their pasts. Many of these models, which at first seemed to be destinations, now seem to be way stations on the journey.
The Meta-Church model, curiously American, has proved to be a good midway station. It creates the church with small groups and many will eventually transition further to become Cell Churches. The "seeker sensitive" model, while providing some relief from the PBD structure, still offers a deceptive contract to unbelievers. If you offer a fast-moving, dazzling worship service, the attendees still have no comprehension of Body Life. It is much wiser to put long-term nurturing food on the table to feed the hungry than to invite them to a brief, exciting service.
In January of 1995, we will launch TOUCH INTERNATIONAL to network the Cell Church movement worldwide. As God gives me health, I will serve this new arm of the Cell Church as we minister to congregations in other nations and continents. Rev. Martin Hopkins is the director of TOUCH INTERNATIONAL for South Africa and is bringing over 120 pastors to Singapore in July for a month of training. Ben Wong has accepted a similar position for Hong Kong. He will coordinate the seven churches there who have started to work together to publish our Cell materials in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese.
Yesterday I received the immigration papers from Alexandre, who now works for us in Moscow. God willing, he will come to stay with me for six months to learn the ropes so he can translate TOUCH Equipping Stations Systems (TESS) videotapes and books into Russian.
If you missed the opportunity to visit us in Singapore this year, plan to attend our National Cell Church Conference, scheduled to be held in the spring of 1995. We are still working out the details but wanted to give you advance notice so you can begin to free your calendar. This event is being coordinated through our Houston office and will be the only time in the next several months I will host a conference in the U.S. I look forward to seeing you there!
Q I understand that Cells should always have a Cell Leader and an Intern. Each Cell will need two additional Interns just before multiplication to obey this principle. Here I have difficulty: Where do I find all these Interns?
A You have obviously seen that the Cell Church is a disciple-driven and disciple-making model. Here are several rules for effective Intern recruitment:
Several churches have added a level of leadership below the Intern position. An Intern In Training (IIT), a member with
potential for leadership who is currently restricted by time or experience, may quickly enter the Intern level once they understand their responsibilities. As they function as an IIT, they realize the Intern role can be done by ordinary people who aren't "Super Christians." The IIT level of leadership can help increase the available pool of Interns, but these people should never be used instead of Interns.
Q How do I release someone from Cell Leadership to become a Zone Supervisor?
A The Zone Supervisor gives support to Cell Leaders and Interns, assisting them in their ministry. Thus he or she will not be effective wearing two hats and must be released from Cell Leadership. Many churches use the following procedure to release them from Cell Leadership:
Other Churches encourage people who are moving into the Zone Supervisor role to develop two interns within their Cell. They can then step out of Cell leadership as the groups multiply.
Q Do Cells really multiply every six to nine months?
A The multiplication rate of a Cell Church varies from church to church. Many mature Cell Churches experience as average multiplication rate of six months. New Cell Church plants may see Cells multiplying every nine months to a year. This figure, six to nine months, is often the rate of multiplication for healthy CE Cells and does not include groups that are dissolved or groups that die.
A clear, realistic vision for multiplication is critical to the growth of a Cell. As the saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you will always hit it!" Church leadership must set a realistic, attainable goal. A standard vision for a Cell may be: "Our vision is to add one new family a month to our Cell by living in community and reaching out to the lost. We will raise up two new interns and multiply this Cell in six months."
Q Is there a proven method to determine how members should be assigned when Cells multiply?
A Here are some helpful steps:
Q I recently read about Ichthus Christian Fellowship in TOUCH materials. Where are they today?
A Ichthus leadership is taking the church down some new roads. Before 1993 they had 45 congregations, over 90% of which had been planted by Ichthus. They have consolidated to 28 congregations due to a visible need to tighten up the structure and strengthen leadership. Each congregation meets weekly in the different parts of Southeast London. They believe the congregation represents the most effective way of reaching out to the community. In addition to the congregation meeting, the entire church gathers twice per month for a celebration meeting.
Another level of the organization consists neighborhood Groups
Though these groups may look similar to Cells, they differ in several ways. First, the numbers in the group can span from ten to forty people. Secondly, the Neighborhood groups are not the primary focus of the church. Also, unlike the Cell Church model, they do not multiply and raise up leadership through these groups. Instead, they use a congregational strategy to plant new congregations throughout the world. They send mission teams, network with other churches and implement demographic research.
Ichthus Christian Fellowship is a church that has great influence throughout the world. Their focus on the networking of churches, infectious missions heart, and dynamic teaching certainly spur The Church on. They are not a Cell Church, but they are an effective congregational church. We pray that the Lord will richly bless them.
Ichthus asked that we include the following statement with this response: "We thank God for the ministry of Ralph Neighbour and are grateful for the insights we have received into church life and discipleship. As irons sharpen iron, so one man sharpens another." We look forward to a growing friendship and fellowship."
by Jim Egli
Many have raised this question over the past few years without drawing a satisfactory conclusion. In country that is riddled with PBD churches that have two or three generations of PBD history filling its pews, this question is one that the Cell Church must address. While I cannot answer this question completely, I do have a partial answer that holds both good news and bad news.
First, the good news. Program-based design (PBD) churches have been successfully transitioning to effective Cell structures. In fact, some of the most well-known Cell Churches didn't begin as Cell Churches but as PBD churches. Pastor Cho of Korea and Yaye Dion Robert of the Ivory Coast originally led PBD churches that they successfully transitioned to a Cell design. Also, it is encouraging that the Cell Group structure has been implemented in a wide variety of denominations. Whether Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Assembly of God, Mennonite, or Independent, the most vital, fastest growing churches in the world are Cell Churches.
Now, the bad news. Transitioning from a PBD to a Cell structure is difficult and sometimes unfeasible. In Luke 14, Jesus warns all would-be disciples to carefully count the cost before beginning the venture of discipleship. If you are a leader and want to transition a program-based congregation, heed well this warning: realize the cost and difficulty before you begin the task. If you are considering making the transition, here are five questions you need to ask yourself:
Do not pursue a Cell Church strategy just because it is the hot thing or because some church you admire is doing it. A vision must be communicated from God's heart to your heart. Only a vision given by God will sustain you over the long haul. Ask yourself, "Do I have the vision, or does the vision have me?" God's vision must grip your heart and propel you forward. Otherwise, you will give up when you face the set backs and obstacles that are sure to come.
Once God has placed a vision on your heart, don't just recklessly run ahead. This is very tempting for us in the North American culture. If a new vision grips your heart, there is still much clarifying to do as you pray and seek God for the correct timing and strategy. Seek God and ask these questions: "Is this vision for here? Is it for now?" If you pursue the right vision at the wrong time and in the wrong way, it could set back progress in the future because people will be able to say, "We already tried that." It could be that God wants you to pursue the vision He is giving you in a different place. He may want you to pursue it where you are right now, but the timing is premature. Many factors determine a congregation's ability to change. How old is the congregation? How much freedom does the leadership actually have to lead? Is the church creative and open to change? In the sidebar following this article, notice the "Transition Checklist" which Bill Beckham has developed. The more closely these characteristics parallel your church, the more feasible it is for this church to make the transition to a Cell strategy.
Do not try to implement the vision God is giving you by yourself. You need a dream team-a committed group of leaders who share a united vision and are committed to pursuing it together. Both Jesus and Paul devoted their best efforts to developing a dream team to implement the vision and strategy God gave them. Developing a dream team takes time and prayer. It will often involve excitement, arguments, and conflict resolution before God brings a sense of unity and team work. One of the most helpful vision-shaping experiences is to take your leadership team to a Cell Church conference where extended input and interaction can take place.
You must personally experience community in Cell life and relational evangelism in order to understand and implement the vision you are calling others to. You cannot multiply what you have not experienced. Repent. Pray. Get with it! You must understand and experience true community in a Cell before you try to implement it on a broader basis. By developing one and then several prototype Cells, you are laying the foundation for the Cells which will follow. Your first Cell Group is the laboratory in which you develop what you want to multiply throughout the church.
Once you have a dream team that is beginning to experience that vision must be communicated and multiplied across a broader leadership base. As your initial Cell Group is multiplying, deliberately involve future potential leaders in the newly-emerging Cells. Continue to cast vision in a wide variety of settings. Preach on the Biblical concept of community and building one another up in Christ. Share from your heart in public and one-on-one settings. Genuinely listen to the fears and misgivings those who don't embrace your plans. You must not let the laggards be the leaders, but at the same time, you want people to have a voice. You will benefit from the genuine insights that they have to offer. Realize that this process of developing a catalytic core will take time. Different people will come on board at different speeds. Remember Paul's words of encouragement: "Be patient with everyone" (I Thess.5:14).
These are five questions that you must prayerfully ask and answer if you are considering or beginning to implement a Cell strategy. Is it possible to transition a program-based church? Yes! But is it feasible? If God is calling you to make the transition, do it! Keep praying and keep learning. Expect miracles. Seek God's direction for the obstacles that are sure to come your way. Deepen your intimacy with Christ. God has great things in store for you as you seek Him.
by Lorna Jenkins
When George phoned me again, I could tell he was excited. "Lorna, our pastor is curious about that idea you threw out at the end of our last conversation. Remember, you were talking about involving children in adult Cell Groups. I have to say I am still struggling with the idea, but our pastor says he has been thinking along those lines for some time. He wants you to come and visit with the leadership team."
Well, of course, I agreed. Two days later I was sitting with four church leaders in George's office.
Jeff, the senior pastor, began the conversation: Lorna, George has been telling me some of the things you've been sharing with him, and we, as a church, are genuinely interested. We've been trying to incorporate our children into the Cell Church concept, but so far our efforts have been less than fruitful. In fact, my daughter tells me that it still seems much like Sunday School. Also, I was reading about a group in Canada where the children and the adults were in family groups, and it seemed to be working fine for them. But I'm not sure if it would work here."
"Well let's take a look at the concept," I said. "Several churches are experimenting with Children's Cells, and they certainly aren't bound to one particular format. I know of a church that included children as full members in its regular Cell Group meetings. They met together for about 30 minutes, and then separated for about 45 minutes to an hour. At the end, the two groups would come back together."
Ella broke in. What age of children would come to such a group?" she asked. "I think the little ones would find it very hard to sit still."
I smiled. "Little ones always find it hard to sit still. They're not built that way. But that doesn't mean they should be excluded. A Cell Group is like a family. If a young child is present, he can wander around to visit members of the group, sit by different people or get busy on an appropriate activity. The group will develop a tolerance for children they know and love. Small children can sleep in another room when they get tired. Of course if a child is distressed, he will tend to run to his parents."
"Who looks after the children when they separate off into another room?" asked George. Would a trained person from the children's ministry do this, or would the parents take turns?
"It defeats the purpose if you call in someone outside the group to care for the children. The children read that as 'baby-sitting.' To be part of the Cell Group, they need to get to know the adults. But the adults don't want to miss the closeness developing amongst their peers. Therefore rotating the leadership of the sub-group is effective because no one is excluded from the adult group every time. This arrangement also blesses the children. They not only share time with all the adults in praise and worship, they get to know them individually as well."
"Some people just don't handle children well. In fact, I have to admit, I'm one of them," confessed Tim. "I don't even know what to say to a child. Would everyone have to take a turn?"
"You're right, Tim," I answered. "I find many people are nervous about relating to children. Some of them absolutely back off, while others look forward to this interaction and even feel especially called to minister to children. No one should 'have to take a turn.' But, if given the chance, I've found that people who are inexperienced with children are surprised to discover how much they enjoy their company and friendship."
What exactly do you do with the children in the Cell Group?" asked Jeff. "We've got our Cell Groups running smoothly, and I wouldn't want to upset that by introducing the children. However, I do see advantages from a family point of view."
"That's a valid fear, Jeff," I said. "Children really don't change the nature of a Cell group. They just broaden the concept. The basic elements still exist. The ice breaker, praise and worship, mutual prayer and ministry, vision casting, food and fellowship can all be done with the children present.
"While in separate groups, children can discuss the week's events from their younger point of view. Take for example the message from Sunday's teaching. The children may have heard a different message than the adults, and they will have a different set of problems because they live in a different world. They need to talk these things through at their level and discover what God is saying to them. If God reveals areas needing growth, the group can pray for an effective plan of action and then remain accountable to one another as God begins to produce fruit within them."
"So you're saying that the children share their needs with their smaller group and join in ministry with whole group as well." George was nodding.
"Yes, but sometimes the adults will have needs they do not want to share before the children, and the children may have some needs they do not want to express to the whole group. It's good for children and adults to understand each other's lives and problems, but there are some things which are too personal for the open group."
"You mean in the area of keeping confidences? Can you really trust children not to talk about what they hear?" asked Jeff.
"Not always," I sighed. "About to the level that you can trust adults. Remember not to laugh at them or scold them. The adults must assure the children that they are trustworthy listeners as well."
"I suppose when you put it that way, the risk is about even," replied Jeff. "The Cell Leader has to use discretion about what to discuss and when the children should leave."
"You know I've been school teacher for a number of years long before I started working for the church," began Ella, "and I'm bit worried that this whole approach with children may be too advanced for them. Are we expecting them to act like little adults? Children don't want to be too serious. They like to have fun."
"It's true that children do not like being solemn all the time, but they do like for adults to take them seriously. Once convicted by the Holy Spirit of their need for Jesus, I find that children are serious about following Him. They pursue answers to their problems very seriously. They are serious about developing relationships in their lives. And amazingly, as their understanding of praise and worship grows, they become serious about this as well.
"But the intergenerational Cell Group is not always supposed to be serious. Children provide a breath of fresh air, and they remind us of the trusting life God has called us to live. Then as children spend time together, they share creative activities, initiate service projects, and most importantly, learn to pray for their friends, family, and the world."
"I can see real merit in having the children in the group during social activities," offered Tim. "At present, if we have a group picnic, the children feel shy and isolated because they bearly know the adults in the group."
"True, Tim," I answered. Also, you might plan one night just to have fun together. You could create a drama, put together a music group, or just play some games. You learn a lot from children in such a casual atmosphere, and it's a wonderful time to bring their friends."
"Don't you think every once in a while an adult night would be appropriate?" asked Ella. "I'm thinking especially for those members of the group who do not have children."
"You could certainly do that," I said. "Children do not necessarily expect to be included in everything. However, you may be surprised how quickly the singles learn to enjoy the children. Often the children look up to an adult friend as a role model, thus both the singles and children are crucial to the group. Also you should tap into the resource of skills within the group. Someone might be able to help a child with his math when his parents lack that ability. Another may be a football expert. Children readily identify with older people who possess interests or skills which they are trying to develop.
"You know, children are also a powerful catalyst for evangelism. As they bring their friends to Cell activities, the adults can befriend the new children's parents. The open arms of the group can win the entire family to the Lord. When a whole family enters a Cell, the growth potential is tremendous."
"Well, just thinking structurally for a moment, how many children would you include in an intergenerational Cell Group, Lorna?" The pastor was jotting notes on a pad. If a Cell Group has up to fifteen adults, I would like to see no more than 8-10 children between the ages of 4-13 years in one Cell Group. Babies and toddlers are in a different category, though I wouldn't want the group to be dominated by the babies. Of course when the Cell Group multiplies, the children would go to the same new Cell Group as their parents."
"What about teens?" continued the pastor.
"Technically they should be part of an intergenerational Cell Group too," I answered. "However I've found that teens need to establish themselves amongst their own peers, and some churches create Cell Groups just for this purpose. Teens appreciate the freedom to grow without the looming shadow of their parents. On the other hand, youth have much to give and receive in an intergenerational setting. You can decide which arrangement best meets your particular needs."
"Lorna, we're going to be doing some serious planning and praying here about our children's ministry," said Jeff. We'd like to be able to call on you as a resource person."
Certainly. I'll be glad to help. Jeff, I believe that children's ministry is at the forefront of the spiritual battle in the world today. If we lose the battle, we could lose the next generation. But I don't believe we're going to lose this fight, for the battle belongs to the Lord. He is raising up churches just like yours, who are placing children where they belong, right in the center of the Kingdom of God."
Dr. Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.
There is a very interesting fact buried in the book of Acts: no man, including Paul, ever went out to plant a church until he had experienced a church being planted. Barnabas saw the Jerusalem plant before going to help in the Antioch plant. Saul of Tarsus spent up to four years in Antioch before being set apart as an apostle to Asia. Timothy experienced the planting in his hometown before Paul seconded him to go on the road with him. In Acts 20, Paul's team included Sopater from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Galus from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. In every case, these men had participated in church plants before they began to go to new places to establish Basic Christian Communities.
Some years ago, a large southern denomination hired me as a church planting consultant to help some young seminary graduates appointed to start new work in Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. I flew to these places on a regular basis to work with the fine young couples who were trying to do something they had never, ever experienced. All they had was a PBD church in their past and years in a seminary classroom. Out of the five couples, exactly five failed in their assignments. Three of the five quit the ministry, deeply discouraged.
During that time, I began to realize the PBD church had a huge problem. The way they designed their schools for Christian workers caused great frustration.. Later, while on the faculty of a seminary, the President showed me a letter sent out by the heads of independent missionary societies to a number of Bible schools, colleges, and seminaries. It explained that they had been surveying the effectiveness of their overseas workers. They discovered that the least productive of the group were those with seminary degrees. The most effective were those who had a couple of years at the most in a Bible school! They were asking the seminary Presidents, " What are you doing to your students?"
As a faculty member of a seminary and a guest lecturer in over a dozen more, I knew the answer immediately.. Take a young couple with fire in their bones and stick them in the artificial atmosphere of a seminary or a Bible school for three or four years. Next, send them to a strange land where they can't talk to anyone for another three or four years while they learn a new language--and what do you have? A burned out cinder instead of a live coal.
I shall never forget a visit to one missionary in Frankfurt who, after eleven years of "ministry," had eleven people in his living room on Sunday morning for his "worship service." On the third level of his home, he had built by hand a huge office with books lining each wall. He had hibernated there while drawing over $55,000 a year from the USA to be a "church planter." He didn't have a clue about what to do. He was "meeting his neighbors" in an attempt to "reach out." No urban strategy. No long range goals. Worst of all, no self-starting blood in his veins.
Many dear Christian workers in America suffer from this same disease. An institutional training for ministry is often the kiss of death. In one seminary faculty meeting, I suggested that our task was to prepare men and women to apply their trade, similar to a trade school for beauticians, mechanics, or meat cutters. Whew! That didn't sit well at all!
But truth cannot denied.. Three years of revolving between the dorm, the classroom, the library, and the dining hall provides nothing but cognitive input that is often irrelevant when planting a church.
I recently visited a 90,000 member Cell Church in El Salvador. When I asked one of the Zone Pastors to show me their written materials for equipping all these people, he gave me a blank stare. I finally received one sheet of paper, printed on one side, which was given to their Cell Leader Interns! In that semi-literate society, they had learned that the only way to equip people was "show and tell." It worked like a charm! Taking new believers by the hand, each Cell member demonstrated how to visit the lost, how to arrange a room for a Cell meeting, how to pray for the sick.
In other words, they were doing it like they did in the book of Acts. Every new Cell member experienced a Cell being established before being invited to be a Cell Leader Intern. They not only experienced astonishing growth but also gave a living illustration of what has to happen in the Cell Churches of this generation.
With this philosophy in our hearts, Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore has developed equipping tracks for all of our Cell members, extending from conversion all the way to a ten month course to prepare Zone Pastors for their ministries. Now in its third year, we are still learning lessons every day to help us tomorrow. We are ready to share our findings, with the caution that it takes more years than we have yet invested to get the "bugs" worked out.
Here are the stages we are currently using:
The balance of the Niter's week is spent under the supervision of a Zone Pastor in the zone itself. Thus, the main portion of the equipping is at the level of apprenticeship--"on-the-job" training.
We have been quite satisfied with those taking this training. We are also sending out our own missionaries from our Cell Groups. Those who complete "TESS" and are assigned to a Church Planting Team take additional modules related to cross-cultural subjects. This requires another full year of classes and ministry experience with the team in a cross-cultural setting.
By the end of 1994, "TESS" will be established first in the United States at the cornerstone Church in Broadway, Virginia. Student enrollment will be limited to the number of outside students the church feels it can assimilate. Only full blown Cell Churches are eligible for setting up "TESS" Zone Pastor's Training. This is crucial, since the most important part the training is on-the-job, not in the classroom.
5. SENIOR PASTOR'S EQUIPPING TRACK
We have already celebrated the presence of men on our staff who are created by God for ministry at the Senior Pastor's level. At our own expense, we are now beginning to send Zone/District Pastors to a formal seminary for training in Greek, Hebrew, Biblical exegesis, etc. The place of the traditional seminary with its scholars will be greatly needed and used in the years to come for sharpening the skills of preachers and teachers. Hopefully, some innovative traditional seminary in this world will realize the unlimited potential for "plugging in" to the direction of the Cell Church, and offer special "track" for those who have no interest in the paper chase, but simply want to soak up Biblical studies for use in their pulpits.
by John Hawkins
Last year, I read Cell Church articles discussing the similarities and differences between the Meta and Cell models. When the articles were first published, our church was on the edge of the Meta model, ready to plunge into a pure Cell model. Having researched both models, the articles were easy to understand. However, to those looking at it from the outside, the articles might have looked like a confusing mess of church theory. If your mind is whirling about how your church should be structured, I can only recommend one thing. While there are many books, conferences and consultants that can help, the real issue lies at Jesus' feet.
We must apply Jesus' comment to Martha: "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed." Books and consultants can help with details and specifics, but only after extended time with the Chief Shepherd can you get a clear vision of the ministry God has for you. I cannot emphasize this point enough.
When I talk with pastors about these matters, first I ask them if they regularly spend time in solitude, prayer, and fasting before the Lord. If they do not, I usually find our time together unproductive. We often enter into a frustrating volley of terms and details that will never make sense due to unclear vision. It reminds me of trying to make sense of individual puzzle pieces without ever seeing the box.
We started a Meta-Church called the Cuyahoga Valley Chapel in the fall of 1990 with about fifteen adults and fifteen children. We met during the summer to plan and strategize. A "Phone's for You" campaign of 20,000 dial-ups resulted in an initial Celebration Service in September of 113 people. After a month, our Sunday attendance settled around 70. It was exciting to meet all these new folks, many of whom were unsaved. Our Sunday service was geared toward seekers, and soon we began Meta-type small groups. The topics and schedules changed every 12 weeks. About 40% of our Sunday morning adults attended a small group. I stayed very busy overseeing the small groups and putting together the Sunday morning service. As 1992 came to a close, I grew dissatisfied with our present situation and made a decision that forever changed how we do church.
Although we were growing numerically and had seen several folks give their lives to Christ, something wasn't right. I knew deep down that God had much more for us than what we were experiencing. In a moment of dissatisfaction, I decided to spend one day alone each month in prayer and fasting. I made arrangements at two Christian camps, both of whom let me stay for free, and marked out my planner.
As I sat at the Lord's feet, He laid out a vision slowly but clearly. It began with the Lord asking me if I was willing to do anything. He wanted to know if I had any "sacred cows" I was unwilling to release. From the beginning, we always said no "sacred cows", and that was severely tested. I was not sure what He had in store, but after some serious wrestling with my fears, I told the Lord I would do anything he asked. Secretly I wondered if the Lord was about to ask me to go to an Eastern European country.
As the months rolled by, I began to develop a holy dissatisfaction for the church, both local and universal. It is funny, but when I was so busy with the details of church administration, I was excited about the direction of the church. However, time alone with Jesus changed my evaluation. I did not get alone to plan or strategize or catch up on details. I left all that at the office. I got alone to seek the Lord, to seek His agenda. That is entirely different than going away for extended time on my own agenda. During these long hours of solitude, I began to see the emptiness of the last months of "busy work." I began to see the situation from a much larger scale--that of my home, Greater Cleveland, where 3,000,000 people reside.
My eyes got off my plans for the next event or program and moved to the lost millions around me headed to an eternity apart from their loving Creator. Filling Cleveland with the Gospel was something I could not figure out on my own. All I could do was cry out and say to the Lord, "We are a pathetic band of 75 adults, and the Great Commission tells us you want us to spread the gospel across this entire city just for starters." I could only beg for help and know that serious changes must be made if we were going to be used by God to accomplish the Great Commission. Suddenly, the details waiting for me in the office were not very important.
A few months later, I increased the retreat time to two days a month. And one day it hit me. While praying desperately about our plight, I sensed the Lord telling me to get pen and notebook and write out what a New Testament church would look like today.
Doing some honest evaluating, I began writing out what had worked and what had not. It was scary. Most of what we were doing really did not accomplish our stated goals of reaching the lost and making disciples. For example, our Sunday morning attendance grew by 30% each year, which on the surface looks great. A closer look tells a different story. Of the 50 visitor cards filled out during 1991, subtracting the out-of-town guests and the Christians just visiting once, we had only 20 non-Christians attend in 52 weeks. Most did not return regularly. Obviously our seeker service wasn't attracting or holding on to seekers like we hoped.
In 1992, after weeding through the numbers, 99 first-time visitors boiled down to 25 non-Christians with similar results. Having a chance to become acquainted with 20 non-Christians was not much to show for the tremendous amount of manpower and money required to put together 52 seeker services.
Thinking through the dozen or so folks who had gotten saved, most came on Sunday as a result of a personal relationship. A friendship was the attraction, not the Sunday service. Then I evaluated discipleship and community. This was a little more subjective. I did not have the brutally honest numbers of the visitor cards to fall back on. However, as I looked at the folks who had grown during the previous two years, they had all been involved wholeheartedly in our small groups. It was the community, not my weekly lectures, that encouraged development. It was obvious to me that our goals of reaching the lost and developing disciples were being met through our small groups, not the large group meeting.
The question was why continue investing 80% of our time, money, and effort into the large meeting when most of our results came from the 20% we had invested in our small groups?
I wrote out a new structure for our church. After completing my writing, I was excited about the structure. I only questioned whether I was allowed to call it a church or not. I will spare you the details of what I wrote, but it was basically a crude description of a Cell Church structure. I had never heard of Cell Churches. I thought God was asking me to do something completely off the wall. I was scared, but determined to press on.
After returning home, I shared the vision with my mentors from Great Commission Ministries. I nervously awaited their reaction. Thankfully, they shared the same values and graciously gave me their blessing. I sat down at my desk and picked up a magazine that had come in the mail several days before. I glanced through it when it came but did not pay much attention. I was astonished to discover through Cell Church Magazine that it was not me versus the entire world after all. In fact, hundreds of others had been blazing this trail for years.
It is interesting that the Lord had me go through the struggle of obtaining His vision before He introduced me to others who could help with the details. If the order was reversed, I do not think it would have had nearly the impact.
In the early months of 1992, I formed a Cell group with my small team of advisors in our church. Over the next four months, we began to learn slowly (sometimes very slowly) how to live in community. We read Where Do We Go From Here?, The Shepherd's Guidebook, and The Open Church by Jim Rutz and finalized the details of our structure.
In May, after learning enough to be dangerous, I made an announcement in our Sunday service that awoke even the slumbering. I said that for two years we had claimed that our church existed to reach the lost and to disciple others through the intimacy of small groups. We were absolutely committed to those values. After months of prayer, fasting, and honest evaluation, we are going to make changes in our structure to help us reach our goals. I mentioned something about no "no sacred cows," then I asked them to come back next week for more details.
The Lord walked us through some very specific steps to get us to our present situation. These steps may help you, but probably are not what you should do in your situation. Each one that enters this path must spend time praying, fasting, and honestly evaluating their church in light of the New Testament church. I announced up front we would use the Sunday morning service through the summer to discuss the changes from our present system to a church structure built entirely around small groups. I told them ultimately we were going to stop meeting every Sunday morning for a service. We gave the entire church Where Do We Go From Here? and The Open Church to read. Each week I tried to paint a clear picture of the vision God had given me for our church.
I began with reviewing our stated goals and values and then shared my evaluation of what had really happened over the past two years. I discussed the differences between the new basic Christian community groups and our previous Meta small groups. We discussed the reality of (or lack of) every believer coming to minister to one another in church gatherings versus the Sunday morning spectator structure we had experienced. I detailed aspects of living in and apart of the body; befriending unbelievers, witnessing, and leading folks to Christ in everyday life. We spent a couple of weeks exploring children's life after Sunday school. All of my comments were encompassed in one challenge, "We must count the cost of walking in New Testament relations versus attending just 'another Sunday meeting.'
Finally, we covered how our church's finances would change as we decentralized. At the end of each meeting, we had a question and answer session regarding what I had just shared or what they read during the week. Though the meetings were informative, surely much more in life is caught than taught. Living in community and personally experiencing discipleship proved to be the best teacher.
As the summer wound down, I invited anyone, whether they were involved in our previous small groups or not, to a Monday night training session for new Cell groups. We went through the Shepherd's Guidebook. As we finished the book and the standards were laid out, I invited anyone who wanted to be involved in leadership to come forward and form themselves into solid cores of at least 4 or 5 adults. Then, during the last two Sunday morning meetings, we announced the formation of 6 Cells that we began in September.
Folks were challenged to join a Cell where close relationships had already been developed. Much to my surprise, nearly everyone joined a Cell. Most of our Cells began with 12 to 15 adults. Only a few families left and, of course, some of the seekers were confused.
We celebrated changes with a church-wide retreat over Labor Day weekend. We returned to the fall routine as a pure Cell Church. Our Cells meet weekly, with our leadership training for the servants (Cell Leaders) and apprentices (Interns) occurring monthly. Once a month we gather all the Cells for a worship celebration and teaching.
After four months, I probably have more questions than answers. Many problems and issues have surfaced. The large size of the Cells has limited the level of community and outreach. However, I am excited because those needs existed for the past three years, and the Cell structure brought them to the surface. We now know how shallow our relationships have been and how most of us are completely unequipped and inexperienced at influencing folks for Christ. It is a bit disappointing to find out that we are really spiritual children when we assumed we were spiritual young men and fathers. However, a truthful evaluation, even if it hurts, is much better than a false sense of maturity and growth that's propped up by lots of religious activity.
If you are considering transitioning a more traditional church to a Cell Church, you are not alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of folks out there who are farther down the path. I am so grateful for the books and resources TOUCH Outreach Ministries and others. I have benefited greatly by interacting often with Randall at the TOUCH Outreach office. Bill Beckham's conference taught me some critical things. However, all the specific input and waves of detailed information have really only helped because I caught a big picture from the Lord. Without my monthly times alone with the Lord, this would just be an incredible mound of church theory. The Lord may or may not direct you to completely stop meeting on Sundays or to transition over a 13 week timetable like we used. But I know He wants to meet you in the listening room. Our God is truly the Wonderful Counselor. He wants our churches to experience ministry like that in the book of Acts, and He can direct you in how to move your church to that point.
youth cells: " a new thang"
by Ted Stump
God is doing a new thing in our midst. I have received a lot of mail since my first article. Your stories spoke of the amazing things God is doing in America and around the world with Youth Cells. God has placed a similar vision on the hearts of countless youth pastors and youth workers to forget former things and to move toward a Cell group model.
It seems the church is experiencing transition all over the world, which can prove exciting as well as frustrating and uncertain. For example, I spoke with one man who said that the Lord had systematically dismantled everything he had established, the "old wineskin," and has now begun to move himself and his ministry into a "new wineskin." Another individual shared his calling to plant youth Cells, but he had no idea how to structure them. He made a real cry for methodology and materials. A youth pastor of a large church told me of the incredible freedom he had found after transitioning from a program based ministry to a Cell ministry. Gone were the days when he would have to run from one program to the next.
If you view this movement as the next "hot" approach to youth ministry, you are in for a surprise. This isn't something cooked up by a national youth publisher as the thing your group can't live without. We must be willing to risk failure, let go of our paradigms, and let God lead us. I don't know how this makes you feel, but for a man who was once gripped by the fear of failure, this was a hard reality for me. If I wasn't sure that I could succeed at something, most of the time I wouldn't even attempt it. Working with youth has taught me that each day creates a new opportunity to fail.
Let me give you an example. I went mountain climbing one time. As part of our training we practiced rappelling down a 400 foot rock face. The students spent most of the day stirring up the nerve to actually make the jump. Somehow I was "volunteered" to hold the safety rope for all my companions and was therefore last to June. By the time it was my turn, it was completely dark. Hugh, the instructor, yelled at me to crawl onto the side of the ledge and just go for it!
I had calmly managed my thoughts as I held the rope for the 19 before me who screamed their way down. But to go over the edge when it was completely dark was almost too much. I crawled out and somehow worked my way over the edge and got my hand stuck between the rope and the ledge-and there I hung. I was glad that it was dark so ht the other 19 "professionals" down below couldn't see my predicament.
Hugh told me to grab the rope in the opposite hand, pull up and just walk up the mountain. Then I was to pull my other hand free and jump backwards. The moment of truth had come. All my life I had run from this moment. If I couldn't win I didn't play. That night my fear turned into faith. Over I went...
As youth leaders enter into a Cell mode, they will undergo this leap of faith into the arms of a loving God. Though abandoning our comfort zones is difficult, we can be encouraged that our struggles are common to all those across the world who are embracing the challenges of Cell group ministry. As I read letters from several youth ministers, each with varying degrees of willingness to jump, I noticed three levels of Cell commitment emerge:
1) The person who has heard and done some reading about a Cell Church and wants information. They ask questions such as: how do I start a Cell, what does an effective model look like, where can I see one, can you send me curriculum, etc.
2) The entrepreneur or innovative type who has begun the process of starting youth Cells. These are concerned with training leaders, finding curriculum, structuring Cells, and trying to keep Junior High students from being bored (some things never change.)
3) The church that has taught the vision from the top down and is either transitioning from a program based church or planting a new church altogether. (I would like to hear from some of you in this third category.) If you currently have 10 or more Cells in your ministry, we would like to direct others on the pilgrimage to you for help.
I have studied the Cell church movement for about seven years. Three and a half of those years were spent trying every conceivable approach to youth Cells we could think of within the context of a larger 7,000 member program-based church. I finally came to the conclusion, with the help of the pastoral staff, that my vision for winning and discipling youth through Cells was not in line with the overall vision of that particular church. (Some of you know exactly what I mean.)
In June of 1993, we launched a new ministry called TOUCH Phoenix Ministry. We started with 3 students and 2 adults. At last count, we had reached about 80 students through our Cells. We currently have 4 senior high Cells, a college Cell and a Leadership Cell. The groups are led by 12 fully trained student leaders.
Not being encumbered by the programs of a program-based church, we are able to devote 110% of our energy to one end-a city wide Cell ministry. We are taking this first year to develop a prototype for a ministry that can be transplanted around the city and country.
Our attention is currently focused on one key high school in our area. We are committed to two years of "failing" until we find the right key to unlock the door. In a survey of 2,400 students at the school recently, we asked them if they would be interested in joining a student led Cell group. Over 500 students replied, "Yes." At the national "See you at the pole" day of prayer earlier this year, we collected about 100 names of individuals who might make potential Cell leaders.
In Phoenix, we are seeing God work in wonderful ways. The numbers and plans cannot speak for the actual lives He is changing. I once noticed a group of about 10 students, "skaters," hanging out and riding their skateboards. Each time I saw them, I prayed for them that they would somehow get involved in our Cell groups. Adam, one of our staff members and a student at our school, invited one of the skaters to a group. He liked it so much that the following week, four more came. These kids would be the least likely to step into any other church, but there they sat.
This was only the second meeting of a new cycle. Of the group of 22 students, 12 were out of this "skater oikos." We split the two groups and began discussing the topic of dress and fashion. We asked the students to describe the style of clothes they were wearing. One stated it in three words: "mad as hell." When asked why, he began expressing the anger and pain that flowed out of his life situation. He and his friends would wear all black on the days they felt "down." Some Christians in the group responded to his comments with their testimonies and scripture about God's unconditional acceptance for us based not on dress, but on Christ who lives within. That night the church (Christ) came to those in need.
Isaiah 43: 18-19 says, "Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"
by Blake McKenzie
"Church Life is not what happens on Sunday, but what happens whenever two or three gather together"
Most of what I really needed to know about Cell Life I did learn in college! It was in those early years that I first experienced the dynamics of Cell Life. As a freshman, I came to know Jesus Christ in a personal and life-changing way. In 1978 I began to experience the community, the caring, and the encouragement of Cell Life through a group of young men in my dorm. Of course, I had never heard of a Cell or a Cell Church. In the next several years, I focused on a group of guys with whom I shared everything and loved unconditionally. We prayed and ministered to each others needs, got up a 2:00 A.M. to help each other, and challenged each other to be all God intended. I caught the fact that church life is not what takes place on a Sunday in a building at a specific time, but it is a quality of life that takes place throughout the week as two or three gathered together in His name to sing praises, study His word, pray for the lost and meet heart felt needs.
Honestly, I knew nothing about Cell Structure or Cell mechanics, but I had tasted of a lifestyle that I could not shake. It was a lifestyle that seemed to be very close to what I saw happening in the early church. My search led me to L'Abri in Switzerland under the late Francis A. Schaeffer and a number of his books on the church. I also came across Successful Home Cell Groups by Yonggi Cho from Korea.
As I "matured," I went to seminary and became a part of several traditional churches. I knew something did not fit, or at least it seemed that way. As I became busy in the activities and programs of the church, I relegated that special sense of shared-life and real-life change to merely a "college day phenomenon." I found myself burned out from trying to do the work of the ministry. Wherever I went, I discovered more activities and programs being initiated. Programs that started in the flesh, ran in the flesh and sooner or later died in the flesh. We had little emphasis on the equipping of disciples to do the work of the ministry, and even less understanding of spiritual gifts and the concept that every member is a minister. Value changes rarely took place in people's lives. During those days,
I encountered my broken world experience. Because I was so engrossed in doing things for God, I found myself drifting from one of the most important priorities God had given me-my family. I spent little time with my wife and precious one year old daughter. At this point, my life's rope nearly broke. I not only knew things were amiss, but that my life and my understanding of church life had to change.
God graciously led me and my family to a small traditional church. They loved and cared for us, but the realization that "the way we presently do church must change" became like a fire in my bones. I almost believed and settled for the lie that "some things would never change" and that this idealistic young man would have to let go of these unrealistic dreams.
In February, 1991, I received a call from a new church meeting in a strip mall in Pasadena, Texas. My distant dreams had a chance at reality. As only sovereign God can do, that same weekend, a friend handed me a book called Where Do We Go From Here? by Ralph Neighbour, Jr. That evening I could not sleep, but read and wept until the early morning hours. I saw where I was headed an where this program based mentality led--far from the lifestyle of community I once knew. As I read the book, God again rekindled that fire in my bones. Yet, this time I was not trying to do something that would make the church grow. God was doing something. I sensed He was inviting me and the people of Clearpoint to join in.
For much of Clearpoint's one year history, an interim pastor had led the congregation. People from a traditional Southern background composed the group, but they had a heart and desire to do whatever it took to reach the unchurched. In fact, God had already birthed the Cell concept within a leadership core. They had great passion, but needed corporate vision and direction. They were, and still are the finest people a pastor could work with.
The next few months entailed moving from knowing the experience of Cell Life to understanding some of its structures and mechanics. Following are some of the lessons we have learned along the journey:
First, know that God's Spirit is up to something in our world today. I begin with this thought because Cell Life is not a church growth technique, but rather part of a movement of God. God has placed this in the hearts of men and women. Once they hear or read about Cell Life, a flame is sparked within from which they cannot escape. I have witnessed individuals time after time with broken dreams from traditional church life, but upon hearing of the Cell Church and its dynamic New Testament lifestyle, a light comes on, a smile appears, and often a tear of joy breaks forth. Something hidden under layers and layers of dust awakens.
Second, hear from God. If we do not spend time listening to God, adjusting our lives and seeking His heart in prayer, we can get caught up in mechanics, models, and specifics. We ultimately miss what God says to our particular situation. I find it easier to get caught up in structure rather than the Savior. We must constantly position ourselves to hear from God. Remember, this is a movement of God-not of men. I appreciate this statement from Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr., "unless one has been to the Listening Room and has a clear word from the Lord, he will be unable to say Martin Luther did 'Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me!" One must know that his constant companion has called him forth, and he has little say in the matter of what comes next."
Third, let go of the old. Joel Barker in Future Edge explains that when we see a paradigm shift in which the rules change, we all go back to zero. The way we have been doing church is changing. We have to unlearn much of what we have learned. We must truly all go back to college. We at Clearpoint spent six months going through the book Where Do We Go From Here? with our leadership core. During that time we began to pray for God's vision and purpose for Clearpoint. We formed a vision statement which became our north star. It reads:
"Clearpoint's Vision is to reach the unchurched and see them transformed into fully devoted disciples of Christ through a Cell Church movement in the greater Houston Area."
In those six months, we began to see the mechanics change. Yet not all of our members made this transition. Some felt out of place and joined other churches. We carefully blessed and encouraged them on their journey.
We knew that God was working in our midst, so we never had to force the issue. God flows, man forces. The transition flowed very naturally, and a sweet, sweet spirit rested throughout the changes. We released programs like Baptist Men, W.M.U. & several Sunday School classes. We caught a vision to do one thing-Cells-and let everything else flow out of that.
We sensed that God desired to reach the unchurched through strong families rooted in an abiding presence of God. With this came our commitment to Family Cells where the entire family, including children and teens, meet together. Healthy family life modeled in the context of Cell Life provides a setting where less healthy families can witness a Biblical example. In conjunction with Family Cells during the week, our young adults lead Youth and Children's Cells on Sundays.
Fourth, timing is so important. The issue of timing relates closely to spending time with God in the Listening Room. A number of times we tried to begin mechanics before God had released us to do it. We read the books about how Cells work theoretically, and out of zeal tried to put elements in place before it was His time. Unfortunately, the intended value change or dynamic of Cell Life had not yet taken root. I like what John Maxwell says in Developing the Leader Within You:
The wrong decision at the wrong time=disaster;
The wrong decision at the right time=mistake;
The right decision at the wrong time=unacceptance;
The right decision at the right time=success. We made some right secessions (at least mechanically) at the wrong time. Timing is essential! My timing and your timing will not work. We must wait on God's timing.
In our experience at Clearpoint, God has led us through different seasons of change. What Bill Beckham has written concerning "The Eight Working Parts Of A Successful Cell Church" has been very helpful. As I studied this overview, I saw how God patiently moved us through the first season of the Cell Church Vision, then the season of the Cell Life. From there we experienced Celebration Worship. God then revealed the need for Zone Servants to oversee four or five Cells and the need to raise up new leaders within the Cell structure. From there, we passed through the Leadership Structure and Development Stage. God then led us through the Bible Study session. Presently, we find ourselves growing in the Prayer Base and Equipping Track. In our journey, each season is built upon the previous one. None of these seasons stopped, but simply continued with a new emphasis. We have yet to experience a season of genuine evangelistic outreach.
I share this with you, because it must be God who births these seasons within His church. It is not something that we do-He does it through us. His timing is perfect! We must be patient.
Fifth, walk in the new. In leaving the program-based format and entering into an understanding of lifestyle Christianity, we moved from an event-centered focus to a relationship-centered Christian lifestyle. We desire to move beyond the change in mechanics, like meeting in homes and having small groups, to experience the freshness of these elements and thereby have our values change. For a long time, Cells were something we did on certain nights of the week. Little by little the Cells are becoming a way of life. We remind our members that Cells do not just happen during one night of the week, but Cell Life flows throughout every day of the week.
In September 1991, we began making the changes in mechanics and now, two years later, we have begun to experience a value change. Those from traditional backgrounds have had a much harder time adjusting, while the unchurched have experienced a smoother transition.
Sixth, continue to grow and learn along the journey with an attitude of humility. Since this is a movement of God, it is covered with grace. I am constantly reminded that we have the privilege to hang on the coattails of His Spirit. With that attitude, we can learn from those who have walked before us and have truly been the paradigm shifters. Yet we do not want to allow what they say to become "the model" that leads us. There are two extremes to which we seem to gravitate-those who merely replicate the models and those who are unwilling to learn from the ones who have paid the price. The first miss the dynamic of what the Holy Spirit wants to teach them and the latter lose out on the wisdom and direction from some seasoned men of God. For us the journey has just begun. We are but children yearning to grow and become adults. We can only see "by faith" what is around the corner, and it is exciting!
Nothing compares to the journey we have experienced over the past three years. We know that we have only taken one step on a great adventure. As I look to the future, it could easily be overwhelming, but God gives me peace as He gently reminds me that most of what I really need to know about Cell Life I learned in college.
by Randall Neighbour
It hit me like a ton of bricks-and almost as painfully! Last month I was teaching a group of 25 at our church's Spiritual Renewal conference (my segment concerned the area of walking in the Spirit). As I read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, I was overwhelmed with an understanding of the Spirit and my flesh. While this passage deals with sexual immorality, the words apply to all actions of the flesh, including my appetite for food.
As you can see from my photo, I don't have to run around in the shower to get wet. To be truthful, the photo you see has been digitally enhanced by yours truly to make my likeness appear 15% thinner! My excuse has been that the camera puts a few pounds on, and it is my inalienable right to take off what the camera puts on. Truthfully, even with the enhancement I am still overweight by 40 pounds or more. You can fool the eye, but you can't fool the scales.
Since I was 13 years old, I have been a chubby bunny. I have pinpointed the increase in portly poundage to a move our family made to Singapore. My self-esteem plummeted, and the rigors of teenage insecurity set in. During those years, I learned to cope with all the fat jokes and even made up a few of my own. Laughing at one's self is a futile attempt at humility and a reinforcement of poor self-esteem. Now at 32, reality has set in.
Since entering adulthood, I have used a false sense of self-confidence to cover my embarrassment about my weight. Outwardly, I would tell everyone "Hey, I'm balding and married, why should I diet?" Inwardly, I used this self-confidence as an excuse to use God's temple as a binge-o-rama. As I read that verse in front of all those people, I realized that just because fat boys get into Heaven doesn't mean they should waddle the rest of their earthly days!
In the past, I have committed to lose weight for my wife, my family, and a few time for myself (even though the doctors tell me I'm healthy), but the weight loss was usually insignificant, or I put the pounds right back on. Now I know why. I had slipped into a false belief system that my body was my own, and I could pig out to my hearts' content. Living life from one meal to the next, one step away from the trough! I now know that this belief originates directly from Satan because, "I am not my own, I was bought at a price."
With my new found understanding of my temple and its spiritual purpose, I had to make a structural choice. Prayerfully, God showed me that He wants me to be a lighthouse. Its sole purpose is to shine light from the shoreline to ships in the dark sea. God wants me to shine the light of His truth and love to those in the dark as my primary spiritual task. Physically speaking, lighthouses are strong, and they endure many a storm. Their life is usually a long one because they are given care by their owners due to their importance. If it weren't for lighthouse, thousands would perish on rocky shores. I now know that God has special things in store for me, and I must be strong, and ever-ready.
If you are one of the millions of Christians who battles the bulge in the flesh, this word is for you. Do not attempt to lose weight for yourself, your spouse, or clothes that no longer fit. It won't work. Even if you do lose weight through sheer determination, it usually will not last indefinitely because it has been accomplished by human strength instead of the Spirit of God. If you become a man-pleaser, Satan will win and you will lose-again. Prayerfully rethink your situation as I have. Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you and teach you how to take care of the temple His Spirit indwells.
Consider your body to be a lighthouse. You have a special purpose that requires you to be healthy physically as well as spiritually. Your mission is to serve others tirelessly and shine the light of truth into dark lives. As the Blues Brothers so aptly put it, "He (Satan) can't catch us, we're on a mission from God!"
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