I took my aging dog to the vet a couple of months ago for a checkup. Before the doctor came in, I asked the assistant to look at a small growth on Pal’s side.
“Oh, don’t worry.” she said. “That’s just an old dog bump.”
When the veterinarian examined the spot, he concurred. This new growth could be slow growing skin cancer, but at this dog’s ripe old age, it probably wouldn’t be the cause of death. I was told that if this growth didn’t change in size or cause discomfort, I shouldn’t be concerned.
Millions of born-again Christians have adopted the same conclusion about spiritual strongholds. “I’ve had this sin for years. I’ve asked God for forgiveness repeatedly, but the next time I’m tempted I’ll probably give in. I just can’t wait to get to Heaven and be set free!”
Have you resigned the idea that you can be free of habitual sin and deeply rooted hurts here on earth? You don’t have to wait until you die to experience freedom from bondage.
Satanic strongholds are not “old dog bumps.” They may be familiar, but satan uses them to defeat you and your spiritual walk every minute of every day.
Years ago I made a decision to get delivered from some deeply rooted issues in my life. After God was done, I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted. Unlike repeated confession, deliverance really set me free from the grip of sin.
As I walk others through a similar process today, God reveals new issues with which I must acknowledge and be delivered from so that I can walk in freedom. It’s much like removing layers of an onion to find the tender sweet parts below the surface. One layer at a time, God is healing my hurts and removing satan’s power from my sinful past.
I don’t need to remind you we live on a planet full of sin! What satan doesn’t want you to know is that Christians don’t have to live with it.
As you read the cover article in this issue, take a good hard look at your life. Has satan robbed you from freedom in some way? Has bitterness, a secret sinful habit or unresolved issues created dark areas in your heart? Don’t let another day go by with a repeated confession. Get delivered and walk free!
In my last editor’s note, I shared that TOUCH was making changes for the better. One of those changes has been to shift the focus of the magazine to cell leaders. It’s been an 18-month editorial process, and the reader response has been favorable.
The next issue will be very different in content and looks. You’ll read new columns for cell worship leaders and insights and stories on cell-based missions, just to name a few.
The magazine will have a fresh new layout with more white space and graphics. You’ll also notice each issue will be more numerous in pages and practical articles.
The next issue you receive will have a new name too. CellGroup Journal ™ should roll off the press in late December and be in your mailbox soon after. (See the inside back cover for a sneak peek.)
As always, we welcome your comments and look forward to your submissions as we ring in the year 2000. Just do me one favor. Don’t write me to tell me about your dog’s bumps. Pal and I have enough to pray over!
“That They Would Be One” - It’s time to live out John 17.
Jesus prayed in John 17 that “they would be one.” Across the world, barriers are being broken down in denominations, races and genders. Yet, in many instances, Christian generations face age-oriented division that God longs to heal. In Malachi 4:5-6, God promises to send us “Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, or else … come and strike the land with a curse.”
By all indications, we are approaching that day. He is turning the hearts, and bringing together the generations as a witness to the world. As cells serve the community together — children, young people and adults reaching out, supporting one another — they are providing a net that can reach any generation for Jesus. The cell church provides a model of all ages working together and it’s appropriately called the “Intergenerational cell.”
A cell I visited recently demonstrated Christian compassion for low income families by distributing free meat. This outreach took place in an environment of warmth and acceptance that melted the shame that often accompanies economic adversity.
Cell members of all ages worked in unison to welcome their visitors. Children were integrally involved in greeting, helping to serve drinks and carrying meat for their guests. The laughter and smiles within this cell environment indicated that each generation felt involved in jointly spreading the love of Jesus. It was a great contrast to the hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness and communication gaps so prevalent in these times outside of the church.
An intergenerational cell goes beyond including children in a patronizing way. By encouraging mutual appreciation and commonality of vision, the cells’ inclusive nature embraces individuals, couples and families. Psalms 133 reminds us, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live (in community) together in unity … for there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life for evermore.”
My experience taking a 9-year-old boy to minister with me in another church demonstrates this principle in action. Initially, I considered taking another adult as well, but knew that the Spirit of God in Matthew was enough. Several of the people that we spoke with were amazed at the trust I had in this young person, and how he answered questions about intergenerational cells. It was a great honor to know he had prayed for me and had been a warrior of faith by my side. Much like Samuel and Eli, we needed each other and received the commanded blessing that comes from flowing together.
Psalm 78:1-7 talks powerfully about the responsibility of one generation to another, noting God’s divine ordination of the generations. It is sobering to wonder how many people, young or old, are fulfilling their role with other generations. Erasing those age-old boundaries is a commission for all believers to pursue.
The intergenerational cell has the potential to change the world’s view of church and ministry. People relate to God in a way that has been filtered through their family of origin. A person’s character, values and relationships are usually products of that family environment. A product of flawed families, the entire human race needs the Heavenly Father’s healing and the fathering of a “perfect parent.”
Sadly, people perceive God in terms of their earthly fathers. If their earthly fathers were judgmental, harsh or untrustworthy, they often hesitate to believe God could be otherwise. Cell churches specialize in offering restoration and a change of perspective, encouraging people of all ages to develop the mind of Christ that translates into Godly relationships and healthy perspectives of God Himself. Hegstrom sums it up this way, “How can a man (woman or child) love God who he has not seen, if he has not been loved by man whom he can see?”
Intergenerational cells are designed to provide fathers for the fatherless, families for the single and lonely individuals, parents for the children who feel abandoned and disconnected. Therapy today is offered in the context of the extended Christian family — recognizing that the interaction between each member is a vital part of that healing. In the cell environment, children and parents interact together within the community of God to “work out their salvation” with fear and trembling.
Consider the community provided in the Trinity of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit relationally flow and commune together. When God created Adam and Eve, He wanted a reflection of Himself. And, when God set His people of Israel in order, He placed each child within a family, each family within a tribe and each tribe within the nation.
Within the intergenerational cell, God is bringing that same order back to His people: each child within the family, each family within a cell, each cell within a congregation. Children coming into the membership of cells are quick to notice an inclusive atmosphere. The contrast often provokes their honest comments about confusion over parents that frequently left them with babysitters. As one child explained, “I wondered what my parents were doing and why they had to leave me all the time.” After experiencing the community aspect of a cell, she said, “I am glad now that I can be a part of everything and that we can go to church together. I know my being here makes it even better for my parents.”
As cells work to establish community, it is essential to honor the first community — the family — that God created and keep that intact.
In this mobile society where the extended family is often separated, God is providing the potential for community within His church. By accepting God’ empowerment, parents can be involved partakers with their children in the cell. Consider the contributions the elderly saints could share with younger generations if they mingled more with young people who took the time to listen and gain from their insight and wisdom.
Recently, I visited with a little boy about the time he spends with his family. He was excited to tell me about a recent family outing to the movies where the family members split up to see three different movies. This was not family togetherness at all! The only togetherness had been en route to and from the theater. Sadly, this is how many families consider going to church together “as a family” … in different rooms, experiencing and hearing different things, and then going home together.
Thank God, the times are changing. The intergenerational cell maintains the family environment for children. As the cell surrounds and supports, the heart of God is expressed. There is a covering and support for the parents rather than a replacement. Together we are being prepared for the bridegroom of Christ!
As we take back the blessing of keeping the generations together there will be a cost. It will require change. Leaving the familiar, good or bad is often hard, particularly when it requires changes in lifestyle. But changing lifestyle is what the Christian walk is all about. We strive to die to self daily and live for Christ. Living out John 17 is a goal worth pursuing.
Daphne Kirk is currently in full-time ministry with Ely Christian Fellowship, an Intergenerational Cell Church in Cambridgeshire, England. For over 30 years her ministry with adults and children has included seminars, conferences, holiday and weekend retreats, counselling and leadership training.
Pastors, there is a heaven and earth difference between a cell group and a small group. I mean that literally. Let me explain.
When the “church” is defined as a building (“Are you going to church Sunday?”) or as an activity to join, small groups form. They are initiated by the promotion of the pastoral leadership. Small groups are only one of the dishes served in the cafeteria line of activities. Not all members are expected to participate in a small group, since there are other programs offering participation as well. As the Southern pastor drawled, “You pays your tithe and you takes your choice.”
Small groups are usually focused around many interests … prayer groups, Bible study groups, etc. As one church consultant remarked to me, “Just have groups. If you want to call them cells, realize there can be many kinds of cells. For example,” he said, “the body has blood cells, bone cells, skin cells. The more you diversify your small groups, the better off you are.”
This is true only if you are forming “earth” cells. They are man made and cater to the desire to keep people happy by offering many forms of small groups. It is not true of “heaven” cells! Consider these facts:
1. When an unbeliever invites Christ to enter, that person receives the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:10 tells us He is our only source of righteousness. While the believer may become more mature, he or she will never, ever become more righteous.
2. At the entrance of Christ, the life of this person is made a specific body part (1 Corinthians 12, especially vv. 12-13). Note: the first official act of the Holy Spirit is to baptize (totally immerse) each member to be a part of the body of Christ. In a “heaven” cell, there are no dismembered arms or legs.
3. The cell group in its purest form is the literal Body of Jesus Christ on the earth today. The ecclesia, the “called out ones,” realize He has incarnated His Spirit within them so they might obey Him as He directs their activity.
4. Jesus has always had one mission: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10). He functioned in that way when He lived on the earth in the body formed in the womb of Mary. We know how He functioned in that body — healing, forgiving, loving, rescuing broken lives.
5. The cell group is on mission. Christ empowers Basic Christian Communities to perform His mission in every part of the earth. Previously, His ministry was limited only to where His fleshly body was located. He never got more than a few miles from where He was born, but He was called to reach the whole world. At Pentecost, He returned in Spirit to empower and use the lives of those who would be redeemed for the express purpose of serving Him. His Spirit in cell groups can be all over the earth, simultaneously rescuing the children of Adam from their wretched conditions.
A “heaven” cell is awesome in its creation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit joining individual believers together. They lose their identity as “lone rangers,” as “Rambos,” and instead look not to their own interests but to the interests of others. The Christ who dwells within them flows His Presence through each one to build up other members of the body.
A “heaven” cell is awesome in its witness. Instead of peddling a database of information about why we should believe in Jesus, “So when we die we can go to heaven” (a skin-saving decision, is it not?), the cell reveals the inner activity of Christ. As unbelievers watch they see the reality of His indwelling presence (see I Corinthians 14:24-25).
Have you ever seen anything like what happens in this passage? “All are prophesying!” The term refers to Christ’s directed words, spoken by the members of the body… all of them! As the Presence is revealed, the unbeliever falls on his face and says, “Wow! God is certainly among you!” He then confesses his own self-centeredness and surrenders to the Christ who desires to call him out to be a son and a servant.
Those converted in this manner are, from the start, aware that they did not come to Jesus to get to heaven, but to have a supernatural reason for living now. Small groups designed as one of many programs are not cell groups. We must see a cell group as a Body of Christ and realize it is called not just to pray or study the Bible, but to be driven to seek and to save those who are lost.
Freedom: We all want it but are we willing to pay the price to get it?
A young lady sitting near the front shook with frenzy while I was teaching. Her body went rigid, and the manifestations were clearly demonic. I was a young missionary halfway across the world ministering among the Xhosa people in Umtata, South Africa.
I did not know what to do and neither did the African Christians present at the session. Satan wanted to disrupt the training, and he succeeded! This was my first face-to-face encounter with the demonic.
Four years later, instead of being a young, inexperienced missionary, I was a young, inexperienced pastor serving a small, rural church in central Illinois. Late one evening, my wife and I were counseling a young farm couple across our kitchen table. Their marriage was struggling, and the small fortune they had spent on professional counseling had done little good. When we stopped to pray with them, the wife said, “I see something evil. There is a dark presence that I can see in my mind trying to crush me.” Again, I did not know what to do, but a novel thought occurred to me, “Pray!” As we sought God, the Holy Spirit brought step-by-step direction. There was victory, and the young wife then experienced the presence of God’s Spirit in a new and wonderful way.
These two situations revealed to me that demons are just as real in little country churches in America as they are in Africa. In Africa they work overtly. In North America, they operate covertly. But their intent is the same: to destroy lives, marriages, churches and my teaching sessions. My experience also showed me that God wants to gloriously set people free and empower them with His Spirit!
Without freedom, cell members fail to walk in the life God has for them. They will come to cell meetings, but they may have a neutral or even negative effect on the ministry of the group.
Without freedom, cell leaders may ask all of the right questions and fill out all the correct forms, but they will seldom see the power of God flow through them to minister to others. Without freedom, cell groups will not reach the lost because they will be preoccupied with their own problems.
Early in my ministry I realized that I needed to learn how to lead others into freedom. To learn how to do this, my wife and I attended four intensive one-week training sessions taught by Anne White of Victorious Ministry Through Christ. When I got to the first seminar, I discovered that the first step in learning to minister spiritual freedom to others began with me. In about four hours, several prayer ministers led me through a long, hard look at my past and bring every area of my life and history into submission under Christ. In this loving atmosphere, I brought to God areas from my past that I had never examined before. As I shared about key relationships, I confessed sin and released resentments.
Even though this did not feel like a mountaintop experience for me, I noticed profound changes in my life. First, I experienced a freedom in my thought life that I did not know was possible. For men, sexual thoughts are often a constant temptation. After my personal prayer ministry, sexual thoughts might have been tempting, but they were no longer controlling. Why? Because lurid images from films and magazines that I had experienced had now been specifically brought to the Lord. These images were removed from my mind and subconscious, and their power had been broken.
I also saw significant changes in my memories of childhood. I grew up in a solid Christian home, but like everyone, my childhood years were not perfect. Before this healing experience, when I recalled my childhood I would often remember hurt and disappointment. If I tried hard I could also remember many good things. After receiving ministry, it was just the opposite. The good things came to mind first. It now took effort to remember the bad things.
I had gone to the first training event to learn how to minister spiritual freedom. But I came away with more than know-how; I was now free to serve! There was a new level of victory in my life, a fresh sensitivity to the Spirit and a growing use of spiritual gifts in my ministry to others.
As you consider this subject, ask yourself: “Do I want a deeper experience of Christ’s freedom and joy in my life?” And, “Do I want to learn how to minister healing and freedom to others in a deeper way?” If your answer to either of these questions is “yes,” read on.
“Why do I have to confess my sins to you? Can’t I just confess them to God?” Ted asked this question in a ministry session as he told us about an ugly part of his life. He asked a good question, and it might be one you have yourself. Can you confess your sins directly to God? Of course, you can! And when you do, God promises you total cleansing and forgiveness! His word assures us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But we are not talking about forgiveness. We are concerned with the issue of healing. The same Bible that guarantees forgiveness when we confess our sins to God, also tells us “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16, emphasis mine). If you need forgiveness, the Bible instructs you to confess your sins to God. If you need a deeper healing, it encourages you to seek ministry from others.
Do you need a deeper work of healing in your own life right now? Do you want to learn to minister spiritual victory to others? Either way, this ministry must begin with your own spiritual freedom. If you are a cell member or cell leader, talk to your pastor to see what freedom ministry your church offers. If your church does not have people trained in this ministry, ask your pastor where you might look for help. This type of ministry makes you realize the importance of submission to those over you in the Lord. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.) Satan loves to get believers unconnected and unprotected. Don’t even think about beginning any type of spiritual freedom ministry without the blessing and counsel of your pastor!
There is likely someone trained in freedom ministry in your church or area who can help you. If not, learn about it by reading Neil Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker and his practical ministry booklet The Steps to Freedom in Christ. Both are published by Gospel Light. Two other excellent books are the practical The Believer’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare by Thomas B. White (Vine Books) and the explanatory Spiritual Warfare by Timothy Warner (Crossway Books).
If you are just beginning to minister to people in the area of spiritual victory and healing, I want to offer you some advice.
In John 5:6, Jesus asked a paralytic man, “Do you want to be healed?” Take note of his response. Instead of answering Jesus’ question, he immediately made excuses. Often, people beginning a freedom ministry mistakenly attempt to help people who are not seeking healing and freedom. You may think that everyone wants to be healed. But it is easy for any of us to get comfortable with “my” problems and to actually depend on them.
When someone asks my wife or me to pray with them and minister to them in the areas of spiritual freedom and healing, we ask them some direct questions: “Do you really want to be set free? Are you ready to forgive others? Are you willing to quit blaming others and take responsibility for your future with God’s help? Are you actively involved in a cell group? Are you in submission to those in authority over you?” If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, tell him or her to come back to you when the answers are “yes.” Attempting to help people who are not ready is a waste of everyone’s time. Dion Robert, the pastor of one of the world’s largest churches in the Ivory Coast, Africa was asked at a conference what to do with cell members who don’t want to deal with their personal bondages. Pastor Dion responded, “Nothing.” He explained that it is better to wait until people are miserable and genuinely want help.
Jesus told the paralytic man, “Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8) It is interesting that Jesus did not reach out and touch the man. Instead, he commanded him to do something that required personal initiative. If someone wants freedom ministry ask them to take the first step. People that want freedom counseling in the cell ministry at our church are required to have read The New Believer’s Station. We require this book because it makes people interactively study what the Bible says about strongholds, forgiving others and the lordship of Christ. Now that our church is offering Encounter weekends, they are also prerequisites to individual sessions. These weekends convey essential teaching on spiritual warfare and they deepen the body life relationships that help believers — especially new Christians — walk out their victory.
What takes place in a prayer ministry session that is focused on spiritual freedom?
It is not that complicated. Your simple goal is to help individuals bring everything to God that is holding them back from total surrender to Jesus Christ. To do this, address three areas. First, guide people to confess their sin to God. Second, walk them through forgiving those that have hurt them. Thirdly, break the power of spiritual oppression that has come to them through their sins, through hurts or through lies or curses that have been spoken over them. Sessions do not have to be dramatic and emotional. Demonic oppression is usually easy to deal with once you have dealt with the underlying roots. Different books and ministries commend various patterns, but they all boil down to these three elements of inviting the Holy Spirit to do His revealing work. He desires to bring deep healing, and He will if you wait on Him and listen to His directions. As you listen to people confess, also listen to the Holy Spirit. As you pray for them, be sensitive to His timing and guidance. I remember one session when I was ministering to a middle-aged man. As we prayed for him, in my mind I saw a young boy getting out of a car. When I shared this with him, he immediately knew what it meant. His son had missed the school bus the day before, and the man had to drive him to school. He was very upset which caused him to belittle the child. This was not an isolated incident; it was an ongoing pattern in a deteriorating relationship. Through this word of knowledge, God revealed his need to repent of his attitudes as a father.
One of the most rewarding things in this ministry is seeing the Holy Spirit’s gentle, probing work as people come to God for healing. He can move through you this way also. You don’t have to sit as you listen to a cell member complain about the same sin for the forty-second time. You can learn to lead people into freedom. And you can be free yourself to love people as never before!
Jim Egli is Director of TOUCH’s Advanced Cell Training (ACT). He has co-authored nine books including The New Believer’s Station. Jim and his wife, Vicki, have three teenage sons and an 8-year-old daughter.
All Disciples are Leaders - An excerpt from Joel Comiskey’s new book, Groups of 12.
Mario received Jesus Christ six years ago. Jesus radically changed his life, and gave him a hunger to win others. He began to share the good news of Jesus Christ with his buddies. John, Mario’s friend from elementary school, responded to the gospel message and began attending Mario’s cell group. As John attended Mario’s cell group and grew in his relationship with Jesus Christ, he heard about the need for further training. John attended a spiritual retreat, took Bible-oriented classes, and eventually opened his own cell group. Throughout this entire process, John continued to attend Mario’s cell group. When John started his own cell group, he officially became one of Mario’s 12 disciples, thus cementing their relationship even further. Now John is looking for his own disciples.
Just what is a disciple? The most basic New Testament definition of a disciple is pupil or follower. Jesus chose 12 followers. At ICM (Internacional Charismatic Mission, Bogota, Colombia), a disciple is a cell leader and a cell leader is a disciple. If you want to be a disciple and form part of the 12 of someone, you must also lead a cell group.
I once asked César Fajardo (the Youth Pastor at ICM) a clarification question. “Can you call a person part of your 12 if the person has not yet opened a cell group?” César Fajardo stated, “It’s clear that if someone isn’t leading a cell group, he or she isn’t a leader of anything and the G-12 groups are groups of leaders.”
Let me emphasize this last phrase:
G-12 groups are groups of leaders. ICM is a cell church, so at ICM a disciple is a cell leader and a cell leader is a disciple.
You might be a “disciple in process” while you’re taking the training to become a cell leader. You’re not, however, part of the “12” of someone until you’re actually leading a cell group. César Castellanos says: “ … all of the 12 must be there because of merit. They have to give birth to new cells, thus bearing fruit.” César Castellanos gives this instruction:
You only choose your 12 after the person has borne fruit (opened a cell group). If you choose too quickly (before opening a cell group) based on friendship or sympathy, it might turn out that the person never opens a cell, and thus you will never achieve your objective. The person who does not produce is hindering the conversion of thousands of people.
Discipleship at ICM is not a static, ingrown activity. Since a disciple must lead a cell group, the concept of 12 is a method to multiply groups more rapidly. The goal is that each person in the church leads a cell group in order to be a true disciple. If the person refuses to lead a cell group, it’s best to terminate the discipleship relationship.
ICM has only two titles: discipler (leader of 12) and disciple (cell leader). They have eliminated cell church titles like district pastor, zone pastor and zone supervisor or section leader. The G-12 system continues to flow to the lowest levels, and everyone disciples through
G-12 groups as well as evangelizing through open cell groups.
The original cell structure (often called the 5x5 system), developed by David Yonggi Cho of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, teaches that the church must appoint a supervisor to care for each cluster of five cell groups. In the 5x5 cell system, John could not have supervised (discipled) new cell leaders until he was asked to become a supervisor by a higher-level leader (e.g., a zone pastor). The title “supervisor” is an appointed position.
The G-12 model, in contrast, expects John like everyone else to become a supervisor (although ICM calls it a discipler). At ICM, it’s not sufficient for John to simply lead a cell group. Rather, he must raise-up new cell leaders from his group and then supervise them through his own G-12 group.
In this system, every person is a potential leader and every leader is a potential supervisor. Everyone from the senior pastor to the kitchen worker is commissioned to find 12 disciples, primarily from among the new Christians.
It’s amazing how many common people at ICM are actually supervising others. Willie, who drove us around in the van, had 45 cell groups under his care. He hoped to be supervising 250 cells within a year. We talked to a young girl who cleaned the floor, who supervised four cell groups. The phone operator for ICM had 80 cell groups under her care. Another security guard had already formed his G-12 group and was now seeking to form his group of 144. Castellanos says:
We even have humble people who are handling large numbers of cells. Even the cleaning ladies have cell groups. Everyone has cells. Some have two, others seven, others 50, others many, many more. In order to become a part-time minister in our church, a person must have 250 cells. In order to become full-time in the church, a person must have 500.
Billy Graham was once asked, “If you were a pastor, what strategy would you implement?” Billy Graham replied, “I would choose 12 people and transmit my life to them. I would then send them out to do the work.” The idea of transmitting life and ministering to the ministers is central to the G-12 system. In the normal, program-oriented church, about 40 people have direct access to the pastor. Through the G-12 model, the care system of the pastor is passed down to each one.
Everyone who is leading a cell forms part of a G-12 group. If a person has not yet opened a cell group, he or she receives care from the open cell group leader. But the badge of honor at ICM is to form part of a G-12 group. Therefore everyone desires to enter the training process in order to become a cell leader and thus form part of a G-12 group.
We all know that the ministers need ministry in order to minister more effectively. When someone asks César Castellanos for counsel, the first question that he asks the person is: “Who is your leader?” The person answers: “I’m part of the 12 of the 12 of such-and-such a person.” Castellanos expects the G-12 leader to offer counsel and ministry to the cell leader before looking to anyone higher.
“I believe the number seven would be better than 12 for my church in Juarez, Mexico,” said the senior pastor. “Our houses are smaller than those of Bogota, and 12 is just too many for our context,” he said to me. We batted around the idea concerning whether or not the number 12 was essential.
ICM believes strongly in the special significance of the number 12. They base this belief on that fact that God spoke clearly to pastor Castellanos in 1991 about the G-12 concept. Pastor Castellanos also regularly preaches on the importance of the number 12. He references the fact that God chose 12 tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22-26; Exodus 28:21), the Hebrew calendar has 12 months, Solomon had 12 governors (1 Kings 4:7), and Jesus chose 12 disciples (Luke 6:12-15).
Luis Salas, one of the 12 of Castellanos, says to his potential leaders, “The number 12 is your key to success. From this day onwards, you will dream and pray about the number 12. The most important thing that you can do is make disciples.”
Sometimes, Mario teaches his disciples a message passed down from César Castellanos. Until his recent move to Miami, Pastor Castellanos met with his 12 on a weekly basis. His 12 took fervent notes of the content of that meeting and passed the message down to their disciples. What was learned from the senior pastor was then passed down to the entire leadership structure through the G-12 system.
It’s my observation, however, that the content of most G-12 meetings at ICM depend on the G-12 leader and what he or she receives directly from the Lord. Mario, for example, begins his G-12 meeting asking each disciple to share his personal needs. “I’m struggling in my marriage,” says John. “Please pray for me.” Those present lay hands on John, praying that Jesus would heal his marriage. After praying for each disciple, Mario says, “Now I’d like each of you to share what happened in your cell group and G-12 group during the past week.” This has been a tough week for John since only three people attended his cell group and only one disciple attended his G-12 group meeting. “Keep on pressing on, John,” exhorts Mario. “I’ve been there. Make sure you call your disciples this week and keep on inviting new people to your cell group.”
Then Mario reminds his disciples about the men’s evangelistic rally in three months. “This is going to be a huge event. We’ve rented the indoor stadium, and we all need to be praying. Remember also that in one month we’re going to invite our wives and families to meet with us at the retreat center.”
Normally Mario edifies his leaders through a passage from God’s Word, and he tries to limit his G-12 meeting to one hour.
John has not yet arrived at spiritual maturity. He still struggles in his marriage, for example. Yet, since completing the equipping track and becoming actively involved in the ministry, he is growing daily. He feels responsible to exemplify the life of Christ to his disciples, so he personally studies the Word and prays continually. When he has questions and doubts, he knows that he can approach Mario at any time, and that he will receive answers. At times, John marvels at how completely his life has changed since hearing Mario’s testimony six years ago. He’s so thankful to be Mario’s disciple, but even more important to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Joel Comiskey serves as a missionary in a growing cell church in Quito, Ecuador. His books include Home Cell Group Explosion, Reap The Harvest and his newest title, Groups of 12. If you’re intrigued with this new model for cell life and you’d like to learn more, Joel’s new title is now available through TOUCH Publications.
A Do-It-Yourself Anti-Evangelism Strategy
I’ve read dozens of evangelism strategies through the years. But, I’ve never seen an anti-evangelism strategy until just a few weeks ago. When I found this, I knew I had to share it with you. According to the author, this strategy is guaranteed to keep an entire planet of people from experiencing God’s love through Christians in cell groups.
1) When interacting with friends, neighbors and co-workers, talk about your family, your job, the weather, your favorite sports team, the new restaurant you found or your increasing drive time to the office. Never mention that Jesus is your best friend and what He’s doing in and through you today, or that you have friends who are closer than a brother. Unbelievers would be jealous if they knew about this exclusive arrangement.
2) Whatever you do, don’t invite unbelievers to your group meetings, to Sunday services or over to your house when your Christian friends are present. Revision: Whatever you do, don’t spend time with unbelievers or believers who are pro-great commission. Create new plans to insulate yourself from the world by investing your free time with religious friends who feel nothing for the lost. An old Chinese proverb states “Choose your cohorts well, for they will be your destiny!”
3) If you feel obligated to serve someone in a way that could be considered an act of kindness, don’t tell them God prompted you to do it. Just perform the act with the attitude that they will owe you a big favor in the future and tell them you’ll be calling in that favor soon. Revision: If you feel obligated to serve someone, take a moment to think about all the really important stuff you have to do at work, around the house or for your family. This should help you see how really foolish you’d look ignoring your own needs over the needs of others. The only rule in this world is too look out for number one … no one else loves you as much as yourself.
4) Never tell a friend, neighbor and co-worker you will be praying for them (or <gasp> pray with them) when they come to you with a problem. The favored response should be “My thoughts are with you.” If you do slip and say the word prayer, walk it off. Chances are you’ll forget to actually pray for the person within five minutes anyway … hard statistics aren’t available, but five minutes is the average time to forget a prayer request!
5) If you pray and talk to God, only ask Him for really cool stuff and personal needs. Just remember that praying for healings or miracles for your lost friends is absolutely not a part of this strategy. If you catch yourself naturally doing it, just take a deep breath and think about winning the lottery.
6) Set a good example for your children. If they don’t see you sacrificing time to be with lost people or let them hang around your house when you’re having “quality family time” you’re on the right track. This is solid modeling for a whole new generation of anti-evangelists who won’t need a strategy … it will be a normal lifestyle.
7) Talking about evangelism in your cell group won’t hurt this strategy. It’s when you make plans and hold each other accountable for follow-through that makes it harmful. Praying for the lost when you gather is also very damaging to the cause, so avoid it and fill the evening with prayer for your own needs. Or, why not use your time together in your cell to plan picnics and parties just for yourselves? Go ahead, call them outreach events, but don’t actually invite any lost people or bring them along when you come. Better yet, don’t make any plans at all. Run from temptation!
8) Keep to yourself. Spending time with fellow group members during the week only leads to a heightened sense of community and you might run into lost people when you’re hanging out with them. If you’re not wearing out a set of batteries in your remote once a month, you are not investing enough time with your television.
8a) The “world wide waste of face-to-face” interaction (the Internet) is also a wonderful way to keep to yourself. Remember, you’re just three mouse clicks away from millions of great anti-God web sites!
9) Put a couple of bucks in the plate the next time a mission offering is taken. Feels counter productive, doesn’t it? Not so! Although it’s not “a widow’s mite” in your tax bracket, you can get a lot of mileage out of that small token. Missionaries don’t need much money to live in third world countries. And, with exchange rates being so high, they could probably take the whole family out to a movie for the price of your donation.
10) Ignore the call to cell leadership. You will be challenged to share your faith in this position and be a role model for others. No anti-evangelist could remain in this environment!
—Author: The Prince of Darkness
[This article is bound to fill my mailbox with reader response, which is always welcome. But, before you close an envelope filled with harsh words, drop to your knees and ask our Lord which points could be illustrated in your own life. That’s what I did when I read this article. I spent a long, long time confessing my selfishness and unwillingness to share that which was so freely given. I challenge you to do the same. —Randall Neighbour]
Leadership: Our Objections and God’s Responses
Do you wonder if God will do for you what He did for the great men and women in the Bible? Ever struggle with a fear of rejection or felt limited in ministry? Whether you are interning in a small group of six, leading a group of 12, or pastoring 2,000, don’t let faltering faith in God’s power and provision keep you from fulfilling God’s best for your ministry.
Moses was a great man of faith, mightily used of God. Yet he struggled when God challenged him to lead Israel out of Egypt.
When Moses saw the burning bush, God commissioned him saying, “So now, go. I am sending you … to bring My people … out of Egypt.” (Ex. 3:10, NIV)
Moses questioned God in four ways that day, and displayed classic signs of faltering faith. As you read the following issues he raised, check your heart. Have you questioned God in one of these ways?
INADEQUACY “Who am I?” (Ex. 3:11)
Moses didn’t feel he had the experience for this task, or that he’d be respected among the Israelites.
Have you been asked to lead a group, but feel inadequate? Your lack of Bible knowledge, social graces, time in the Word or on your knees may make you feel as if you’re not ready for the challenge. What God said to Moses holds true for you today: “I will be with you.” (Ex. 3:12).
God seeks obedience. Set your feelings aside and take a step of faith. God blesses obedience with His powerful presence. In the midst of your inadequacy, you will see the Holy Spirit’s work. If God is calling you to lead, obey! God works through ordinary people for extraordinary tasks.
“Suppose I go and say, ‘God … has sent me …’ and they ask … ‘What is his name?’ What shall I tell them?” (Ex. 3:13)
Moses wanted God to define Himself by Egyptian thinking. Egyptians embraced various gods of specialties: god of the flies, god of the sun, etc. Moses, unsure of God’s power, wanted Him to define His “specialty.” God responded to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM … say … ‘I AM has sent me …” (Ex. 3:14).
God is not limited to any specialty. He is more than enough, greater than all man-made gods and claims of this world. When you seek direction, He is your Shepherd. When you have a need, He is your Provider. When you are confused and unsettled, He is your Peace. He’s your Healer, your Sanctification, and your Redeemer! Of all the things you can be assured of, it is God’s unlimited power flowing through you for his purposes.
“What if they do not believe … or listen … and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you?’” (Ex. 4:1). How did God respond? “What is … in your hand?’ … ‘Throw it on the ground.’ It became a snake. ‘Reach out … take it by the tail.’ When Moses did, it turned back into a staff … ” (Ex. 4:2-3, NIV).
Moses found security in his staff: it supported him when he walked and was his weapon against wild animals. What do you rely on for support or protection that’s not yielded to God? Is it a bank account, an ungodly relationship, a secret sin or a deeply rooted independent attitude?
God says “throw it down!” Throw it down and don’t pick it up unless God tells you to do so. When you yield every attitude, every relationship, every way of thinking and possession to Him, then you can be confident that God will be your defender and covering in any ministry to which He calls you.
“I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Ex. 4:10, NIV).
Moses was fearful of this challenge, even to the point of pointing out his shortcomings to his creator. Has your view of your limitations blocked God’s leader-ship plan for your life?
God can increase your abilities, help you manage time, and give you the perfect words when you have none. He made you for a purpose and only asks for obedience. Instead of reminding God of your limitations, dwell on Exodus 4:11-12 where God emphatically stated “I will help you.”
Asked to lead a group, but feel hesitant? Leading a group, but unsure? God will be more than adequate as He works through you! Never let your objections and fears block you from fulfilling your destiny as a leader. Throughout scripture and history, the pattern reveals an important truth. God takes ordinary people, full of inadequacy, and uses them for great leadership roles. Just like Moses, God calls you. God sends you to lead His people into the promised land of community and outreach. If the burning bush has called you to leadership, remove your sandals. You’re on holy ground. God sees you as a new leader ready to walk forward in your destiny in Him!
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 World’s Largest Church, which documents the key growth elements of the Yoido Full Gospel Church.
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