This issue of our magazine celebrates the ministry of cell leaders. What are Cell Leaders? They are, first of all, the primary caregivers in Basic Christian Communities, composed of five to 15 people. The cell leader is the example, the mentor, the spiritual guide.
The traditional church does not acknowledge the need for cell leaders. The paid staff is expected to shepherd the sheep, usually in large herds. If someone is sick, the pastor must go to pray for the person. If a family has a crisis, they send for the pastor.
I shall never forget my first years as a pastor of a cell church. I got a phone call that an aged woman had died suddenly in the living room of one of our members. I dropped everything to rush to the house, only to discover three members of the cell nearby were already there. Ellie was one of them: she was stripping the beds to wash sheets for the relatives that would arrive. Mary was another: she was readying the kitchen to prepare food for the relatives. Susan, the cell leader, was seated on the couch consoling the daughter who had watched her mother collapse. My presence was secondary to the ministry taking place!
One cell leader came into my office soon after we had formed the first groups and threw herself across my desk, weeping. She said, There are three teens in my family group who are unsaved. I cannot reach them. My heart is breaking! It was no surprise to me when these three girls confessed Christ as their Lord. Who counseled them? You guessed it; I gave the task to that precious cell leader. She had sown and cultivated to prepare the harvest.
It is a holy and awesome thing to become a shepherd. Being allowed into the inner sanctum of other lives is a great responsibility. Evaluating the Little Children in the initial home interviews using the Journey Guide creates a bond that should last for a long time. Caring for cell members who are maturing into Young Men, helping them overcome strongholds, requires a special anointing for ministry. Leading the entire cell to target unbelievers in their oikoses and seeing conversions is the result of a cell leaders passion for souls.
While speaking in a cell church in Durban, South Africa, I met a teenager who led a cell group. This delightful young lady had formed her cell by witnessing to her friends at school. In one school year, she saw over 40 conversions! Her zeal spread into each new believer and the harvest was immense. The last I heard she had fostered a total of 11 teen-age cell groups.
Effective cell leaders are sensitive to the hurting. They are burdened for the lost. They are able to facilitate the group and draw them into deep sharing. They will develop cell members to become cell leaders, and then share in their ministry by mentoring them. In the back of the Shepherds Guidebook, I have included a self-evaluation form for a cell leader to use for a checkup. Take a look at it. See if your own ministry reflects the balance between care-giving, challenging, and sowing/cultivating/harvesting the lost.
Finally, remember that the effective cell leader is, above all else, a praying person. The cell will take prayer seriously. I shall never forget the many times in cell meetings when our group became so burdened for the unsaved that we spontaneously decided to remain for a half night of prayer. In every case, this pain-filled intercession resulted in barriers broken down, bringing new believers into the cell.
Remember: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!
Can I Help You Dig Potatoes? - Building community in Latvia
Six years ago when Steve and Zury Bradcovich arrived in Latvia as missionaries, they started traditional, non-denominational churches: Sunday morning and evening services with Wednesday evening teaching. Five churches sprang up, and from them, five more churches evolved.
The churches were growing, but two years ago Steve became concerned about their lack of outreach. As he points out, When any group becomes overly-comfortable with each other, they become static. They dont want to change, and they become more like a club than a church.
With thirty people from the existing churches, Steve started a new church. Steve chose ten of the thirty whom he felt would be most open to change and initiated a cell group. They met once a week in different homes. After three months, they separated into two groups, and ten more from the original thirty joined them. Later, five more people joined each group. Gradually, Steve managed to shift their vision from an inward focus to one that was reaching out.
This was a springboard for starting other cell groups. As of this writing, there are twenty-one groups with no more than fifteen people per group. If they have even one more person, they multiply, and the mushrooming starts all over. Each group has a leader and an assistant leader. When they multiply, the assistant becomes the leader of the new group. Steve meets weekly with all the group leaders for accountability and discipleship.
Each home group meeting starts with testimonies. What has God done for you this week? the leader asks. Not five years ago, or three years ago, but this week. If no one shares a testimony, it means that during the week the group didnt really pray; if they had a problem and prayed about it, they should have a testimony.
Since the time limit for each home group meeting is two hours, each testimony is limited to one or two minutes. Then they worship the Lord and sing. When their hearts are soft from worship, this is when they pray for the needs of each other.
Afterwards, the group leader asks if they read their lesson for the past week. This is usually a one-page daily study that Steve has adapted from discipleship material.
To close, the leader may share the Word of God with them for five or ten minutes, but no more. The emphasis of the cell group meetings is fellowship and evangelism, not Bible study.
At each meeting they talk about their vision for the lost. They discuss who is reaching whom, and how they can best pray for them. Everyone in the group makes a list of relatives and friends who need Jesus.
From that list, each chooses one particular person. As Steve says, Sometimes, striving to accomplish much results in achieving nothing. When the whole group prays for that single person, this concentrated prayer power often results in that individual coming to Christ by the end of the month.
In addition to praying, each cell group member is encouraged to meet with his chosen person at least once a week. Its not a I-want-to-tell-you-about-the-Bible type of meeting, but more on the order of Hey, can I help you in the garden? Maybe I can help you dig potatoes. Something very casual, because, as Zury says, If you really have the light of the Word, they will see it. You will testify to them whether you tell them about God or not.
As each cell group member becomes spiritually responsible for his target person, he finds he can be bold and say to his friend, Now is the right time for you to receive Christ. Would you like to do it?
Its wrong, Zury points out, to think someone has to come to a church to be saved.
The cell group member who leads his friend to Christ is responsible for his growth. In addition to inviting him to the cell group, they meet once a week on a one-to-one basis. If you have any questions, he says, I can help you. And he doesnt have to know the whole Bible to be able to say that. He only needs to be one step ahead.
On Sundays, all the groups come together at the church. They meet from twelve noon till about three-thirty. As they praise the Lord for the first forty-five or more minutes, people open their hearts to God to receive whatever they need.
After praising the Lord, they have time for two or three testimonies about how God has recently prospered their business, healed their bodies or touched their lives. Announcements are made, the offering is taken, then Steve preaches the Word for twenty-five to thirty minutes. The service ends with prayer for people.
Two years ago the church began with thirty lukewarm members. Today there are 240 members, twice as many as last year.
Do the people complain about their involvement and about the length of the service? No, to them this is a way of life, and as Zury says, When you take babies, and you show them the way you want them to go, they dont complain.
This is the way it is with their church. They are basking in the warmth of their new spiritual fire.
One Week in My Life as a Cell Leader
In the fifth-grade, I read One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for an English assignment. I knew that Id make a better grade because I had taken on a real challenge. The book was way over my head, but I struggled through it and made that good grade.
In a similar vein, I want to tell you about one week in my life as a cell leader. This is not a complete picture of my weekly life; I have only recorded events and thoughts directly related to my life in the cell. While my experience does reflect years of participating in cells (practically all my life), this is not a story of a perfect cell leader. God challenges me in new ways every week. I have had to learn to seek help and wise council when I cannot handle a situation, like the story of Frank below. And I have learned that I cannot lead the cell by myself. I need people like Allen and Etna to encourage me and assume ministry as they did during this week.
Monday, June 12
Man! Im torn between work and ministry this week. I need to work overtime to get the magazine to press, but the needs of the cell group members are weighing on me. Frank, our cells newest Christian, called today to reschedule his missed Journey Guide interview. Im encouraged that he filled out his booklet and isnt trying to duck out again. Etna, my wife, and I prayed specifically for Frank on our way into work this morning, and I know the Lord honored our prayers.
Last night my intern, Allen, joined Etna and me for spaghetti dinner. We always have great fellowship and needed cell catch-up time over meals. After dinner, the three of us prayed for a couple in our group, Bill and Tamara, and especially for Tamaras messed-up relationship with her sister. Were so grateful that they shared about their family struggles when we dropped by their house last week. God will break through in His perfect timing. I know I need to pray for them more, but when? And how? Allen and I confirmed a Wednesday night meeting with Frank, and then we prayed for him.
I really appreciate Allens consistent prayer life. I was blown away when he said that he prayed for me for an hour yesterday morning! Thats the best support a cell leader can have from an intern. Im blessed to have Etna and Allen on my team. Without them, this would be impossible.
Tuesday, June 13
Its amazing how 30 minutes of prayer and worship can recharge me. Im tired after pushing deadlines, but spending time with God is refreshing. I wish I could say the same about writing cell reports! My zone supervisor, Greg, e-mailed me today and asked if my dog, Buddy, had eaten last weeks report. He knows I need a push to follow through, but at least hes encouraging. I appreciate how he keeps me accountable, asking me about my personal life, marriage, time with Allen and unbelievers. Its reassuring to know Im not alone.
Etna called Tamara at work today and prayed with her. Theres so much hurt in Tamaras life! Etna encouraged her to share at the cell meeting this week, and I hope she has the courage to do so. I know the cell would encourage her if she would let them. Allen found a new worship CD and dropped it off for Darrel to preview. Darrel is so gifted in leading worship, even though he doesnt play an instrument. Hes really found his niche.
Wednesday, June 14
Lord, please give me patience to listen more than I talk. I know I shoot my mouth off when Im tired, and I dont want that to happen today. I had to keep turning to the Lord for strength today. My bi-weekly breakfast meeting with Greg was hard. He forced me to look at the good in my cell and not focus on the needs and problems. Then he challenged me to release the cell leadership to Allen and to start looking for a new intern. Handing off leadership of a group is tough!
Thankfully, the magazine was finished before noon. I took the rest of the day off and met Chris for lunch. I have been praying that he would receive Jesus for years. Today, our conversation went deeper than the usual sports car banter! He asked how Etna and I could be so happily married, and I gave Jesus all the credit.
I prayed for Chris during my afternoon alone with the Lord. Then I had an incredible worship time while fixing a barbecued shrimp dinner for Etna. After dinner, I picked up Allen, and we prayed in the car as we headed over to Franks. Satan wanted to destroy that Journey Guide interview, and we werent giving him any ground! Allen did a great job helping with the interview. It only took two hours, which is surprising because Frank told us he has every stronghold in the booklet! He said we could talk to Greg about the interview. What a relief, because he needs counseling. His needs are a lot bigger than our cell can handle.
Thursday, June 15
Its still so hard to get up early and spend time with God. Some days I oversleep, and other mornings I just dont feel like it. Etna and I always have our best prayer time together in the car on the way to work. Its great to pray together for our cell members, and it keeps us as one flesh. But my personal listening room is another matter. God, give me a passion to be alone with You and in Your Word every day. Give me a desire to get to bed earlier and wake me up with You on my mind. I want to walk in the Spirit.
Etna had a major praise report today: For the first time, Tamara spoke with her sister without losing her temper. Gods breaking through! I followed Gregs
advice and let Allen facilitate the meeting tonight. He delegated all the different parts to cell members. It was great just to sit back and enjoy the time together. Tamara shared that for the first time she spoke with her sister without losing her temper. Allens going to make a great cell leader. The group really responds to his leadership.
Friday, June 16
Allen completed his cell report this morning! We reviewed it over the phone, then faxed it to Greg, along with an interview summary from our meeting with Frank. Greg was excited and asked if Buddy was sick! After a long week, it was wonderful to have a free evening. I took Etna out to dinner and a movie. I love date night!
Saturday, June 17
Allen and Bill showed up to help me plant shrubs in the front yard. The soil was so hard we had to borrow a pick-ax to dig! Allen reminded us that breaking up hard soil was the task of the cell. By noon we were exhausted. The day wound down, and I found myself on the couch in the sunroom taking a well-deserved nap after a trip to the mall with Etna.
Sunday, June 18
Most of the cell sat together at church. Bill and Tamara brought a family from Little League and several of us went out to lunch with them. Tamara loves to reach out even though she struggles with unresolved issues. She told Etna on the phone that the burden hasnt lifted, but that it isnt as heavy because the cell members are praying for her.
My story as a cell leader would look much different if, for instance, Etna and I had children or if I was not such an active person. In fact, my experience varies from week to week and from cell to cell, depending upon the needs of individuals and the group. Your cell will look different too. But no matter what the specific needs of the cell group may be, I always have to prioritize time with God, time with my intern and time with non-Christians. When I do these things, my week becomes much more than going through the motions. I get to see God move.
Six Habits of a Healthy Cell Leader
How could this man multiply his cell group six times?
He lacks the enthusiasm and bubbly excitement so necessary for small group multiplication. Then in my interview, Carl Everett, the man they call
Mr. Multiplication, confirmed my suspicion and told me that he was a very shy person. How did you multiply your group so many times? I inquired.
Prayer, prayer, and prayer, he asserted.
Carl and his wife, Gaynel, lead a cell at Bethany World Prayer Center in Louisiana. Their cell preparation includes fasting and prayer the day of the cell meeting. Before the meeting, they anoint the food, the sidewalks, the yard, every room in the house, even each seat to be used that night. They wait until after the meeting (during the refreshment time) to eat. The Everetts example is not unusual at Bethany.
Is a day of fasting and prayer the only reason why some cell leaders succeed at evangelizing and giving birth to new groups while others stagnate? I visited eight prominent cell churches in search of the answer. More than 700 cell leaders completed my 29-question survey that explored such areas as the cell leaders training, social status, devotions, education, preparation of material, age, spiritual gifts and gender. This statistical analysis helped me discover common patterns across eight diverse cultures.
For example, I discovered that healthy cell leaders come in all shapes and sizes, and the anointing for successful cell leadership doesnt reside with a mysterious few. Some believe that healthy cell leaders are specially gifted, more educated and own more vibrant personalities than other leaders. Not so. The educated and uneducated, married and single, shy and outgoing, those gifted as teachers and those gifted as evangelists equally multiply their small groups.
However, several characteristics do distinguish successful cell leaders. These differentiating factors relate to what a person does as a part of his or her typical weekly lifestyle. It has nothing to do with personality, background or how long one has been a Christian. Instead, healthy cell leaders have incorporated certain habits into their life. You can join them.
I couldnt believe that the President of the United States wanted to meet with me! You better believe that I prepared for that special meeting. I wanted to honor him. I arrived at the White House hours early just to be ready. How awesome to be in the presence of the President!
This scenario illustrates the excitement and anticipation of an important meeting. I never met with the President, but someone far greater desires to meet and talk with me and you every dayJesus Christ. Hes the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
The life of a healthy cell leader begins and ends with God. Only God can give success. My survey of cell leaders clearly showed that time spent with God is the single most important principle behind successful cell leadership. A cell leader filled with the power and love of Jesus Christ knows how to minister to a hurting member of the group, how to deal with the constant talker or how to wait for a reply to a question.
Why, then, dont cell leaders properly prioritize this time? There are at least three hindrances. First and foremost is drowsiness. Weve all battled sleepiness during personal devotions. Ill never forget David Chos advice about early morning devotions: Get out of bed! In bed, deep prayer can too easily become deep sleep. Instead, get up, wash your face, drink some coffee or go for a jog if necessary. Get the blood flowing.
Another impediment is our mind. How often I have approached the throne of God only to battle my thoughtswhat that person thought of my comments last night, or when I should wash my car. Your thoughts, Lord, not mine is the battle of devotions. Ask Him to take over your thoughts in the listening room.
Lack of time is another problem. Leave the fast-food mentality at McDonalds. In order to drink deeply from the Divine, you must spend time in deep meditation. As the Psalmist says, deep calls to deep (Psalm 42:7). Dont leave your devotional time without touching God, feeling the glow of His glory. This demands extended periods before Gods throne. One or two short visits wont suffice.
Everything smelled of success. The cells were multiplying. The church was growing and experiencing salvation and healing. But as staff members talked, it became evident that many cell leaders were suffering in their personal lives. They were busy every night of the week. One pastor asked, Isnt it a contradiction to succeed in cell ministry but fail with our families? Of course it is! In the life of a healthy cell leader, family is paramount. God desires to maximize our effectiveness as cell leaders, but not at the expense of our family life.
Cell ministry is a family affair and is meant to draw your family closer together. Its best to place your family inside your cell ministry. For example, your teenager can direct the childrens cell or lead worship. Your child can lead the ice breaker. My wife, Celyce, and I minister together as a team in our cell. She plans the icebreaker and prepares the refreshments. I prepare the worship and the lesson. When shes leading the group, I care for our 2-year-old. Likewise, she covers for me when Im ministering.
After cell meetings, we analyze together what happened. Once Celyce told me, Joel, you should have been more gracious with Inez. I know she talked too much, but you could have handled it better. Thats not what I wanted to hear, I thought. But its what I needed to hear. Our intimacy grows as we pastor our group together and openly discuss the details of each meeting, sharing our observations and learning together. This honest feedback also helps us mature as cell leaders.
George Whitefield and John Wesley were contemporaries in seventeenth-century England. Both dedicated themselves to Gods work in the same small group at Oxford University. Both were excellent in open-air preaching. Both witnessed thousands of conversions through their ministries. Yet John Wesley left behind a 100,000-member church, while George Whitefield could point to little tangible fruit toward the end of his ministry. Why? Wesley dedicated himself to training and releasing small-group leaders, while Whitefield was too busy preaching and doing the work of the ministry.
Yes, its exciting to lead a cell group. But what will your group look like when you leave it in the hands of your current intern? Will it continue to meet or will it fold? Will you look back at your leadership with joy as you recall the cell groups that you left behind, or will you wonder how so much effort could result in so little?
We all know about the tyranny of the urgent. The cell lesson needs fine-tuning, someone must bring the refreshments, John needs a ride, and on and on the list goes. Cell leaders can be overwhelmed with worship choruses, ice-breakers, calls, visits, etc. Everything demands immediate attention. Or does it? In the midst of a fast-paced life, are there priorities? Can a cell leader confidently say, This one thing I do?
Yes. Successful cell leaders look beyond the urgency of the present to the importance of future daughter cells. Because of that, they spend priority time training new leaders. This passion to raise up new leadership drives successful cell leaders to spend quality time with potential leadership. As a result, common cell members become visionary leaders.
Leadership success in the cell church is clear: How many leaders have been spotted, trained, and deployed? Raising up future leaders is a Biblical way of life. Moses tutored Joshua, and Elijah trained Elisha. The Apostles were recruited and trained by Jesus. Barnabas discipled Paul, who in turn developed Timothy. The Lord has brought future leaders to your group. Are you developing them?
The way to add future leaders to your group is to invite people to your celland keep inviting. Most cell leaders have heard the well-intentioned promises of those who failed to follow through. Steve promised to come. I planned dessert for four people who didnt show. Have you heard these comments before? Have you made them yourself? Welcome to cell leadership!
Experienced group leaders understand that you have to personally invite 25 people for 15 to say they will attend. Of those 15, eight to ten actually will show up. Of those, only five to seven will attend regularly after a month or so. Dont let rejection discourage you. Successful cell leaders dont depend on one or two verbal commitments. They continually invite new people.
One group at Bethany World Prayer Center faithfully met each week but experienced little growth. One member previously attended a group that had multiplied. After analyzing both groups, he said, In the other cell group, we received a constant flow of visitors.
Another cell was celebrating the birth of a new group. The cell leader testified that the group went through a dry, difficult period. With only six people, the group did all of the right things to win non-Christians and receive visitors, but few visited and fewer stayed. Yet they kept on trying, praying and inviting until they broke through. Several visitors started attending and invited their friends. Because this cell resisted discouragement, the mix came together.
Cell leader, you personally must be vigilant about inviting new people. The right mix for your group is right around the corner. New blood in your cell will bring new life. Newcomers invigorate your group with their fresh insight. Keep inviting and dont give up.
Luis Salas has a large, well-worn map hanging in the entryway of his Bogota apartment. This war map is overflowing with names of potential cell members. Im always dreaming and praying about new people to invite to my cell groups, he said. All day long I think about them and eventually make personal contact with them.
In just 18 months, Luis multiplied his original cell to 250 cells because he goes after potential members. More importantly, he follows up with them after they visit. Some of them become cell members and then cell leaders.
If you want your cell to grow and multiply, one vital key to effective cell evangelism is immediate contact of visitors. When someone new attends your group, plan an immediate visit, send a card and/or pick up the telephone and call. The saying is true: People dont care how much you know until they know how much you care.
New members sense a freedom to share deeply in the warm atmosphere of an accepting, loving group. The cell atmosphere is the most effective way to expose non-Christians to the truth of the Gospel.
During one cell meeting, leader René Naranjo of Ecuador began a lesson on how Jesus cleared out the temple (John 2). Discussion flowed from the Jewish temple, to our own bodies as Gods temple, to home cells as Gods temple today. René guided the discussion when necessary, but the conversation flowed naturally and orderly. One couple said little, but they were asked to share their thoughts. This couple lacked a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, yet no one pounced on them with the Good News. They felt liberty to express themselves. René closed the cell by asking those who wanted to receive Jesus Christ to pray a simple prayer with him and visit with him after the meeting concluded.
In the last six months, René Naranjo has planted three daughter cells. He personally supervises these new cells and disciples the leaders. In his cell group, non-Christians feel comfortable to express their opinions, as he graciously points them to the Savior.
Are you targeting non-Christians in your group and including them in the lesson? Cell evangelism is not a programmatic, canned approach. Rather, its a personal process of sharing Good News about forgiveness of sin and new life in Jesus. Because of the intimate, caring atmosphere of small groups, evangelism happens naturally.
A man had a beautiful garden that yielded rich and abundant food. His neighbor saw it and planted his own garden in the spring, but he did nothing to it: no watering, cultivating or fertilizing. In the fall, his garden was devastated, overgrown with weeds and bearing no fruit. He initially concluded that gardening does not work. After more thought, he decided that the problem was bad soil or maybe that he lacked a green thumb. Meanwhile, a third neighbor started a garden. Though his garden did not immediately yield as much as the first mans, he worked hard and continued learning. As he practiced new ideas year after year, his garden reaped an increasingly abundant harvest.
The truth of this parable is obvious. I traversed the globe to discover the secrets of small-group growth, and the same principles made the difference between cell growth and stagnation in every country, culture and church. Prayer, hard work and the steady application of proven principles set apart the successful cell group leaders. The insights outlined here will work for you if you are willing to pay the price. These habits require time and effort.
Successful cell leaders spend time seeking Gods face and are dependent on Him for the direction of their group. They prepare themselves first and then turn their attention to the lesson. They pray diligently for their members as well as for non-Christian contacts. But successful cell leaders do not stop with prayer. They come down from the mountaintop and interact with real people, full of problems and pain. They pastor their cell members and visit them regularly. They invite new people, visit newcomers and evangelize naturally in their small groups. By developing these habits, any cell leader can lead a group to grow and multiply. That is Gods heart and His Great Commission. How are you doing?
Dr. Joel Comiskey serves as a missionary in a growing cell church in Quito, Ecuador. While earning his Ph.D. at Fuller Seminary, Dr. Comiskey visited the worlds best cell churches to discover the principles shared in this article. If you want to learn more about how to grow and multiply your group, read his new book, Home Cell Group Explosion.
Touching the Heart of the True Shepherd - How to make prayer the center of your cell leadership
George and Sally Forrester often invited Ben and Nancy to their Columbia, South Carolina cell group. Ben and Nancy always refused. Rather than letting this discourage them, George and Sally committed to pray even more fervently for their agnostic neighbors.
The Forresters did not know that Ben and Nancys marriage was extremely unstable. After a sharp disagreement, they felt there was no hope. They decided to see a lawyer the next morning to begin divorce proceedings. At that moment, George knocked on their door, trying one more time to invite them to their cell meeting. Ben shrugged his shoulders, glanced at Nancy and said, Why not? It sure cant hurt.
To their surprise, Ben and Nancy found they enjoyed the warmth of their new Christian friends. But more importantly, they made the most vital decision of their lives. They repented of their sins, let go of unforgiveness and received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Today, Ben and Nancy not only have a strong marriage, but also lead a cell group.
Bruce Klepp, pastor of Upper Room Assembly in Miami, Florida, smiled as he gave a testimony from one of their cell groups: With the recent hurricanes we experienced, it has been almost impossible to sell homes. Weve had a couple from one of the cell groups that has been desperate to sell theirs. It had been on the market for months with no results. Then they began hosting a cell in their home, and their group began praying for them. Within a few weeks, their home sold.
Ruth attended a cell group in rural Pennsylvania. During one cell meeting, she shared an unusual prayer request. Her daughters car had struck an expensive bull on a gene farm. The bull had lain injured and paralyzed for hours before someone could come and help. The attending veterinarian said that the bull would not be able to walk for at least a year, and then only with expensive and time-consuming physical therapy. The group prayed that God would work His will in this situation with the wounded bull. After three weeks, the bull started walking, much to the veterinarians amazement.
As a child, stories like these became normal for me. From age seven until 16, I grew up in Dr. Chos church in Seoul, Korea. Later, I served on staff from 1976 to 1981, watching that church grow from 40,000 to 200,000 members. During my time there, I repeatedly heard testimonies of answered prayers in cell groups. Since then, as a traveling consultant and speakerwhether in Switzerland, America, Germany, South Africa or the PhilippinesI continue to hear cell groups joyously tell of answered prayers. Jobless members find employment, broken marriages and relationships are restored, clear direction and wisdom are given and the sick are healed.
Being an effective cell groupa group that truly ministers in the name of Jesus Christis directly related to seeing God work through prayer. He does what no cell leader can do. Leading a cell group then is first and foremost a call to prayer, a call to communion with the good shepherd of your cell.
Jesus spent his life making prayer warriors out of twelve men. Prior to the calling of the twelve, Jesus spent all night in prayer (Luke 6:12). This, however, was not the only time that Jesus went off for extended times of prayer. Mark 1:35 says, And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed. After feeding the 5,000, just prior to his walking on water, Jesus was alone in prayer. Before He did any of the above, He spent 40 days with God in the wilderness.
Jesus spent time alone with God in prayer, modeled prayer to his interns (remember the garden of Gethsemane?) and taught his group how to pray (Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. Luke 11:1). Prayerlessness angered Jesus. In the temple, Jesus overturned the tables of moneychangers and the benches of those selling doves as he declared, My house is a house of prayer (Luke 19:46). Perhaps we could paraphrase Jesus today and say, My Fathers cell will be a gathering for prayer.
Eight years ago, I had lunch with a lady who had been a section leader (equivalent to a zone supervisor) in Dr. Chos church for more than ten years. As we sat before a plate of fruit, I asked this woman of God, From what you have observed over the years, what makes the difference between an effective cell leader and an ineffective cell leader?
She reflected for a moment and then explained, Its really quite simple. The effective cell leader reads and studies the Bible more, prays more, makes more prayer visits and reaches out more to the lost. More time in the Word and in prayer is essential.
In his challenging book, Home Cell Group Explosion,
Joel Comiskey points out four factors that relate to the leaders prayer life:
In October of 1987, I surveyed more than 400 of the cell leaders at Dr. Chos church. The typical cell leader prayed for an hour a day. More than half of those leaders also attended one all-night prayer meeting a week. In addition, many also fasted not just for struggling members, but also for targeted unbelievers. Many went to the churchs prayer retreat, Prayer Mountain, for extended times of prayer and fasting.
If the pathway to a praying cell starts at the door of the leaders personal prayer life, the next step of the journey involves modeling and leading your intern to pray. Jesus was constantly modeling prayer for his disciples. Even in the garden, where drops of blood poured forth in sweat, he was modeling prayer to his inner circle.
Pablo Fuentes is one of the best cell leaders I have ever met. In the past 29 years, Pablo has personally led over 19 cell groups in the northern California area. During that time, Pablo has raised up 27 new leaders and multiplied 22 groups.
How has Pablo been so effective? First, he begins every meeting with a clear vision statement that concludes with the importance of multiplication. He also prays weekly with his intern, usually after the cell meeting at a location away from the host home.
During this hour-long meeting, Pablo and his intern assess the last meeting, discuss what can be done for those in need of additional ministry, and plan prayer visits and evangelistic strategies in the group. Most importantly, they pray together. Pablo prays for the interns personal needs, and together they pray for group members and for upcoming meetings and activities.
More important than any task, declares Pablo, is that the leader minister and pray for the personal needs of the intern. Many times we have spent our entire hour in ministry. Once personal ministry takes place, doing the task of leadership is much easier.
How do you help your cell members appreciate the importance of prayer? The journey to becoming a praying cell greatly increases when the cell leader and intern make prayer visits to members. According to my survey of cell leaders in Dr. Chos church, the typical cell leader makes an average of three to five prayer visits a week. This praying not only benefits the members, but also models prayer to them.
Steve Allen pastors Christian Outreach Center in Columbia, South Carolina. Recently, group leaders and other leadership at COC made prayer visits to more than 140 homes. Even in our private American society, Pastor Allen states, prayer visits in homes brings about a strong sense of koinonia. Prayer visits have given us a reference point to minister to those families that we did not have before. We were able to address specific needs through conversation and in prayer.
What do you do on a prayer visit? First, schedule the visit, clearly explaining that you will not be able to stay long. 30-40 minutes is sufficient. Tell them you just want to pray with them and bless their home.
On the actual visit, I use the acrostic P-A-M. Begin with a brief word of prayer; this sets a spiritual tone to the visit. Continue by asking them how they are doing. Then ask, Do you or your family have a need or concern for which we could pray? After identifying an area of need or concern, then minister the Word. Find one verse or passage that matches the need or concern that has been shared. Have the person read that verse or passage, then spend two to five minutes encouraging them from that Scripture. Then minister in prayer. While the first prayer was brief and general, this prayer is lengthy and specific to the need or concern.
Up to this point in the prayer visit, ministry is directed to that person or family. Now ask, Is there a specific unbeliever you want to see come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? After identifying someone, join in a prayer of agreement for his or her salvation. Pray that God would use the person/family as an instrument in the process of bringing the unbeliever to the Lord. Conclude the visit with a prayer of blessing. Bless that person, that family, their finances, and their relationships.
These visits serve several purposes. As a leader, it keeps you in touch with the intimate needs of your members. It also gives you opportunity to model to the members how they are to pray and minister. Often the intern will accompany you, the cell leader, on the visit; this is a wonderful opportunity to grow in unity as you work together in ministry.
Will you see all your prayers answered in your cell group? Probably not. Following these steps does not guarantee automatic answers. Perhaps this is the reason why Jesus told the parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18. Rather than giving up, the widow kept coming to the judge with her plea. Even though the unjust judge did not fear God or care about men, he saw that she received justice because the widow kept bothering him. Jesus then stated, And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly (Luke 18:7-8a).
I remember meeting the cell leader of a group outside West Palm Beach, Florida. His group made a written record of each prayer request, complete with date given, name of person making the request and an empty column to record the date of the answer to that prayer. Once a prayer request was given, the group continued to persist in prayer for that request until they heard an answer. After a year, they discovered that 90 percent of their prayers had been answered.
Have you ever been in love? Just the sound of the beloveds voice brings joy to your heart. You want to be close to him, even in a crowded room. When the love is reciprocal, you want to tell that person how wonderful he is and how much you love him. At other times with your beloved, you share your concerns and struggles, asking his opinion and viewpoints. On other occasions, you share your concerns about others.
That is the best picture of the cell leaders prayer life: the leaders prayer life is to be in the context of his love relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Spend time loving and worshipping the Lord. Share with God your needs, concerns and struggles. Share with Jesus your concern for others. That is the essence of intercession.
Jesus first call to His disciples and to each cell leader is the same: Follow Me (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; Mark 2:14;
Luke 5:27; John 1:43; 21:19). Being a cell leader is more than just running a meeting, caring for members, reaching out to unbelievers and raising up new leaders. Being a cell leader involves praying to the Lover of our souls and the true Leader, the Good Shepherd, of our cells, Jesus Christ. He will do the impossible, like call your neighbors to repentance, sell the unsellable home, or heal a prize bull. You and your cell group can believe God in prayer like this. Start by asking!
Karen Hurston speaks and consults with churches internationally on prayer, cell groups and visitation ministry. She is the author of the excellent book, Growing the Worlds Largest Church, which documents the key growth elements of the Yoido Full Gospel Church.
Children Love Cells! - How to have successful childrens cell time
If you want to know the truth about something, ask the children. They will tell you. When I asked some of the children in a cell group what their special memories of childrens cell time were, they said:
7-year-old: I remember when Mr. Leonard (senior pastor) sat on the floor with us and listened to us.
4-year-old: I like to be with the big kids and do what they do. They let me talk and everything.
15-year-old: I remember when Jeff blindfolded us and led us around the furniture. He said that is the way God leads us, and we should trust Him.
9-year-old: I remember when I was afraid to go to public school because I had been home-schooled. All the kids prayed for me.
When leaders in new cell churches hear these testimonies they ask: We like the idea of childrens cells, but how can we create childrens cells that work? How can our children learn to pray for one another, love one another, minister to one another?
A childrens cell is a small group of children bonded together around a leader for mutual care, prayer, questioning and discussion. Living their Christian life together, they reach out to serve others and to win other children to follow Jesus (Lorna Jenkins). This cell (often called the Kids Slot) is a sub-group of the family cell.
In actuality, childrens cells function like adult cells. The goal of childrens cells is to meet childrens spiritual needs much as adult cells meet adults spiritual needs. But most cells do not know how to create childrens cells that do this. Intergenerational cells needed guidance with their children.
To facilitate the childrens cell, each family cell should designate a childrens cell coordinator. This person does not lead every childrens meeting, but he or she gives oversight to the ministry to the children. Each week adult cell members take turns as the childrens cell leader. Everyone in the cell should be able to love the children and lead them through simple activities and stories.
Over the years, I have wrestled with what a childrens cell looks like. I began writing childrens cells guides to provide structure and direction for the various adults who lead the childrens cell or Kids Slot. Though the format for each cell guide varies somewhat, the common components include an icebreaker, prayer, Bible story, theme activities, sharing struggles and victories, listening, and regrouping with the adults.
The icebreaker is usually a simple, non-threatening question like, What is your favorite ice cream? Sometimes the question connects to the Bible story or biblical theme being emphasized that evening, such as, What would be difficult about being raised in a kings palace? (This icebreaker accompanies the story about Moses being raised in Pharaohs house.)
Each child usually answers the ice-breaker, though it is not required. Visitors are encouraged to answer but are given an easy out by saying, Would you like to tell us your favorite zoo animal or would you like to pass?
The children look forward to the icebreaker each week and expect it.Though the icebreaker time is light and easy, it can lead to deeper discussions and prayer. I remember when the story time was about Ananias and Sapphira, and the icebreaker was: Can you think of a time when you told a lie and got caught? I began the icebreaker by confessing a lie I told to my sixth grade teacher and how he found out and what happened to me.
The children were fascinated by my story and wanted to hear all the details and how it turned out. Two or three remembered specific lies (and consequences). A preschooler said there were monsters under his bed. One second grader said that she sometimes didnt tell the truth, and she was afraid that she was a really bad person. We prayed with her for forgiveness.
In this case, the icebreaker led to confession and a way to acknowledge and work through the sin and the fear.
- Prayer Time
This is a time for sharing victories and struggles. The childrens cell coordinator keeps the prayer journal that is passed each week to the childrens cell leader so that last weeks prayer needs can be reviewed.
One week a tender-hearted child (Erin) asked the cell to pray for a girl at her school who was being bullied (Sara). The next week the other children asked how the week had gone for Sara. Not very well, was the response. Another child suggested they pray for the main bully (Justin). They did. Every week for months the children prayed for Sara and Justin. Eventually Erin asked that they pray for her. She wanted to befriend Sara, not just pray for her. A few weeks later Erin asked that they pray that she might publicly defend Sara. Each week the current cell leader noticed the prayer need in the journal and each week the children prayed. Though Justin was still bullying Sara at the end of the school year, the whole childrens cell realized the biggest change happened in Erin. She had learned to stand up with courage for a friend.
The childrens cell should also include a Bible story. The childrens cell guides I developed always include a synopsis of the Bible story, the scripture reference and directions for a fairly active way to tell the story. For example, the children pass around a heavy rock while the teacher tells the story of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt from Exodus 1. Sometimes a thumbs up, thumbs down script is included:
A more active way is for the children to stand up or sit down instead of using their thumbs. The childrens cell leader can decide how active the story telling needs to be.
There are a variety of creative ways to communicate the Bible stories. Sometimes a script for adult actors (parents or other adult cell members) is included. Other times the children are given art supplies to draw the story as it is told. Sometimes directions are given for helping the children enact the story. The goal is not only to communicate facts, but also to provide an opportunity for children to learn by interacting with adults and one another.
- Share personal insights
At this point, the childrens cell leader is encouraged to share a time when God has worked powerfully in her own life. This is the time when the most significant things happens in the childrens cell group. When the various adults who take turns leading the childrens cell share what God has been doing in their lives, confess areas of weakness, and pray for Gods guidance, the children see God is working in the Christians around them. They discover that the adults they know seek God in all they do. Basically, the children are privy to the normal Christian life as lived by the adults in their church.
Sometimes following the sharing, there is a time for listening to God, a time for making scripture real and usable or a time for asking for Gods empowerment in overcoming sin or for healing.
- Regrouping with adults
When cell time is over, the children regroup with the adults for a few minutes to share something they did in their cell time. They might repeat the Thumbs Up-Down activity, re-enact the story or share food they have made. They might say the Ten Commandments or a memory verse or share an answered prayer. The cell guide offers one or two suggestions each week. This closure activity renders two important functions: first, it signals to the adults that the childrens cell is over, therefore the adult cell needs to end soon. Second, the children get to share what they have been doing, helping them (and their parents) realize that these activities are important, not merely busywork.
Over the period of a school year, the children in a childrens cell come to know each other well; they play together, pray together, praise together. They bond together. They begin to feel safe enough to confess needs and fears. They learn to pray for each other and minister to each other. They experience Gods powerful work in their lives. They see that God is working today on the behalf of His people as He did for His people of old. They begin to realize that they are His people.
It isnt necessary for the childrens cell guide to be followed exactly for children to see God; perhaps only a few of the suggestions on the cell guide will be completed. The purpose of the cell time for children is the same as it is for adultsto address their spiritual needs. Just like adults, children need a place to be accepted and loved, to share their needs and fears, to pray for others and to be prayed for, to forgive, to confess, to experience God. A childrens cell can be that place.
Holly Allen has written cell guides in her book Following the Cloud. She teaches education at Abilene Christian University. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Christian Education from Talbot School of Theology.
Are You Speaking My Language? - Understanding personality styles builds community!
I looked around the room at my cell group as we prayed. Jerry had been praying for what seemed like 30 minutes. He has so much joy and energy, but I think he felt the need to make things happen. The rest of the group just sat in silence, almost like they didnt want to be there. Yet every time I call them, they say they really enjoy the meetings. What does this mean? How can God really move in the group when it is so quiet? What do I do with these people who are not like me?
Effective cell leaders know people. They see their strengths and weaknesses, how they communicate with and relate to others. They find out what makes them tickand what makes them squirm. They have learned how to speak the language that builds relationships with people who are different.
Healthy, positive relationships are pleasing to God: Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1). When we understand ourselves and others, we take new steps toward unity that brings healing.
Sadly, most relationships never reach this kind of unity. Our lives are full of miscommunication, hurt feelings and misinterpretation. Have you ever been in a cell meeting with someone who would not talk? But when you did ask this person about his or her feelings, he freely shared. Some might view this person as stuck up, bored or shy. Yet if you understand this personality style, you can appreciate and minister to this person effectively.
We all want others to understand us, yet sometimes it feels like we are speaking a foreign language. To help interpret our different languages, cell leaders and members alike can benefit from the DISC profile, a tool for understanding personality styles and helping cell communities grow.
Before outlining some of the details of the DISC profile, let me make two things clear. First, personality assessments are not meant to pigeon-hole people or to put them in a box. Second, they also dont determine right or wrong personality styles, for there is no such thing. Rather, the DISC profile is used to recognize and capitalize on each persons natural strengths and preferences so that we can better relate to each other.
Personality styles are the language of observable behavior. Take a minute to think about people in your cell group and you will see personality styles in action. Try picturing these people at your cell meeting:
You know all of these people. You have met them at your cell, theyre a member of your family or you work with them. Maybe you are one of these people! Chances are, you exhibit each of these four behaviors to some degree. One thing is certain: People are different. Psalm 139:14 says, I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God created each person to be a unique individual. There may be those who are similar in personality style to you, but there is only one you. And the Lord wants to use you to minister to others in your group.
The DISC profile assesses the primary style in which people relate to one another. Each letter of the DISC represents a different style. The first letter represents those people who are dominant and decisive. Only about 3% of the population primarily operates as a D. They live active lives and seek to achieve their goals and control their environment. They make great leaders because they can see the big picture and help others to accomplish a goal.
The I style is found in the person in your cell who inspires and influences others. This person is the life of the cell. He likes to talk and will usually say something like, Are we going to get together and do something after the meeting? About 11% of your group will be an I.
Your cell group probably has many people who are steady, stable and secureSs. They make up 69% of the population. Ss make great cell members and leaders because they like people and usually prefer small groups. They can often hide what they are feeling or thinking, and they fear the loss of security. The Ss in your group are the ones who create the safe feeling of family and warmth.
The C style is correct, conscientious and calculating. These cell members are precise and like details. They organize activities well and follow directions to the letter. They may overly criticize those who do not follow the rules, but they have the ability to keep the group on track. 16% of the population is a C.
To have a healthy group, you need a balanced mix of these four styles. If everyone were an I, your cell group would be a big party, and you might forget to minister to one another. If everyone were a C, your group would do all the right tasks, but you would be tempted to get lost in the details and forget to have some fun with one another. As a group of Ds, you would try to conquer the world for Christ and might miss what God is doing in one another. And if your cell were full of Ss, you would care for one another well, but you would probably struggle with reaching out to others.
Effective communication has always been a key to effective ministry. While Jesus did not have personality profiles, he did understand the varying needs of different personalities. When Jesus spoke with the Pharisees, He was very direct. When He spoke with the woman at the well, He was detailed. When the woman with the alabaster vial entered the room and began weeping at His feet, Jesus was sympathetic and compassionate. Jesus was very verbal when He taught the disciples. Because He knew people, He was able to relate to them in a more meaningful way. When you know your members personality styles, you can properly modify your communication to relate to them right where they are.
In addition to becoming a better communicator, cell leaders will have access to tools for resolving cell conflict with the DISC. No cell has grown without conflict. This is a natural part of relationships. Knowing someones style will help you understand why a statement was made or an action taken.
For instance, a C may critique a cell leader who is an I because she deviates from the planned agenda during the meeting. Or a D may storm in late week after week, and a S will think he is rude and disruptive. If they understand each other, this conflict can be quickly resolved and both can make adjustments. While this does not excuse bad behavior, being aware of differences bridges gaps that will arise in relationships. People are different and will react differentlyin both good and bad waysto the same situation.
Finally, understanding your style and that of others will help you appreciate and even cherish the differences. In order for your cell to enter into community, you must learn about the differences in one another and see their value. This will free you to love your members for who they really are and not just for what you want them to be. For instance, knowing the DISC will help you give all the facts to the C style and inquire about the family with the S style. You may be a direct, bottom-line D, but you still are able to appreciate how people are different from you and learn to relate to them so they know you love them.
Over 15 million copies of the book How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold since Dale Carnegie wrote it in 1936. In this book, he teaches the basic principle that people like others to listen to them. People want others to understand their perspective. This includes the members of your cell group. Yet they will share their interests in their own style, not yours.
When you begin to listen from the perspective of another persons style, things will begin to make sense. You will sit in the middle of a conversation and the light will flash: Thats why she tells me these detailed stories about her family. Or, Ah, he is so cautious to try something new. And, Thats why he gets distracted so easily. With this insight you will have freedom to listen and not judge, to experience the point of view of the other person and not write them off because they are different.
During your next cell meeting, look around the room and ask yourself about the styles of relating. Do you understand how they relate to you? Does the group give freedom to one another to be different? Does each person understand that they are unique and have particular gifts to give as a result of their particular way of relating?
With the knowledge of personality styles, your entire group can learn to accept and love one another. As the leader, knowing your members style, recognizing their value to the cell group, and how these styles work together will help you to be the best cell leader you can be.
To help facilitate a healthy understanding of the differences in your cell group, personality experts have adapted the DISC tool for cell group application in the workbook called The Keys for Positive Relationships. This workbook, along with the Leaders Guide for cell leaders, will lead your group through four weeks of discussion about each persons personality style and how the different styles relate to one another.
Dr. Sanford Kulkin is the President of The Institute for Motivational Living. As a highly sought consultant, Sandy has trained thousands of pastors and counselors to use the behavior profiles and consulting techniques.
God Values Relationships
The greatest enterprise this world has ever known is the Church of the living God. We belong to the Body of Christ, the Fellowship of Believers, the company of the saved, Christians, Christs called out Community on earth, the Kingdom of God. We participate in the great journey, the journey of the people of God.
Jesus, the Head, began His church by choosing twelve men, a group of men taken from an unpretentious, lowly slice of society to carry on the demands of His great kingdom. Only one of that twelve had any refinement, Judas from Judea. All the others were from Galilee and were rude, uneducated and unpolished. Perhaps only James, John and Matthew would have been moderately well off, while the rest, in all likelihood were poor.
Still, Jesus chose these twelve to formthe foundation upon which He built His great church (Ephesians 2:20). As Scripture confirms, God chose the foolish things ofthe world (or what man might call foolish) to shame the wise, and chose the weak thingsof the world to shame the strong
(1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
How was Jesus going to turn these rough, unsophisticated men into rock solid, uncompromising preachers of the Church of God? The Lord Jesus Christ would train and qualify these missionaries for service simply by being with them. He kept them in His community, and under His influence.
Jesus appointed these twelve men, designating them apostles (which means missionaries) that they might be with him (Mark 3:14). Here is the absolute highest callingto be a companion of Jesus! This afforded the twelve the opportunity to learn lessons from His character and His conduct, His language and His mighty works. Jesus did not teach in a vacuum. He taught them in the dirty everyday life of experience. Nothing else could prepare them for the ministry they would carry out in the coming years. Their being joined to Jesus in a brief yet close relationship was a constant living lesson.
When Jesus commissioned and authorized the apostles as His messengers, His prophets and His ambassadors, he settled the model for leadership development. Jesus personally trained His disciples for the trenches of ministry. What was the ministry? To preach the good news of salvation, righteousness and eternal life through Christ Jesus . . . and to have authority to drive out demons. They acted on behalf of Christ, armed with His power to continue His work by destroying the works of the devil, establishing the reign of Christs righteousness and peace. These twelve disciples received power to do this by being in relationship, in community, with Jesus. Christians in 1998 are the result, the living proof, that what Jesus began works well.
As it was with the apostles, so it is with us. The only way we are empowered to drive out demons is by being with Him. As did Mary (Luke 10:38-42), so will we. Martha missed the only path to empowerment. She was so caught up with doing work for Him she had no time to be with Him. She is like some of us who spend so much time cleaning our house in preparation for a cell meeting that we never spend time with the Lord of the cell meeting. Martha is the doer for Christ. She expected everyone else to do what she was doing. Not only does Martha see her own significance before Christ in what she does, but she judges everyone else in the same way.
Martha condemned Mary. But Jesus corrected her by explaining the importance of being with Him over doing for Him. Mary wanted first of all to be with Christ. Martha didnt seem to have the foggiest clue about this truth, because her relationship was based on performance. Mary sought the presence, power and purpose of Jesus. She knew that relationship in community lies at the heart of Gods will and plan for man. Mary along with the twelve show us the power and priority of being in His presence.
God does not live as an individual. He lives in community with the other two members of the Trinity. When He came to earth, He was born and lived in familial community with Joseph and Mary. For three and a half years, He lived with His twelve leaders in the relationships of His special community. In doing so, he set the model for our Basic Christian Communities, which make up His spiritual Body. God values relationships. This is where cell life assumes its priority. Nothing can compete with the power of cell life and the impact relationships have on people in cells.
When we value relationships as God does, following the model of Jesus, we guard those we disciple from the emptiness of knowing the rules of Christianity without a relationship with the King of Christendom. As a result, we will see the church of the living God, this great adventure of Jesus people, and the power of the Spirit moving through us in a new light. Yes, God values relationships and so should we.
Bob Davis, Sr. is the newest member of the TOUCH Outreach Ministries Board of Directors. He has pastored Long Reach Church of God in Columbia, MD since 1975, which has over 125 groups today. He is also one of TOUCHs Advanced Cell Training instructors.
End of Issue.
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Contents © Copyright 1999 by TOUCH Outreach Ministries, Inc.