Satan is the father of all lies, causing the people of God to be deceived into believing a lie to be the truth. We see this in the way he arranged for the murderers of Jesus to argue that His followers had stolen his body from the grave. They wanted a lie to be accepted as truth. Even today books are written about the resurrection propounding this lie as fact.
There are always two actions to satan's tactics: first, he propounds a lie to be the truth, and then he causes the hearers to believe his lie is truth. One of the most repulsive lies crippling the body of Christ today is the comment, "America is different. Our culture will not accept the cell church as valid. It won't work here!" The sad fact is that those who believe this to be the truth are victims of satan, accepting a lie as the truth.
It fits our culture to believe the lie. I recently ran across an ad in a journal that has been widely printed as a public service by the Ad Council of America. It reads:
"In America, you are not required to offer food to the hungry. Or shelter to the homeless. There is no ordinance forcing you to visit the lonely, or comfort the infirm. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say you have to provide clothing for the poor. In fact, one of the nicest things about living here in America is that you really don't have to do anything for anybody."
The Christian cynics believe a lie when they assume American Christians are self-centered people who do not desire to become responsible to and for each other. Robert Wuthrow, in his definitive book Sharing the Journey (Free Press, 1994), reports on a survey of Americans sponsored by the Lilly Endowment and administered through the George H. Gallup International Institute. These are his findings:
1. ". . . the small-group movement is beginning to alter American society, both by changing our understandings of community and be redefining spirituality . . . what is happening now has never occurred at any previous time in history . . . they are dramatically changing the way God is understood. God is now less of an external authority and more of an internal presence." (p. 4)
2. "At present, four out of every ten Americans belong to a small group that meets regularly and provides caring and support for its members. These are not simply informal gatherings of neighbors and friends, but organized groups . . ." (p. 5)
3. The top two reasons for becoming involved in a group (p. 84) reflects that 73% do so because of a desire to grow as a person, and 60% attend because they were invited by someone they know.
Hundreds of churches in America are now either fully transitioned or in the process of moving from pastor-directed programs to a cell-based structure where the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is being taken seriously. It is no longer true that all we have in this nation are "churches with cells." Pure cell churches are out there, both large and small. The first quarter of the next century will see the demise of the traditional church as a Sunday "sit and soak" activity and the emergence of an army of God composed of platoons of cells who invade the territory of the evil one, kicking down the gates of hell.
An American Transplant-Learning Basic Christian community in Canada
Two years ago, theological studies caused me to pull up my roots in Texas and plant a new chapter of life in Vancouver, British Columbia. Spoiled by cell life, I could not live within the confines of seminary and hope to find God. I needed basic Christian community-the kind that made a global impact. I was infected by the daily interaction with believers I experienced in Houston! We shared, worshiped, prayed, evangelized and played together as a family. A "Sunday-only" church would not satisfy my craving.
There were many churches with small groups, but most did not have a true grasp of the cell church vision. After weeks of searching, I found a church in its first year of transition. I visited one of their cells. Within the first week, I overwhelmed them with my knowledge of cells from having worked with Dr. Ralph Neighbour and Bill Beckham. I claimed to know exactly what to do in their cells! All these people had to do was listen to me! God, obviously, had other plans.
Instead of acting from the heart of God, I initiated from my own understanding. I realized what I said mattered very little, but my actions were the most powerful investment I could make. God did not need me to tell them the conceptual difference between a Bible study and cell life. They needed more of God-not more of my ideas. God used this to shift my priority from the cell structure to loving people.
Through this new perspective, I realized what God was doing among these Canadians and the cell. He taught me that people take priority over methods. Without people there is no hope for any kind of true community. The Church needs people and must work with them on the level of their understanding.
I haven't lost sight of the vision nor discarded the methods. However, I found that Canadians value friendships more than expertise. The most effective way to communicate the cell vision to Canadians is through relationships! I have also accepted that my knowledge proves very little in the Kingdom of God. This is evident in Vancouver. Only love that bears fruit speaks to their hearts.
Only 3-5% of the Vancouver population attend church on a given Sunday morning. Initially, this statistic would generate the assumption that we need to pray for a harvest. On the contrary, the harvest beams at us like over-ripe wheat! Most Sunday mornings we find unchurched people visiting our services who are seeking direction.
The problem is that we lack people spiritually equipped to gather and disciple the harvest. We face the dilemma Jesus spoke of in Matthew 9:37: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." Canada needs believers who are hungry for God and are willing to be shepherds!
Pray that God would stir our hearts to pray for workers. While we pray for leaders, it's not the all-out cry it needs to be. If the churches of Vancouver are going to reach that 97% who are not a part of a local church, we need much more than the correct "Biblical" structures. We need the manifested power of God. Vancouver needs God to make Himself evident in our lives like we have never known before. This and only this will equip leaders for the harvest.
Leading Where I've Never Been-"Today I do what others will not, so I can do tomorrow what others cannot."
I often feel like Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise-leading where I've never been before. There were times when I was unsure of the keys to make transitioning work. I wondered if I was in the right place. I even experienced great fear when I pondered issues in transitioning. Thank God, fear no longer grips me, because I know God is with us!
Less than a year ago, I became the Senior Pastor of New Life Fellowship. It's an eight year old church with over a hundred members gathering on Sunday for Celebration. Our turning point for transitioning came when the elders gathered for a time of prayer and fasting at a retreat center. On our first day we heard God speak to us from Jeremiah 21:10: "The Shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord. Therefore, they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered."
The elders knew God called us into a deeper understanding of shepherding. As an answer to His call, we made a covenant to transition to a pure cell church over the next 3 to 5 years regardless of the cost. We are now in the eleventh month of our first year. By the goodness and grace of the Father, we've discovered navigational helps that keep us tracking in the right direction.
First, we place prayer and "watchcare" high on our priority list. As elders, we made personal and corporate prayer and fasting central in all that we do. We meet weekly to pray and minister to one another and enjoy the presence of the Lord before we discuss business. In addition, we have an "Elder's Day of Prayer" four times a year. This has become a highlight for us.
We have also enlisted people to pray. Several men intercede for us regularly, and I've seen how shared church leadership can be positive and fruit-bearing. I also see the difference that preparation and prayer make in a transitioning church.
Second, we have set each church family under the care of an elder, who acts as a zone supervisor. Each cell member knows the supervising elder and stays in contact on a weekly basis. As the Senior Pastor, I shepherd the elders along with staff and several other leadership families.
Third, we prioritized staff over facilities when we put our goals on paper. We hired a Director of Youth Ministry, a Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts and a Pastor of Training and Instruction while we continued to meet at the local Junior High School.
Fourth, we built on the foundations laid by others. Taking counsel from those with knowledge and experience challenged me to lead where I've never been before. I am still learning. I also completed The Year of Transition held by TOUCH as part of my Doctor of Ministry Studies at Regent University in Virginia. TYOT is a must for any pastor considering a transition. Take staff, key leaders and your spouse.
That intense training has helped us immensely. The information, experiences, illustrations, mentoring, networking and great collegiality helped me perceive the big picture as well as the specifics of transitioning. What you'll learn will help you make informed decisions and give you brothers and sisters in Christ who will pray and walk the process with you.
The greatest thing to know when leading where you've never been is that God has already been there. Wait on Him and seek His face. Allow others who know the path bring confirmation that you have heard from God. Transitioning can be a tiresome and frightening process! There are many times when you'll want to turn around and head back, but God always provides others who can support and help you in your journey. Don't stop or go back. Keep trekking!
Turning the Tables-Carrying the lessons of rejection
I joined other cell leaders and interns a few months ago for a community outreach to the homeless. Unfortunately, my compassion remained in the comfort zone of the shelter's kitchen. After peeling two sacks of potatoes and a chunk of my finger, I thought my job was finished.
I heard music coming from the tent outside the shelter and was eager to see the show. I walked outside the shelter and stood in the rain, watching the performance of the praise and worship band of another local church. Under the tent, one homeless man stood with his muddied arms raised. Another sat with his fists clenched at his side and his glare to the floor. Their shirts and pants were torn and soiled, and most of their shoes had no soles. The stench of urine, alcohol and smoke almost made the hair in my nostrils curl. Those who could hold their breath sat with them. I stood outside.
At the end of a praise song, one of them staggered to the worship leader to shake her hand. His blonde hair was almost undetectable from the dirt, and I could see the skeletal contour of his hand when he offered it to her. She grabbed it and preached at him. He yelled back. After their exchanged words, he walked across the street, sat down, buried his head in his lap and wept. I felt sorry for that man, so I prayed-that someone else would help.
Someone else did help and invited him back to the tent. One church goer complained that he was disruptive and should be told to leave. I watched this "disruptive" man sitting by himself, drinking soda. Slouching, he forced a smile, and I could see there weren't many laugh lines on his face. I told myself that this man needed acceptance, not more rejection. God answered my introspective comment and told me to pray for him. So, I prayed-that someone else would help.
My curiosity brought me to take a closer look at these men, and I walked under the tent. In working with the homeless, I learned that each face had different marks; each story, unique. Cuts and scars branded their faces and hands. I repeatedly turned away to breathe and escape the stench of their world. Questions flooded my mind as I gasped for air. "Did Jesus really come here to embrace and die for this stench? Am I to do the same? Doesn't anybody use deodorant anymore?" I thought I could bear it, but, eventually, I had to turn away. When I turned back, I discovered that drunken man looking at me, so I smiled. He smiled and made his way over.
"Hello," he slurred. The alcohol on his breath almost forced the bile in my stomach to rise.
"Hey, how are you?" I mumbled, holding my breath.
"I'm Eddy," he introduced himself and held out his hand.
I complied with the protocol, though I desperately wanted to breathe. Under conviction, I felt obligated to share the love of Christ with that foul-smelling man. I thought I did my part to serve them. I peeled the potatoes. I even shed blood! I wanted desperately to hide and pray-that someone else would help.
God convicted me again, and I realized I too was eager to reject Eddy. I was more concerned with keeping my guard up than breaking down his walls. Eddy spoke of Jesus and how He saved his life many times. I listened and tried to keep my mouth shut for awhile. Despite my reluctance, God spoke His love and truth to Eddy, miraculously, through me. At one point, the Holy Spirit told me to ask him what words he prayed in giving his life to Jesus Christ. With reverence, I asked God, "What kind of question is that?" God answered, "Just ask the question." So, I obeyed.
Eddy asked soberly, "What kind of question is that?"
I thought to myself, "Great minds . . . well, maybe not." God forced me to have a common ground with Eddy. Then, what came out of my mouth amazed me. "Everyone has their own testimony about how they came to know Jesus. I want to hear your story."
Eddy looked away to hide tears and relayed how one night as a youth he asked Jesus to come into his heart. I saw a lot of my experiences in Eddy's testimony. I too was hurt and rejected by church goers and walked away from God. I also remembered how it felt to hurt so badly that I wanted anything to numb the pain. I had no hope and no faith in God and myself. I also buried myself in the pits of my strongholds. I've been there-done that!
Though I knew that most homeless people choose to remain on the streets, I saw how the tables could have easily been turned. I could have been sleeping in the streets, guzzling down any alcoholic beverage I could find or steal. He could have been an editor of a magazine, living in an apartment and sleeping in a comfortable bed.
I placed my hand on his shoulder and said, "Eddy, you don't need alcohol. You need God. He loved you enough to die for you. He hasn't rejected you. I'll never know what you've gone through nor do I want to know, but God has always been there for you. He still is." So, I prayed-for him. After the prayer, Eddy whispered, "Thank you. I now know Jesus still loves me."
Eddy walked away after that prayer and is probably still on the streets. Though I didn't bring him into cell life, I brought the lesson I learned. Our comfort zones must be constantly challenged in God's kingdom. We shy away from the "stench" of those who are different-for whom He gave His life. We were once like them. We won't admit it, but now they make us uncomfortable. We'd rather stay in the shelter peeling potatoes than in the tent tearing down strongholds. We pray-that someone else would help. If we are all representatives of Christ, that someone else is us.
One Saturday morning my daughter asked me to make her pancakes for breakfast. Knowing I am not a cook, I pleaded with her, "Please, Leticia, couldn't you just eat cereal today?" She persisted, so I tried. Half asleep, I read the instructions incorrectly, and the end product was horrifying! I asked her again to eat cereal. She persisted, and I tried again. This time the oil in the pan caught on fire! "Please try again, Daddy," my eight year old begged. I tried once more, this time without following the recipe on the side of the box. Amazingly enough, the concoction looked edible. Leticia took one bite of my freshly made pancake, looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, "Daddy, may I have cereal, please?"
Likewise, we as a cell church had our share of mistakes. Our experiences were not unique. The lessons from these mistakes resonate in the hearts of pastors and leaders all over this country, yet there are those who give up just short of the lesson and leave with a bitter taste from errors. I once asked Dr. David Yonggi Cho, "Why is it, Dr. Cho, that it is so hard for cell ministry to work in America?" He responded immediately, "Many pastors are threatened. They are afraid to release their people." If this is why cell ministry hasn't worked in America, what can we do about it?
Rick Warren, the Senior Pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, California, commented: "For your church to grow, both the pastor and the people must give up control. The people must give up the control of the leadership, and the pastor must give up control of the ministry. Otherwise, either party can become a bottleneck for growth."
The traditional American pastor can control his church members, and the members can control the pastor. Pastors of cell churches are no exception to the control trap, and neither are cell leaders. In the beginnings of our cell church, we told people they must be involved in a cell group in their own community. This was a mistake.
One family felt misplaced in their community cell and came to me for assistance. I told them they needed to stay in the cell. As a result, they left our church. I recognized my mistake a few years later and asked them for forgiveness. I learned that the church is not built by geography, but by relationships.
Recently, I spoke at a church in upstate New York where the pastor had gone through a painful church split and decided to quit. However, the Lord spoke to him and said, "I have called you to release the ministry of the church to My people." That pastor returned to the congregation and began to transition the group into a cell church. When he released the people as ministers, the people released him and his leadership team to lead under the direction of the Holy Spirit. A fresh sense of faith and expectancy came into this church.
As believers mature and prepare to be sent out to start a new cell, many go back to their own neighborhoods. However, this time, they go back because the Lord called them there, not because of dictation from church leadership.
Dr. Cho warned, "Anything that destroys personal independence and the individual's personality and responsibility is from the devil. God never created us to be puppets. He gave us personalities to be developed into loving sons and daughters living in relationship with him. Our home cell groups are designed to promote that relationship." Cell groups can be used to either control God's people or to release God's people.
Why are values important? They are the core of our beliefs! They direct our actions and attitudes. Unfortunately, Americans often teach "methods" rather than Scriptural values. People become a part of a local church for the outward results but do not adopt the values of the church. When Christian leaders focus on methods rather than Scriptural values, the believer's belief system becomes based on the methods of men rather than on the Word of God.
For a season, our church spouted the cell church buzz words rather than testifying of Jesus and His Word. We exalted our cell vision above Jesus Christ. We prided ourselves in being the first cell church in our region! We soon learned that Jesus shares His glory with no other-no matter how great the cell group vision. We repented to the Lord and His people.
Soon after our cell church started, we traveled throughout the world to learn from others. When we returned from our first conference in Korea, we exhorted our cell leaders: "The Korean cell leaders multiply their cells every six months. We serve the same God. We expect you to do the same!" A few years later we repented to our cell group leaders for burning them out with a burden that was too heavy to carry. We taught a method rather than the Word of God.
Now, is it wrong for Korean Christians to have that goal? Not at all. Is it the Lord's will to multiply cell groups on a regular basis? Of course! Is it important to set goals? Yes, but we must understand from the Word of God why we should set goals and experience cell group multiplication. When we adopt other people's methods before understanding their values, we become frustrated and drained. People tire quickly of the latest Christian fad. They don't need it. We must fervently pray that our visions and goals are birthed by the Holy Spirit, not copied from the latest church appearing to be successful.
The American mindset focuses more on structure than on caring relationships and reaching the lost. Our methods must be the infra-structure that releases life. We must focus on life-not structure. If we are not careful, the results will be program-based cell churches. Focus on Jesus and His Word. Teach values first. Then apply the proper cell group structure.
I was a guitar instructor a few years ago and met with students week after week, teaching them how to hold the pick, how to strum and how to play a certain chord. They practiced at home and came back the next week to learn another chord. Within a few months, they were playing dozens of songs. A cell leader disciples believers in a similar way. He or she trains the cell members by giving them responsibilities to help them grow spiritually.
Kevin was a young father in a cell group I led. One day he confided in me, "Larry, I have never prayed publicly. The thought of it really scares me, but I want to learn. I need your help. Sometime in a cell meeting, when I am not expecting it, ask me to pray." I assured him I would enjoy this opportunity! A few weeks later, at an early morning cell meeting, I looked in Kevin's direction and said, "Kevin, I would like you to pray this morning." He took a deep breath and prayed for the first time in public. It was his first step in discipleship. Kevin and his wife Carol became wonderful cell group leaders.
American Christians have swallowed the "holy man" and "holy building" myths. Every Sunday morning, they expect to find the holy man in a holy building who will minister to their needs. The holy man must be the counselor and must be available twenty four hours a day. Rather than becoming disciples and ministers, these well meaning Christians are merely consumers of ministry.
Pastors and their church members can develop co-dependent relationships. The pastor is paid to do the work of ministry; the people get their money's worth-good sermons and great programs. Inevitably, the pastor burns out, and the people never obtain the opportunity to fulfill their calling in Christ to equip and release ministers. They never become disciples.
The cell is only a forum to know one another, pray together and focus on reaching others for Christ. Real cell life happens after the meetings when believers share and pray together. This happens when believers practice hospitality in their homes and learn to know one another as real people. This also occurs when one believer assumes responsibility to help a younger Christian grow in his new life in Christ, meeting together each week for prayer, Bible studies and discuss questions about life. Real cell life comes when believers are either being discipled or discipling others. This forces consumers to become disciples.
Too many times, after an American cell-based church grows and multiplies their cell groups, another migratory flock appears on the horizon. These are church people who see the new life in the cell-based church and want to connect with it. They leave their former church but bring in their former values and convictions. Immediately, the honeymoon wears off, and they long for the programs in their former churches. These consumer Christians voice their personal visions and perceptions of how the church must be run to the pastor and elders.
Gradually, church leaders walk in the fear of man rather than the fear of God, and they compromise the original vision the Lord gave them. Ministering in cell groups is minimized and replaced by new programs. The original vision for this cell church slowly ebbs.
At one point, our church was in this position. As a pastor, I reached the crossroads where I decided to continue with the Lord's vision, risking everything. I faced the possibility of having to start over with only me and my family. However, the Lord had graciously joined hundreds of sincere and dedicated people with us, and the risk did not result in complete loss. However, He needed to bring us to the place of willful obedience.
Over the years, we learned to ask God to bring us two types of co-laborers-new believers and those called to this house to house vision. Several times, we closed down our Sunday morning celebration meetings and met in homes for a month at a time. This helped people who were unsure of our vision to understand the importance of saints ministering from house to house. On one occasion, after we came back from a month of meeting solely in cell groups, we added one hundred people to the church. God places members in His body as He wills (I Corinthians 12:18), and misplaced believers experience much disappointment for themselves and their church leaders. At times, I have encouraged some misplaced people in our church to look for another church with a vision closer to theirs.
Earlier this year, as our church decentralized and became eight cell-based churches, I turned over the leadership and ministry of our cell church to eight pastors, twenty one elders and a host of cell leaders. I now have the privilege of being a pastor to pastors and training leaders in existing, newly birthed cell-based churches throughout the world. However, without believers trained in cell ministry, we could not make the transition.
C.T. Studd, the famous missionary, once said, "I do not wish to live 'neath sound of church or chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell." The main purpose for every cell group must be to run "rescue shops," or the cell becomes a powerless social club. We are witnesses (Acts 1:8), not partakers of complacent, comfortable "bless-me" meetings.
Don and Jeanni served with a cell group in Harrisburg, PA. They believed the Lord birthed their cell to reach the lost. They hosted a Japanese student, Yosiko, enrolled in a local university. Week after week, they showed her God's love and prayed for Yosiko every week. A few days before Christmas, Yosiko, who grew up in a Buddhist family, declared to Don and Jeanni, "I have just received a Christmas gift. I have asked Jesus Christ to come into my life." The cell rejoiced with her, baptized her and discipled her. When the time came, they empowered her to go back to Japan. The entire cell was changed when they focused outward.
Americans tend to forget why they are involved in cell life. The primary purpose for the cell group is not merely for fellowship but to reach the lost. A cell group must focus on reaching people in and beyond their communities, or it becomes ingrown and stagnant.
Constant exhortation, encouragement and training from church leaders for our commission to reach the lost is vital. Without these things, the law of entropy occurs. Soon, the cell group loses its vision and mandate from the Lord to reach the lost. The tendency of all new wineskins is to get old, but bringing new people into the cell and multiplying keeps us fresh and alive.
The greatest catalyst for spiritual growth is getting our eyes off ourselves and on to Jesus Christ and His heart for the needs of those around us. Looking inward prevents growth, like an ingrown toenail, and usually causes pain, competition and stagnation. When groups are content to stay the same, they subconsciously build walls around themselves causing others to feel unwelcome.
I was recently asked to train cell leaders at the Vienna Christian Center in Vienna, Austria. Though only a few years old, it is the largest Protestant Church in the nation since the Reformation. It is a cell church, with cell groups scattered throughout the city. After speaking on "New Wine and New Wineskins," I opened the opportunity for prayer for these new leaders to receive more of the Lord's presence in their lives. One of the men, a diplomat, ran to the front of the room for prayer, desperate and hungry for more of God, and many more with the same desire followed suit.
Unlike much of America, there is a genuine hunger for God within believers in other nations. They believe that if God doesn't show up, it is all over! They are right! New wineskins (new cells) must be regularly filled with new wine (a fresh experience with Jesus). We must experience more of the life and presence of Jesus in our lives today than we did last week.
Americans trust structures rather than God. The Lord honors people who are desperate for more of Him in their lives. We cannot continue living on past experiences! We must be desperate for a daily and fresh touch from the Lord. We must expect the Lord to fill us with His presence when we come together in His name in our cell meetings.
Daniel and Rebecca Mbite, from Machakos, Kenya, started a new cell church last year. Daniel works for the bank during the day and serves as a pastor evenings and weekends. Rebecca gave up her job to have more time to minister to the needs of those they serve. They go into the villages and homes to pray for the sick, and the Lord heals them. Through these miracles, people give their lives to Christ and willingly open their homes for a new cell group.
A few months ago while I was in Africa, the cell church leaders told me Americans doubt there are demons in America. They doubt we believe in the supernatural world, because they know that demons are real. They grew up witnessing the supernatural through witch doctors in their villages, so they expect the Lord to work supernaturally among them in their cell groups.
In Acts 2, we see the early Christians empowered by the Holy Spirit to be ministers. Then in Acts 4, we see the disciples filled with Holy Spirit again! American believers need the same hunger for more of the Holy Spirit's presence and power. The church in America must experience a new desperation for God. We must believe in the supernatural. We must refuse to turn back, confess our mistakes and expect the Lord to help us into a new reformation.
Thousands of churches in America are presently transitioning into a New Testament model of Basic Christian Community. Saints are released to minister from house to house. To persevere, we must keep our eyes on God and His vision. There is no turning back! He wants to use you to fulfill His purposes. Jesus Christ will build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!
Perhaps you tasted and experienced cell ministry and became disillusioned or weary. Don't go back! Like I did with the pancakes, you may have read some of the instructions wrong or even neglected to read them. We must learn from our mistakes! The only people who never make mistakes are those who do nothing.
What's the Difference?-Zone Pastors and Zone Supervisors
I work with hundreds of pastors in the throes of transitioning their traditional churches to cells, moving them through the process with a focused strategy for success. When I visit the transitioning churches, I usually find a common problem. The first generation cells have multiplied, but the pastor is supervising up to 20 cell leaders and interns with no sub-zone supervision. Lacking the proper oversight, the development of the cell leaders and interns suffer from deficient coaching and pastoral care. These pastors have a vision for cells, but the strategy for zone supervision is lost in the wake. The roles of zone pastors and zone supervisors may appear to overlap and be repetitive in a small cell structure, but they are vital to the success of a cell-based church.
The cell church is organized according to the Jethro Principle expressed in Exodus 18:13-27. Cell leaders, zone supervisors, zone pastors and district pastors serve as extensions of the senior pastoral ministry of the church. Their roles are equivalent to the Old Testament leaders who undergirded the ministry of Moses. They were leaders placed over 10's, 50's, 100's, 1000's, etc. In a cell church's system of care, each cell leader (CL) can shepherd 10-14 members-the captain over 10's. The zone supervisor (ZS) oversees up to five cells in a sub-zone-the captain over 50's. In contrast, the zone pastor (ZP) oversees five sub-zones or roughly 25 cells.
Both the ZS and ZP undertake the same duties and wear multiple hats as managers, leaders and shepherds, but they differ in their scope of responsibilities and the percentage of time devoted to each duty. To elaborate, a manager supervises the implementation of the vision cast by his direct leader. A leader casts vision and provides clear direction for his followers. A shepherd cares for the personal needs of his sheep.
The ZP is ultimately responsible for all the sheep in his care. The ZSs and CLs assist him as undershepherds, undergirding his ministry. What lies beyond the ability and availability of the CL and the ZS rests squarely at the feet of the ZP.
The zone supervisor uses 60% of his time as manager, 10% as leader and 30% as shepherd. The ZS manages the growth of the sub-zone-regularly and systematically visiting and evaluating the cell meetings. He monitors the growth of cell members through weekly records and handles difficult situations that arise from time to time. He also attends to the general affairs of his sub-zone, developing interns and insuring the sub-zone's readiness for multiplication.
The Zone Supervisor also interprets the zone's objectives and goals and leads his CLs toward successful evangelism, discipleship and intern training-resulting in multiplication of both cells and leadership.
His primary shepherding is to the CLs. He supervises and provides pastoral care for the cell leaders under his charge, meeting with them on a monthly basis, as a group as well as individually. He makes himself available to meet with cell members and interns to discuss or work through issues or strongholds. If an increased level of pastoral care is required, the ZS turns the responsibility over to the ZP after the first or second meeting. The ZS is unable to be a long-term counselor in addition to leadership responsibilities, a 40 to 50 hour work week and/or full time parenting responsibilities.
The time percentages for zone pastors are: 45% as manager, 20% as leader and 35% as shepherd. He monitors the growth of the entire zone, managing and guiding up to 5 ZSs through weekly individual sessions and monthly group planning meetings. In the individual meetings, the ZP gathers information about CLs, interns and the growth of each cell. The monthly group meetings allow the ZP and the ZSs to evaluate measurable goals and execute strategies to fulfill the zone's vision.
The Zone Pastor must be a visionary leader, responsible for the care and evangelization of those within his zone. The ZP speaks on behalf of the church leadership and interprets the Senior Pastor's vision for the zone, defining clear-cut steps for success. When necessary, he will communicate the church's biblical stance on various issues to the ZSs and CLs in his zone. He is responsible for both explaining and implementing church policies and disseminating information. He is the decision maker for the zone-the ZS is the decision implementer.
The ZP should spend about a third of his week in individual contact with CLs and ZSs. His ear is tuned into their ministry needs and personal issues. Once a month, the ZP will lead an edification cell for his ZSs and their spouses. This cell will not be a Basic Christian Community. It will serve as another instrument by which the ZP insures his leaders' pastoral needs are fulfilled. Quality relationships are built with other ZSs as they minister to one another and receive consistent ministry from the ZP. This strengthens and enables the ZSs to give quality care to those they shepherd.
Is the only difference between a ZS and ZP just one of time allocation? No, it is also one of demonstrated experience and calling. The ZS is one who has been a CL and has demonstrated proven ministry in caring for cell members and reaching the lost. He has successfully multiplied at least one cell and served a cell cycle as a ZS Intern. The ZP has faithfully accomplished all of the aforementioned and has gone on to serve successfully as a ZP Intern. Additionally, due to the amount of time required, the ZP is the first level of full-time staff in a cell church. A ZS and CL are non-staff positions of service and ministry. Due to time and expertise, the ZS will be directly called upon to handle minor problems with cell leaders, cells, or other cell members. ZPs will minister to the chronic problems of members and leaders which require greater amounts of time and experience.
This brief explanation shows the importance of adding ZSs to your leadership structure when your first generation cells multiply. Waiting until you have 5 cells or more to raise up ZSs will create a high-stress environment for you as the senior pastor and stifle the continued growth and development of your cell members and leadership. Begin the process as soon as your first cells are launched. Choose your most faithful CLs and give them an additional investment of your time and support. As they mature as CLs, challenge them with the next step in leadership-zone supervisor internship. At the next multiplication, release them to become ZS Interns, and groom them to become faithful undershepherds of your ministry.
Though the zone pastor and the zone supervisor differ in responsibilities and scope, the rewards for service are similar. Both experience the joy of seeing unbelievers come to Christ and see tremendous personal growth in those within their zone/sub-zone. They will experience the truth of Galatians 6:8b: "The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."
Pitfalls to avoid:
* Passivity - both are pro-active ministry!
* Taking shortcuts, cutting corners.
* The temptation to sacrifice quality or values for numerical results.
* Having two or more cells with no Zone Supervisor.
* Thinking of yourself as part of management system with little personal care & relationship.
* Allowing cells to exist with no equipping track.
* Serving as a Zone Supervisor or Zone Supervisor Intern and cell leader simultaneously, or a Zone Pastor/Zone Pastor Intern and Zone Supervisor simultaneously.
Youths Mentoring Youths-The life blood of youth cell ministry
Brett Butler, the all-star center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, thought he needed a tonsillectomy. He discovered he had throat cancer. He was forced to quit baseball for the rest of the season and, eventually, his career. Though the LA Dodgers lost a star player, they didn't need to trade. Months before Butler discovered he had cancer, he took Roger Cedeno and mentored him. During spring training, Butler was at Dodgertown at 8:30 every morning coaching Cedeno. When Cedeno had his break, he did not forget who trained and prepared him for the task. USA Today quoted Cedeno in their May 1996 issue saying, "Maybe someday, if I have been around that long. I can help a young player like he helped me."
Much like Butler's dedication, it is the dedication of youths mentoring other youths that is the life blood of youth cells. We are only as good as our transfer of leadership from one person to the next. Youths must seek the best way to raise up future leaders. What steps can you, as a youth leader, take to bring an individual from participating in a cell to leading one?
The first step in this transfer of leadership is to pray and identify those peers and youths who are likely candidates. You must look for those into whom you can pour your life-a "Cedeno."
You can spot a "called" one by their ability to connect seemingly unrelated ideas to life with Biblical truths and revelations. These individuals are excited about cells and able to see the "big picture." They attempt to understand the goals in the cell and are curious about why the youth leader does what he does. These individuals encourage the leader and contribute positively in the cell instead of distracting or disrupting. They are usually creative, helpful and passionate. They want to take risks and are not afraid of failure. In fact, they see mistakes as opportunities for growth. They are available and make time for the leader and for discipling.
Once you identify such a person, the next step is to coach them. Develop a relationship with a disciple-making direction.
Invite your prospect to come and work with you. Give them a vision of what they can become for Christ and His Kingdom. "Follow me, and I will show you how to lead a cell."
Your disciple will only be as honest about his life as you are about yours. If you share with him, he will feel free to share his life with you and deal with real issues. Model a healthy and Godly living in school, family and relationships with friends.
Work with the unique strengths of your disciple to help him succeed. Do not force your disciple to be like you; rather, make him to be like Jesus Christ. Do not allow insecurities or pride to keep you from allowing your disciple to do greater things. Force them to stretch their limits!
In love, show your disciple where he needs attention in his own life. Galatians 6:1 says to gently restore him with humility. Remember that there but by the grace God go you. Use the scriptures to help him see his faults and weaknesses (2 Tim 3:16-17) and help him learn from them. Don't "rescue" them; allow them to fail-and grow!
More is caught than taught in the learning process. What you need to develop is a relationship. This takes commitment on your end to spend time with your disciple and explain why you do what you do in your cell. Share your heart with him. Allow him to see the vision God has given you. Communicate your passions. Jesus called his disciples to "be with Him," so take your potential leader with you as much as possible.
Jesus accepted Peter even after Peter denied Him three times. Give that same love and concern for your disciple as well as the freedom to fall. He will learn more from mistakes than from victories.
It takes time for people to change. Your disciple will not grow according to your timetable. Allow God the time to do his work in changing your disciple. Care about him as a person and not a project. Discover where the Holy Spirit is working in his life and focus your attention there. You will be more successful with him when you allow God to change him rather than forcing him into your preconceived ideas of success.
Protect your disciple from dumb choices that will hurt him. Protect him also from others who will try to discourage him. Others will attack him for making mistakes, and he will need you to defend and support him through these difficult times. Give him the benefit of the doubt, that his motives were pure. Don't "save" him, but allow him to "handle" the situation with your support.
After you have done your role to disciple, seek God about His timing to release him. At some point you need to trust God and let them go. If you see consistent growth in your disciple's spiritual appetite-in reflecting the fruit of the Holy Spirit and in personal integrity-it may be time to release him. Your disciple may think he is not ready, but you need to encourage him. Brett Butler was effective through his humble investments in the lives of others. In this same way, the only way for youths to effectively pass on the mantle of leadership to another is by investing in the lives in their disciple. Develop these relationships, and have fun!
Befriending-The active ingredient in effective evangelism
Over the past year, I have reflected on the core processes which determine the health and growth of cell-based churches. I soon discovered that the set of social-spiritual behaviors which assures effective evangelism and results in disciple-making is the befriending process.
Andrew exemplified this process through the simple act of inviting his brother, Simon Peter, to meet Jesus. Philip did the same with his brother, Nathaniel. The woman at a well introduced her whole village to Jesus through the befriending process.
The significance of this process was clarified for me through three accounted experiences:
First, David Yonggi Cho relayed that his church members would lead over 100,000 unchurched unbelievers to faith in Christ and into church fellowship within a year. I asked him how, and he answered, "One at a time." He instructs his cell leaders to pray for guidance until someone in their neighborhood or workplace needs assistance. They come alongside that person and offer practical help in coping with their burdens. When the person asks what motivates their helping, they answer: "I am a worshiper of Jesus Christ. As I prayed, Jesus showed me that you need this help. Jesus wanted you to receive this help. Because His Spirit is living in my heart, He guided me here to help you." It typically takes four months from the initial befriending to bringing the person into God's family. Cho said that such a witness, within a relationship of love and serving, sweeps away all resistance to the Gospel. This is a snapshot of the befriending process in a cell church evangelism.
Second, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I found that one out of four of the small group leaders I polled witnessed someone come to faith in Christ within the previous year. Comparing that survey to numerous others in North American cities, I discovered that it was unusual for every fourth or fifth group leader to describe one or more conversions in their small groups within this year. In contrast, Karen Hurston wrote that half of Cho's cell groups reported conversions in a given year. I realized that North American cell leaders must become intentional with befriending unchurched unbelievers. We can, in fact, double our effectiveness! I immediately challenged the cell group leaders in Edmonton. Most leaders accepted the challenge to pray for guidance and make time for relationships beyond their Christian groups.
Third, Trevor James, a group leader in his twenties, accepted the challenge to seek guidance for befriending and recently shared events since making his commitment. He prayed, "God, show me someone to whom I can minister, perhaps using my interest in tennis." Within two weeks of that prayer, a staff pastor at his church called and asked if he was willing to play some tennis with someone's unsaved son. Trevor called the young man and learned of an upcoming birthday. His group helped organize an impressive birthday celebration for the young man. In the following months that Trevor played tennis with him, his new friend invited himself to church, to Trevor's group and to faith in Christ. The young man even brought a friend of his to the group-another unchurched unbeliever!
We have not only departed from the spontaneous effectiveness of befriending but have forfeited the wonderful effects of having and bringing unbelieving friends to Jesus. The main difference between those like Andrew and Trevor from modern evangelicals is a result of isolation from unchurched and unbelieving people. Newly saved church members usually replace most of their former non-Christian friends with Christian friends in their new community. The resulting comfort within these churchly relationships prevents any relationship formation beyond the group.
Why have we become lost in churchly activities that we overlook this great truth? A relationship with the eternal God through His Son Jesus Christ begins with a relationship with one of His children. This begins with you and me! Take the time to befriend someone to whom Jesus leads you.
End of Issue.
|Volume One - 1992||Volume Two - 1993|
|Volume Three - 1994||Volume Four - 1995|
|Volume Five - 1996||Volume Six - 1997|
|Volume Seven - 1998||Volume Eight - 1999|
Contents © Copyright 1999 by TOUCH Outreach Ministries, Inc.