With wide-eyed anticipation, Ive watched the progress of a computer chip manufacturer called Exponential. This tiny upstart designed a silicon chip that is twice as fast as those offered by the big boys in the business. At speeds of 400-550 megahertz, Exponential was a year ahead of the competition. Apple Computer planned to use these chips in a new machine due out this summer.
Were seeing similar advances in the cell church world. Joel Comiskeys research discussed in Global Input makes me eager to see the growth of new cell models. What has been termed the Bogota model of reaching twelve for Christ and showing these converts how to do the same inside a calendar year makes the term exponential growth just a little too tame in my book. The Mission Charismatica Internacional (MCI) in Colombia is reaching hundreds for Christ a month, every month. These new converts move into cell leadership within the first six months of accepting Christ and see many of their friends and family enter the kingdom as well.
Bethany World Prayer Center in Louisiana and Long Reach Church of God in Maryland are implementing this new model. Though they are working through the cultural differences that must be made for this to work in our highly mobile, independent society, they are finding success.
My first concern about this new model working well in the U.S. is obvious. If a current cell church cant mobilize and equip cell members to reach one for Christ a year, how are they going to reach twelve? The answer is quite simple. MCI has a passion for discipleship from the senior pastors lifestyle all the way down to the new convert. Pastor Castellanos is a soul-winner. He personally reaches at least 12 every year and places them in cells where they are discipled to do the same. If an American pastor can start this top down evangelism strategy and use it to cast a deep vision in his people, then the Bogota model will work here regardless of our sociological differences.
My second concern brought on a complex paradigm shift. MCI does not multiply its cells. Let me clarify this: lets say you were in Cell A, and you have reached three or four for Christ. You take those new converts and begin to disciple them in Cell B on a different night. However, you remain in both cells. Cell A becomes a leadership cell to train and minister to you on a weekly basis, and Cell B is your ministry to disciple others. Your disciples in Cell B will stay with you for life. In the same way, you will stay in Cell A. The whole process begins again when Cell B births new cells. Converts reached after Cells A or B grow to twelve are placed in cells below them.
The greatest difference between Exponential (the company) and the exponential growth of MCI is that the chip manufacturer closed its doors last week (MacWeek, 05.19.97). Prototypes and development were more difficult than expected, causing lenders and investors to withdraw their support. Then, as if things werent bad enough, Apple decided to go with tried and true chips from another manufacturer.
Will this happen to your church as you look at emerging models like Bogota? Though the small company failed, your church will succeed if the focus remains on Jesusyour primary investor.
In this issue of CellChurch, we asked Ralph Neighbour to write about common barriers to growth in the cell model. I challenge you to look at your own church and remove the barriers that will keep you from exponential growth. While I wont be buying a 550 megahertz machine any time soon, I will be watching the growth of the cell movement with great anticipation. Were doing something more powerful than any computer . . .the completion of the Great Commission in our lifetime!
Latin America Leads The Way - Dynamic cell principles from our South American neighbors
When you think of well-known cell churches, which countries come to mind? Korea? Africa? Did you think of Peru or Colombia? Probably not. Yet, today some of the most exciting and fruitful cell models are located in Latin America!
In March, Dr. Ralph Neighbour, Jr. and I visited the International Charismatic Mission in Bogota, Colombia. The atmosphere was electrifying with the awesome movement of Gods Spirit! We learned how God used the 10,000 cells to penetrate every corner of Bogota. Huge banners at the front of the sanctuary declared their focus: The goal of our church: 30,000 cell groups by December 31, 1997! With such a rapid growth rate, the International Charismatic Mission will soon surpass the number of cell groups at Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea.
La Missión Cristiana Elim in San Salvador, El Salvador is another model in Latin America. Each Sunday, over 600 city buses rented by the cell groups transport every cell member to the celebration services. When I visited last October, there were 116,000 people attending the 5,300 cells. It was amazing to see every person meticulously counted and in the computer by Monday morning.
I studied five prominent cell churches in Latin American countries as part of my Ph.D. research at Fuller School of World Mission. In addition to the two mentioned above, I also studied:
1. The Love Alive Church (El Amor Viviente) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras had 850 cells and 7,500 Sunday worshippers.
2. The Christian Center (El Centro Cristiano) in Guayaquil, Ecuador had over 1,600 cells and 5,000 Sunday worshippers.
3. The Living Water Church (La Comunidad Cristiana Agua Viva) in Lima, Peru had 550 cells and 6,500 Sunday worshippers.
I noticed that one constant variable in these churches was the positive influence of David Yonggi Cho and his church, the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea. In fact, the International Charismatic Mission and the Elim Mission initiated their cell ministry after visiting Chos church in the mid-1980s. Far from simply imitating other cell-based models, these churches have effectively contextualized the cell model for Latin America, and new creative patterns have emerged.
There were four striking similarities in these churches. First, I noticed that cell ministry in these churches was primarily an evangelistic tool. These churches were convinced that the best way to reach the lost for Christ was through cell outreach. The cells were expected to multiply over and over, utilizing the ever-expanding web of relationships. From my questionnaire survey of over 400 cell leaders (in the five different countries), I discovered that 68% had multiplied their groups at least once and that 40% had multiplied their groups more than once. Far more effective than one-on-one evangelism, the cells in these churches function like nets that spread out over the entire city. Buses haul the catch to the celebration service for worship and preparation.
I also noticed that these churches did not hesitate to set quantifiable goals for their cell ministry. In fact, some of them even promoted healthy competition among leadership. Again, passion for the lost was the motivation that kept everything in perspective.
Second, I discovered that cell ministry was the backbone in these churches. They were not just adding cell ministry as another program; rather, cells were the very life of these churches. They organized pastoral staff, specific programs, membership, baptisms, offerings and celebration services around cell ministry. Cell attendance was expected from everyone in the church. For example: the Love Alive Church in Tegucigalpa, Honduras had statistics showing that 90% of the 7,500 weekend worshippers also participated in a weekly cell group.
Third, these cell churches carefully linked cell ministry to the celebration service. In other words, precaution was taken to guarantee that individual cells shared the same vision and philosophy as the congregational whole. To assure this continuity, the cell lessons in all of the churches were based on the senior pastors weekly message. For example, at the Living Water Church in Lima, Peru, a talented leader took diligent notes of the pastors message in order to weave his thoughts into the weekly cell lesson. At the Christian Center in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the senior pastor personally prepares the weekly cell lesson. Although each church used a different method, the senior pastors message was always the launching point for the cell group topic.
Fourth, in all of these churches, cell leadership training was given top priority. Although the length and type of training varied from church to church, all of these churches were compelled to find, train, and release new leadership as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The goal of the International Charismatic Mission is to transform every new convert into a dynamic cell leader. In this church, leadership training involves a two day spiritual retreat and a core three month cell leader training course. When I was there last October, 3,000 potential cell leaders were attending the three month courses. No wonder the cells in this church are able to multiply so rapidly!
I believe that Latin America will continue to play a prominent role in the worldwide cell movement. Many Latin churches have mastered the use of the cell model to reach their cities for Christ. We can learn from their evangelistic emphasis, the priority of the cell ministry within the church structure, the high priority placed on leadership training and the link between the celebration and the cells. They can also teach us about the place of creativity in cell ministry while maintaining foundational cell-based principles.
Recently, two prominent cell church leaders in the United States, Pastor Larry Stockstill of Bethany World Prayer Center and Dr. Ralph Neighbour, Jr. of touch Outreach Ministries, have been observing and studying these Latin American cell churches. As a result, Bethany is adjusting much of its cell philosophy, borrowing ideas from one of these Latin American models, and this year, Dr. Neighbor will spend a full month in Latin America to discover and learn new cell church insights. The rest of us around the world would also be wise to study these models and incorporate new ideas into our own cultures and churches.
Joel Comiskey has been a missionary to Ecuador for five years with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He has also established a successful cell ministry in Quito, Ecuador, where he will be returning this July. Joel has just successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation this past February. He and his wife Celyce have three daughters, Chelsea, Nicole and Sarah.
A Bruised Palm - Allowing God to be enough
Their marriage was a nightmare marked with broken promises and recurring unfaithfulness. Every offense pounded the harshness of the greatest storm a married couple could endure. As each ordeal settled, Lori attempted to gather the shattered pieces of her hopes and dreams once more.
Lori kept the painful secret of her husbands adultery for many years. Although she and her husband had been in our cell for nearly two years, she never spoke of her private pain. She and John came on time to each meeting, joined the fellowship, prayed and sang during worship and always participated in the Bible study. They even laughed and teased each other. Though the town gossips spread bits and pieces of their painful story, I could only wait and pray for one of them to share when the time was right.
Feeling humiliated and alone, Lori finally came to unravel her story. Over freshly baked cookies and decaffeinated coffee, she slowly revealed each piece of her broken heart. She groped for words, struggling to break through her emotions. My heart filled with compassion I have never known as I watched the agony in her eyes. My heart was heavy and my soul was grieved. I was not angry with Loris husband, because I saw how he was drowning in his own pool of unconfessed sins and unrevealed misery. Dumfounded, I realized the torment these two people had lived with for so long; I mentally gathered the words I could offer as a balm to her wounds. The most I could do was listen. I became frustrated with the few words that failed to soothe her sorrow or mend her brokenness. At the end of her story, I held her hands, and we prayed. Then, I watched her walk out the door, and the chill of the winter night summed up their present livescold and without any light.
I slowly shut the door and walked back into my warm home. I was hurting for Lori, pondering about what I could do to help heal their marriage and her broken heart. God revealed a way later that night.
I stood at the bathroom sink restlessly waiting for the running water to warm up when I first noticed a perfectly round spot in the center of my palm. I thought to myself, What a strange place to have a bruise! What had I done to my hand? How did I get that bruise? Then, the Holy Spirit came near me, closer than I had ever felt Him before. He was so near I could feel the warmth of His body. Quietly Jesus whispered, The bruise is to remind you that I have endured the cross so that Lori can have life. Remember my pain, my torture. Dont ever forget that I paid the price for Lori and for you. I will sustain her through this time. Just remember, I am enough.
His words brought me the peace I needed to let Jesus care for Lori. They were simple. His words were truth.
Jesus loved Lori with a passion that drove Him to the cross. He was scorned and shoved along His way to Calvary and the blood-thirsty voices demanded, Crucify Him! However, all Jesus heard was His childs cry for help. On the way to His death, Jesus heard Loris lament and determined to finish His course to the crossto His death.
Every nail was viciously pounded into His palm, but He took the greatest pain for Loris sake. As each second passed on the cross, Jesus struggled to take a breath, looking down on a sneering crowd that demanded that He prove Himself. Without their knowledge and Loris, Jesus proved that He was enoughthe ultimate sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world and the ultimate balm to mend Loris brokenness. In a moment, Jesus forgave His killers, brought hope to the world and finished the loneliness of mans condition.
Lori has taken one day at a time in allowing God to mend her fragmented marriage. She has prayed diligently to keep her family together, and she and John have embarked on a journey of healing that will require a long time.
As a cell leader, Jesus showed me that the best thing I could ever do for those in my cell was to wait on the His timing and His wisdom. I cannot play God and make them confess their secrets and sins. I was patient and believed God set the timing for Loris healing and for my priceless lesson.
I learned not to judge. Listening to my friends story without judging her or her husband strengthened the bonds of the trust in our relationship.
I also learned to let go and pray for them. Why do we so often forget to pray for those we minister and love? I prayed before Lori came to share, and I prayed with her before she left. I also prayed fervently for wisdom and understanding as she walked out my door, and I still pray today.
Although the bruise on my palm faded within a few days, Jesus taught me a valuable lesson that I will carry forever. He devotedly listens to our cries, knows our pain and with mercy, meets us in our suffering and need. Jesus love is so profuse that He willingly walked to the cross. Because of that, we know that whatever our trials and tribulations, He is enough.
Tami Rudkin is a cell leader and a published freelance writer. She has also authored a devotional entitled His Silhouette. She and her husband, Tom, have two children and live in Casper, Wyoming.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the persons involved.
Seven Barriers to Growth
Ships sailing into unexplored waters are endangered by unseen barriers below the waters surface. Known and seen obstacles can be avoided; the dangerous ones are those who strike without warning. Many times the obstacles listed in this article are unseen until after the damage is done. Consider these seven dangerous barriers to cell growth . . .
Church leaders transitioning a church must be sure the vision statement is in the hearts of all cell members. Traditional church members entering cell life may have existed for years without a vision statement. They often resist when goals and objectives are set to implement a clear vision.
The Mission Charismatica Internacional in Bogota, Colombia celebrated their fourteenth year with 10,465 cell groups. Their goal for January, 1998 is 30,000 cells. The only place left in the city that can house all the members is the 20,000 seat el Campin de Bogota, which they have leased Sundays for the next five years. The striking thing about this church is how the vision was imparted to every cell member.
Pastor Cesar Castellanos has shared a vision of planting cells in every area of Bogota and every community in Colombia. Cell leaders repeat the vision statement verbatim to all the members. As visitors gather outside the auditorium on Sundays, cell members nearby speak passionately about their part in making the vision come true. The level of commitment to the vision is as strong among the recently converted as in the heart of the pastor. It is a universal passion among all who belong to the church.
Church members who have not adopted the vision and participate with a self-seeking attitude become serious hidden barriers. There is a special bonding which takes place when a cell church has completely absorbed the vision of the set goals. Someone said, Id rather shoot at a goal and miss it than to shoot at nothing and hit it! The vision must be simple enough to be accepted and implemented by every member of the body, or there will be no growth.
When we seek God for His vision and receive it, it must be declared boldly. Too often the vision of the church is not clearly stated and repeated for everyone to embrace. Here is an example of a well written vision statement:
To establish integrated cell groups for outreach, discipleship and service which encompass the whole of our city.
To be a church that equips every cell member, guiding each person to harvest the unreached.
To establish cell group churches in other cities of our nation and overseas, sending out teams to reach neglected or responsive people groups.
Such a Vision Statement must be printed in every bulletin, hung on every wall of the church facility and be written by each person from memory as a prerequisite for church membership. One South African pastor actually framed the Vision Statement and had families hang it on the wall in their homes.
Pastor Castellanos often tells his people: Our goal is not to recruit cell members, but to train leaders! He begins a cell group with one person and encourages that cell leader to enlist twelve who will in turn be encouraged to form a cell of their own. His vision-casting is not just for his people to belong to a cell but to lead one. After only three months in cell life, every member is encouraged to attend a weekly cell leaders training class for three months. Thus, after only four to five months in a cell, 60% of the members are sponsoring a newly formed cell. They continue to attend the original cell, but are now called leaders instead of members. The multiplication is so rapid that this church multiplies three times in one year.
Consider each cell member a potential leader and draw them into the vision. In Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Dion Robert develops three to four leaders out of every cell. In America, even the first generation of cells should multiply in seven to eight months. This means that every incoming cell member must be evaluated and mentored to lead a cell from the day they join.
Cells should live with a multiplication date set and declared to the group at its first meeting. Everyone should have a clear objective for the growth of the group through winning the lost to Christ. It will then be obvious that many cell members must accept the challenge to lead new cells.
Pastor David Yonggi Cho has the largest cell church in the world, built upon an intensive prayer focus. Over two million visits are logged annually at the churchs Prayer Mountain. On one occasion, Pastor Cho dismissed my interview in his office by saying, I have an important appointment now. Thank you for coming. While I waited outside his office for a friend to pick me up, I saw no one enter for his next appointment. I finally asked Lydia Swain, his secretary, Did Dr. Chos appointment not arrive? She smiled and said, Each day at this time he goes to prayer. His appointment was with the Lord!
This spirit of prayer must flow from the Senior Pastor to the entire church! Trite moments of prayer in a cell group are incapable of breaking the spirit of lethargy in a cell. Often growth is stifled because the presence and power of Christ does not overwhelm the group. It must always be remembered that each separate cell is the Body of Christ. Times of intensive communion with Him, with His Spirit manifested in the midst, will bring a new dimension to a cell. There is a heaven and earth difference in a cell that has experienced a wipe-out as He comes in all His glory during seasons of prayer!
Many of the largest cell churches in the world begin the weekday schedule with prayer meetings. Members arrive at five or six oclock in the morning to pray before going to their work. It is also common for a cell church to have a weekly half night of prayer, usually on a Friday evening. This may include intense prayer times for the church, the community, the nation and whatever else the Holy Spirit places in the hearts of the people.
In cells, intercession and warfare for the unconverted must become personal. During the Share the Vision time, the leader should display a large poster with the names of all unsaved oikos contacts. As this list is discussed, the Holy Spirit will create a prayer burden for those who have blind eyes and deaf ears. I have experienced cells that have prayed earnestly for these lost persons, or who have scheduled a special half-night of prayer to intercede for those on the list. During these times, the Spirit often shows the cell new ways to witness to these unbelievers. Many churches have also broken the barrier of barrenness by having cell groups prayer walk their neighborhoods.
Tragically, the traditional church has not developed a systematic boot camp to prepare each Christian for ministry in Gods army. The church staff members recruit appropriate people to operate the programs they supervise, but little thought is given to the urgent need to equip every believer for the work of ministry.
Cell churches must take seriously the need to equip every incoming cell member. Cell members will stagnate who are simply invited to attend cells, without clear equipping for service. In these cells, a tendency to navel gaze soon occurs, and members become obsessed with their own needs. They never learn to reach out to the lost. The Year of Equipping enables pastors and cell leaders to train and equip new members. TOUCHs equipping track assists each cell member to examine and adopt a biblical values for their new lifestyle of evangelism and servanthood.
Every cell member must be launched into The Year of Equipping by the second visit to a cell. Fastidious records of progress must be kept by the cell leader and the zone or church office. The accomplishments of those completing major portions of this boot camp training should be recognized by the whole Body at Sunday Celebrations.
After the basic training, further courses and seminars should be offered to develop skills for evangelizing, equipping and edifying. A cell church that grows trains within the life of the body rather than sending its members to study at a faraway school. A classic example of this is found in the Cornerstone Church in Virginia, pastored by Gerald Martin, where a full seminary structure has been added to their leadership training programs.
Incoming cell members may know they have a Heavenly Father and that their sins are forgiven, but they may enter the Kingdom with many strongholds. Areas of sins, bad habits, bitterness and unforgiveness often remain unchallenged for months or even years, because they do not understand the need for new believers to learn about Satan, the accuser of the brethren, who goes about seeking whom he may devour.
The first priority for every new cell member must be deliverance. As Dion Robert says, You Westerners doubt that a Christian can have a demon. I want you to know a Christian can have anything he wants to have! Setting captives free is vital in a cell church. If this barrier is left in place, there will be many surprises as shipwrecked people and marriages unexpectedly appear.
It is strongly recommended that soul care be provided through personal counseling and spiritual warfare retreats within one or two months of joining a cell group. When new members discover inner victory, Gods refining fire will burn away lethargy in the meetings and inspire outreach to those controlled by satan. Eglise Protestante Baptist Oeuvres et Mission in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and the Mission Charismatica Internacional in Bogota, Colombia are examples of churches which have developed deliverance ministries for incoming cell members. Excellent materials by Neil Anderson are recommended to help your church develop this ministry.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:21 that one part of the body cannot say to another part, I dont need you. Philippians 2:4 reminds us that we should not look only to our own interests but also to the interests of the others. If cell members are limited to interacting with each other only once a week in a cell meeting, no bonding will occur. In such a group, the presence of Christ will not be evident, for this is not enough contact to create community and unity in heart and spirit.
Living in community is the very essence of the Body of Christ. We must be responsible to and for each other. Belonging to a basic Christian community is infinitely more than a weekly meeting. We are ligaments in Christs bodyresponsible to support one another. It is imperative that a cell church have a regular schedule of retreats for cells and leadership, evangelism events and other activities that will establish community.
Strong cell churches have retreats for cells and zones. Pastor Cesar Castellanos is currently building seven separate retreat centers around the edges of Bogota for the important weekends used for deliverance, soul care and cell leadership training events.
Cell leaders must be careful to create opportunities for cell members to have quality time together apart from the weekly meeting. This might involve a retreat every eight weeks, special evenings to celebrate someones birthday or wedding anniversary, or having a cookout on a Saturday night, etc. Using the DISC profiles can be a tremendous tool to create sensitivity for one another. We must remember that the major ingredient required for developing community is time spent together.
A cell group must see itself as a military platoon whose primary task is to kick down the gates of hell and snatch the lost from burning. A cell that is not leading the lost to Christ will fossilize! It is inconceivable that the Body of Christ does not have His heart and compassion for the lost.
Often, cell members ignore Jesus command to share their faith with their oikos contacts. Cells should regularly see at least one new convert for every three members within six months. If there is no appeal for cell members to reach out and if the cell does not deliberately sponsor events to mix with the lost, there will be no harvest.
The cell is a net that is cast into a sea of lost people. Body Life Evangelism represents the total cell community sharing in projects which involve unbelievers. Share Groups and Interest Groups are excellent means of accomplishing this. Sometimes a need in an unbelievers life can make it possible for the entire cell to witness. One example of this is a cell group in Houston who discovered one of their members had a leaky roof on his old house and had no funds to fix it. The cell group purchased shingles and roofed the entire house in one day. A great impact was made on the neighbors who saw this group of twelve swarming all over that roof and the front yard that a new cell was developed in that area.
A recent evaluation of successful cell groups has revealed that more than 95% of all cells multiply. If careful attention is given to rectify mistakes made in the seven areas mentioned here, these same results are guaranteed for your churchas well. Just be sure to watch out for hidden barriers. They can prevent growth, or even worsedestroy your cells!
A Womans Journey - A pastors wife shares about her lessons and role in the midst of transition
My husband David and I are a team. We have been a team for over eighteen years now. For the first seventeen years of our marriage, we served in an itinerant ministry. During that time, we crossed denominational, state and national lines.
We have viewed the traditional church from many angles and experienced its varied cultural forms. We have seen many good things in the traditional church. It is rooted in one place, has a visible location and structure, as well as offering a multiplicity of programs to suit every age and every taste. However, we have also seen many shortcomings of the traditional church, including being impersonal, numbers-oriented and whipping dead horse programs which have outlived their usefulness. We have also experienced where only 10% of the church membership do all the workfeaturing the talents and gifts of the few while the talents and gifts of the many go undetected and untapped. In many instances, we saw the ease with which one can become a church member without requiring personal involvement, thus eventually breeding spectatorism. It did not foster discipleship nor accountability. Basic spiritual and temporal needs went undetected and unmet mainly due to the anonymity of members. The traditional church often has little appeal to the lost community in which its members live and move about daily. From our experiences, we knew that a new model was needed.
Four years ago, we stumbled upon the cell church concept while reading Dr. Neighbours book, Where Do We Go From Here? We were excited! From our own experience, we discovered that one-on-one time with people in small groups was more effective in changing lives than in large group settings alone. We knew that relational ministry best modeled the Christian life and resulted in effective discipleship, accountability and personal equipping. In this type of ministry, the love of Christ better met a persons real needs. The cell church concept struck a chord in our spirits, and we decided to test the cell model in a church we were planting in Sutton, MA.
Most of my personal transition from traditional to cell church happened during the time of this church plant. I had to learn to focus more on the small groups and less on the larger worship services. However, I was concerned that cells would not satisfy my longing for large worship events led by music teams, with many people singing and praising the Lord together. At first, our cells could not get to a deeper level of musical expression. Most of the new believers didnt know the songs, and we didnt have an instrumentalist in the cell. Three or four of us sang boisterously while the rest listened. When we began our public celebrations, my need for more joyful large group worship was met, and I noticed that the new believers sang more freely there.
In the first six months of that church plant, some twenty people came to know the Lord mainly through the cells and by simply applying the oikos principle. In addition, about sixty people attended our celebration services without us advertising or having telephone marathons. David and I were very encouraged and excited with our first cell church experience.
After two years in Sutton, we served at New Life Fellowship in Concord, NH, because they had a desire to transition to the cell church model. The church managed to get several small groups started, but it was not a cell church yet. I discovered that the members of New Life and I shared several personal concerns.
We wondered how Bible studies would fit in this new form. We also wondered how the children would fit into the cell meetings. Where in cell church would the children get the Bible stories normally taught in Sunday School in the traditional church? What do we do with those who prefer the traditional church form and those who dont want to be in a small group? Where do teens and older folks fit in? We are working through these concerns by praying, seeking God and wise counsel, reading and attending conferences. However, we know that transitioning is a trial and error and a try again process.
I feared that my husband would be blamed as the bad guy who brought in these troublesome ideas. I also feared that if everyone was a minister, the people would not want to pay my husband a salary. They might conclude that if they dont get paid for serving God, why should he? I was relieved to find that those who were the most involved recognized the work required for pastors to fulfill the Scriptures mandate to equip the body for works of service. I also realized that they were more appreciative because of their own involvement. Those members who complained the most were those who were not involved.
The first year of transitioning was both exhausting and fulfilling. I realized that I could support David more fully by not carrying his load but by understanding how things were supposed to work. We both participated in TOUCHs Year of Transition. We discussed and prayed about many of the ideas presented to uswhat would work for our fellowship and what might need modification. I took the ministry of facilitating and enhancing worship from Davids shoulders so he could focus on preaching, developing the cell groups and discipling leaders.
I learned how to submit my gifts to the Lord, the church and my pastor-husband. I was never jealous of Davids leadership, because I didnt need to lead. I worked side by side with him to teach, mentor and train leaders. The Lord also made me to be a second set of ears and eyes for my husband and gifted me to see some of his blind spots in order to give him wise counsel.
I believe my primary function in being part of this team is to be Davids wife. As a Christian wife, I hold myself accountable to the Word of God. Gods instruction is the same for a pastors wife as it is for an executives or anyone elses wife: to honor and respect her husband. I must also love and pray for my husband, submitting to his God-given authority in the marriage. I am called to meet his needs as a man as well as a pastor and co-laborer for Christ. As his wife, I field phone calls and protect his time. I try to sense when he is getting diverted from the important things and when he needs a break. As a Christian and a submissive wife, I must speak out. I have the same responsibility to my husband as to the rest of the body to support him and to build him up. Most of all, I must encourage him to keep his eyes fixed on Jesus.
In the slow process of transitioning, I sometimes felt responsible to fill in the gaps in the church ministry. Now Ive learned to concentrate on equipping and encouraging others to plug in those gaps fitted for their gifting. By doing so, the body assumes responsibility for the needs of other cell members instead of expecting the pastor to meet every need. Everyone takes on more of the servant role rather than remaining a spectator as most were in the traditional church.
David and I still have a lot to learn as a team, and I am learning more about how a woman functions in a transitioning church. I am beginning to enjoy this journey into cell life, and I am looking forward to more years of teamwork with my husband as well as the local cell church body.
Marcy Alves is the wife of Pastor David Alves at New Life Fellowship. She has served with her husband in various ministries including the Come Away Retreats and in training leaders through the equipping tracks from TOUCH.
Emotional Dependency In Cells - How to identify and break the bondage of dependent relationships
Patricia showed up without warning one evening with three squirming, unkempt and disruptive children. She was not shy about sharing her needs with our cell, and it wasnt long before this disgruntled woman had our attention. Life seemed impossible for heroverdue bills, rowdy children and an overwhelming marriage to a long-distance truck driver.
In time, we realized that Patricias problem was not her seemingly unbearable life but an addiction. She was addicted to people and the attention they could give. It was not uncommon for Patricia to spend a whole day stationed in the kitchen of an unsuspecting cell member. She gravitated toward people who showed any interest in her life-controlling problems. As time went on, many couples and individuals who tried to minister to Patricia suffered burnout. No one could ever seem to do enough for her or her family.
A primary function of the cell group is to lend itself to closer, more intimate relationships. But, what happens when these relationships become ingrown or dependent and a destructive bondage develops?
Those who reach out to people overwrought with problems need to recognize that everyone needs to receive love and approval.
Our first recognized source of love and approval is our family. In dysfunctional homes, children are often raised by parents or guardians who are too harsh, too strict, too critical and often unable to be pleased. They control their children through shame and blame, and these children become guilt-ridden, confused about authority, overly responsible or compulsive. They frequently try to please their parents or guardians, but they never seem to measure up. In severe cases of these emotional roller coasters, self-identity problems emerge in the child.
The second source of love, acceptance and approval is from God. I say second because we recognize it after we recognize the need for our familys love and approval. If unconditional acceptance and approval are missing during childhood, people like Patricia often become too dependent on others as adults instead of seeking God to fulfill their needs.
The ingredients that may lead to an emotionally dependent life-style include:
Insecurity (feeling helpless and hopeless)
Having a low esteem (not quite measuring up)
Having a dysfunctional family background (stunting emotional growth)
Being critical (of self and others)
Being fearful (fear of rejection, fear of confrontation)
Practicing self-punishment (playing the martyrs role)
Having a strong need for intimacy.
These needs and fears create a seedbed for one persons addiction to another persons care for them. Without this dependency, their personal confidence is threatened.
So where is the balance? We find it in Jesus words: Love the Lord your God with your heart and with all your soul. and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-39).
Though God created us to be relational creatures, our need for relationships cannot be allowed to become the center of our lives. The emotionally dependent person feels as though he or she cannot exist or function without this relationship. Mistakenly, this association is an attempt to meet the need for intimacy and security but seeking that fulfillment in people rather than God.
Healthy relationships are open to others outside the relationship. They can also tolerate normal moodiness or a judgmental remark. On the other hand, the dependent person becomes jealous of others who befriend his or her special friend. The emotionally dependent person can be crushed by a certain look or comment, wondering what it really means. When any relationship gets out of balance, there is always the possibility of an idolatrous situation.
Even though the Word of God does not address emotional dependency per se, we see the principles when Paul clearly admonished Titus (Titus 2:1-8) to be self-controlled. This fruit was so important that the older men and women were instructed to teach their younger followers in the areas of temperance, respect, faith, love, purity, integrity and soundness of speech. These directives would actually help to avoid the emotional dependency trap if followed closely, because the Holy Spirit would fill the need for love and acceptance by others.
Maintaining Proper Boundaries
Jesus Himself is our example to know how far to go to help the person in danger of becoming dependent. He maintained appropriate limits (or boundaries) when dealing with people. There is no evidence that He worried over whether the Pharisees approved of His works. On the contrary, His rebukes of the Pharisees are recorded in great detail (Matt. 12:34; 15:3, 6-8).
The woman at the well is an obvious example of someone trying to meet her inner emotional needs by having had five husbands. Our Lord offered her living water that would flow like a river out of her heart, instead of His becoming her caregiver or rescuer. Many directives are given in Matthew chapters 6 and 7 which can be seen as boundaries for us as we work with others. If we were to depend on the approval of others, we would not have been told: Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven (Matt. 6:1). Jesus knew that maintaining proper boundaries would maintain healthy relationships.
When Jesus sent out the disciples for the first time, He instructed them as a father would his sonsidentifying specific boundaries. Matthew chapter 10 clearly lists where they were to go, what to take and what to say. The disciples knew who had given them the authority to do the work of God, thus clarifying their need to avoid basing their success on the approval or acceptance of others.
Emotionally dependent relationships often occur in opposite-sex and same-sex friendships. Not so easily recognized, though, is that which can occur between a parent and a child. In this relationship, the typical thought process is: If I can be good enough, do well enough and not mess up, Im assured of my parents acceptance and approval of me. The concluding thought is: Then Ill be worth something.
Paul gives valuable help when his word to the Galatians is applied: Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ (1:10). Paul was not self-seeking in his relationships, which points out a significant factor necessary to overcome emotional dependency. Whom am I trying to please? Is Christ all-sufficient? Can my complete identity be in Him?
In discussing ones identity in Christ, my two favorite chapters in the Bible are Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1, which tell us that Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. He chose us to be holy and blameless. He predestined us to be adopted into His family. He has lavished upon us the riches of Gods grace. We are marked by His Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit is given as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. He has given us His glorious grace. We have redemptionthe forgiveness of sins.
Now, thats an identity! Our worth is not determined by what others think of us, nor does it come from our parents approval or from our work performance. The apostle John was so secure in his identity that he referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:7, 20). You and I can align ourselves with John and declare that we, too, are disciples whom Jesus loves!
If an earthly relationship is perceived as the provider for all our acceptance, friendship, intimacy, security, approval and self-esteem needs, the dependency will be difficult to break. Healthy emotions originate through a healthy relationship with God. He then gives us appropriate relationships with others.
It is all right to express our love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, because that is a healthy emotion. We should also be open to expressing both positive and negative feelings honestly. That is healthy as well. However, if we use our emotions to place guilt on another through manipulation and control, that is unhealthy. It is also wrong.
Manipulation of emotions is destructive. When Paul wrote his letter to the Thessalonians, he included a synopsis of how he related to them during his last visit. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery nor did we put on a mask to cover up greedGod is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else (1 Thessalonians 2:4-6).
Once cell members are taught about the dangers of emotional dependency, some signs of unhealthy relationships may become apparent to those involved. Quickly parting ways and severing all ties may not necessarily promote the most healing. However, repentance and breaking soul ties resulting from sexual union must be done: Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, The two shall become one flesh. But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:16-18). Gene-rational ties, sins and curses must also be broken: You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Deuteronomy 5:9).
Forgiveness is the major step to reconciling relationships. Does the person need to forgive someone whom he or she could not please? The freedom found in a secure relationship with Christ is far better from the false security found within dependent relationships.
For those who are willing to discontinue dependent relationships, there will be a newfound peace with God, with themselves and with those around them. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).
Steve Prokopchak has over 20 years of experience in the Christian counseling field and is the Director of Counseling at DOVE Christian Fellowship International. Steve and his wife, Mary, have been married for 22 years and have three children. Emotional Dependency is one title from his People Helping People booklet series. To obtain your copies, please contact: House to House Publications. (See ad on inside front cover for address and phone number.)
Releasing The Young Stallions - Empower them to reproduce!
We dont like having young stallions in our churches. They seem to cause us too many problems, said Rick Joyner. But only young stallions can reproduce. Resist the temptation to fix them!
Only dysfunctional parents would keep their children at home in order to build their own house when their children are ready to marry and build a house of their own. Many of the younger generation today are crying to get out. They are no longer satisfied with the structure in which theyve lived. They must be released to build their own homes and reproduce!
A group of 18 to 35 year olds recently shared: We like our churches and our pastors, but our present churches are not something we want to give our lives for. We lead cells, youth groups and serve in the church, but we dont want to do this our whole lives. God is calling us to something newnew kinds of cells, new kinds of churches. We are not even sure what they will look like, but we want the opportunity to try. Our hearts are not rebellious. We want the blessing of the leaders of our churches. We respect and honor them. But we want to build our own house. There are things the Lord has placed inside of us that we desire to see become reality. It is good to have a room in our fathers house, but we have a desire from the Lord to build a new house with new rooms.
I understood completely. I remembered how I felt when I was in my 20s and the Lord called me to start a new churcha new wineskin. However, new wineskins eventually get old and my generation of stallions are now the parents. We find that God has placed the same burden in the younger generation to birth new wineskins, but they have a different vision for a different era and a different generation. They come into the kingdom of God looking for the reality of the crossnot the building structure. They want relationshipsnot programs.
I recently went to Hawaii for a leadership training session. (Hey, someone had to do it!) My friend Norman pastors a cell-based church in Pearl City which he planted a few years ago. This church plant has reached over 400 young people with the gospel within the past two years, and seventy young people have given their lives to Christ within the past weeks. I wanted to experience this ministry for myself, so Norman agreed to take me to a youth meeting.
We jumped into Normans station wagon and headed for the local school where the meeting was held. The first things I noticed were the huge bouncers standing outside the doorsa little intimidating. One of the kids pulled a knife on someone a few weeks ago, Norman explained matter-of-factly. These guys have black belts in karate. Okayvery intimidating. They didnt need black belts or any belt for that matter. Just looking at them would make anyone think twice before causing any trouble.
We heard the young people inside singing with all their hearts. For an instant, I had a flashback of the Jesus Movement from the late 60s. Inside the school, the lights were off except for the stage lights. The young people were scattered all over the room, worshipping the Lord with their arms outstretched. They meant business with God!
After worship, everyone sat down and the lights flicked on. Kent, the youth pastor, grabbed a microphone and called out the young people who recently gave their lives to Christ. He handed out baptism certificates one at a time to these dozens of new Christians, and the room filled with clapping and cheering from their peers.
Everyone needs to be in a power huddle, Kent charged the group of new believers. It is a place where you can get to know other kids. There are people to help you out when you have a problem or a question about your life with God. At that time the new believers who committed to the newest power huddle came forward, and others were invited to join them.
After the meeting, Norman explained the truth they recently learned. We are touching 225 young people, mostly from unsaved homes. We have found that these kids need relationships. So we started power huddlescell groups for young people. We have found that the young people in power huddles are growing in God, while the young people that are not getting involved are having a hard time.
As a spiritual parent, Norman opened his heart to me on the way to the airport: Ive already explained to the church that I told Kent he can plant a new church with these young people whenever he believes the time is right. I had to verbalize this, or else I might revert to keeping Kent here in order to help me build this church.
Norman learned the value of reaching the next generation and trusting them to reproduce themselves. There is a whole new generation of cell pastors, leaders and church planters among us. They are enthusiastic and even unconventional. Though we parents may not always understand, we must always encourage them to dream big and allow God to use us to help them fulfill those dreams.
We must commission them to establish their power huddles and new churches, but it must be within Gods timing! Given, we must be careful not to send them out before they are ready, but we must not hold them back. We must empower these young stallions. In time, we will rejoice with them when they reproduce!
Larry Kreider is the International Director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International and has authored several books, including House to House, a practical manual for cell leaders with spiritual insights for the church of the 21st century. He and his wife, LaVerne, have been married 25 years and have 4 children. They live in Lititz, PA.
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.