Whole denominations in South Africa are embracing the cell model and implementing it in missions.
About two years ago, Pastor Ed Roebert stood before hundreds of pastors affiliated with the Independent Fellowship of Charismatic Churches in South Africa and held up a copy of Where Do We Go From Here?. He said, This book has changed my life, it will change Hatfield Christian Church, and it will change our nation.
Coming from the pastor of one of the largest churches in the nation, these words had great impact. Copies of the book were widely distributed, and Martin Hopkins was among those who read it. Pastoring in Newcastle, he began to telephone the Houston office for information and materials. In time, his church became a full blown cell church. Meanwhile, Pastor Ed began to transition his church, which had developed cells years before, to follow the pattern described in the chapters of this new book from America.
Hopkins then visited Singapore and arranged to be the representative for Touch International South Africa. In the months that followed, I held three major seminars in the nation. Record attendance in each place reflected the interest in the cell church, and in Pretoria several thousand church leaders attended.
Recognizing the great interest in transitioning, Hopkins brought over 100 pastors to live with Faith Community Baptist Church for a solid month of training. These men returned to implement what they had learned, and the word spread even more widely as successes were reported by them. Churches of most denominations were represented in that delegation, including the Dutch Reformed Church and members of the IFM, a two-million pentecostal denomination.
An invitation was extended to pastors across the nation to be trained one week every quarter during 1994-1995 in The Year Of Transition. Pastors and staff were given the opportunity to take intensive training during these four weeks, with homework to do between each session. Tuition fees were set in a pattern similar to that a pastor would pay for a Doctor of Ministries course in a seminary.
Over 200 churches with nearly 900 delegates have now enrolled and have completed the first half of this training. The churches include over 30 Dutch Reformed pastors, along with a smattering of every denomination and interdenominational church in the nation. Blacks, Indians and whites have participated in this training and a new spirit of cooperation has developed between church groups that for years have not talked to each other.
From the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, a team of Americans went to evangelize South Africa. That team included men who had great spiritual power, and thousands of healings were reported in a brief period of time. A movement was born, called the AFM, which became a denomination and has now expanded into the African nations to the north, with missionaries as far away as Egypt. By far, the majority of the 2,000 plus churches relating to this group are black. Their white churches are Afrikaans speaking. They have one of the finest seminaries in the nation, attached to the University of South Africa, and two colleges.
Dr. Isak Berger, the President of this denomination, invited me to meet with the 18 top leaders for three days in January. He prefaced our time together by stating that the denomination had started to seriously decline, and he was convinced that their only hope for the future was to abandon the Program Base Design model they had used through the years. Present were the presidents of their seminary and their two colleges. On the final day, God broke into the midst of this gathering in a most amazing manifestation of His presence. For over an hour, the prayer time was filled with cries of concern for the future of the AFM and of South Africa. I held the president of theirseminary in my arms for many minutes as God fell upon him with His majesty, and he cried out for direction.
As a result of this meeting, I have been invited back to speak for 4 days to all the leadership of the denomination in the 10,000 seat auditorium which has been built for their annual meetings in Johannesburg. My task will be to explain the cell church and how transition will take place. In 1996, the complete Year of Transition will be presented to all their churches in special closed seminars to be conducted in Johannesburg and Cape Town. In addition, a third cycle will be provided for the dozens of other churches from other denominations who are now ready to transition.
Along with this, all the TOUCH materials are being translated into Afrikaans by a team of 12 people, and the Journey Guide is now published. Zulu translations are also being prepared at this time.
Of great interest to the delegates at the last Year of Transition session in Johannesburg was the presentation of a blueprint for a 6,000 seat auditorium with District and Zone offices attached one of the few times I have viewed future buildings specifically designed for the cell church. The pastor who is planning this structure has already seen his cell groups multiply three times since he planted the new work about two years ago. He now has over 200 groups.
The excitement of the cell church model has spilled over into Zambia, where 1,000 literate pastors will meet on the campus of the national university with me during August 1996. My task will be to train these men and provide them with illustrations and scripts. They will then return to their church fields and teach the same materials to fellow pastors who are unable to read and write. Each of them are trainers of 10 such illiterate pastors. This will make it possible for 11,000 church groups in Zambia to be trained to form cell church structures.
For the first time in my ministry, I am challenged to prepare all of the materials I have written for The Year of Equipping for use in church groups where learning does not take place through printed matter. I have assembled a team of men who are experienced in working with the black communities in South Africa and who will share in the development of these new structures. These men will travel with me in August to visit the huge cell church started by Dion Robert in Abidjan, and we will together seek to plan for the black cell churches in South Africa.
When one travels around South Africa, one becomes aware that there are churches meeting under trees in all parts of the nation. One who has studied these little groups of 30-50 people reports that the typical member remains about 4-6 months before moving to a new tree. The reason is because the zealous pastor of the group is untrained, and in a few weeks begins to repeat the same information. Thus, the members move to another tree with a man who teaches in a slightly different manner. Unfortunately, those who are seeking to work with these groups have told me that at least half of the pastors do not fully understand what salvation is all about.
Nevertheless, the structures of these independent black churches will make it easy to help them form into cell groups with guidance. They can form huge structures of cells, congregations, and celebrations. Culturally, the basic theology of a cell church can easily be implanted in these groups.
Delegates from South Africa will be attending the International Conference we will conduct in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia in May. Those of you attending that conference should find time to visit with these pastors!
The Year of Transition is now being prepared for the United States and will be launched in several cities across the nation during 1996. Negotiations are under way for this course to be accredited by a seminary for those who would like to receive credit toward a Doctor of Ministries degree.
CellChurch asked Ted Stump and Jeff Anderle some basic questions about youth leadership development in the cell-based context.
The challenge of youth ministry is greater than ever before. Many youth ministers, exhausted with traditional methods that often yield meager relational results, are investigating less traditional forms of ministry. There is a realization that what is happening among adults in the cell-based context can happen among youth as well. One of the specific lightbulbs youth ministers are seeing is the fact that the cell structure facilitates youth leadership development and training just as it does in an adult context. CellChurch asked Ted Stump and Jeff Anderle, both youth ministers in cell-based churches, for informal responses to some basic questions about youth leadership development in the cell-based context.
CellChurch: What is youth leadership development to you? Ted Stump (TS): Youth leadership development is pouring your life into your leaders as you meet with them to train, support and relate to them as people.
Jeff Anderle (JA): Leadership development is empowering people under you to lead as you model for them what that means. If I want my youth to treat others with love and compassion then they must see me treat others with love and compassion.
TS: It's also letting others see you as a vulnerable, real human being struggling and working through issues that they will work through or are currently working through. If you model vulnerability, it will trickle down to your youth who will feel free to peel back the emotional layers of their onion. In turn, other youth will open up in the same way.
JA: Along those lines, it is also simply letting others see you in relationship with God the struggles, the questions and then explaining to them, debriefing them about how you are handling the tough issues in your life. I think they need to tag around with you some they need to watch how you love, evangelize, how you have a prayer time, etc.
CC: Why did you give up traditional youth ministry structures in the area of leadership development?
TS: In my ministry in traditional structures, the purpose of training was to produce students who could be a part of a big production or outreach event. And God can use those things. But there was never any time for them to understand my heart for the Lord or for equipping them to reach out to fellow students. We were equipping them for a method of ministry that really didn't produce fruit from a relational standpoint. It was like, you're in charge of this game. You did good last week when you spoke clearly into the microphone. I was busy teaching my kids to be a good member of a production team with an entertainment emphasis rather than a good member of a team that met heart-felt needs from a relational standpoint.
CC: What is the difference now?
TS: Well, now I devote practically all of my time to being in relationship with my students meeting them, developing leaders among them, helping them understand all aspects of a relational cell ministry so they can, on their own, do the same among their peers. This is real different from the days when I spent all of my time trying to juggle a hundred other balls ski retreats, concerts, transportation, and on and on.
CC: You don't offer any activities like that anymore?
TS: Really, no. I talked to a pastor recently and told him I didn't do anything last year except for cells with my youth, and he looked at me like I can't believe it! But a program-based youth ministry, I found, is shackled by this monster called Bigger and Better. Unless Bigger and Better shows up at every youth event there is always fear that no one will come. I grew real tired of that. The scary part of it is that most of the time these huge, expensive events produce very little real, lasting fruit.
JA: True. The hard part with much of the traditional youth ministry model is that all equipping and ministry is generally impersonal, done on the campus of a church. For me, the goal was to produce good little churchmen and to grow a youth program. But in the cell- based relational structure, the purpose is totally relational to grow disciples by relating to them. The goal is to increase the Kingdom. TS: I like your word impersonal. I viewed my youth leadership like a Kleenex box you used them as you needed them and you knew after a period of time they would burn out. But I no longer view youth as leadership tissues I use and throw away. I can't I am committed to my kids now, not the program. Now I know them. I love them. I cry with them. If they weep, I weep; if they have a problem at home, I have a problem.
CC: What do you mean by being not committed to a program, but to your youth?
TS: Before, I had to serve the program first, then the youth. It wasn't that I didn't care about them. I did, very much. Most youth ministers love their kids. The problem was that we were not structured to care for relationships first. We weren't structured to get below the surface in individual lives and find out where they really were. I sure didn't have the time. And I had not trained others to effectively do so. So you end up on a program turnstile and hope that in the midst of these activities the youth are actually receiving ministry.
CC: How can youth receive effective ministry
TS: It's not that activities are bad. But we must have a structure to get below the surface to find out what their needs really are. We have to have an environment youth can come to and be loved and prayed for and encouraged personally. And it has to be an environment that doesn't necessarily require the youth pastor to be present. How can he minister to everyone? We have found the cell context small, weekly groups in homesto be perfect for youth in this area.
CC: What are your goals for your youth ministries this year?
TS: We're working on a model of ministry which draws students in and then sends them out to bring others in. This doesn't happen accidentally, though. We're working on an equipping track, a plan that takes them from zero to ten as far as their faith goes. We must continue to work towards a way totally unchurched kids can enter our ministry and be healed, trained and sent out to see the world around them as their ministry.
JA: Yes. That's exactly where we are. What we want is a McDonald's ministry in the sense that everything we do can be reproduced at the most basic level of responsibility. The only way this can happen is to be very intentional about an equipping track. The big thing for us now is the need for a high level of accountability between the cell leader and the intern and cell members. We check weekly the progress of those going through the equipping track we have. What I have found is if this lifestyle of accountability is a priority in my life, it will also be a priority in the lives of my interns. And if it is a priority in their lives it will be transferred to the people they win to Christ. Really, it's about putting your money where your mouth is. If we tell our youth equipping is important then we must get down and model and exemplify it thoroughly, showing them. There is a lot of follow- through involved which means a high time commitment.
You know, it's much harder than traditional youth ministry. Traditional ministry was putting together an event. Sadly enough, most of the kids we never saw again. In the cell structure you are deliberately investing your time in the lives of youth you have a handle on each of their lives either directly or through a cell leader. It takes a lot of time, but it is never a waste of time.
My life in a dream church began as I entered Michigan State University in the early 80's. I had just become a Christian and was excited to meet Greg, a student from a local church who led a cell group in my dorm. He was a graduate student who chose to live in the dorm not for convenience, but to build relationships and evangelize students on campus. n Greg participated in a church in East Lansing, Michigan, started by a group that planted churches all over America each summer using techniques like evangelism blitzes, surveys and one-on-one evangelism. At the end of the summer, they would leave a core group of people behind who had chosen to relocate permanently.
This core followed up the new Christians and those who had filled out interest surveys. As they grew, they met in groups in homes during the week, while renting space for celebrations on Sunday.
I attended the cell a number of weeks before I ever attended a Sunday celebration. In the cell context, I first learned of water baptism. That evening my cell and I went down to the Red Cedar River, and I was baptized. As I came out of the water with my cell leader and saw my cell group cheering me on, I realized the Lord never intended me to live out my Christianity apart from a loving community of believers.
In the cell, I began to understand that discipleship was the sharing of lives with one another and with the Lord. It was not unusual to run into a church member during the day and hear, What is God teaching you today?
At the core of the church was a commitment to evangelism. Every believer was challenged and then equipped to share the gospel. I can still remember leading my first person to Christ as my cell leader sat nearby giving support and encouragement.
This was my first real introduction to not only the cell church but the Church itself. It was exciting to daily see God adding to the Church those who were being saved. As I graduated from MSU, I assumed there were many churches out there just like the one I was leaving.
The next ten years were a rude awakening. My wife and I poured our lives into local churches any way we could. We longed to see God move in a way that resulted in edification of the body and expansion of His Kingdom, but all we saw was a shifting of the saints from one church to another, with very little conversion growth. Those who were in the church attended weekly, but little life transformation occurred. We grew more and more disillusioned and frustrated.
In 1990, I began to wrestle with my own call to pastoral ministry. I resubmitted my life to Christ and shortly thereafter began a church plant. The previous years of church experience were etched in my mind. I had to believe we could plant a church similar to the one I experienced while attending MSU. Ten years had passed since my contact with a cell church, so I started without a working model to learn from and observe first hand.
We desired a church committed to evangelism, so we started the church with a telemarketing campaign. We made over 10,000 calls in our area, inviting the unchurched to our first service. During this time, we developed a core group of 15 people. 119 people attended our first service. Ten people made a first-time commitment to Christ that morning, and 50 stayed with us. We were very pleased with the results!
Over the next 15 months, we reached out to the friends and families of the 50 from the initial outreach. We saw 150 people make first-time commitments to Christ. The denomination was pleased with our progress, and many other church planters called us to find out why we were so successful. But everything was not as it seemed. We had gathered a large group of unbelievers with no infrastructure for discipleship. Sure we were winning many to Christ, but we were not able to keep them. We did not have the structure to disciple new converts, and I was burning out trying to do it alone. We were winning many, but producing few disciples who could reproduce themselves.
At this point, I heard about the meta-church philosophy. I
studied it thoroughly.
groups to assimilate and pastor the new converts. I didn't have anything left to give, so decentralized pastoral care seemed right. I quickly trained small group leaders, divided the people up and put them in groups. We struggled along for about a year, yet still something was lacking.
At this point, I became desperate and began to cry out to the Lord for direction. He took me back to Acts 2 where He revealed we were lacking true Biblical community. Small groups were just a structure we filled with people. We had structure but no life. Our growth was a result of platform ministry; our small groups had become stagnant. As I studied Acts 2, I saw that authentic Christian community drove the growth and life of the church. Evangelism was not a program run by a church, it was a lifestyle lived out by each believer in community.
About that time I went to a seminar and heard Bill Beckham share how small groups aren't simply a structure, but the basic building block of the Church. He discussed Christ as the DNA of every cell, a small group where He lived in the midst. The cell is not just an organizational tool that breaks the church down into manageable units. It is the life of the Body where people experience the Indwelling Christ. As a result of encountering Christ in the cell, members would be challenged and empowered to minister his love in the community that God had placed them. As I thought back to my first experience in East Lansing, Michigan, I realized the life of Christ in the context of true biblical community had changed my life, not a structure.
For me, the transition from a meta-model to a pure cell church model was not a drastic change, but many church members did not agree. For the first time, we began to lose people because of vision. It was a very hard time for me, but more so for my wife. To see people leave devastated her pastoral heart. Spiritually we knew what we needed to do, but emotionally we ached. During this time, God showed us how much of our own personal self-worth had been tied to the number of people attending the church.
We were also forced to wrestle with our commitment to the vision. Was I willing to lose all of the people and start over after three years of labor for the sake of this pure cell church vision? After many hours in prayer, I decided that I would stay true to what the Lord had shown me for His Church, regardless of the consequences. I wish I could say everything went well after this commitment and that we didn't lose any more people, but we did. However, in the midst of all this, I experienced God's presence and peace like never before.
During this time, I developed a friendship with a local pastor going through a time of personal transition in his own ministry. Gary had led in many churches in 25 years of ministry, some quite large. Now he felt called to plant a cell church in our area. We spent hours sharing and praying about the church and God's plan for it. We didn't know it, but God was going to use this time in our lives in a special way.
At our church, we now had cells up and running, and our celebration service had spark. I believed the transition stage of the church was over. We once again had a core group of people committed to the vision of a pure cell church. About that time I decided to take a couple of my cell leaders with me to a conference in Virginia to hear Dr. Neighbour. During the conference, the Lord began to speak to me in a powerful way. Dr. Neighbour commented that God had chosen and called many of us at this conference to be a part of the cell church movement. He went on to say that God would have some of us join our ministries with others who shared the same vision. He spoke of God's passion for extending His Kingdom, not ours. As he spoke those few short statements, God began to speak to my heart. I knew the Lord desired that Gary and I not labor alone in our cell churches, but He wanted us to share our gifts together and raise up a church that would impact our entire geographical area.
Boy, was I scared! How could I tell a man with 25 years of ministry experience God had called us to join our ministries together? God was gracious. That same day the Lord spoke to Gary and two other people, one from each of our congregations, that we were to bring our ministries together.
To our surprise, when we shared this with our denominational leaders, they fully endorsed the plan. It took us six months to transition into one congregation. We have completed this process and are excited about our first year of working together. Our cell base is strong, community is growing and evangelism is flowing through the cells. Gary and I share the leadership according to our unique giftedness. He oversees the administration of the church and has agreed to carry the majority of the preaching load. I have taken the responsibility of Zone Pastor and oversee the cell life and equipping track. Along with that I preach once a month on a topic related to my areas of responsibility.
Our weekly cell attendance consistently exceeds that of our celebration. Approximately 75% of our congregation is actively completing the Year of Equipping. We believe that the Lord has given us clear direction for this year. We have declared that 1995 would be the Year of Abiding for New Community Fellowship. Our theme verse is John 15:5. We are focusing our preaching and equipping ministries on preparing the people to daily abide in Christ, knowing that apart from Him we can do nothing.
With joy I have seen Christ transform lives all around us, including ours. Church has become simple once again. No more complicated plans, just community and evangelism in the context of a cell. I have finally returned to the dream of a young believer, who knew no better than to live the Christian life!
Mike Osborn is a zone pastor at New Community Fellowship, a cell- based church in Virginia Beach, VA. He and his wife, Kathy, have three children Jessica, 11; Lesley, 8; Matthew, 4.
You have enough time to be an effective minister without sacrificing your family, your sanity, or your relationship with Jesus.
Jim Egli is vice president of consulting at Touch Outreach Ministries. He is a popular seminar speaker and author. Jim co-authored The I-Factor. Reach him at fax 713-896-1874.
Her voice was filled with frustration, yet I sensed her response was an honest plea for help: Let me get this straight. You're telling me to invest time in prayer, to relate to my cell group members throughout the week and to enter into close relationships with non-Christians. That's going to take lots of time. How in the world am I going to do that? I've got young children and lots of other responsibilities. I already don't have enough time! In different ways, I have heard this story echoed again and again in training sessions across the U.S. and Canada. To be a cell leader means a serious commitment to relationship relationship with God, fellow- believers and non-Christians. Not surprisingly, in the face of this call many flinch, lamenting, No time for ministry. Too busy already. Sorry.
Seems everyone's out of time for ministry. But are we really out of time for the most important part of our lives committed relationships? Often people conclude that if they take time to deepen their relationship with God, with believers and with non- Christians, they will char further their already burned-out lives. In some cases of burnout, a break from all activity is certainly warranted. But most of the time the stress and lack of time in our lives is rooted in an inability to understand our priorities and then maximize our time around those priorities. When we do examine those priorities, what we find is they revolve around relationships.
Too often, however, we view these relationships as the problem, rather than the solution. Why is this? Because we haven't been listening to God about the relationships that are priority in our lives. We go here, we go there; we do this, that, and the next thing. And with good intentions. But until we come to the place where we say, God, you are in charge of my schedule. I want to hear from you about what the priorities of my life are, we will continue to be tossed with aimlessness and frustration, born of an ignorance of our personal priorities.
To know God's priorities for our lives is to know him, to spend time with him. Our relationship with God is foundational because this is where we hear him speak about the rest of our lives. We must ask God what he desires and hear from him. We then begin focusing on the priorities God gives us as we listen to his voice for our lives. We can now stop being controlled by the requests of others and make God's priorities our focus.
When this happens, clouds break over our harried lives. There is time for what God wants us to do! After all, would he command us to do something and then not give us enough time?
No. This is good news. You do have enough time. God is not unreasonable or unrealistic. He doesn't expect you to accomplish more than is possible. Jesus said, my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:30). If you have a burden that is hard and heavy, it didn't come from Jesus.
I believe the root of burnout is the tendency to listen to many other voices instead of the voice of God. Let me explain what I mean through a look at Jesus' life.
In Mark 1:35-39, Jesus gets up early in the morning to go and pray. By the time his disciples wake up, there is already a crowd of sick and demonized at the door wanting Jesus' help. But the disciples don't know where Jesus is. When they find him, they urge him to return to the house to continue his healing ministry in that town, pleading, Everyone is looking for you! But Jesus ignores their cry because he has heard another voice in prayer. He responds, Let us go somewhere else to the nearby villages so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.
Because Jesus heard the voice of the father, he could confidently say no to the voices around him, the voice of the crowds and the voice of his disciples. We see this throughout his ministry. Everyone had expectations of him: the crowds, his family, his opponents, and his disciples they all wanted to set his agenda. But he wasn't controlled by any of them, he was guided by the Father (Luke 5:16; John 5:19). Because he lived a lifestyle of prayer, his life was marked by freedom.
Listening to God's voice leads to freedom and release. Failure to listen means we will be controlled by the conflicting voices around us crying for us to meet their needs and fulfill their expectations. This leads to burnout an exhaustion caused by being overwhelmed with responsibilities and expectations. It is avoided by hearing from God how he desires we spend our time. And as we learn to focus on God's voice, there are practical ways we can work this out in our daily lives. Let's turn now to a more functional outworking of what God says. The following are practical ways to manage the priorities you hear from God's heart.
If you feel frazzled, you probably aren't praying much. Or, if you are praying, you're doing all the talking. Your relationship with the Lord is like any other important relationship to be alive and growing, it's going to take quality time. Pray, listen and enjoy your relationship with God.
Who are you in Christ? Are you trying to earn God's love or are you living in response to it? Effective ministry begins when we recognize who we are in Christ, recalling his unchanging love for us. Look at Jesus' own ministry, preceded by the Father's affirmation, You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (Mark 1:11).
Our significance doesn't come from what we accomplish or how hard we try, it comes from God's love and what Christ has done for us. I have found it helpful to ponder the multitude of verses in Scripture that affirm who I am in Christ. And like Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1, I often pray for my cell members asking that the eyes of their hearts will be opened to see the riches, inheritance and power that are theirs in Christ. I've begun to discover that when we know who we are, a lot of problems are solved quickly.
After you have meditated on the truth of Scripture, personalize it by writing down in your own words who you are in Christ. Here is my own simple identity statement: I am God's child. He loves me. I am so precious that Jesus died for me. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more or less. I am his and I belong to his family. God's Spirit now lives in me. He teaches me and reveals Jesus to me. He displays Christ's character and power through me. I often refer to my identity statement when I work on my goals and plan my week.
Do God's work in God's power. This applies to every area of your life. Are you receiving his empowering for your family life, prayer life, and outreach to non-Christians? Are you allowing sin and worry to block your power source?
There is no power shortage in the kingdom. The very power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you (Ephesians 1:19-20). If you are thirsty for more of the Spirit's life and power, Jesus says come and ask (John 7:37; Luke 11:13). You may want to ask your cell to join you in praying for a fresh release of this power.
Know where you are going. What is God's mission for your life right now? What priorities does he have for you in the coming months and years? Take time to pray about this and write down your thoughts. Sometimes we answer hard questions like this when we are hospitalized, facing death or in some other kind of crisis. I have found that I can search deeply if I ask the question like this, Where would I focus my time and energy if I knew I had only three years to live?
I asked myself this question just before Christmas, as I pondered goals for 1995. What would I want to accomplish if I knew now that I would die just before Christmas of 1997. Immediately three things came into focus: I would love my family and take lots of time with them. I would finish three writing projects to better equip others and I would want to bring two new families into relationship with Christ. That helped focus my priorities for the year.
Use a blank notebook to write down your thoughts, feelings and prayers. For me, this is especially important when I feel pulled in different directions and I need discernment. Both the Psalmists and Jeremiah practiced this. They wrote down their gut level feelings. Notice that as they wrote down their words to God, they often ended up writing down God's word to them. There is something about writing down what we are feeling and experiencing that helps us sort our lives out, helping us tune into what God is saying.
Most of us waste more time than we realize. The average American watches more than twenty hours of TV a week. Let's say you're more moderate. You watch the news each evening, catch one or two games a week and maybe a movie and your favorite program. Guess what? That's ten hours. Listen to the news on the radio coming home from work, skip it on TV, and presto you've got a few more hours to pray next week. Look again at how you are spending your time.
Focus your time and efforts where you have the greatest impact. Consider the 80/20 principle: 80% of your results are produced by 20% of your effort. Not everything you do has equal impact. This means in each area of your life you should ask yourself, What parts of my life really make a difference? Focus your efforts there. You may still have other responsibilities, but they won't be given the same energy and time allotment.
Let me illustrate from my life. In my ministry at TOUCH Outreach, writing and training are where my life has the greatest impact. I also need to answer the phone and respond to letters, but I try to minimize these things so that I can focus where my life has the greatest leverage. As a cell leader, I've learned that praying for cell members seems to have the greatest impact, so I've begun investing more of my time there and less of my time actually preparing for our cell meeting. As a parent, reading stories and praying with my children at bedtime does a lot to build relationships and togetherness, so I make it a high priority on my schedule.
In North America, we tend to separate our lives into different segments. We have prayer-time, exercise-time, family-time, church-time, work-time, personal-time, meal-time, car-time and evangelism-time. Get the idea? Let me assure you, if you box your life like that you'll never have enough time.
Overlapping is part of the answer here. It is a way to achieve a lot more and increase your effectiveness by taking care of two or three of your priorities at once. For example, Saturday mornings, I go running with my son. I am having family time and exercise at once. When I do something with a non-Christian friend, I often invite a cell member to come along too. Not only am I maximizing time, but I am increasing my effectiveness. I can drive and listen to Scripture or teaching tapes at the same time, or pray and rock a child to sleep simultaneously.
Take another look at your life and your weekly schedule and you'll discover that there are many ways to overlap. I originally learned this from Robert Coleman as he pointed out in a class discussion how Jesus did almost nothing by himself. He traveled, ate and ministered with others. In this way he was constantly relating, communicating and training others in the midst of everyday life.
Closely related to overlapping, creative scheduling can yield many ways to get more time out of your week. For example, it is important for cell leaders to meet consistently with their interns or apprentices to pray and plan together. This takes up a lot of time. Creative scheduling to the rescue! To protect valuable family time, I'll meet with my intern at 6:00 in the morning or late in the evening after the children are in bed. Also, you can build relationships with non-Christians and cell members at all kinds of times: traveling, fixing cars together, sharing a meal, going to a game, or playing tennis. Ask God for insights and look at your schedule from new angles. Schedule creatively.
Would you like your life to have twice the impact that it does now? It's possible as you communicate your values and skills to someone else and help them walk differently. No matter what level of leadership you are at in your Christian life, you should have an intern or apprentice whom you are mentoring and modeling ministry for. Even new Christians should have someone that they are drawing closer to Christ. Through mentoring you can multiply your life many times over. It's better than having 48 hour in a day! Not only does it enlarge your ministry, it also lightens the load as you release and delegate more ministry.
note for pastors and church leadership: don't try to eliminate burnout by asking very little of leaders and cell members. Even if you ask nothing of them they will burnout as they try to respond to all the other needs and expectations coming to them from themselves, their work, from school, from family and from our materialistic culture. Instead, help them hear God's voice and identify the conflicting factors that may be controlling their lives. Lead them in practical management of time and priorities. here are you in your life now? Are you short on time? If so, maybe it's time to tune into a different voice. You do have enough time to fulfill God's purpose for your life, and he offers you the power and gifts to do so. Burnout is not caused by ministry, it is caused by the tendency to listen more to the multitude of voices around us, rather than God's voice. If your heart and life seem burdened, listen again to your master's call, Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).
Children with Vision. God wants to use the children around you to change the world now!
My best friend Anna had the power to draw other children together. As she and I set off for a Christian summer camp, she rounded up six unchurched girls from our school and roped them into coming along. I was a shy eleven year old, and while I was pleased with Anna's outreach, I knew I couldn't compete for attention with these new girls in the picture.
I disliked Sally in particular. She had red curly hair and a loud voice she scarcely noticed me if Anna was near. Sally was the greatest threat to my time with Anna.
I was surprised one day when Sally came and sat on my bed during a rest period. Lorna, she said, I don't understand much about this Christian stuff, but I really would like to be a Christian.
Wow! I'd heard about people leading others to Jesus but I'd never been there myself. Realizing my godly responsibility, I swallowed my ill feelings for her and pulled out my Bible. Sally had plenty of tough questions and I had no written tract or material. I thought up every illustration I had heard preachers use. I searched my memory banks for verses I memorized months before. With guidance from the Holy Spirit, I shared from my heart, and Sally prayed the sinners' prayer.
I'll never forget the joy with which she made her announcement to the other girls. We reported the good news to our camp leader, and she quickly found a Bible for Sally. That evening, as we were in the meeting, my new friend whispered to me, You know, suddenly all this makes sense to me!
Sally and I have long since parted ways, but leading her to the cross changed me forever. I knew that I could boldly share my faith and nothing could ever surpass the joy I received in return.
I wish every child could have this experience. In a traditional mindset, all we ask of our children is to bring their friends to our meeting so that a grown-up can win them to Christ. But God will use children to bring their own friends to Christ if we encourage them. The cell is the place where this can happen.
The encouragement will be mainly in the area of helping them with their fears about evangelism. Young children raised in a Christian home imagine that the whole world is Christian. They talk freely about Jesus expecting that everyone knows about Him.
However, when they meet the outside world, children quickly find that they belong to a minority. The popular attitudes are anything but Christ-like. This harsh dose of reality can have one of two effects. Some children withdraw into their safe Christian cocoon at home and reject the risky outside world. Others become aggressive in confronting their non-Christian friends. I recall an eight-year-old boy who was a tough little Christian. At school he announced to the other children that he loved Jesus and that if anyone said anything against Jesus he would slug them! The behavior of this little boy is rare, but still creates an imbalance, doesn't it?
As children truly see the world and step into their independent identity, their boldness can be squelched by peer pressure or the perceived opinions of others. They would rather hide their faith than risk the mockery of their peers by sharing openly.
In an intergenerational cell, these fears can be overcome by following a few simple steps. The first is learning the purpose of the cell. The children should discover that for each member evangelism is a lifestyle. The cell as a whole shares freely how their friends might be won and prays for them regularly. You must model the life you want them to live!
The second step begins when they see members of the cell winning people to Jesus. As new Christians join the cell and testify how they became a Christian, a love for the lost grows within a child. Enthusiasm will overtake fear if your children share in the results of prayer and outreach.
The third step is encouragement. Ask the children to share the names of their non-Christian friends so the cell can pray for them as you have done with the adults. You can then set aside a time for prayer and sharing concerning the evangelism efforts of the children. As parents, you should provide opportunities for them to invite their friends to join in a meal or to a special cell meeting designed for young visitors.
Your children should be included in the evangelistic efforts of your cell. They have a special ministry in welcoming the children of new believers. Making new kids comfortable is something best done by other children. The way the existing children welcome these new kids may draw them toward Jesus or push them away. The Lord will also use them in powerful ways to minister to adults if they feel they are part of the team.
Practical Opportunities School age children typically have a wide oikos or circle of friends. Classmates, teachers, neighborhood friends and cell members make up a network of people who play a significant part in their lives. Adults rarely have the same point of contact with this kind of oikos. With support from the cell and reinforced encouragement by the parents, your children will recognize their special opportunity and be ready to use it.
If your cell has formed an interest group for unreached people, encourage the children to make a plan of action with you. This brings an early understanding of kingdom efforts. In an interest group I recently attended, I saw a boy who was sensitive enough to feel the pain of a man's heart and offered prayer and ministry to him, even though he was much younger. This little fellow knew his role was more than just being a kid under foot.
Have you ever been asked a straightforward question by a child that an adult would never ask? Anna was bold in her widespread invitation to camp because she desired to reach her friends for Jesus, and knew it was her responsibility. Moreover, your children may be able to penetrate the heart of an unbelieving adult when you cannot . . . why not give them the tools and room to work for their Master?
Children love to share what they know. Knowledge is a great discovery when you are young and everything is new. If you invite your children to learn about Jesus and share what they have learned, the results will be phenomenal.
When I presented the Gospel to Sally, I had no plan of salvation to follow. Train your children to use at least one salvation verse in case they are in the situation where they can share the Gospel. Many tools are available for child-to-child evangelism, and they should be a regular item in your children's equipping track.
A proud father recently shared a wonderful experience involving his nine-year-old daughter when there was an unbeliever attending their cell. The adults struggled with a direct approach to the Gospel, thinking they would embarrass him by putting him on the spot. This little girl sat beside the man and casually asked him if he was a Christian. When he replied that he was not, she shared the gospel with him in front of the whole cell, and he accepted Christ that very evening. This man is now a cell group leader himself!
Children need the support and encouragement of their spiritual family if you want them to realize the wonderful joy of sharing the Gospel. Apart from coming to know Jesus for themselves, there is no other experience that will impact a child's life more. Take the time to include your children, model the life you wish them to live, and watch them build God's kingdom.
Lorna Jenkins lives in New Zealand and is a consultant to the Cell Church worldwide in the area of intergenerational and children's cells.
End of issue.
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|Volume Three - 1994||Volume Four - 1995|
|Volume Five - 1996||Volume Six - 1997|
|Volume Seven - 1998|
Contents © Copyright 1999 by TOUCH Outreach Ministries, Inc.