For me the lead article in this issue is Mike Cegielski's presentation of why cell churches should develop their own philosophy of missions. It is, indeed, controversial because it speaks about an area that has become as sacred to us as motherhood-missions. But why should we expect the local church to go through a paradigm shift and still support missionary structures that still propagate traditional church planting methods?
When a missionary society is used as the sending agency for local churches, what ends up on the mission field is a hodgepodge of workers with different church histories, theological differences, and theories about church planting. Missionaries often do not know much about their new coworkers until they have unpacked their bags to live together in a strange environment.
The New Testament pattern for church life is so clear one wonders why we have ignored our unbiblical patterns for both traditional church life and the missionary structures they have bred. In Antioch, a team of church planters was formed from Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark. Barnabas and John Mark had experienced two churches being planted, and we believe Paul may have spent up to four years in Antioch watching that church grow from scratch. Only then were they sent out. They had formed their vision for church planting within the mother church and had demonstrated their effectiveness "at home" before going "abroad." Most church planters today go to do their work without ever having experienced a church being planted!
More than any time before in history, the cell church structure makes it possible for the local church to become its own sending agency. Cell churches naturally form their own teams and support them from the home base. David Yonggi Cho's network of church planters is in every part of the world. Korean church planters are "cell grown," going through the sequence of cell member, cell leader, zone supervisor, zone pastor and even district pastor before being sent to the field.
Dion Robert's Ivory Coast cell church is in many other African nations, France, Scandinavia, and several parts of the USA. The Elim church in El Salvador has planted new work in both South and North America. Guatemala's cell churches have formed cell churches in Mexico, Miami and New Orleans. Singapore's Faith Community Baptist Church has church planting teams in Russia, Kazakestan, Philippines, Hong Kong, and many other nations too sensitive to list here. China's underground cell churches select families and send them off to far flung areas with the order, "Never come back!"
As the cell church planting strategy develops, most reject launching the American "seeker-sensitive" model which begins with public services. Instead, church planters develop a community penetration by forming "target groups" to win unbelievers through relationships and cell life. Only after there are at least 10 cells will the church "go public," spending its Sundays as a family of believers who gather to worship, train, pray, and strategize.
FCBC in Singapore this year will dispatch 1,200 in 120 teams to help cell churches in many different nations. These Singaporeans will invest 3 weeks, paying all their own expenses, to serve abroad. The exciting thing about the cell church is that once people learn to be ministers they don't know where to stop!
Alas, poor Farouk. He died in a sea of delicacies, and is remembered primarily for his bulk and lethargy. Farouk's legacy is the giving of his name-albeit unintended-for a sad syndrome afflicting the Western church.
No church can successfully transition into a cell lifestyle until it is healed of "Faroukism."
Farouk was the hapless king of Egypt from 1936-1952. His plumpness ascended the throne at Cairo upon the death of his father, Fuad I. For awhile, Farouk tagged himself as "Farouk the First." But there was not to be a "Farouk the Next." Gamel Abdul Nasser rolled Farouk off the throne of the Pharaohs in 1952.
Farouk took up citizenship in Monaco. That smug little kingdom became the base of a playboy lifestyle for the son of the Nile. Farouk soon became a regular in the high society circuit of Europe, where he was known primarily for his ingestion, indolence and indulgence. Finally, one night in 1965, after eating a dozen oysters, a large lobster and a double portion of lamb, Farouk died. One minute he was topping it all off with a truffle, the next minute- wham! Thus, Faroukism.
The disease has symptoms as recognizable as mumps, measles or chicken pox. Following is a diagnostic list. A church with a few of the symptoms is far down the road to getting a full blown case of Faroukism. Churches with all the symptoms are terminally ill with the disease. However, since God performs miracles, there is hope, as we'll see, for such congregations.
The first symptom of Faroukism is copious, purposeless, endless ingesting. Churches sick with the disease eat their fill with conferences, meetings, classes, institutes, seminars and colloquia. Farouk's desperate Egyptian countrymen ate to survive and ate for energy to work. Farouk survived to eat.
The church with Faroukism is usually so bloated it doesn't know the meaning of hunger. Jesus once told the Pharisees there was no place in them for the Word of God. They were so full of the junk-food of their own mumbo-jumbo and high-sounding philosophies that they had no hunger for the true Bread. So the church with Faroukism has little hunger for Jesus. She's already stuffed.
Food is fuel. But for Farouk-and the church ill with Faroukism-there was nothing on which to expend the energy, except getting to the next feeding. Which leads to the next symptom.
Faroukism, secondly, is marked by indolence. Idleness, inactivity, lethargy, laziness, even slothfulness are all symptomatic of Faroukism. A church sick with the disease will eat and eat but do little to burn off the energy. Evangelism, servanthood, reaching out, penetrating communities is as foreign to such a church as plowing a field was to Farouk. The church with Faroukism becomes an obese corpus, occupying-in the United States at least-a piece of untaxed land.
Doubtless the Athenian philosophers Paul met on Mars Hill were ill with an early strain of Faroukism. Acts 17:21 notes that "all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new." Then there's the situation of those fatuous folk of the "last days" Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 3:7, who are "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
So the church feverish with Faroukism searches for truth, stuffs itself full with knowledge, but rarely if ever moves out of its pew-potato lifestyle into fruit-bearing action.
Finally, Faroukism is noted by its indulgence-self indulgence. The church is the agency of the Kingdom of God within the fallen kingdoms of humanity. She is to speak prophetically, challenging, impacting and changing the culture and the values of the broken realm.
Tragically, the church more often-especially in the West- is altered by the culture of the fallen world. Nothing reveals this as starkly as the consumer church mentality so characteristic of the church in developed societies. This is Faroukism at its worst.
The indulgent church is full of people who are always asking, "What have you done for me lately?" Statements Jesus made about self-sacrifice, bearing the cross, suffering persecution, are all foreign to such a church. They may be part of that vast feast of "word" on which such a church gorges, but not a lifestyle to be experienced today.
Some churches ill with Faroukism might find cessationism-the idea that sign gifts ceased with apostles- abhorrent. Yet they may practice their own form of cessation: suffering, sacrifice and servanthood was for apostolic times, but not for today.
Such churches resist cell life because of the demands that one come out of the consumerist shell and commit to relationship with other people. In cell life, people might actually be expected to do something for someone else!
Clearly, if a church is going to move into serious cell lifestyle, it has to be healed of Faroukism. How does that happen? The healing begins with a change of values. As Bill Beckham says, "we value what we do and we do what we value."
As The Encourager Church stood at the threshold of cell transition, our Elders and staff took a hard, painful look at our values. In Elder and staff meetings, I asked the leaders to list responses to this question: "What do our current programs and schedules, the summation of our activities, show our values to be?"
There were a few pleasant revelations. But for the most part, the disclosures were not so pleasant. We discovered, for example, that we had a value of helping broken people. Yet, because we had insufficient value on discipleship, we locked them in an endless "recovery syndrome" rather than helping them mature into healthy ministers of Jesus.
Worst, we discovered by what we really did that we had almost no value as a church on evangelism to the "radically unsaved."
The next step in our healing process-which, at this writing, is still going on-was willful repentance within the leadership. This is not crocodile tears. It is a turning away from one direction to another. Elders and staff disciplined themselves to become involved in cell "bootcamp," a way of orienting ourselves to a new lifestyle.
Then it was also essential for the senior pastor to take new values to the pulpit. Periodically, I would preach parallel sermons to Dr. Ralph Neighbour's Arrival Kit. We made the book available for purchase, so that almost 300 of our people were soon moving through it.
Finally, to be healed of Faroukism, church leaders must be excited about the small core of people who will embrace the new values, and give priority to nurturing their growth. If Faroukism is a disease, such people will be like an inoculation. They will spread health into the body. They are released into the bloodstream of a sick church.
My wife has a wonderful philosophy which I also embrace: "Do what you can, where you are, with what you have." What matters is that even if the initial numbers of people overcoming Faroukism and laying hold of the new values and visions are small, the start can be made there.
It's also important to allow cell life to have a "seed in the ground" phase where cells grow slowly. (See Mark 4:26-29) During this period, there's no attempt to force cell-life on the church, nor try to hype it. The cells simply grow. The day comes when their fruit is evident, and the small remnant grows.
Working through small remnants is always God's plan. But His plan is that they expand and impact the whole, and not stay small. The pinch of leaven is to affect the whole lump. So perhaps the surest way to heal Faroukism is to give a church a pinprick of an inoculation with the serum of new values. The small clusters of people who are initially impacted by this infusion of health are then released into the body, carrying the new vitality with them.
Slowly and surely, Faroukism is wiped out, and healthy cell life develops.
Weary of ministry, God rebuilt me! What is "success" if your personal life is falling apart?
I remember the day I arrived home emotionally empty and mentally weary of ministry. With jolting words only a loving wife could say, she confronted me. "Look at you! Where is the man I married 15 years ago, who had a sparkle in his eye and a love for people? You can't go on like this! Things have got to change or you'll never finish! You'll end up on the pile of burned out youth pastors like so many others before you! You just can't go on like this!"
To drive the situation home just a bit more, the next day I heard a prominent church growth expert share his life experience. Many of his years were spent doing the work of God in such a way that it destroyed the work of God inside him."
As he spoke, tears flooded my eyes as the Holy Spirit gently said to me, "Son . . . I'm talking to you. You have been spending too many years doing My work in such a way that it is destroying My work inside of you. I have never wanted this for you or the rest of My servants. I love you. I have always wanted you to do My work in such a way that it would build My work in you. Remember when I said that "my yoke is easy and my burden is light?' I want to show you how to do My work so that it builds My work inside you, not at your expense."
I was saved at 17, and six months later I sensed God's calling into youth ministry. Why did I want to serve God in full time ministry? Because I wanted to spend my life teaching His Word, spending time in prayer with my heavenly Father and building disciplemakers to reach their generation for Jesus!
Over the years something changed. I don't know when and I don't know why. I allowed the distractions, heartaches and pressures to steal my joy of serving my Lord and His people. The lack of God's peace plagued me. My mind constantly drifted to the same haunting questions. "Nickels, noses, money and attendance. Is that all there is to working with students? How many kids can I get out to a program? What new program idea can I come up with? Is life-change happening in the lives of my students and their families? Is my program-based youth ministry evangelizing the generation or am I merely perpetuating religious heritage? Could the way I was doing ministry be destroying God's work in me, my marriage and the very people I was trying to serve?" I just couldn't get all this off my mind!
From all outward indications, our ministry was impactful and it appeared healthy! But here's the truth . . . the Lord was not pleased with us. He wanted something better for us, but I had no idea what to ask for or how to change.
I got in my car, alone with Him, and drove around to beg Him for an answer to the holy discontent that was pressing against me. He brought to mind the walk of Moses, David, Jesus and Paul. They all had training times in the desert, or what I call God's School of Character Building. As I headed out of town, I cried, "God, open my eyes to see what You see and what You want us to be and do! Work in us like You did in the Book of Acts when You "added to their number daily those who were being saved!' "
The Lord knows me too well-He answered in a way I didn't expect, but needed to hear. Alone with Him, I heard him say "Marvin, I love you and I want to answer your cries, but you must wait. You are too full of yourself. If I blessed you like I wanted, you couldn't handle it. You'd take too much credit and get proud. You'd think this "new thing' was your idea. First I need to break you and then I will rebuild you and answer your longings. Don't despair. Do your homework. Ask the questions."
Ask the questions? What did He mean? I guessed right off the bat He didn't want me to stagnate or brood over this situation. I was reminded of what was said of the men of Issachar, "who understood the times and knew what Israel should do." (1 Chron. 12:32)
I devoured every book I sensed the Lord leading me to read. I found books on students, their generation, families, leadership, biographies, motivation, revival and restructuring corporations. I had to understand the times so I could proceed! Through this investigation, I made some interesting observations.
Throughout history, the Church of Jesus Christ has responded slowly to social and generational needs. We are always lagging 10-15 years behind the generation, reacting late to its peculiar characteristics. Our ministry needed to answer the questions and concerns of this generation and not of generations past. Could we create a ministry that could quickly and effectively respond to the generation instead of reacting to its rapid changes years later?
Another generational dynamic I discovered was that many youth ministries are no longer seeing numbers of students come to large youth group activities just because it is the "place to be" or because the "cool people" are there. This generation wants to be intimately known by another human being. They want someone to know their name and what is going on inside of them. Large assembly style ministries can't meet this need.
In previous years, kids would come to a "mob scene" because it was the place to be. That is not as prevalent today as 20 years ago. Back then, kids could be categorized into a few broad subcultures. This is no longer true. In Modesto alone, we have identified over 100 different student clusters on the public school campuses.
The light went on in my head. No wonder when I arranged for a band to play at a church concert, half the kids hated them or walked out early! I couldn't find a music group that would please everyone.
We were a "one-size fits all" youth ministry, and our guest retention rate proved it. There were specific types of kids that stayed connected to our ministry, but the large diversity in the generation resulted in a great loss. Sadly, we found we were asking kids to "fit" into our program mold, to look and act like us, and then they could be a part of our ministry. The way we were doing ministry connected with a small subculture of the overall generation.
This generation has an inherent distrust of any organized institution. The studies show today's kids don't have a problem with Jesus, but with the church itself. They are open to the saving message of the Gospel but the organized traditional church is preventing them from seeing the message clearly.
This told me keeping our programs alive was more important than the objective of reaching the generation. I was more concerned about keeping students busy on good church projects than making disciplemakers. We had to change!
Today's generation wants to be contributors to the agenda and not merely pawns or spectators. Was I empowering students by plugging them into the workings of our ministry? Was my ministry mechanism fully utilizing and training up students? Not!
The questions and research didn't fill my emptiness. Then the verse came to my mind, "God is not one who likes things to be disorderly and upset. He likes harmony." (1 Cor. 14:33) Applying this to my studies, I looked for any pattern in history that God used to bring revival to a spiritually starved land. The common denominator God had used to stir revival in His people was a small group of young men and women committed to God and each other, meeting regularly together and united in prayer for the revival of the given nation.
My heart raced with excitement. "Lord, I see it! Is this your answer to my restlessness and questioning?"
The Lord's gentle response to me was, "Marvin, you're now ready to return to the basics. I want to use you, in this generation, to help bring revival in my church-a youth ministry of small groups." For us, being a ministry of small groups is not a church growth gimmick or fad. It is the clear command of God to us.
If you are weary of a "successful" ministry, there is hope!
This article is the first in a series of four on the youth cell transition at First Baptist Church, Modesto, CA. Marvin is facilitating a dynamic youth training conference in Modesto and Philadelphia in the fall of this year. Don't miss this fantastic opportunity!
In 1 Samuel, Chapter 24, King Saul takes a bathroom break before proceeding after David and his small band of renegades. The King actually stops at the very cave where David and his men are hiding, but it is not because the King sees David. It is because he needs a little privacy to do his business. Little did he know that David and all his men were watching. If there is any time when you are vulnerable to an attack it is while you are, as my wife would like to say, taking care of your private needs. Saul you might say was "exposing' himself to certain defeat at the hands of David, right in David's own camp. David's men knew it, too. In 1 Samuel 24:4 the men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, "I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.'"
David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe. Later, he felt bad about doing even this. He confronted King Saul, prostrated himself, and confessed what he did. This served two purposes: 1) King Saul knew David had spared his life; 2) The King was confronted with the sin in his own life: his hatred of David.
King Saul wept aloud when he finally received the full impact of what had happened, and in 1 Samuel 24:17-18, he responds, "You are more righteous than I. You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me."
Many times our so-called "enemies" are going to be given into our hands. In cell groups, any number of different people (saved and not saved) can be coming under your roof with motives other than seeking out God. However, we must remember that God has delivered them into our hands. Like David, we should minister an appropriate action or word that will sooner or later bring about conviction and not spiritual death.
Several months ago a good Christian friend of mine came to my door to say good-bye. He was moving out of state. He had taken a 180 degree turn away from God. His life was quickly turning into a mess in spite of much counseling and prayer. His farewell was filled with bitterness and animosity towards me. My past actions towards him had seemed harsh and "un-christlike' to him.
I supported his wife when he was considering divorce. I openly disagreed with him when he felt he lost his job unjustifiably in the midst of a sinful lifestyle. Like Saul to David, this was a friend turned enemy. I told my friend that his sin would reap the appropriate consequences, but I did not cut him off and told him I loved him. I think deep inside he knew that my home was open to him should he ever return.
After "dumping' on me in my front yard, he left and I thought I would never hear from him again...until a few weeks ago. He showed up with no money, no job, no house and no place to stay. He was back in town and needed help. His humility and desire for forgiveness seemed genuine. He finally confronted his sin, but is still dealing with the consequences. However, he is ready to start building his life back, and I stand ready to help!
David never gave up on Saul. We should never give up on our friends or relatives either. It simply requires wisdom on our part to know what to do-the snipping of a garment in order to later bring conviction, but not death. As your personal relationships grow. The opportunities for helping even your enemies could be endless. May the Lord direct you!
The Battle for the Mind-Tradition must die to birth "one- anothering" in your cell.
The group had just finished worship and the members shared events that had occurred during the past week. Their sharing was open and comfortable, and the cell was using this question as a way to get to know each other during the first stages of cell life.
Frank, a lean athletic type, shared openly about his eventful week. He had run a nationally recognized marathon. While not initially planning to run the entire race, he planned to complete the first few miles with a friend who needed encouragement and then drop out. After the sixth mile, Frank's adrenaline began to flow and before he knew it, he was determined to finish the race.
Frank had not registered for the race. He had not paid his registration fee nor was he issued a number, which runners are required to wear during the race.
A few times during the event, the judges yelled to him saying,
"Where is your number?" Frank responded, "It must have fallen off!"
and kept on running.
After crossing the finish line, Frank was approached by judges who were seeking to clarify the situation. When asked who he was, Frank gave the judges the name of another person who had registered and was still running the race. Frank then blended in the crowd, slipped out to the parking lot and headed for home.
How should the group respond? How should they minister? Although they had good intentions, they responded in a social, traditional, "politically correct" way. In an effort to ease Frank's guilt, his friends in the cell said, "Don't worry about it. You didn't mean to do it. It's no big deal. Nobody was hurt and no harm was done."
The cell members were getting nowhere fast. Their words were empty with justification and appeasement, not encouragement! This is the way of the world, not the way of God.
Many of the commandments of God-love one another, serve one another, bear one another's burdens, confess your sins one to another, edify one another-pertain to a Christian community where the presence and power of God is being shared among believers. This community will only occur when we have the Spirit- led mindset for the fulfillment of these commandments. If our current social "conscience" prevails, our mindset will continue to rest on attendance and knowledge-the basis of tradition. As the word of God clearly states, there is much more, and we cannot allow tradition to cloud the vision of His church!
The old wineskin church member, if left unchallenged, will focus on the tradition of things below. These things are not seemingly evil, just socially acceptable and comfortable! "Sit-and- soak" believers must allow God to transition their minds toward the things above and not bow to cultural expectations or secular forms of socializing. There is only room for one mindset. Here's a bird's eye look at another cell meeting. See if you can see the difference.
"What was the most significant thing that happened to you this week?" Becky moaned as the icebreaker was shared. All eyes went to her as we knew a story was about to unfold. Becky and her brother had just returned from a wedding in another state.
Becky said, "I am so mad at my brother, Mark! He made an off-hand remark about the bride in her wedding dress. She was crushed! I found her in a corner sobbing after hearing what he said."
She finished the story noting how difficult and awkward the day was for everyone. It was evident to all of us that her anger for Mark had turned inward, but you wouldn't have known it by the cell member's words!
The members contributed their comments, judging Mark to be immature and empathized with the newly married couple. "How insensitive of Mark!" One remarked. Another person questioned, "Do you think the bride will have any happy memories of her wedding day after being humiliated like that?" Half jokingly a third member said, "I wouldn't take Mark to a funeral if I were you."
Finally, a member said gently, "I am unable to help the bride or your brother, but I do want all that is best for you. I noticed that while you shared this story, you expressed anger toward your brother on more than one occasion. How are you and God working this out?"
It was as if a blanket of silence was cast upon the room. The question was voiced in such a way as not to judge or seem pious. The genuine expression of care came through loud and clear, and the group realized there was an issue of ministry at hand.
Becky sat in that cell meeting, wounded and bitter because of her brother's actions. Encouragement, consolation, care and prayer were in order. One by one, the members picked up on the ministry opportunity and abandoned the worthless comments. The Lord, through the members, brought verses of scripture and insight pertaining to her anger and the need for forgiveness. As she listened, Becky's heart turned soft and contrite. She took her eyes off the action of her brother and sought the Lord in dealing with her own issues of pride and resentment.
During the course of the meeting, two other members confessed that they had been harboring bitterness and anger against their supervisor at work. They voiced their forgiveness to the Lord and to the cell concerning the petty attitudes and bitterness. After a gentle reminder from a member whose mind was set on things above, we saw God work in power!
Weeks later, the members reported how healing came to these wounded relationships through their confession and change in attitude. We gave God the glory as we saw His divine hand work powerfully in the life of our cell.
Transitioning the mind from the natural-be it traditional or social-to the supernatural is essential for productive cell life. If we want to experience the Spirit of God and the release of His power to mend, cleanse and restore, we must direct our thoughts and comments toward heaven.
Do you desire to move from the natural to the supernatural?
Follow these simple rules:
"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8.
Down-shifting into a new Great Commission paradigm
Does your missions view need an overhaul to go along with your second reformation-style church? Here's one practical plan of action for cross-cultural cell missions.
If it doesn't look broken, don't mess with it." If you agree with this philosophy, put this magazine down. I understand completely if you are overwhelmed with the transition your church is making to cells-just do faith missions as you have been doing all along. Find a missionary, support him, let him preach on Sunday when he visits, buy his kids new clothes and be a blessing to him! Faith missions have been the most successful worldwide evangelistic tool for almost two hundred years, and its success will not stop suddenly.
"If it jams, force it; if it breaks, it needed replacing anyway." Does this Tim Allen approach better describe you? Then join me in a practical look at a plan to fulfill the Great Commission with "more power" than current trends in missions.
Imagine this scene. My wife calls me from a pay phone from the local grocery store during a spring rainstorm. She informs me that the car has a flat tire and she needs a strong man to help a lady in distress. Desiring to stay dry and finish watching the ball game, I send my strapping young son to change the tire.
Who is the hero? Me, or my rain-drenched lad? The 16 year old who got the extra piece of pie at dinner will give you the correct answer!
Get the point?
While honoring the incredible job faith mission organizations have done in the past, we must step out into the storm and take local responsibility for world evangelism. When cell churches have "equipped the saints," they are going to be jammed with leaders ready to answer the call of missions. Will your church have a dynamic plan to support them in true second reformation fashion?
When the church begins to feel guilty because it chose a building program over a church planting program, a Christian ocean cruise over a short-term missions project or a new computer network over missions training, they call in the missions friar. He shows up and sells missions indulgences. Forgiveness for all their mission sin is offered at a fraction of what it would have cost to plant their own cross-cultural church. He tells them they have made a pleasing sacrifice unto the Lord-even though no one but a grandmother on welfare had to give up a dinner for their donation.
My wife and I were some of the first missionaries sent out from cell churches. We wanted deep relationships with the cell members in our supporting churches. Instead, we built walls called committees which managed our well-being. These dedicated folks quickly separated us from community with our fellow believers. The better the committee, the more we felt alone and disjointed from the body.
Then we thought, "If everything is supposed to be done in the cells, why can't we do missions in the cells? Our cell groups should be participating with the church planting teams which they support!"
Now that I have your undivided attention, let's discuss a new plan of action. three changes, and you're there To effectively reach unreached people groups and start national churches, we have to redesign the missions structure. After five years of missions under church leaders, I see three changes cell churches must make from a church planter's view.
The first change is responsibility and accountability-who is accountable to God for the church plant? Second, resources and opportunities-who is to provide the training and the resources to send the missionary out? And finally, relationship-who is to maintain the missionary in body life? With radical shifts in these three areas, a cell church will be able to effectively and efficiently plant cross-cultural cell churches.
When a church decides to support mission organizations and not plant its own cross-cultural churches, is it passing on the responsibility God has given it? Who is ultimately responsible for ensuring success or extra money for medical supplies? With an average of twenty-nine supporters, a missionary feels like everyone is responsible and no one is truly accountable. It's easier to defer to God's grace, give the missionary a few dollars and tell him, "Jesus will meet your needs."
Where is your church? If a member of your church comes to you stating God has called him into cross-cultural work, could you offer him an opportunity to become a missionary? Would you send him off to a missions organization with a symbolic $200 a month, hoping they could do something with him? With cross-cultural, cell- based missions, you could tell him you've been praying for missionaries to be raised up in the church and you already have a plan to train and send them.
When a missions program is delegated to a missions committee, relationships fade and a program is left as a remnant. If missions are rooted at cell level, a grass-roots commitment to the missionary will flourish. I found when I had "professional" relationships with pastors or leaders in a supporting church, they were not personally driven to communicate with me. In stark contrast, my cell leader and the two cells in which I fellowshipped pursued a relationship with my wife and I even though we never formalized their support of us on the mission field.
A shift to cell-based missions will allow you to take back responsibility. You can train up your own people and send them out to places where the Lord is calling your church to plant a new work. Finally, you can have meaningful relationships with missionaries on the field because you have a deep, established foundation. Get the picture? The cell church can become fertile soil for growing its own missionaries and planting cross-cultural churches.
I understood cell missions at 4 years of age. My mom said, "You have to put that toy away before you can play with another." The reality of cell missions will come from a deliberate choice to do one thing well instead of jumping from project to project.
Make a strategy to plant one cross-cultural cell church and see it through. Your vision will be so specific that some members may not like its rigidness, especially those who have been called elsewhere. The church doesn't support missions, it is a mission! A vision to plant a cross-cultural cell church in a particular region will replace a policy that designates missionary support.
The strategic goal of cell missions is not just to plant a church in the 10-40 window, but to become a church mobilized for missions. How? By forming two training tracks-one for individuals to become missionaries and one to train the church at large. They are launched in tandem and are insufferably codependant. That's why it works.
The secret to cell churches is that everyone is really being trained to be a missionary! Whether for a season or a lifetime, the principles and practices of the cell are culturally-acceptable worldwide; that means anyone trained in a cell church has a place on the mission field. Imagine the potential! Along with your church's standard training track from cell intern to zone pastor, a few additional requirements should be added to make someone missions-mobile. The training should be available to all members so a large pool of qualified people exists when missions needs and opportunities arise. Here's the process by which someone could rise in the ranks from cell member to cell church missionary. (I refer to the cell member as "he" only for the sake of writing simplicity. With fields "white for harvest", men and women must be trained for the task!)
This person thinks he might be called to be a missionary, or at least he wants some missions awareness. To become a recognized candidate missionary, he must complete the church's requirements as a cell intern, and take a short missions course (such as the Perspectives video course, Moody Missions correspondence course, or Emmaus Road's 3-day Intro to Missions in Tijuana). On the practical side, the student should go on a 2-6 week cross-cultural trip, preferably to a cell church. Finally, they would have to be an assistant sponsor for one of the church's missionaries, communicating and supporting them from the home base.
The person seeking to become an apprentice missionary will have fulfilled the requirements for candidate missionary and have operated as a cell leader with one successful multiplication. His previous experience in missions will have confirmed a deeper calling into cross-cultural work. Upon confirmation, your church will prepare him as their future missionary.
To become an apprentice missionary, the person must complete a second missions course and attend a one or two week course on cross-cultural missions. On the practical side, he would spend two-four months helping a cross-cultural cell church, and be a missionary sponsor for six months, helping cell groups take care of their missionary. By the time a person was a qualified apprentice missionary, your church leaders must be willing to fully support the person to plant cross-cultural cell churches, as part of a team project.
A person would qualify as a fully-trained missionary after he had attended a twelve-week missions course like Emmaus Road ACTS 29 course, spent two-three years on the field in a cross-cultural cell church, and studied one-year equivalent of a foreign language and have achieved conversational fluency.
A senior missionary will have completed all your church's training for a zone pastor. He would also have a BA, MA, or certificate in missiology. He would be fluent in a second language, and have spent four years in cross-cultural church planting, and have successfully planted a cell church in a different culture. This senior missionary is qualified to take teams out on the field.
As your church adopts this missionary training track and teams up for church plant projects, you might send out your missionaries under other churches' senior missionaries. The vision, however, would be that a church would eventually have its own fully-trained missionaries and teams on the field.
This type of training program also allows a church to raise up its own missionaries without a major burden on the church or the potential missionary. During his training, the future missionary grows deep in relationship with your church. However, to successfully move into cell missions, your whole church must make the missions paradigm shift and commit their resources accordingly.
For the new or small transitioning cell church (2-30 cells), the mobilization process will take about six years, unless trained people already reside in the church and are ready to be sent out. The three phases to missions-mobilization are: preparation, leadership development, and team projects.
Preparation-In this first phase, your church must develop a missions training track, restructure the missions budget, and select an on-going cross-cultural work in which to participate. After one of your leaders or your pastor visits a potential mission site, an invitation is put forth to begin training for upcoming missions projects. Your potential missionaries are put into training and prepared to go. Meanwhile, your traditional missions committee is dissolved and a plan is written to phase out all random missions support over the next two years. As a substitute for the missions committee, a missions mobilizer is selected who will help a group of 3-5 cells participate in cross-cultural church planting. When the field site is selected, the field missionary will coordinate the sending of short-term workers, plans are arranged with the field missionary to send 2-3 short-term teams during the next two to four years. The group of cells also make plans to send their potential long-term missionaries for 3 month terms. During this two year period of partnership with a missionary on the field, your missions fervor will grow as most of your church has participated in helping the new church plant. Now your church is ready to move into the next phase.
During the two years your church works with a missionary, you should be looking for a new church plant location and for other cell churches who want to team up. From your cells' experiences on the field, look for the person who has risen up and is ready to go out as your first missionary. It will take almost all the church's resources to send out the missionary. Your cells have planned pastoral visits, short-term missionaries, and prayer and worship teams.
This team project has been planned for four years, and during that time many people will have the opportunity to gain experience in missions. The short-term teams sent out will become the foundation for a team project later. At the end of the four year project your church must raise up one senior missionary, one or two trained missionaries, along with many apprentices and candidates. Meanwhile, your membership has grown in confidence and understanding of cross-cultural cell church planting. You are now ready to plant another church!
Six years have passed and your ten cells have grown to 40 cells in four districts. Each district is prepared to sponsor one of the four team members on your church plant team-a senior missionary, a missionary, and two apprentices. A younger cell church asks to send their first missionary out with your team for mentoring, and you readily agree. A missions organization has provided the cover to get your team in place, as well as contacts to help the team get established.
In time, your church will plant an indigenous church, but more so, you will have a fully-mobilized cell church in operation back in America. This process to missions mobilization demands great and focused commitment.
In the Preparation phase, your church sent out short-term teams to help one mission. Next, in the Leadership Develop-ment phase, the primary emphasis is on a single missionary. Finally, in Team Projects, the church is sending out groups of people to plant one church. Disciplined execution of the vision has allowed the cell church to become fully mobilized.
This three-tiered plan will take commitment and effort to achieve success. Your church must develop the more practical parts of this plan, but the key is changing to cells planting cells instead of churches supporting mission organizations. A group of committed cells will be needed to hold the missions "reins" and keep the buggy on the road. They will take ownership of the missions vision and patiently ride it out, avoiding rabbit trails and side trips. You can become a missions mobilized cell church!
have an Australian Shepherd named Shadow. As a puppy, she would instinctively try to herd things-cats, kids, tennis balls, with no idea what she was doing-it was just instinctive play for her. Unfortunately, I didn't have the ability or desire to train Shadow to use her God-given ability to shepherd other animals.
We have a whole pack of "missions puppies" in our cells who have the instincts for missions but need training. God wants to use them to fulfill His Great Commission. Unfortunately, most of them are running in circles, chasing their tails when it comes to missions.
Most churches have no serious desire or ability to mobilize their people into cross-cultural missions. Now is the time to accept our responsibility to evangelize our generation worldwide! When we look to closure of the Great Commission, it becomes clear that the Church has yet to mobilize itself. A new model for missions is needed to help churches mobilize; traditional missions structures fall short.
The traditional policy of churches supporting mission organizations is very limiting. Rather, we should mobilize our cell groups through a tightly-focused plan like the one described here because it optimizes the raising up of a church's own missionaries. May your cell group boldly go to the "edge" where no Christian has gone before and bring Jesus to a dying world!
"Whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me."
Jesus' words from Matthew 18:5 express an awesome thought in relationship to cell groups. We are accepting, ignoring or rejecting Jesus by the way we accept, ignore or reject children in cell life. Children offer a wonderful opportunity to warmly welcome Jesus in our midst, and it is up to the adults to implement it.
I.G.C.'s, or InterGenerational Cells (those that include children and youth), bring a refreshing change to the traditional paradigm of ministry to the family. I want to describe my I.G.C. and give you some practical tips that apply to any cell setting, so that you can implement I.G.C.'s in your church.
My cell has three teenagers and eleven younger children, ages two to twelve. The teenagers enjoy the I.G.C.-we don't force participation-even though they attend their own youth cell ministry. The children are enthusiastic and willing to participate as well; they know they have a role to play in making it work.
In our weekly gathering, everyone takes part in the icebreaker. This time allows the children to get to know everyone in the group and to build trusting relationships. Likewise, we learn more about our children, and they surprise us weekly with their responses. If the children don't feel comfortable answering a question, they can "pass." I would gladly share the icebreaker for the next week with the parents for practice if we had shy children, but that's not the case! Our kids come to cell, ready to share.
The best icebreakers are the ones that the children bring. "What was your favorite toy when you were my age? When did you meet God? What was the best Christmas present you ever gave to someone?" It hasn't taken us long to figure out they do a better job with breaking the ice, and we regularly delegate this part of the meeting to them.
After the icebreaker, we enter into worship. The children are included for the first two or three songs. These are usually action- packed and require the adults to stand and do the motions along with the kids. I just love these songs. The silly body movements give me a good excuse to flap my arms and have fun. After we have finished "kid's worship", two or three of the adults or teens take the children to a different part of the host home for the balance of the meeting. We call this time Kid's Slot. It is an informal time of prayer, sharing a Bible story and playing games.
The teenagers remain in the regular cell meeting with the adults. When we have prayer and ministry time, they join in or form a smaller group among themselves. They have also formed a special bond with each other, spending time on the phone between cell meetings, as teens love to do.
Everyone in the cell takes a turn leading Kid's Slot. The cell leader and intern are included and the cycle starts over every five or six weeks. Our cell (like each of the cells in our church) has someone appointed by the cell leader who is called the Child-Link. This person has taken responsibility for planning and praying for the children's ministry within the cell. Just as the cell leader delegates responsibilities within the group like worship, keeping a prayer journal, etc., the cell leader will also delegate the coordination of the children's ministry so that someone is giving deliberate thought to their care and involvement. This person should not be considered the "official baby sitter", but the coordinator/advocate for the children of his or her cell.
The Kid's Slot time is free form for the member in charge. When I share in the Kid's Slot, I discuss a Bible story that I have recently read in my daily time with God, one that impacted me and that I feel would minister to the children. I have shared my testimony, and read from a Bible story book. On great occasion, we watch a Christian video together and discuss the truths found in it. (The Child-Link is always available the week before to help with ideas and parameters for Kid's Slot facilitator). After the Bible story and sharing, there is prayer and ministry. Our children are remarkably transparent and willing to pray for each other! If you are determined to spend time with small children in ministry like I have, you will see that they have deep needs, and they pray in power. I always come away knowing more about worship and faith from our kids.
For the last part of our time together we play games. This ongoing channel for ministry is relationship-based and having fun together builds these strong relationships. We use board games, jump on the trampoline or play with building blocks. Sporadically, we use the entire cell time as "kid's night out". We take a walk to the park, or go swimming or pile into our van and go to MacDonald's.
Two weeks ago neither my wife nor I could make it to our cell meeting. She was sick and I had another commitment-but our children still wanted to go. We called a cell member and they picked them up on the way. Even if Vicki and I aren't there, our children are committed and faithful. Is Jesus being welcomed in our cell group? You betcha! If you don't believe me, just ask my kids.
Consider making the changes in the way your cell operates if you are not accepting the children as you would Jesus. Include them in as much of your weekly meeting as you can by:
Asking them for their input and listening carefully to their responses.
Raising up a Child Link to plan and encourage I.G.C. activity.
Developing relationships that allow you to receive from them.
Asking God for a vision for their involvement today, not in the future!
Jesus will bless your efforts as He has in the dynamic life of my own cell!
End of Issue.
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|Volume Five - 1996||Volume Six - 1997|
|Volume Seven - 1998|
Contents © Copyright 1999 by TOUCH Outreach Ministries, Inc.