It is exciting for me personally to see the cell church movement exploding everywhere simultaneously! Over the past weeks I have trained over 1,000 pastors who came from all parts of Zambia and seven other subsaharan nations to be trained to transition their churches into cell groups. I also worked with 450 black pastors from the townships of South Africa, adjusting all the concepts to their environment and sharing translations of my books in Zulu. In Sydney, we had a packed house for the cell conference held by Ruach in Sydney, a cell church which is a perfect model for others to study. Under the leadership of "Absender" Werner Kniesel, the Christiches Zentrum Buchegg in Zurich is now the largest evangelical church in Switzerland and has completed the transition to a cell based model. I recently visited Dion Robert's 80,000 member church in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and witnessed 4,500 cell leaders being trained on a hot Saturday afternoon. Word from El Salvador comes that the Elim Church there has just passed the 100,000 mark-it was at 90,000 when I visited it in November, 1993!
Mid-September, 1995, will be remembered by members of the CellNet as a time of refreshing fellowship in Houston, Texas as we held our first Summit. The TOUCH Outreach Ministries team shared. Workshops were held by CellNet men who have been involved in the cell church movement for some time. A large portion of the sessions were spent in small groups, sharing ideas, vision-casting and edifying one another. We were all enriched by discovering what God is doing in America. Pastors of very large churches, including Modesto's First Baptist Church and Nashville's Belmont Church mingled with those who are in the process of planting their very first cells.
Australia and the Philippines are among nations to be added to South Africa and the U.S.A. to participate in The Year of Transition. This development is the result of a global desire for tradition-bound churches and pastors to move into the cell model. Registrations are pouring in for this intensive instructions. In South Africa, the Apostolic Faith Mission denomination is expecting up to 1,000 of their church leaders to take this training. The AFM will be remembered in church history as the first denomination to formally adopt the cell structure as their lifestyle for the 21st century!
No matter how long a church has been transitioning, there are important reasons for its pastor and an associate to take this equipping course. Every three months, churches will be brought together for interaction through the course materials. In South Africa, this cross- pollination between the churches brought a sense of community and a kingdom perspective.
I urge you to take this training! The first ten days will be held in Virginia Beach, where all delegates from the USA and Canada will share in a Simulation/Game experience. We have worked hard to create an environment of living in a cell church for these weeks. This first phase of the training will bring small group interaction and contacting responsive and unresponsive unbelievers. Participants will also be assigned to serve as a cell leader, a zone supervisor, a zone pastor and a senior pastor.
Three months of recommended assignments will be given to each pastoral team as they return to their churches to implement the appropriate stages for transitioning a church. Church planters at or near ground zero will enjoy special assistance. As those being trained regather every three months for another 4 days of input, and invaluable journey will take place.
A few weeks ago, Regent University placed me on their faculty as an Adjunct Professor. Completion of The Year of Transition will count as 10 hours of credit toward a D.Min., M.Div. or M.A. degree in cell ministry if taken through Regent. God continues to bless in wonderful ways!
The global cell church movement has taken another leap, and I hope you will share in my excitement! This issue brings ideas and testimony from around the world and the international flavor has broadened my Kingdom view once again. May it bring clarity to your own ministry, and refresh you as it has done for me.
Release the youngest of servants!
God is using little ones to do BIG things if we encourage them.
All over the world children are responding to God's word. From kids serving at a church conference in Malaysia, to children preparing for an Easter play in the United States, God is using the young to bring many to Christ Jesus.
As a church worker in Singapore, I recently attended a conference for Christians in Malaysia. The children were, in many ways, no different from children anywhere else: They were bouncy, curious, talkative and loved to hear stories. But something about the kids was different. When prayer time came around, the children prayed aloud and confidently. When their leader asked if anyone had a word from the Lord, eleven children responded. In one of the cell groups I attended, we learned that some of the children had prayed and fasted for the conference we were holding. One boy had been invited to a beach resort during his school holidays, but he gave up the opportunity to help out at the conference.
I was inspired by the attitude displayed by these children, but what prompted them to behave like this? Perhaps their parents and church leaders have taken to heart the story told in Mark 10:14-15: Some people heard that Jesus was nearby, so they brought their children to be touched by him. The disciples tried to keep the children away, but Jesus rebuked them, saying, . . . Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not enter the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. If we, as parents and leaders, take our children to Christ and allow Him to work in their hearts, we help them to inherit all of God's gifts. To do this we must believe in Jesus with childlike faith, and instruct them as God instructs us.
At our church in Singapore, several children have led someone else to Christ. Last year we trained them using the book, Breaking the Barrier. With that teaching, a six-year-old was able to lead his friend to Jesus. Some of our children hurry to the early Sunday prayer meeting, some pray for our church leaders and some speak words from the Lord. Other children pray in the Intergenerational cells and their words bless the adults.
But Jesus is Lord of All and He is working through children all over the world. Last year in the United States, a church in Illinois was visited by the Holy Spirit in a special way. The children were waiting in the vestibule expecting to come in and perform an Easter play. But as they saw what God was doing, the children walked around the congregation praying for people. Two girls found their hands were dripping with oil. At the end of the service one parent asked her daughter who inspired this movement among the children. Didn't you see what happened? asked the little girl. We saw Jesus and He went into the church so we just followed him and did what He did.
At a children's camp in Louisiana, the Holy Spirit prompted a celebration of praise until 3:00 a.m. In Cuba there are children who lead cell groups. One boy has multiplied his group five times! At the recent Prayer Conference in Korea, fifty children prayed in public and the whole conference was moved. A boy I know in Singapore prays for hours and sometimes sees prophetic visions.
I believe these examples touch only the fringes of what God is doing in the lives of children. If some of us are amazed or unsure about these incidents remember that God called Samuel to prophesy when he was still a child (1 Sam. 3:1-21). Children shouted praise to Jesus in the temple area (Matt. 21:15). And Acts 2:39 says the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised for you and your children ... for all whom the Lord our God will call.
On the last night of our conference in Malaysia, all the delegates gathered in the main hall. The children and leaders had gathered early for prayer, and upon instruction the children prayed for each delegate individually. One by one, the adults fell to the ground, some laughing, some weeping.
Then we worshiped the Lord, and the children led us into dance and praise. People began to testify of the power of God in their lives, including one woman who broke her leg on the first day of the conference. The children and leaders had prayed for her and she walked down the aisle carrying her crutches and X-rays to thank God for His healing power.
Christ called us to make disciples of all men, and God truly is using kids all over the world to advance His Kingdom. The presence of Christ in children should be an inspiration for us, and we can use this inspiration to tell more children about the love of Jesus Christ. If we do this, we should not be surprised when Samuel's word reaches to all Israel.
Faith Community Baptist Church under the leadership of her Senior Pastor, Rev Lawrence Khong moved into a cell church in 1988 but her youth ministry was still struggling to adapt to the new paradigm of looking at the ministry from the perspective of a cell church. For 4 years, the Youth District Pastor, Rev Edwin Low and his team of leaders embarked on a careful strategy of planning and training which saw an initial establishment of 26 cells with an average membership of 120 in January 1992. And by God's grace, we now have a total of 56 cells with an average membership of 500! God has also blessed us with an increasing number of salvations over the last 4 years. We thank God that 1994 ended with 375 salvations and many of these salvations came through the contacts in the cells.
One major factor that has facilitated our transition into a youth cell church ministry is the strong support given to our Youth District Pastor from the Senior Pastor and the church leadership. Trust, autonomy, accountability, affirmation and belief in the Youth District Pastor are vital ingredients in such a relationship. It is a common joke between the Senior Pastor and us that the Youth District Pastor has such tremendous influence over the members that he could lead a rebellion once these young members become adult leaders of the church!
Another factor which helped us in our growth is a continual evaluation of the purpose of our existence and the effectiveness of our youth ministry. We do not exist to baby-sit teenagers of church members nor are we there because traditionally the church has a youth ministry. At the same time, all the leaders are reminded not to take for granted that our existing methods are going to remain effective forever. We constantly evaluate our effectiveness so that we can be on the cutting edge and be relevant in the world as a group of witnessing Christians.
Those of us who are seasoned youth workers know that the youth ministry can have so many activities that they can throw us off focus. Hence, we developed a set of mission statement to guide us in the implementation of all our strategies. A mission statement reflects our commitment to execute certain strategies to fulfill the goals of our existence. It is upon this statement that we continuously evaluate our strategies and test their effectiveness. Any strategy which may be good but does not help us to fulfill our goals would be discarded.
Furthermore, our ministry seeks to align our vision with that of the church so that we would not drift apart and become a separate entity from the corporate Body of Christ. In other words, whatever the church leadership decides upon, we are part of the implementing body and whatever we do, it is always aimed at growing the cells in the direction which is recommended for the church as a whole. All the pastoral staff in the Youth District firmly believed in the theology of the cell church and we are committed not to churn out anymore Program Based Design activities in the youth ministry.
With a strong support from the Senior Pastor, a non- complacent attitude towards ourselves, a close alignment with the church vision and a commitment to the cell church theology, we also worked hard to synergize the management and administrative strengths of all the youth pastors in the Youth District. Available resources and manpower are identified and carefully assigned to help the cells to grow and multiply. A clear organizational structure, an effective reporting system from the grassroots, a screening system for the appointment of leaders, a detailed job description for leaders, a structured training programme and a close supervision mechanism all helped to enable us to manage and monitor the growth of our cells.
In addition, we are constantly expanding into the institutions of learning through various kinds of pioneering activities like establishment of prayer points, interest groups and oikos evangelism. Next, serving the community through worthwhile projects also established our credibility as a people who care in the eyes of those who are in authority. In fact, we now have a social arm in our ministry that caters to street kids and unwed teenaged mothers.
Future plans include a drop-in centre for delinquent youth, a TOUCH school for drop-outs of the Singapore school system, parent support groups and also a ministry to the drug addicts.
Finally, the one factor that pulls all these together is the role of the Youth District Pastor as a motivator, visionary and teambuilder. Rev Edwin Low grew his team of staff from 5 in 1992 to a present strength of 16 in 1995. He did this in a culture that affirms, develops and challenges one another for the glory of God. Relationship binds all of us who are in the cells together and it is no wonder that one of the major factors for our growth is found in this man whom God has prepared for the very difficult task of reaching the youth for Christ.
The Groundwork for Success A successful transition begins with a look at the pastor's character
If you are considering transitioning a traditional church to a cell church, you should do so only because to not transition would be against God's clear direction regarding your ministry and the life of the church. Do not transition because it sounds like an interesting concept. Do not transition because you want bigger results than you have experienced. Do not transition because you are frustrated with your present ministry and need a change of pace. Begin this process only because you know God has appointed and charged you to do so.
My experience and direction from God came over a period of weeks and months as I began to soak up the letters of the New Testament. Phrases like encourage one another, honor one another, love one another, admonish one another, care for one another, serve one another, comfort one another, submit to one another, exhort one another, and edify one another, seemed to jump out at me. These directives were not taking place in any consistent way in the churches I had served. A few people sought Christian community in this way, but no forum or avenue existed for the entire church body to participate and grow in this manner.
God began to burden my heart. I sensed His leading and directing to change the methodology of how church was functioning so people could experience these New Testament truths of how God's people should live.
I believe God is calling thousands of pastor's to bring New Testament life to their churches through the use of cells. But you will need to be called and empowered of God to make the changes necessary to transition. Do not settle for anything less than God's clear call.
The transition processes does not occur overnight. Changes come with time, eduction, church leadership sensing God's movement in the transition process and a shift in values among your members. In the meantime, keep paying your rent do not neglect the purposes for which you were hired. People have expectations of what the pastor is to be doing. These expectations are not always stated, but they are assumed. These expectations deserve your attention. While you will not be able to please everyone, do your best to please. There will be meetings to attend, procedures, programs, and methods to follow that will not be complimentary to cell life. But early in the transitioning process you will need to be cooperative in the process and not belligerent. Pay your rent. If you do not pastor a traditional church well, why would the church think you would do a good job pastoring a cell church? Prove yourself to be trustworthy and credible through sincere service and diligence early in the transition process.
It is a human tendency to show more love to those that love us - and our ideas - than we do to those who are resisting change and transition. By nature, people do not like change. If there are elderly individuals in your church, they may be deeply offended by the proposed changes and ideas that accompany transition.
I have made a personal commitment to love and provide for those who are not going to make the change. To love them is an issue of the heart. Continually pray for God's filling as you express love to those who are resisting and hurling insults your way. Did the Father love the soldiers who crucified His Son less than He did Christ's followers? No. Your love toward unsupportive church members must remain constant regardless of how difficult loving them might become. Pray for these people. Smile and offer them a sincere, warm handshake. Engage in personal conversation with them.
One way of expressing love for those who are not going to transition to cells involves providing for these individuals, which could be done through any number of ministry activities. For example, while over 100 adults meet in our cells on Sunday evenings, less than 20 adults attend the traditional Sunday evening service, and most are senior citizens. In my situation, I have discerned that it is best to continue this service because it is dear to congregation members who have loved and served Jesus faithfully for many decades. This evening service is not in conflict with the vision for cell growth and ministry. Love and provide for those who do not want to change and understand that the transition will be difficult for these people. (By the way, the evening service has shown some signs of cell community already. These people may one day join a group! Be patient. Let God work on His schedule.)
In real estate it is location, location, location. In transitioning, it is communication, communication, communication. Preach on change. Preach on the principles of cell life. Develop a study team to evaluate the ministry of the church and help them determine which activities and expenditures are missing the mark of New Testament community and begin. Be passionate when you speak to individuals about your vision. Provide important reading material on cells to your leaders. If you have a few cells already functioning, have group members share in the Sunday service testimonies of how God is working. Publish articles in your newsletter sharing stories of salvation and answered prayers through your groups.
Guard against any form of deception or manipulation. Do not spring things on people. I have learned that most people need to hear about certain changes several times before they realize and understand the concepts of proposed changes. Speak candidly, openly and diplomatically at all times. However, be prepared to be accused of deception and manipulation. It comes with the territory of transition. People have their own perceptions, which often becomes reality in their minds. In some instances, it is not their fault. The concepts of change just does not make sense to them. So when changes are made they say, We never heard anything about it. When this happens, the pastor's character issue is this: Do not fault or give up on people for not understanding. It is your job to keep communicating and drawing the net of inclusion.
I have some pastor friends who attacked issues that were nonessential to the transitioning process. Be cautious. Do the times of your services really need to be changed to effectively transition? Does the educational literature really need to be different? Will changing the name of your church help the transition? Some of these issues may not be a concern at all. Leave those things alone! Know that some people are going to shoot at you when any change transpires because they simply do not like change. It just makes good sense to reduce the number of targets to as few as possible.
Do not be afraid to retreat for a season when a recommendation for change is not well received. I have been part of situations when recommendations were made in committees and church conferences and resistance surfaced. It became prudent to retreat. It is okay to retreat to replan and repackage the motion of change for a later date. Be purposed and deliberate without being hurried or driven by unhealthy compulsion. I realize some issues need to be settled without delay. But keep in mind that many can be delayed. To force every issue will foster a sense of mistrust and heavy handedness which can be costly. Be a good cost counter.
God is the builder and maker of His church and He uses people. Do not try to be the lone change maker. Instead, train and encourage lay leaders to be agents of change. Herein lies another issue of character: Do you have to be credited for every good idea you have? Maybe you have the discernment to see a needed change and figure out how and when that change ought to occur for maximum efficiency. You begin to inform other individuals who would share the same opinion and the plan is set in motion. When the change occurs and is successful, are you looking to be credited? If you are, here is a fundamental character flaw that needs to be addressed. It is natural for us to desire praise for our good ideas, but that is a natural pattern of the flesh. Pastors need to keep focused on the work of the kingdom and the building of the church body rather than building their egos. Encourage the success of others. Praise and applaud the efforts of your lay people.
Another important aspect of co-operating involves using the governing structure of the church that exists. If you want the church government to change, let the church government change it. Our church has changed service times, by-laws, employee job descriptions, committee responsibilities, and other major church matters.
When you know the behavior patterns of others, that knowledge can build teamwork, deep relationships and resolve conflict. A religious lawyer once asked Jesus what He perceived the most important commandment to be. He said, Love the Father . . . and love your neighbor as yourself. For the record, neither of these commandments were among the original ten given to Moses. What makes Christ's answer even more interesting is that both refer to each individual being involved in an intimate, growing relationship. One relationship is with the Father and the second one is with others, to meet their needs.
God is committed to intimacy. He desires for each believer to experience intimacy with Himself as well as with other believers. Models in scripture show how intimate relationships are to be developed. My life's work has been in assisting others to develop intimate relationships.
Numerous behavior models are currently being used in the church today. These include works by Tim LaHaye, Florence Littauer and John Trent. Others, like Christian Financial Concepts, Team Resource and Carlson Learning Company, use the DISC model. This instrument is based on William Marston's system of cluster-like traits on four continuums: Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness and Compliance. I use this model because it allows me to continually test it against my absolute authority, the Holy Scriptures.
In 1979, the Lord led me to a behavior tool called DISC that began to unlock the keys toward understanding what an intimate creator God we worship. The basic teaching framework I developed, Understanding How Others Misunderstand You, is a 13-session study of God's relationships with man. I have been teaching the material at my home church for 15 years. It has been rewarding to see couples, families, and small groups use the materials to meet each other's needs.
Let's first understand how the Bible and the DISC test relate to each other. Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Thus, the Christian is commanded to reach out to others and meet their needs. The DISC model measures needs and how to respond to them. It is a tool to help us fulfill Christ's second commandment tolove your neighbor.
What makes my material truly unique is that it focuses on biblical case studies. It explains how the Lord developed intimacy with key characters in scripture. His communication patterns, although extremely successful, were very different from the typical way we respond to one another. In addition, people like Peter, Paul, Moses and Abraham are profiled according to the DISC model.
My desire is to share these biblical studies with the Body of Christ. I have had very limited success. When I talk of building intimacy, the traditional church typically does not know how to grasp the concept. Developing intimacy among its members is usually not one of its priorities. Unfortunately, I designed a good product for the wrong structure! For my material to be used properly, the setting should be small groups where there is a desire for people to meet each other's needs. When I read David Finnell's book Life in His Body, I became aware of the cell model and its basic strategy. Finnell explains the goal of the cell is to meet intimate needs of its members and non-Christians. My thoughts were, Finally! Right structure, right product!
What I did not know is that the God had shown Ralph Neighbour the same potential. What Lord had to do was to get us together, refine the model for cell group needs and get the message out. Several months ago I asked him, How can I help address the relational needs of cell groups and their His answer was straight forward and directed, Use what you have. It's biblically solid, but too complex. Design something that is simple, easy to use, and translatable into other languages.
From our conversation, I was able to develop a more detailed wish list:
A need for a series of DISC assessments focusing on three areas cell groups and Cell Leaders continually deal with: relationships, team building and conflict resolution.
Each product should develop a specific focused profile, list
definitions and solutions and offer a work sheet designed to
communicate the solutions. This should be designed to be used within cell or leadership meetings.
The entire process, from assessment to sharing conclusions, should take no longer than 1 hour to implement.
Once I understood what he wanted, I asked a clarification question: Ralph, what you're asking me to do is design something simple out of something very complex but not lose the quality and still meet the needs of the cell groups, right? He said, Right. My follow-up thought was, Complex things take time to produce; to create something simple may take even longer!
My most challenging assignments in life have been to make something simple out of something complex. After some prayerful thought, I decided to design an instrument for each particular topic: Relationships, Team Building and Conflict Resolution. I divided each specific subject into 3 sections: Personal Assessment, Information, and Discussion, using only six pages. I field tested the materials in several settings.
Following the publishing of the products, it seemed reasonable to videotape the use of these materials in a typical cell group as a teaching aid. I used individuals who had been in my classes over the years, known by me to be actively applying the material in their daily lives. With little instruction, the participants took the instruments and were able to validate their styles and effectively dialogue through relationship, team building and conflict issues.
After the first taping, Ralph said, I can't believe these people are so transparent! Do you have any more like them? I responded with, More than you'll ever be able to use. These simple tools worked very effectively in communicating differences, building complementary teams and for resolving conflicts.
Warnings about cell groups and teaching behavior models In a recent article in Christianity Today, Larry Crabb, one of America's leading psychologists, was asked to compare the effectiveness of Christian therapy and Godly lay disciplining. He strongly supported the latter as playing an important role in meeting an individual's spiritual and emotional needs. When asked about the effectiveness of cell groups, Crabb said, I see a lot of potential in these groups for building the kind of relationships in which people connect deeply. However, he also warned against these groups becoming imbalanced on either the side of emotionalism or rigid legalism. Both can have devastating consequences. What is needed is balance. When used properly as a support tool, with sound biblical study and the power of the Holy Spirit, the DISC model has the potential to produce balance, meet needs and build intimacy.
Again, what the DISC model does is to identify needs in the lives of others and how to respond to them. It has been my joy and privilege to see lives positively impacted through the use of this behavior knowledge. It can be a powerful tool when used correctly but it can also be dangerous and destructive when used without commitment to sound biblical principles. I have seen first hand the abuses and I strongly recommend the use of biblical instruction along with the teaching of these materials. This type of bible study is available in the Understanding How Others Misunderstand You book and workbook. I am excited about these products being used in cell groups. I believe these new products will lead to cell groups becoming one in the Lord.
Publisher's Note: See the ad elsewhere in this magazine which explains how you can secure these specially prepared DISC materials. Use them in your Cell Church–both in home groups and for evaluating Cell and Zone Supervisor Interns.
Ever lose sleep wondering how cell leaders use their time in Honduras? How about the role of children in the life of a cell church in Australia? These questions gnaw at me until I get get out of bed and get some answers or a little snack. In a desperate attempt to lose weight, I took that time to pray for believers around the world involved in the exploding cell church movement although I lacked a first-hand knowledge of their day to day priorities. Using this as my motivation, I emailed and faxed cell churches around the world. I asked three probing questions, hoping to get a verbal snapshot of the way they live and serve the Lord.
My questions were:
What values drive your most successful cell leaders, and how do they use their time?
What role do children play in your weekly cell gatherings and in the life of your church?
What strongholds are keeping the spread of the gospel in your country or region?
Some of the answers caught me off guard. As I compared them with the way I do things, they brought contrast to my personal ministry and changed my paradigm. These churches and their cell leaders have embraced the values that build God's kingdom and shake up Satan's work. See for yourself . . .
Our most successful cell leaders are motivated by one of several values:
A love for people! This issues forth in genuine care reflected in constant contact with the cell members, walking with them through any problems they are facing.
A love for the lost! This results in actively reaching out through friendship evangelism into their oikos groups and into their neighborhoods and work environments.
A desire to serve the Lord effectively! Having a sense of call from God is perhaps one of the greatest motivators. If a cell leader feels he is privileged to be in the ministry and that he is privileged to be an instrument in God's hand, then he normally has a far higher motivation.
Flowing in the power of God! Those who have recently been touched by the Lord as a result of the current world-wide move of God are usually far more on fire and far more effective in ministering to their cell members. When the move of God is released in the cell a definite wave of enthusiasm, followed by a growth pattern are experienced.
Intergenerational cell groups have not been implemented in our church although we have noticed the homogeneous pattern emerging. Older people seem to get along better with older folk and yet for all that most of our cells are a mixture of all ages. Our children still continue to meet for Children's Church on a Sunday morning, after having spent the first hour with their parents in the worship service. I am seriously considering adopting a similar system for the children as we currently have for the teen-agers. This we will still need to consider and process.
Pastor Dion Robert of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, categorically states that the greatest hindrance to the growth of the church in his country is sorcery, and by that he means the influence that animism (55% of all Ivorians are declared Animists, according to the promotional material that is readily available in hotels in Abidjan).
In South Africa ancestral worship has had a similar influence on millions of our people, but amongst other sectors of the community materialism, religion and tradition have blinded many to the truth of the gospel.
God has called us to provide an atmosphere of love, acceptance and forgiveness. We want our Home Groups to be a place where people feel safe enough to open up and share their hurts, struggles and joys and receive prayer and encouragement.
We also value God's presence, power and purpose in our lives. Our desire is to experience this in such a way that we receive God's healing and encouragement and we gain fresh vision from the Lord as to how we are to reach out to those who don't yet know him.
The children are generally not involved in our adult Home Fellowship Groups. The Sunday morning children's program has experimented children's cells. The basic components are there, but we have yet to see that group grow and multiply.
It is difficult to pinpoint the greatest stronghold on Europe because of its diversity. In Scandinavia and Western Europe the influence of secular humanism is pervasive. Most Europeans view religion and faith as something very private and personal. Not to be shared, not to be talked about. The public arena is the place for facts and figures derived from the here and now. The only real world is that which can be experienced and measured by the five senses.
The two World Wars in Europe have taken their toll. Many of the older Europeans who survived the wars lost complete faith in God and the churches ability to positively affect society. Younger Europeans who have been raised in this spiritual vacuum simply view the church as irrelevant and archaic. Materialism and Hedonism strongly influence decision making. The outcome is that decisions in life are based on economic benefits and maximizing personal pleasure and self fulfillment.
In Southern Europe, Spain in particular, the institutional dominance of the Catholic church is a large obstacle to the spread of the gospel. Jeff Sellers, a freelance journalist in Madrid has written, Fifteen years after winning full legal rights to worship, Spanish evangelicals are still fighting prejudice and discrimination in a society that is rapidly becoming secularized. Freedom of religion has also brought freedom from religion, and Spaniards have been ridding themselves of the after taste of Francoist Catholicism with and increasing diet of sensuality, materialism, and substance abuse. At the same time, the institutional dominance of Roman Catholicism prevails, and therefore most of the country's 39 million people do not know what defines a Protestant.
Before coming here we had heard that most Spaniards had rejected the Catholic church and that there were many spiritual seekers here.
We thought that we could provide something new and innovative, kind of cutting edge that would reattract people to the gospel and the church.
What surprised us is that even though most people have rejected their Catholic roots, the Catholic church still has as institutional dominance. Catholic hierarchy highly influences the media and always portrays Protestants at best as fringe or irrelevant, and at the worst as sects and cults. Whereas in California, cutting edge is good, here it is better to appear a little more traditional.
And it seems that many of Southern Europe's spiritual seekers' are more interested in mysticism, Spiritism and superstition than in something non-Catholic. An article in the International Herald Tribune titled, They May Shun Church, but Europe's Catholics Flock to Shrines, points to this openness. Twenty thousand people a day make the procession at Lourdes, France. In Spain there is the supposed tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. In 1983, 2000 people requested certificates of pilgrimage to this tomb. In 1993, over 70,000 were issued. One priest comments, Perhaps people find religious life to monotonous, and want something more intense, more festive, more emotional. Perhaps the form our religion has taken today does not respond to people's needs.
I believe that the most important values found in our cell leaders are perseverance, loyalty, unity, vision, being a good example and team work. All of these values and a well organized work become the basis to succeed, and also the fight against improvisation, which only leads to disorderliness.
The days involved serving as a cell leader are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Cell leaders have specific duties each week of the month.
First Monday Cell leaders meet with their sector supervisor for evaluation and planning of the sector activities. Second Monday Evangelism, visitation, follow-up of the new conversions.
Third Monday General meeting with the cell ministry staff. Fourth Monday Cell leaders meet with their work group for evaluation and planning of the cell's activities. Every Wednesday of the month, cell leaders meet for weekly cell meetings.
First and third Thursday Evangelism, visitation, follow-up of new conversions.
Second and fourth Thursday Assessment by their supervisor. Every Saturday of the month cell leaders take part in the Celebrations.
It is important to know that our cells are heterogeneous: that is, you may find people from all ages, even children! We give children special care through what we call Timothy Clubs which function as follows: While the cell gathering takes place, children get together in a nearby place where they have a time of Praise and Worship. They are also taught Bible principles and how they apply to everyday life and how their lives are to serve the Lord.
We stress to the cell leaders, and they know it, that children represent an opportunity for the cell to grow. Through them we can reach their parents and relatives who don't know the Lord as their savior.
No matter how old you are, in each cell, everyone participates. Children are assigned appropriate roles like collecting offerings, a welcomer, taking part in dramas, etc. Beginning early in their lives, we provide children the opportunity to witness and also to take part in the cell's teachings. By doing this, it becomes easier for every child to integrate into the cell's life and also into the church's. I personally believe the greatest stronghold blocking the spread of the Gospel in South and Central America is in the practice of occultism. For many years, even centuries, people in South and Central America have been in touch with the different ways of occultism. The result is evident: poverty, not only materially but spiritually. Hopefully, the church has recognized the need to strongly fight against these practices. As a result, the church has experienced a revival that is going to continue in the near future.
We are growing very fast. At this time we currently have 500 cells. A few months ago we birthed simultaneously 100 new cells and we are in the process of adding 100 more by September 26, 1995. Our Celebration has grown from one to three, with the possibility of adding one more by the end of this year.
When recently asked, our cell leaders replied that the common denominator of their success is to fulfill the purpose that God has given them and to fulfill it with all of their heart. As a result, they are totally committed to the local church vision, seeing that their people grow in relationship with God, with each other, and consequently seeing their groups grow and multiply. Their call and value system requires them to carry out their purpose and therefore succeed.
The unsuccessful leaders have been occupied with the urgent most of the time. The successful leaders wisely discern between the urgent and the important. They are then able to focus on fulfilling the vision while still taking care of pressing needs.
Each member of the cell takes responsibility for ministering to the children with a planned format (video, teaching, coloring, etc.) They are included in the worship and fellowship times and many times have taken an active role during the discussion if the topic is relevant. The children are brought back at the end of the meeting for the closing prayer.
A home cannot be won until the head the man is won. Pornography, alcohol, neglect of the tithe, etc., will remain until the man is persuaded. A city or country cannot be taken without conquering the men. When men are won to Christ and discipled to follow Him, we will experience a sustained revival in the U.S.A.
A passion for God, dependence on God, the openness to be corrected, a love for others, a servant's heart and a desire to see lost people saved are the values that drive our successful cell leaders.
Children are actively involved in the life of the cells. Children of all ages are invited to enter into worship of God and to meet with other members of His family in a meaningful way. We seek to do as many things as we can that impact the 5 senses. Children are involved in welcoming people as they arrive, leading icebreakers (they often think up their own), participating in worship, the celebration of the Lord's Supper (it's a family meal!), sharing stories and in prayer ministry times. Some cells have separate kids slots during edification times, some kids go to bed at this time, some sit through all the way.
We have no rules but are developing resources so that cell leaders can facilitate the most appropriate activity for the particular kids they have. Each celebration service is sponsored by a cell and would include involvement from children. We have lots of praise and worship, kids play percussion instruments, a children story, most kids leave for their own activities during the preaching of the word and return to be involved in prayer ministry at the end.
Unbelief, apathy, prayerlessness and self interest across the Church has lead to the greatest stronghold keeping the spread of the Gospel from occuring in Australia. In the world we see material and leisure pursuits taking the time of the everyday man and woman. Outdated, irrelevant and boring forms of institutional religion together with non-relational evangelism hold these lost souls from finding Jesus. But revival is coming there is a wind of change. Praise the Lord.
The prevailing value that drives our cell leaders is a fervent desire to win souls. Thus, they take a lot of time to shepherd cell members contacts by phone, meeting together after Sunday celebration, etc.
Since we have been doing cells less than a year, we haven't involved children in cells yet, but intend to do so. Cultural barriers, especially idolatry and other practices that come from a society that is overwhelmingly non-Christian are the root of the problem in spreading the gospel here in Japan.
The most essential gift a leader needs is a love for the people a sacrificial love. People here don't have free time; life consumes you, shopping and hunting for food, waiting for trams which don't come, and working extra jobs so you can feed your family. The time given for the cell group is all sacrafice. If the leader doesn't love his people, he will soon grow bitter towards his sacrafice and stop ministering to his people.
Also, the leader must value eternal things more than temporal things. As they watch neighbors buying all the new modern appliances from Korea, Japan, and USA, and know they can't afford them because of their commitment to the church body, they must be able to see the riches of God's Kingdom. For most Russians here, the dollar is god! Money controls most of their life - and when there is a shift in the rouble-dollar exchange rate - there is a shift in the Russian's emotions.
Finally, they must value and guard their relationship with the Lord. Often, we get to busy here with life, and forget we have a King who want to see us. We lose when we forget this time with him. I've seen cell leaders tire when they did not wash themselves in the Word and in worship - the sin and evil of this city quickly collects in one's life and tires one out.
What do we do with children in our cells? This is a difficult matter because most families live in 1-2 room apartments, and there is nowhere to take the kids. We are trying to get other cells to watch the kids while we have our meetings, i.e., go for a walk with them, but when winter comes, this won't be an option. We have seen some cell meetings shut down because the kids got out of hand. I don't have any good plans at this point - the Russian Babooshka (grandmother) often saves us by taking the kids for the evening.
The greatest stronghold in Russia would be seventy years of aitheism and the three generations of hardened people who are living for themselves. Many are kind and very helpful, but they don't need the loving hand of Jesus or the healing of His Holy Spirit - or so they believe. In small ways, God is touching lives here, but it is almost always through some sort of spiritual encounter - I've had very little success with persuation - its typically through power encounters.
Atheism mixed with extra-sense/mysticism is the general belief system of people here - or a smorgasborg of all the religions entering from Asian countries - buddhism, B'Hai, Shintoism, catholicism, occult, horoscopes, hinduism (modern).
Touched By God A true story of God's master plan
The small group of twenty believers gathered in the free-standing modular building on the back lot of the church like they had done so many Monday nights before.
The warm glow from the rectangular windows served as a beacon to passerbys, that they too, were welcome. The meeting proceeded in familiar fashion, scriptures were found and we worshipped God. It wasn't until the close of the evening that our cell leader revealed a particular prayer concern that required the agreement of her brothers and sisters in Christ.
Her voice began to waiver and her azure eyes welled with tears. Those of us around her knew just how urgent the next phrase spoken would be. I made a conscious decision to take it to heart.
As the prayer request unfolded, we learned of a woman who had come into the office of a local funeral home where my cell leader is employed, demanding to know who had defaced her infant daughter's resting place.
It was obvious that the lady was in great distress and more out of concern than obligation, the second escorted the first to the grave site. There had been a recent burial beside the baby's unmarked grave giving the appearance that it had been disturbed.
My friend attempted to offer comfort as the young woman, now on her knees, sifted through some loose dirt in a vain attempt to hold onto what she had lost but a few months prior.
Who will pray with me for this one? our leader employed. The room remained silent, save stifled sniffles. Each one of us was reminded of the commission not only as group members but as Christians, to reach out to the hurting and by the power of the Holy Spirit rebuild & restore those souls.
Though none of us knew the woman's name, we prayed fervently that night and during the week that followed, for God to reach down to this person and to fill the empty seats around us with the people that needed the love and support we had to offer.
The following Monday I meant to take this request before God and in my whirlwind of a busy morning, half-heartedly did so. Right off the bat my peace was interrupted by a phone call from the lady who usually picked my daughter up for pre-school, informing me that she would be unable to do so. Being a stay-at-home mom and a one car family as well, my calm escalated into crisis.
I phoned another mother, who in passing had assured me that she too would be happy to give my child a ride. And although I felt sheepish for troubling her, this virtual stranger held to her word and bailed us out.
On our way to the school, I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to invite this lady to our Monday night cell. Beth was polite enough, but informed me that she was an Atheist and that I'm ashamed to confess is where our conversation ended!
Later that afternoon, while on our way back to pick up the children, I was given another opportunity to share more specifically about the purpose of our group.
I told the story of the woman on her knees in the dirt. I explained to Beth that even though this lady was unknown by us, she was known by God. Because she was suffering, we hurt for her. She pulled the car to the side of the road, looked me dead in the eye and said, I am that lady!
You can imagine the praise and celebration a few hours later in that cozy, panelled building, when I introduced the very one for whom we had prayed just seven days before.
And as the meeting began, this self- proclaimed Atheist who had believed for certain that there was no God, was inwardly challenged to admit that she had in fact been touched by Him which, by no coincidence, touched us all.
Jennifer Johnson Derby is a twenty-five year old mother of two daughters and the wife of her high school sweetheart, Doug Derby. Jennifer currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee where she attends a non-denominational spirit-filled church.
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.