I trust you will be as blessed by this issue as I was as I reviewed it. The article by Dave Beuhring about what he would do differently the next time will be particularly helpful to our readers who are planting a cell church for the first time!
I have had an unexpected life change. I fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of my car, which rolled over. I broke my neck (6th and 7th vertebrates). I have experienced pain as never before in my 68 years, and am still in a confining neck brace. I have had to sleep in a chair for 3 months now. My right index finger and thumb are numb, same to a lesser extent for my left hand.
For the first time in my life, I have had to slow down. They tell me my first words coming out of surgery were, Wow! I have wasted a whole day! Now, after three months of convalescing, I see what the Lord had in mind. Some say Satan was trying to kill my ministry. Perhaps, but the Lord has become more precious to me during these weeks than ever before. I have had hours to focus on Him alone. Even the computer had to be set aside because I could not use the keyboard.
Communion with the King has been precious. I will never return to my old whirlwind lifestyle. I have learned in a new way that time spent with Him is more productive than racing from one speaking engagement to the next by jet airplanes. I am thanking Him daily for a broken neck . . . and quality time with Him!
The Lord has gently reminded me that I have many more years to serve Him. He has also helped me see that this next stage of ministry will impart my ministry primarily through distance learning, a way I can share my years of experience with pastors around the world without leaving home. A dear friend has provided the funds for me to secure all the needed hardware and software to begin to prepare modules on CDs, covering over 50 topics that I have taught globally for the past several years. These will begin to be released in January of 1999, giving me a year to develop excellent multimedia equipping tools. Each module released will allow Christian workers who are transitioning or planting a cell church to learn what they need, when they need it. Then, I will go online with them using the Internet to conduct a one-hour class. I can have up to 15 pastors online, an event where any of us can take the floor, speaking by voice, typing messages, sharing insights and experiences, asking questions. Thus, I will be able to guide pastors and Christian workers in every part of the earth in a single electronic classroom through the use of distance learning techniques.
Our Internet page already permits ACT enrollees to download Powerpoint presentations for use in equipping cell members, leaders, and co-workers. They are given a password when enrolling in ACT that allows them to get into this restricted area. Anddo you know that all the previous issues of this magazine are on our web page, and you can now download any article by selecting it by title?
Another observationa chapter of Dr. Joel Comiskeys forthcoming book is included in this issue. After reading it, you will want to order the book, which is going to become a TOUCH classic in cell church literature.
I am also working on another book, Never Ask A Goldfish What Water Is Like! It will carry the reader beyond Where Do We Go From Here? It has been cooking inside me for many months. The actual writing of it will continue through February for a spring/summer release. I would covet your prayers for a special anointing as I write it. By the way, with these numb fingers I am grateful I can literally dictate it into my computer using new voice transmission software, since using my fingers are now a nuisance!
Remember: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose! Ed McCulley, martyr.
Dreaming in Hong Kong - Gods has created a new network of cell churches
e all came expecting God to moveand He did! Instigated by Benjamin Wong and the Hong Kong Cell Church Network, 80 cell church leaders from around the world gathered for four days. It was a time of prayer, worship, dreaming, envisioning and connecting. Attendees came from 14 nations around the Pacific Rim and the USA.
As Benjamin Wong stood up to welcome everyone, he began by stating that he didnt know what was coming next. It takes a great deal of courage to invite leaders from around the world to gather in Hong Kong for four days and not have a planned agenda. We began with worship and prayer, focusing our attention on the One who had drawn us together.
As we shared what God had placed in our hearts concerning the cell church movement, a theme of missions emerged. We recognized that the cell church movement has spent a lot of time and energy working solely on how-tos for doing cells and put missions on the back burner. Ben exhorted the Asian delegates to rise up and become sending nations. It was time to see Asians take the initiative and become missionaries to the rest of the world!
We sensed God speaking that it is time for us to move into missions beyond the local church. Networking with other cell-based churches for the purpose of reaching the unreached peoples of the world will fulfill the Great Commission.
While there are different networks now in place to do just this, we found that many in attendance were not included in those networks. We needed a new kind of network that would connect churches around the world. At that very moment, the Cell Church Mission Network was birthed.
Grappling with the nature of this new network and how it would function, we decided that it would be an informal opportunity for cell churches from different nations to connect and resource with each other for missions work. While there would not be any definite structure, we chose network coordinators from various regions as contact people. To further this organization, we agreed to have another gathering in November 1998 so that we might include others who were unable to attend this year or who did not know about the Summit.
Since most people have Email, we decided this would be one of the primary ways we would stay in touch and implement the network.
Some of the churches in attendance had already launched short-term missions into unreached areas. They felt that by connecting with other local cell-based churches they could be more effective.
Even in todays world there are still countries you cannot travel into unless you have an invitation from a local church ministry. The network will provide a way of reaching such areas by connecting like-minded churches with people groups in restricted access nations.
Another function of the network will be to enable churches who have identified a particular people group in their area to locate missionaries who could reach that group. For example, what would a Canadian do to reach a large population of Sikh Indians living in Toronto? The network could link him with a mission oriented cell-based church in India.
If your church is moved to enter into cross-cultural missions and would like more information on the Cell Church Mission Network, contact Neville Chamberlain at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and he will connect you with a regional representative.
Jeanette Buller covered the Asian-Pacific Cell Church Networkers Praying and Dreaming Summit Nov. 9, 1997 in Hong Kong.
Prayer: The Secret of Cell Growth
An excerpt from a new book entitled Home Cell Group Explosion
One day a distraught Jorge Frias opened the door to my office in Quito, Ecuador. Ive tried everything, he blurted out. Ive been addicted to alcohol, drugs, and even tried a couple of religions. Now my wife wants to leave me. What can you do for me?
Rarely in my years of counseling had I witnessed such desperation. I know that youve been sincerely seeking answers, I said, but only Jesus Christ can fill the void in your heart. As I led him in a prayer to receive Jesus Christ, the urgency in Jorges voice ended in relief.
God took control that day in 1991 and Jorge became a new creation. A radiance and joy filled his life. Before he left my office, I encouraged Jorge to spend time with God each dayknowing that this might be a struggle.
At the new believers class the next evening, Jorge said, I woke up at 2 a.m. and prayed for two and a half hours. That first night as a Christian, Jorge set prayer as a priority in his new life in Christ. Regularly he spent two to four hours with Jesus in the morning. Within a year, Jorge was leading a cell group and it had multiplied. He rapidly advanced from cell leader to supervisor to zone pastor. Why? Because Jorge consistently gave God time to reveal to him how to effectively lead the groups.
As part of my doctoral studies, I surveyed 700 cell leaders in eight different countries to discover what factors really made cells grow. One factor stood out above all others: prayer. The cell leaders devotional life consistently appears among the top three most important variables in this study. The correlation between cell multiplication and the leader spending time with God is clear. The cell leaders surveyed were asked: How much time do you spend in daily devotions? (e.g., prayer, Bible reading, etc.). They chose one of five options, ranging from 0 to 15 minutes daily to over 90 minutes. The following table summarizes the devotional patterns of those cell leaders who filled out a questionnaire:
In the same questionnaire, cell leaders were asked whether their group had multiplied and, if so, how many times. Those who spent 90 minutes or more in daily devotions multiplied their groups twice as often as those who spent less than half an hour.
The correlation is a logical one. During quiet times alone with the living God, the cell leader hears Gods voice and receives His guidance. In those still moments, the leader understands how to deal with the constant talker, how to wait for a reply to a question or how to minister to a hurting member of the group. Cell leaders moving under Gods guidance have an untouchable sense of direction and leadership. Group members respond to a leader who hears from God and knows the way. God brings success. This statistical study is simply further proof.
Daily devotional time is the single most important discipline in the Christian life. During this daily time, Jesus transforms us, feeds us and gives us new revelation. On the other hand, not spending sufficient time with God can bring the agony of defeat. How often have we raced out of the house, hoping to accomplish a little bit more, only to return bruised, depressed, and hurt? When we start the day without time with our Lord, we lack power and joy to face the demands of life.
Jesus needed to spend time alone with His Father. How much more, then, do we? After all, He is our example. Luke 5:16 says, . . . Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15 explains that Christs fame was spreading. The success of His ministry compelled Him to spend more time with God. In the midst of an increasingly busy ministry, He separated from the multitude for quiet time. Mark 1:35 says, Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Before the busy part of His day began, Jesus spent time with the Father. Ralph Neighbour Jr. advises, If you have to make a choice between praying and doing, choose to pray. You will accomplish more, and then achieve more by your doing, because you did!
God will reveal how much time He wants to spend with you each day. Effective cell leaders do not need to give up their job and family and spend eight hours each day in prayer. At the other extreme, however, fast food devotions accomplish little. It takes time to shed the thoughts and preoccupations that accompany daily living. Mike Bickle writes: When you first spend 60 minutes in prayer, do not be surprised if you come out with only 5 minutes you consider quality time. Keep it up and those 5 minutes will become 15, then 30, then more. The ideal, of course, is to end up with both quantity and quality, not one or the other.
Cell leaders, if you want your group to grow, spend time with the One who can make it happen. Set a realistic goal you can keep rather than one youre sure to break.
Some Christians resist the notion of setting apart daily time to seek God. Some even say, I pray all the time. Yes, the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:16), and Paul implores us to . . . pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:18). But Jesus gives us the other side of the coin. Jesus says in Matthew 6:5-6, And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. These verses map out a specific time to seek the Fathera time to meditate on His Word, listen to the Spirits voice, worship Him and intercede for others.
When Jesus talks about a closet, He doesnt mean a room full of shoes and clothing. The Greek word is tameon, which refers to the place in the Old Testament temple where the treasures were stored. Some commentators note a relationship between the place of devotions and the riches received.
Apparently, Jesus isnt specifying one place to seek the Father. More important than the word closet is the phrase shut the door. Whether your closet is your room, the rooftop, a park, or a vacant field, you must shut the door from the noise and cares of daily life. Jesus tells us to close the door to the noise and the hurry of busy 21st-century life.
How do you find a closet where you can shut the door? Be creative, experiment and do the best you can. Some people prefer quite time in a forest or a park. Jesus preferred the desert or a mountain top. Choose the place and the time that is best for you. The only requirement is separation from the noise and confusion of life.
Praying daily for cell members transforms your relationship with them. God uses prayer to change your heart toward the people for whom you are interceding. A oneness develops through the bonding power that prayer creates. Paul writes: For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is (Colossians 2:5). This verse seems to indicate that its possible to be present in spirit with someone through prayer. Prayer opens our hearts to others and enables us to touch people at a deeper level.
Regularly praying for someone can mend your broken relationship with that person. Through prayer, the healing balm of the Holy Spirit often breaks the strongholds of bitterness and unforgiveness. Prayer changes cells too. Cell leaders who pray daily for each member of their group are more effective in cell ministry.
When you speak to your cell members, tell them, Im praying daily for you. It develops an immediate bond with that person!
Carl Everett, now the Assistant Director of Cell Ministry at Bethany World Prayer Center, started out in ministry the way many other cell-church leaders do: leading a cell group. His cell multiplied six times and each daughter cell grew and prospered.
Cell preparation for Carl and his wife includes fasting and prayer the day of the cell meeting. Before the meeting, Carl prays for each member and for Gods anointing on his own life. After the meeting, they break their fast and enjoy refreshments with cell members.
Prayer makes a difference when a cell leader understands that God has breathed His life into the methodology. Without God, it is just wood, hay and stubble. When Jesus saw the pressing needs of the multitude, He didnt tell the disciples to initiate the latest evangelism training program. Rather, He commanded them to Ask the Lord of the harvest . . . to send out workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:38).
Joel Comiskey has planted churches in the U.S. and Ecuador. This article was taken from his new book, Home Cell Group Explosion, just released by TOUCH Publications. Order your copy today!
Finally! A Simple Explanation - Moving to a cell structure is easy when youre willing to follow.
The other day I was contemplating the issue of transitioning to a cell church structure. The Lord showed me a picture that clarified the whole process.
As you know, when a train laden with cars changes tracks it doesnt make an immediate lateral transition, vanishing from one set of tracks and appearing instantly on another parallel set. It is simply impossible to move a complete train sideways without derailing it! The train is only designed to move forward or backward. Trains change direction by using a switch track.
A train changes tracks in order to proceed to a new or different destination. No matter how divergent those two destinations may ultimately be, at one point the two tracks must run parallel, if only for a short time.
Over the course of the entire journey, a train will arrive at destination C, which may be many miles away from the original destination A. For the passengers, the change in course is almost imperceivable because at the point of transition B, the tracks are running parallel. The cars smoothly move from track A, across the switch track B and move in a new direction.
The controller must take action. In order for a train to change tracks, someone in authority has to throw the switch which physically alters the course of the train and directs the train toward a new set of tracks.
The engineer works inside the lead engine to keep the train moving forward. As he increases the fuel supply to the engine, it will ease onto the other track in a smooth and fluid motion. While he does not throw the switch to change course, he does have a vital part of the workings of a successful journey.
The lead engine is the first part of the train to make the switch and arrive on the new track. It leads the way for all the rest of the engines and cars to follow. None of the secondary engines are able to direct the train; they can only follow the lead engine. (Remember, at this point only the lead engine is on the new track. The rest of the train has yet to make the transition.)
The secondary engines are the first to follow. If they do not make the switch to the new track, they will derail the rest of the train. These secondary engines provide supplemental power to bring along the balance of the carriages in the train.
At this point, parts of this long train are on both tracks simultaneously (see diagram). As the lead and secondary engines proceed along the new track, the rest of the carriages will follow until the entire train has made the transition. If the switch track is well built and the coupling devices between each car are strong, the carriages will have a seamless transition to a new track and a new destination.
Since a train runs on tracks, it can only make changes at specific switch points along the journey. It cannot change tracks at will. It must be at the right place at the right time to successfully change tracks. If a train fails to switch tracks, it must either continue until it finds a new switch track or back up!
Much like the train, your church is on a set of tracks on course to a certain destination. At one time that destination was undefined, or it appeared that it was destined to become a program-based design church. Your Controller (God) decided to throw the switch to move you to a different track, headed for a new destination called a cell church.
The transition to the cell church track has not been made, yet the P.B.D. track you are on is closely aligned to the cell track. This was in Gods master plan. It should be noted that the tracks will take on new direction again at some point. Unless you make the transition now, you will find yourself committed to remaining on your original track headed for the original destination.
Like the train, it is virtually impossible for your church to make an immediate lateral shift. It would be at the very least disruptive and potentially very destructive. So the church must be led through a slow and smooth transition.
The churchs transition must begin with the lead engine (the senior pastor). The senior pastor must make these decisions:
1) Make the switchIt is conceivable that the senior pastor could decide not to change tracks, although the available options would only be to force his way through a closed switch or to stop his train on the track until the switch is reopened.
2) Make a commitment to complete the transitionThe senior pastor must continue to press on with forward momentum if he wants the rest of the train (the church) to follow. He cannot change course or back up without seriously affecting the momentum of the entire church!
As the senior pastor makes the transition and finds himself on the new tracks, the secondary engines (associate and assistant pastors) must immediately follow. There can be no hesitation or thought of a different direction. It is impossible for a second engine to remain on the original track once the lead engine has made the transition without disconnecting itself from the main engine. All pastors and ministry leaders must make the transition with the senior pastor for it to be successful.
Once all the engines (the pastors) have made the transition, the carriages (the church members) can follow. Not all the church members will be able to make the transition simultaneously. The longer the pastors and leaders proceed on the new tracks, the greater the momentum will be achieved. (Eventually, the whole church membership will be on the new track and a smooth transition will be behind you!)
The beauty of your transition to cells is this: Since the tracks are so closely alignedvirtually parallel at this pointthose members that momentarily remain on the old track are still moving forward along with the rest of your church!
At this stage, the differences between your old and new track are almost imperceivable. It is only with time that the tracks will separate and you will be able to see the new direction you are taking.
As the last carriage reaches the end of the switch track, your entire church will be headed toward the new destination leaving the old track behind.
Your churchs successful transition to cells hinges upon your ability to stay connected to your pastor and leaders. Pray for power from The Controller and direction from The Engineer. Then relax and enjoy the ride!
Shane Crawford is the Family Pastor of Living Hope Fellowship in Aloha, Oregon.
The Confessions of a Cell Church Planter - If I could do it All Over Again
As a fifteen year veteran of missions, church-planting and pastoring, I have observed a tremendous need for a fresh understanding of community. This is the missing ingredient needed to experience what God has commanded us to do. I am convinced the cell model is the way to experience true community from personal experience and what I glean from Gods Word.
I have seen the incredible impact that cell life has upon a town, city, nation or even an unreached people group if it includes deliberate discipleship and evangelism. As I read my Bible I see that this was the pattern used by Jesus and New Testament believers as they lived in a true attitude of community, prayer, discipleship and evangelism. From a church planting perspective, I thought this was wonderful. God placed within me the vision for a multipliable-model of church life that was based on a scriptural pattern and could be used to impact the nations of the earth!
With all of this stirring inside of me a few years ago, my wife and I launched a weekly meeting with a small group of friends for worship, prayer and applying the Scriptures to our lives. Through this weekly interaction, we learned how to truly love and care for one another. As we began the process, others were added to the group including a retired pastor and his wife.
He merged his little congregation with our budding cell church (now called a transplant: a pure cell church mixed with a group of people whose values needed to be transitioned). During that first year, God graciously blended us together into one precious community of believers, bringing Jesus all the glory. Without a doubt, our sense of community was our greatest strength. It was also the essential ingredient on which to establish a cell church.
As I look back over these past four years of pioneering (or transplanting) a cell church, I know much of what we have done has been very effective and multipliable. However, there are also many things that I would do differently if I were to start over. Through my own failings and experiences as well as the input of many patient friends, I have learned much. In light of this, Id like to share with you the ways I would go about pioneering a cell church differently if I could do it all over again.
All successful cell churches run on Gods power, flowing through time spent in prayer. Cells may be the wheels that the church runs on, but prayer is the fuel in the tank! Early in my work, I developed a pattern for prayer for individuals and families based on the Lords Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). I chose those who felt a call from God as intercessors. I met with this group monthly to pray for our leadership and Body. Looking back, I would add these four elements that were missing from my original pattern:
Pastors Prayer Life - I would allow God to grow me beyond where I was at the time so that I might have better modeled it to those around me.
Leadership and Staff Prayer - I would spend more time in prayer with my leadership team and staff, including an occasional prayer getaway.
Corporate Intercession - I would begin by teaching on and taking the time for team intercession during our Sunday Celebrations as well as setting aside periodic half-nights of prayer.
Prayer Walking - I would encourage my cellsright from the startto commit to regular prayer walks in their neighborhoods. Asking God for His blessings and strategy for winning the lost souls living around them would have been powerful.
Even though we devoted long blocks of time fasting and praying over our transplant, looking back I would have spent even more time laying down this kind of foundation. Instilling the true value of prayer into the lives of those in our first cell would have given us a greater sense of Gods heart. If I do it again, I will look for ways to help people catch a spirit of prayer that will become a permanent part their daily lives as the first step in cell church planting.
Launching out on our journey into cellular thinking, the Scripture became our guidebook. We taught those in our first cell what the Word said about living in true Christian community. We took our model from Acts 2:42-47, where we found many of the vital ingredients of what we wanted in our multipliable model. It is one thing to teach these things and quite another to see the vision of the cell church translated into the lives of the people you are leading and serving. Thats the difference between just borrowing someone elses vision versus adopting the vision as your own. If the core member cant see it by revelation, imparted by God from His Word, he or she will not rise and take ownership as the pastor attempts to implement the process of planting a church.
I wanted to help people come to a point where they were convinced that the vision was from God and not just from me. After all, what use is a vision if it doesnt outlast the visionary? If they dont see it as a God-given calling they will not own this pattern of church life very long.
If I were to do it all over again, I would encourage those in our prototype cell to personally invest more time studying the Scripture portions outside of our weekly meeting. Then the same vision God had given me of the church would become a passion for them as well.
In the Christian culture of our day, much of our training as believers involves sitting in class rooms with our Bibles, textbooks, notebooks and pens. While the blessing of this type of learning has filled our heads with wonderful information, it has horribly failed us when it comes to seeing lives transformed!
When Jesus called His disciples, He called them to be with Him (Mark 3:14). They walked, talked, ate, played and prayed as a group. They did everything together! Except for his own private times with the Father, Jesus always had two or more disciples with Him. This was not just a classroom experience; this was life experienced with Jesus. As we look at the gospels, we see that Jesus imparted His vision and Kingdom values to His disciples through modeling.
It has been stated repeatedly that much of what we learn is caught rather than taught. This essential part of disciple making is time consuming and uses a greater amount of ones energy than gathering a group into a classroom once a week.
The end result is the development of deep, godly relationships and the modeling of Jesus character, attitudes, and ways. Jesus taught His disciples to invest in others. Paul learned and transferred this as seen in II Timothy 2:2 (Paul to Timothy; to faithful men; to others). Therefore, it is the way todays leaders need to do it too!
Substantial time investment in people can get rather messy and is often inconvenient for the average pastor. It also makes the pastor take a good look at his own life. He can only invest into others what he lives himself and give away what he is currently doing. If we want to produce Jesus-style disciples, then we must get back to life transformation as opposed to simply dispensing information.
As a communicator, I enjoy equipping people in my role as a preacher/teacher. But if I were to do it all over again, I would invest half of my time and energy into the lives of 6 to 12 of my key leaders.
I would increase the time I spent with them praying, ministering, playing ball, etc. I resolve to hang out with my key leaders next time around and give them ample opportunity to be with me in a variety of settings. As a pastor, I now schedule less time in my office and more time with our present and future leaders. I wish I had started the church this same way.
Have you ever noticed that what you value is what you pour your time, energy and resources into? Consider your time: how much of it do you spend on the job or making money? How much time is given in prayer and meditating upon Gods Word? How about time with your spouse and kids? What percentage of your life is deliberately involved in extending Gods Kingdom?
We all live out our daily lives from within a basic set of values. As a leader, part of my role is to help people move from a worldly value system to a place of walking in step with Jesus. Helping our members to seek first the Kingdom and assist them in seeing how this plays out in cell life is a huge undertaking.
As change occurs, people will fall into one of the five categories below. Observe the chart and consider where your own key leaders might be. Then, choose the steps needed to help them align to the changes God wants to implement, related to their values and/or to internalize the cell church vision. As the chart shows, your leadership must be graciously moved from left to right. Please note that it is not unusual for this process to take from 1-3 years, depending on each individual and the size of your church.
While this may frustrate or discourage you, continue to pray and lead them to a place where they are able to integrate the value changes and your God-given vision for the church. Statistics imply that you can expect about 16% to flow with you quickly, followed by another 34% about 6-12 months later. Another 34% may take up to three more years to make the necessary adjustments. Also, dont be surprised if you lose some people who just choose not to align themselves to the Kingdom values found in cell life. Continue to love and bless them, knowing that God will pursue them in His own way.
My first years as a church planter have taught me that modeling Kingdom values for our people is my first priority. Once a persons values are aligned with the kingdom, they will freely gave their time, energy and resources. This shift will bring passion for prayer and equipping, for walking in community with others, and for reaching out to unbelievers.
Values implementation has always been paramount with our church plant. However, if I could do it over, I would have led our folks through a more deliberate process of seeing their values change while simultaneously catching a vision for the cell church.
Like most cell church plants, we started out with a single cell. It was a healthy cell with precious people practicing real community. We remained together for eight months and then multiplied into three groups. One of those groups lasted three months and died. The other two continued to grow and multiply because they practiced community. We were off to a good start!
Eighteen months and several multiplications later, I realized that the saying, you multiply what you model was really true. Even though we were enjoying the blessing of God in our relationships with one another in cell life, I was concerned.
Some of our cell leaders ran with the idea of implementing an equipping track and others didnt. Meanwhile, the emphasis on evangelism and prayer for the lost was less than I desired. In addition to this, I discovered the discipling of future leaders by our current cell leaders was very weak.
This was a reflection of my own modeling, or lack of it, in this case. It showed me the need to begin with a prototype cell that can be an example for everyone of what cell life is all about.
If I ever plant another church, I will develop an initial cell that will have all the necessary ingredients to be healthy and to one day multiply itself. I see these basic ingredients as:
Given the opportunity a second time, I would have asked for input and listened to those who walked with me in the prototype cell to a greater extent. Their input was valuable and I found that giving them the opportunity to share their thoughts gave a greater sense of ownership in the overall vision of the church.
Walking through the days in my mind, I would now take more time with my initial cell. I would choose five or six other couples and walk with them closely for a full year until the Lord clearly gave us a green light to add others. We also needed to take on evangelism efforts and bring lost people to Christ and disciple them from the first day.
During that first year, I would make sure that all the ingredients listed above were added as a regular part of our lives. In this way, we would have all carried the same picture of how a cell should look and feel. This would have insured that future cells would function just like the original prototype.
The main reason we have been left on this planet is to bring much glory to Jesus. I see this being expressed in two ways: allowing the Father to conform us more and more into the image of Jesus and to reach those who dont yet know Him. When we look like Jesus to the world around us, His love will draw people to Him through us!
The cell-celebration structure is beautifully designed to harvest prodigals and unbelievers, see them mended, equipped and mobilized to reach others. I taught and encouraged the people in our body how to pray regularly for and to reach out to their oikos, or sphere of influence. We also had an outreach for the neighborhood on the front lawn of the school where we hold our Sunday celebrations. We have participated in mobilizing our cells to serve as servants for three weeks when Kurdish refugees were arriving in our city from Iraq.
This has all been good, but as I look back on it now, evangelism was initiated about two years too late! Because it was not actively engaged in with a sense of intensity by the initial cell under my leadership, that very important part of cell life was not viewed as the norm by all of our future cell leaders.
If I had another shot at it, I wouldnt change what we have done, but I would have done it in my prototype cell. I would have planted a two-fold vision for reaching out to our oikos individually and a monthly cell outreach of some kind. We would have walked the neighborhoods of our members, praying for each family, and asking God for his strategy to reach them. We would have reached out as a cell to the unreached people group living in our city. And last, but not least, I would have poured into them through modeling and teaching that evangelism is not an option, but a normal and vital part of our cell life together.
I know now that if I had implemented evangelism in my prototype cell as described above, my core leaders would have seen an obvious need for our equipping track. Even the smallest amount of successful evangelism leaves a discipleship hole that must be filled.
In the New Testament, Jesus talked about wineskins. These goat-skinned containers were made to keep fermenting wine. A new wineskin would be elastic enough to stretch with the pressure of fermentation. An old, stiff wineskin would burst when the new wine was poured into it. As we all should know, the important element in all of this is not the wineskinit is the wine. The wineskin provided a structure, but it was the wine itself that was the prize. Just as a wineskin exists to contain the wine, so the cell church structure exists to contain the corporate expression of the presence of Jesus!
In the midst of our pioneering, the experience God was giving me regarding the cell church model overpowered my understanding of the reason for the new structure. It is meant to contain within its members the very presence of the New Wine of which the world needs to drink. The structure by itself will not produce life. Only Jesus can do that! While I fully understand this now, if I were to do it all over I would allow the structure to simply facilitate and contain what God was doing in our midst. The key here is to pursue Jesus and His presence first.
While establishing this multipliable model, I found it necessary to define the core ingredients needed to establish a well-founded and fruitful cell church. Some parts were essential to the success of the model and others could be modified or delayed without risking failure. As a result of this process, I have developed what I refer to as a cell system which serves as a foundational footing from which we operate. Of course, this takes a variety of people with unique gifts and callings who find their place in this model. People are the key ingredient!
To replicate this model in the nations of the earth, a common understanding of the essential parts must be understood by these unique individuals. From my perspective, the essential core ingredients of a cell church are:
1) Walking in the values of the Kingdom from the Scriptures.
2) Empowering it through worship and prayer, seeking and obeying God.
3) Experiencing relationships and community via living a cell lifestyle.
4) Every believer is mended and equipped to use their gifts in disciple making.
5) Leaders and ministries are constantly and deliberately developed and released.
6) The Kingdom is advanced by cells and its members reaching unbelievers in their oikos.
7) The leaders need to prayerfully strategize and organize to mobilize.
When we first multiplied our prototype cell, I was determined to differentiate the non-negotiables of a cell meeting and what could be played with by a cell leader. As I looked down the road, it was clear that we had to have a model that was easy to replicate. What I envisioned was to have the look and feel of cell #1 show up in cell #12 and so on. I knew this would provide for the effective training of sponsors, cell interns, zone leaders and even missionaries.
To help us do this, we implemented within each typical cell gathering what we refer to as the 4 Ws (Welcome, Worship, Word, and Witness). Each time we meet for a weekly meeting, the appropriate amount of time is given to each. This has been very helpful and although we were in different cells, we all walked through cell life at the same pace.
While I wouldnt change the 4 Ws, I would have provided our cell leaders with more freedom within these guidelines as the Holy Spirit leads. For example, one cell may choose to function as an intergenerational cell while another may focus on certain age groups or specialized people groupings, etc. I would encourage our leaders to allow other cell membersnot just those they had chosen to train as future leadersto take turns facilitating the 4Ws based on their giftedness and callings. Pastoral types should be encouraged to lead the Welcome and Word portions while evangelism-oriented people would lead the Witness, etc.
It has taken a few years to learn, but I have come to realize that if I establish a deep relationship with trained leaders they can be trusted to experiment within the boundaries of our vision. Because of the decentralized leadership base of the cell church, there is a potential for someone to stray with a part of the flock. This is where time invested in relationships, proper discipleship and leadership training will pay off. The constant visioncasting I do with our entire leadership and body in our celebration service also reduces the risk of a renegade leader. Because God wants maximum ownership of His vision, I know I have to make room for leaders with godly ideas of their own.
As I studied the model and sought God relating to the functions of the cell church, I felt I needed to write down what I was learning. In the process of doing so, I found that a whole notebook of valuable and pertinent foundations, principles and practical information was emerging that could help others.
To aid those who were working alongside me in this pioneering effort, I created a leadership notebook and asked every one to study it, along with Ralph Neighbours book, Where Do We Go From Here? I was excited and wanted to pass on all that I was learning and had compiled! After a short time, I discovered that only a few had read the material while the majority of them were overwhelmed with the sheer amount of new information.
If I could do it all over again, I would find simple ways to communicate the principles and truths related to cell life. One of the geniuses of the cell structure is that the membership is able to carry much of the responsibility and authority within the local church setting. This allows them to grow and mature via hands-on ministry and leadership experience. With so much going on at home, with friends and on the job, there is a need to break these concepts down into bite-sized pieces so that they can taste it, digest it and use it as energy.
Books and binders full of information related to cell church life are still very important for study and as a resource. But if you really want to make your cell church hum, find ways within the unique culture of your local church to help leaders embrace and communicate the vision, principles and practical aspects. If I knew then what I know now, I would have very carefully considered this in prayer and sought advice from the people God had initially brought to walk with me in our pioneering effort.
As a leader, its easy for me to run with something once I see what God is doing. Rather than just taking someone elses ideas wholesale, I like to develop some of my own. This is especially true in the area of developing training events and materials to disciple and equip leaders. I believe that when any of us takes ownership of a vision that God has imparted deeply inside us, we like to see how our own experiences, gifts and call will shape it. This ultimately puts your own unique godly thumb print on it.
I think God encourages us to do this at the proper time, but disregarding the materials of someone who is several steps ahead of you in the process is a waste of valuable energy that could be poured into people instead of printed paper.
When we began, the only helpful resource we could find was Dr. Neighbours books. Beyond that we had to operate out of prayer and the fear of God. We took steps in what we thought was obedience learning from our mistakes while we journeyed into the cell model.
Fortunately, the Belmont Church of Nashville had begun the transition from a program-based design to a cell model just six months before. Thankfully, the pastor allowed me to be included in their pilgrimage and he let me contribute those things we were learning as well.
Today, there are many resources available for those led by Jesus to either plant or transition to the cell model. Hundreds of transitioning church pastors are delighted to take you under their wing! I was three years into our work before I attended Advanced Cell Training from TOUCH which literally showed us how to get from A to Z as it relates to the cell model.
If I could give you a recommendation, I would suggest that you introduce yourself thoroughly to the model and consider aligning yourself with a pastor and church who have already been doing it for a couple of years before launching out on your own. Later on, you will consider yourself wise if you can look for someone who is ahead of you in pastoring a cell church. Choose to walk in humility, and ask for a portion of their time, help and counsel.
I am very thankful to the Lord for the opportunities He has provided for me to learn about Him and His ways during the pioneering of the church where I serve. The tremendous team players God has brought to walk alongside us have been patient and trusting. We have indeed grown together in the exciting vision of the cell church. If I ever have the privilege of starting a cell church again from scratch, I know I will re-read this article as a refresher to get us off to a good start!
David Buehring is the Senior Pastor of the Grace Community in Nashville, TN.
I first met Jim Pesce in January at TOUCHs Year of Transition training. Over dinner one evening, he shared with me his evangelistic passion for Canada and the history of his cell church plant in Keswick, a small town north of Toronto.
Two months ago my wife and I visited this small town to see the work and visit with Jim. The fall foliage in all its splendor didnt compare to the wonderful things I saw in this man, his family and Harvest Family Community Church.
This church of 40 adults & 35 children was birthed in March of 1995. Jim and his wife Deb started the church with a year of prayer walking. During this season they started a business called Hallelujah Chicken and a ministry to underprivileged children in a local project.
The chicken business took off and reached over a million loonies (Canadian dollars) in annual sales within two years. The ministry skyrocketed just as fast. Within a few months of working with the children, the parents of these kids asked for a church even though they didnt know much about God. Through a three month investigative Bible study, Jim and Deb saw 12 parents come to Christ and receive baptism. They used this batch of new Christianswounded and needyto begin their first cell. Later, four mature saints joined them as team members.
Today, Harvest Family Community stands at 33 converts, 26 baptisms, three cells and one pure intergenerational cell. Their structure began with traditional cell multiplication, but was recently revamped to utilize Groups of 12 principles. 95% of Jims members are actively involved in sponsorship.
My trip was incredible to say the least. I met a bunch of wonderful people, including two second generation converts; Wilf and Betty. They were saved through their nephew and daughter, who were among Jims first converts. They came to Christ through an investigative Bible study and a healing received at the Toronto Blessing. Both in their sixties, they won three of their neighbors to Christ and now sponsor them. In spite of health problems and a painful past, Wilf and Betty have become oikos evangelists with a heart for cell life!
Today, Jim and Deb work about two hours a day in the chicken business. While it isnt expanding, it does provide 60% of their income. They have intentionally slowed the growth of the business to give prime time to the church plant.
Jim wanted me to share that the pilgrimage into church planting took place during the weakest time in the life of his family. Nothing is impossible with God! he said emphatically. From the testimony he shared with me, God has worked miracles in his life and family for a special purpose.
As a location reporter, Ill take this kind of assignment any day. While the fishing and the fall leaves were spectacular, seeing what God was doing in this Canadian church plant made them both look kinda boring, eh? If I wasnt plugged into TOUCH the way I am, Id be by Jims side turning this area of Canada upside down for Christ!
- Randall Neighbour
A Celebration-Cell Transfusion
Brian Williams sat down with Jeff Anderle, Pastor of Youth and Small Groups at Mission Bend UMC in Houston. Jeff has successfully transitioned small youth programs into cell-celebration ministries that experience explosive growth.
CCM: As you identify potential youth leaders, what do you look for?
Jeff: I look for kids who have a heart and a passion for God. The right young person is available for the task and will sacrifice the time to lead a cell. They must be willing to cut back on extracurricular activities, even sacrificing them altogether for the cause.
I also look for kids who have a natural level of responsibility and are dependable. In my cell groups I have kids who are friendly and social, but theyre not usually the best cell leaders. Finding a people person has never been a guarantee that he or she will be a responsible leader.
Considering teenagers are often flighty, I am cautious. Many kids think nothing of canceling a cell meeting and moving it to another night. A mature kid with a passion for servanthood will respect the meeting times, make the phone calls and live up to the commitments of leadership.
CCM: Could you describe the training and mentoring process that you use to raise up and release up your youth leaders?
Jeff: Were using the groups of 12 model now, and although there is somewhat of a paradigm shift in structure, most of the training is the same.
As I look at the kids in my group of 12, I think, All right, Patrick looks like hes ready to lead a cell. Megan looks like she has the ability and Danny does too. These will become my first permanent members as they reach their oikos for Christ and launch their own group. I am helping them explore their oikos lists and build evangelistic relationships.
We have a high-energy youth celebration service called Transfusion. My youth invite unbelievers from their oikos to this time of power. These new kids are ripe for salvation with friendships in place with those who brought them. In this way, our young leaders build their own cell groups with new converts while theyre still involved in my leaders cell. When I see my kids reaching their friends for Christ and launch groups, I know they are receiving valuable on the job training.
Training and mentoring also happens within my cell meeting. Together, we go through an agenda I have prepared. I tell them, Now you go and do it just like I did in your own group this week.
To strengthen their sense of commitment, they sign a leadership covenant. Its really just a moral checklist describing what it means to be a Godly teenager. By signing it they are saying, I will not be involved in things unbecoming to the Christian life. Im not going to drink alcohol, use drugs or tobacco or have premarital sex. I'm going to be an excellent student. I will be a Christ-like example for others.
CCM: What do you require of these first round leaders between meetings?
Jeff: I insist that they concentrate on making relational contacts with other kids. They must spend time with those kids while continuing to keep a daily prayer time with God. They must faithfully attend cell meetings and continue to make cell life their number one priority.
They must move through our equipping track I have designed from my own writings as well as publications. They must achieve a level of victory in their Christian life. They must be aware of strongholds in their lives and I must see them move toward a point of resolution. If they are not totally free from the roots of sin, they must be willing to overcome.
CCM: How are you transitioning your existing cells into the groups of 12 model?
Jeff: We were already in the midst of a transition to cells from a traditional youth ministry, so we didnt have to do anything as far as recasting a vision to our kids. We were at the point where all we had to say was, Here is the new way we multiply cells. For us it came along at the right point in time.
Our hope is to watch our ministry grow from oikos relationships and cell launches. The greatest thing about the groups of 12 is that these groups dont multiply and break up the kids. I know the long term relationships developed over four to six years will be powerful as we grow. I am now developing Junior High youth cells and many of these kids will be together for many years in the groups of 12.
CCM: When I visited Transfusion, your leadership cell and your Junior High cell, I saw a wide range of ages and maturity levels. What level of maturity is needed for a young person to become a cell leader?
Jeff: When I ask my Junior High kids What is Church? they typically reply I sit in the adult service every week and try not to go bonkers while Im waiting for it to be over.
You know, kids are not adults! They just cannot pay attention to something heavy for any length of time. Thats why our junior high cell meetings are only 30 minutes in lengthand even thats pushing it. High school cells can go an hour and a half or longer, which says a lot about the maturity level shift between a sixth grader and a tenth grader.
As kids grow, their attention span increases and they begin to see a practical need for the things of God. By the time they get to sophomore, junior, and senior high levels, kids can handle longer sessions and theyre capable of wonderful things in ministry and leadership. All this is to say, some kids are monstrosities and wont even act like human beings at this age!
My junior high cells are facilitated by an adult and my high school cells are led by juniors or seniors.
CCM: Can you explain the process you used to transition to youth-led cells and celebration?
Jeff: We started out with 30 kids in the Mod Pod, a temporary building behind the church. We celebrated the Lords presence as a youth group. Back then it was just me, my guitar and an overhead projector. We sang a few songs and then separated the kids by grade level into what I called prototype cells for discussion and ministry.
As we grew and acquired the resources and ability, we developed a youth-led worship team. Now we have a full band, with computer graphics and sermon notes projected up on a screen.
All of this, the music, drama and high tech sights and sounds serve to channel their attention. Then I give a talk, building on this experience. I motivate them to minister to each other in the cell groups which follow our Transfusion service.
The cell agenda is built around my message. When they leave the cell, they take home a weeks worth of personal devotionals, which is our equipping track material.
This is our main thrust at this point; motivating the kids to spend time with God every day. Each week, the kids come and celebrate their new understanding of God in the worship service and share what theyve experienced during the week in the cells.
CCM: What would you suggest to a youth pastor who would like to duplicate your celebration but does not have the financial resources for the high-tech toys?
Jeff: Regardless of your resources, youve got to create enough numbers to generate enthusiasm and excitement. Kids feed on other kids, so the more the better! As your youth group grows, theres an energy, a creativity and an excitement that is released with a large group of kids. You can generate this without a video projector and lots of expensive equipment, but kids love technology and it attracts them like flies to honey.
If you dont understand the power of a large group of kids praising God, let me share with you my experience in my last church in Pennsylvania. We had 400 kids in our celebration service and saw salvations like Id never seen before. Every week, kids came forward to receive Christ and placed cans of chewing tobacco and cigarettes right on the altar! Kids openly wept and got right with God. I know this was because theyd come into a gathering where there were more kids than the population of their school, and just the spiritual power that was released in that place was immense!
For churches who have small youth groups, I would suggest uniting with other youth groups to create a united vision to reach the local area. This will generate enough enthusiasm from the churches to support the growth with a few needed items for the celebration. The other churches will surely adopt youth cells when they see the power of a cell-celebration structure.
CCM:Are you seeing any personal relationship evangelism among your youth?
Jeff: Yes! Were seeing kids come to Jesus among the high schoolers but were struggling with the junior high kids. Developing a heart for evangelism and leadership with kids is a long process. Its not something that can be done in one year. I realize now that this is something you must instill from an early age if you want relational evangelism to be successful among sixth graders.
Right now Im trying to generate enthusiasm for missions. This summer, I plan to take thirty to forty senior kids to Mexico with Teen Mania. It is my hope that through this experience they will receive a passion for relational evangelism. Through Teen Mania, I know I will see results. When they come home theyll be little evangelism animals! Theyre going to say, I can lead a cell and bring someone to Christ! Thats going to complete the process. My goal is to have 30 leaders from my existing experience-based ministry and this mission emphasis.
I'm really excited about this; If we plant Christian community, trust and ministry in the hearts of our youth in the groups of 12, they will see the reality and the love of the their Lord Jesus. Developing a heart for evangelism through missions, these kids will reach out, our cells will grow and the scope of our ministry will broaden. If we can band together with other youth ministries in Houston, the movement will take on a life of its own and grow beyond our vision to pull down the strongholds that keep our kids captive. With this we can take the city for Christ and bring revival to our youth!
Doing it Jesus Way - The Cell Church, the next great force in World Missions
The cell movement will be the next great force in world missions. Why do I make that bold statement? Because through the cell movement God is restoring the New Testament design of the church in both its wine and wineskin. This uniquely Biblical design of the church allows God to use it in a worldwide church planting /missions strategy.
Because of this, it is crucial that the cell church break out of 20th century traditional church planting /missions methodology and return to Jesus model. Jesus was the first and greatest church planter. Pauls church planting methods grew out of several initial stages of church planting that followed Jesus model. Here are the basic implications of Jesus church planting pattern for the 21st century missions-minded cell church.
Form strong base congregations that will multiply in kind. Traditional strategies by denominations and sending agencies are influenced by how many dots are on a map and how many churches can be started in a given country. Jesus base congregation strategy is significantly different. He was more interested in the quality of a single congregation being planted properly so it would naturally propagate and begin new works.
Make church planting indigenous. In 20th century church planting, foreign missionaries show up at every level of society: large and small cities, towns and villages. Consequently, it is difficult (if not impossible) to develop indigenous churches with so many un-indigenous faces around. Is there a solution? There is if we follow the pattern in the New Testament. Establish strong base congregations in the most densely populated area of a region and then penetrate the other areas with indigenous missionaries.
Plant churches in a catalytic way. Jesus planted the first church as a catalyst with an exit perspective. Jesus knew He would leave as soon as the church reached critical mass as a base congregation. Paul also was a catalyst with a perspective of leaving rather than staying. Much of the church planting in the 20th century has been paternalistic rather than catalytic in its approach and attitude. Foreign missionaries are planted for life in a distant land rather than working themselves out of a job and moving on. This view of missions results in two things in the hearts of nationals: a dependence on those sent by God to establish a new work and a resentment that ownership has not be transferred.
Depend on church strategies, not harvest strategies. Did the harvest produce the church at Pentecost or did the church produce the harvest? First century Christians witnessed Gods power and great masses responded. Mistakenly, many have drawn the conclusion that a response of great masses will build a great church. Russia is a recent example that a harvest does not produce the churchthe church must produce lasting harvest. If Jesus 3 1/2 year ministry is factored into the Pentecost expansion equation, it becomes obvious that a church strategy must precede the harvest.
Be prepared to die. Church planting in the 1st Century could not be controlled by religions and governments. The early Christians were willing to die to see their kinsmen converted. This sacrifice to the death is being made today in countries where Christians are persecuted by religions protected by governments. The deaths of such martyrs in sufficient numbers and exposure from world media may be necessary to break the political/religious persecution restricting the proclamation of the Gospel.
Reclaim creative churches. God is very resourceful and wastes nothing. Jesus built His movement out of Johns disciples and the foundation of Judaism. Some of the best efforts today may be to plant a cell church within an existing traditional model. This kind of opportunity is possible in what I call a creative church. Many church planters must give their lives to these models to help them become dynamic cell-based churches. Then the planters can help those transitioned churches become church planting churches. Selah!
Operate from a perspective of holy history. First Century sermons make it clear that the church was a continuation of all God had done through the history of the Jews and all He was going to do in the future. The first believers heard the sermons of Peter and Stephen and it resulted in new works. These gatherings may have been small in size, but they were large in perspective. Gods worldwide kingdom perspective shows He operates in history both in the past and in the future. Yes, God can birth a movement in our time with the same dynamics and power He produced in the past!
The early Christians practiced desperation praying. This is prayer for things only God can do. They knew only Christ could not establish the type of church they saw birthed at Pentecost. Isnt that what happened? The power of God exploded out of the upper room into their livesthey did not cause it. That explosion was totally based on an extraordinary visitation of God as He poured out His Spirit upon them. Only that kind of praying will produce a New Testament move of God.
As you shift to a cell-based missions strategy, you are not without a brilliant example and a resource guide. Jesus multiplied Himself through His disciples. Their continued work proves the success of His strategy. As you consider this in the context of your own church, draw upon Gods Word to restore missions to a New Testament design.
Bill Beckham is President of TOUCH Global Partnership, a sister ministry of TOUCH Outreach. He is a gifted speaker, author and contributing writer to CellChurch Magazine.
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.