Editor’s Note by Randall Neighbour
As I read through Scott Boren’s article on leading out of brokenness, it really hit home. Even though I know better, I often find myself doing the work and looking for the credit in the growth of my cell group. I must constantly run to the feet of the Master and fall on my face, asking Him what He wants to do. It’s only after I discard my own agenda that I can see His unique plan for myself and my cell members. His results are always better and longer lasting! While walking in brokenness has been a constant battle for me, I think I have found one of the keys to walking out my days as a leader with a limp, like the one Jacob was given by the Lord.
Jim Pesce’s article on fasting wasn’t printed behind the article on brokenness based on content, but it’s a great place for it. As I edited his words, it was apparent that these two articles were made to be read in the same sitting. One describes a place we need to be as cell leaders, the other describes a great way to get there and see results.
As you read the fasting article, know that I was in Jim’s house when his friend Brian showed up in the middle of a long fast. Months later, I flew up to Toronto and Jim and Debbie were just completing a forty-day fast of their own. These are dear friends, but let me say in all honesty that it was an uncomfortable time to be with them. Jim and Debbie couldn’t bear to watch our banter and fellowship over food, so Etna and I ate with the kids at their table each day without them.
My time with Jim and Debbie was very difficult for me too. Although I saw nothing but humility in them, I came under heavy conviction that I too should be a man devoted to fasting and prayer for spiritual issues and breakthroughs. I have resisted this for years because I simply love the taste of food. I was unwilling to give it up to gain spiritual ground.
Well before I received Jim’s article, the Lord spoke to me and asked me to set aside food and focus on Him. At first I wanted to deny it was the Lord, but I know a request like this wouldn’t come from any other source. I’ve fasted before, but never with so many deep issues with which to deal.
Is God tugging at your heart in the same way? I am planning a series of fasts for various issues in my own life and ministry throughout 2000. The first fast will be for 7 days, May 25-31. Take it to the Master and ask Him if you should fast with me. If God quickens your heart to join me, please email me and let me know. I want to lift you up in prayer.
The idea of a world-wide week of fasting and prayer for cell leaders is starting to sound very powerful, isn’t it? (end of article)
Publisher’s Editorial - by Ralph Neighbour
You can reclaim everything but time: Should you tithe the hours of your life for service to God?
“Do your giving while you’re living; Then you’re knowing where it’s going.” This Scottish quip is usually used to encourage people to tithe their income. However, there is another way it should be applied; to the investing of your time. Money can be lost and restored by wise decisions, but once an hour is given to some task, it can never be reclaimed.
We all have 8,760 hours in a year to give to something. 2,920 hours of that is used sleeping 8 hours a day (Even if you don’t always use that much time to sleep, it will add up to that figure, including time spent getting ready and getting up). That leaves 5,840 hours for other activities.
If we then spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, at our job and add another 1+ hour for travel, we can deduct another 2,375 hours (allowing for a two week annual vacation.) That leaves 3,465 hours of “free” time.
Deduct 2 hours for mealtimes each day, and a total of 2,735 hours remains. This means we have a daily average of 7.5 hours, or a weekly average of 52.5 hours. Where should we invest this time?
Few of us have considered reserving a tithe of our time for the Lord. If we did so, how many hours should we tithe? A tenth of a 24 hour day (2.4 hours), or should we tithe only the “free” time, 7.5 hours a day (45 minutes)? Hmmm.
How much time should be spent daily in the “Listening Room?” How much in completing the equipping materials? How much in attending weekly Celebration services (adding travel back and forth)? How much in attending the weekly cell group? If I am mentoring or being mentored, how much time should I allow?
When I was a teenager, I idolized G. P. “Rocky” Rockwell, an elderly man who loved the Lord with all his heart. His focus was on finding ways to relate to skid row alcoholics. He had been one himself, “B.C.” or before Christ. He operated The Downtown Mission. As a 14-year-old high school freshman, I used to preach on Thursday nights to the drunks. He was so patient with me!
One day he said, “Ralph, I belonged to the devil for the first years of my life. I used all my time doing what he wanted. I’ve been a Christian for 15 years. I am praying I will live long enough to give Jesus more of my lifetime than I gave to satan!”
On another occasion, we were riding with my dad in his car and stopped for a red light. The streets were full of winter slush. The wind blew away the hat of a man crossing the street in front of us. In a flash, Rocky jumped out of the car and chased the hat. He dusted off the slush and gave it to the owner with these words: “Mister, you don’t know me but I would like to tell you that a few years ago I would have laughed watching your problem with this hat. But I have Jesus in me, and He just wouldn’t let me ignore your problem. Jesus made me rescue your hat for you.”
By then, the light had turned green, and my dad had pulled out of the traffic to wait on Rocky. We watched as the man lowered his eyes and said to Rocky, “How can I have what you have?”
Rocky’s life ministry was based on the matter of time. This true believer never even considered how much time should be rationed to serve the Lord!
As born-again believers, our time is always His, awake or sleeping, eating or working. There is no way to tithe time when you are a true servant.
One day “Rocky” said to me, “Ralph, you have started as a boy to serve Him. Be sure to use the hours of your life wisely!”
Paul said it this way in Acts 20:24: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
Are you giving while you’re living? Are you knowing where it’s going? (end of article)
Missions - Go Ye Therefore - By Sam Scaggs
You have a destiny! Has your cell adopted an unreached people group?
My family and I spent the summer of 1993 in Albania. In a cell group meeting, I shared that God spoke to me about meeting the newly elected president of Albania. The cell members were polite, but I saw them glance at each other and wiggle their eyebrows in unbelief. Some even laughed.
A cell member named Kozeta came to me after the meeting and said, “I can arrange a meeting for you with our president.” The others in the room overheard our conversation and laughed again. Undaunted, she continued. “It is true. The assistant to the President was a student when I was teaching years ago. She is one of my closest friends and will help us to make the appointment.”
To make a long story short, Kozeta arranged a meeting where I spent 40 minutes “interviewing” President Berisha. This opened the door for us to share Christ with him and give him personal copies of the Bible in his own language.
Part of Kozeta’s destiny was to establish a meeting with this Muslim President so he could hear the Gospel. Even though she was an ordinary wife, mother, office worker and cell member, God used her in an extra-ordinary way.
In Psalms 139, it reveals that God wrote a book about your life before you were ever born. The Apostle Paul wrote to the cell church in Galatia many years ago, reiterating the passage in Psalms with an ageless truth for us today: “But then something happened! For it pleased God in His kindness to choose me and call me, even before I was born!” (NLT). Do you see it? Paul and Kozeta had a destiny, and so do you!
Why? So you wouldn’t spend your life wandering around without purpose! For some of us, this means building God’s Kingdom in our own countries. For others, it means building His Kingdom in a foreign country. No matter where we find ourselves geographically, we must see ourselves as kingdom people with a kingdom destiny. That destiny includes reaching those who have never had the chance to know God personally.
There are over 1,700 unreached people groups without a witness of Christ. Today I want to challenge you to adopt one of these people groups.
Praying for a people group will give your cell a global vision. Do you feel led to move forward?
Remember these six keys to adopt an unreached people group (UPG): Enlist others; Pray; Research; Network; Long term commitment; Plant a reproducing cell that will grow into a church!
If the Lord spoke to every cell leader to adopt just one of these 1,700 unreached groups to pray for and support, it would change the world! You have a destiny and God wants you to find it and fulfill it.
Paul said that God “revealed His Son to me so that I could proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.” (Galatians 1:16). The Gentiles were the unreached people group of his day. The challenge is just as great today. God’s original plan for Paul was to use him and all his life experience to extend His Kingdom. He used his unique personality, spiritual gifts and Paul’s mistakes to make him effective in his generation. God’s original plan for you, like Paul, can be realized if your life is totally yielded to Christ. He will take every experience, your unique personality and spiritual gifts and even every mistake you have ever made. He will anoint you with His Spirit to make Himself known to this generation!
Who knows? When you realize your destiny and adopt a UPG, you too may find yourself speaking to the president of a foreign country! Visit our web site <www.strategicnetwork.org> for more information! (end of article)
Sam Scaggs is the National Director for the Cell Church Missions Network, USA and lives in Virginia Beach, VA. Contact Sam at: email@example.com
Worship - By Gerrit Gustafson
Are you developing new leaders? Here are the basics for finding, training and releasing new worship leaders.
Qualified worship leaders are essential in leading cells into meaningful worship. Without an effective worship leader, your cell will be flat and mechanical.
Worship leaders, I have a question for you: how are you doing in developing new worship leaders?
So we’re all on the same page, let’s first describe what a good worship leader looks like and then consider three key activities in multiplying worship leaders.
A Good Worship Leader
The picture I’m going to paint for you is that of a developed worship leader. Please don’t take this description as a list of qualifications that have to be in place before you raise up a new leader. You may find that only one or two of the qualifications are present, and even then, maybe only in “embryonic” form. But having these goals in mind will help you focus your faith and measure your progress.
Worship is all about the expression of our love for God. A worship leader, therefore, is someone who heartily loves God, gives expression to that love and effectively leads others in expressing their love for God. He is not a performer, doing worship for others. His success is measured in how well those he is leading truly worship.
I believe a worship leader should have the five pillar qualities described below.
Spiritual Sensitivity — More than musicianship, spiritual sensitivity is the most distinguishing characteristic of a good worship leader. It has to do with discerning what is spiritually appropriate. The French phrase, savior-faire means “the knowledge of just what to do and how to do it.” A good worship leader learns to “do only what he sees his Father doing” (John 5:19). Look for this quality. Look for a listening heart and a love for prayer.
Desire to Serve — Worship leaders are butlers whose job it is to lead the worshipper from the front door to the Master of the house. Too many worship leaders mistakenly act as though the people came to see the butler! The world is full of musicians who want to make a name for themselves (see Gen. 11:4). May the kingdom be full of worshippers who are living for the honor of their Master (see John 7:18).
Love for the Scriptures — Good worship leaders need to be full of the Word of God, especially the book of Psalms, which is the Scripture’s Songbook. True worshippers must worship in truth (John 4:24), and their leaders must be biblically literate.
Musicianship — Your new worship leader may not be the best musician around, but basic musicianship is required. Does he or she love to sing or play an instrument? Can he or she pitch a song in the right key? Musicianship includes a basic understanding of music theory (the grammar of music) as well as a basic musical intuition.
Leadership Skills — A good worship leader is a worshipper first, and a leader second. In worship, you lead primarily by example. If you are genuinely enthusiastic about what you’re doing, people will naturally want to follow. Your worship leader must leave room for “Holy Spirit interruptions” but have a plan.
Identify. Resource. Exercise.
Now that we know what we’re looking for, what do we do to begin to develop new worship leaders? Consider these three processes.
Identifying — As I wrote this article, I sensed the Lord saying: “It is through prayer that ministries come forth; it is through prayer that worship leaders are identified. Emphasize prayer in your article.”
Jesus spent all night in prayer before he called those he would invest in (Luke 6:12-13). Without prayer, we “look on the outward appearance” (I Sam. 16:7). Look for the five pillar qualities mentioned above. When you identify them, continue to pray for them until they have their own conviction about being a worship leader. I have found splendid worship leaders who are very young, so do not discount them for their age.
Resourcing — Provide them with tools. For music theory, I recommend Steve Bowersox’s The Worship Musicians Theory Book (904-246-8248). Tom Kraeuter has written some very helpful books on worship. I especially recommend The Worship Leader’s Handbook.
The guitar is the ideal instrument to accompany worship within smaller settings. If possible, once a year your church should provide a four week guitar class. In addition to that, Paul Baloche has created some excellent instructional videos for worship guitar.
Worship Leader Magazine (615-386-3011) is a good resource to keep you up to date on issues, trends and worship-related products. Send budding worship leaders to a worship conference, or host your own.
Spend time with these new leaders, talking about how you find good songs and how you plan a worship set. Provide them with recordings of worship songs you have found helpful. WholeHearted Worship has a good collection with easy songbooks.
Don’t underestimate the most important resource you have to give these new worship leaders: your vision for worship and your affirming words. Give these freely!
Exercising — As you see basic skills develop in these new worship leaders, deploy them. Give them opportunities to lead. Let them do a special song at one meeting; then let them lead worship at the next. Each time they take new steps, encourage them. They will learn by doing. The more experience they get, the more confidence they will gain. Then, address any wrong attitudes that may come up.
Now it’s decision time!
What are you going to do about developing new worship leaders in your group? If you’re serious about multiplying cells, now is the time to begin multiplying worship leaders as well. (end of article)
Gerrit Gustafson founded WholeHearted Worship and is a seasoned man of worship. He works with small groups in the Nashville, TN area.
Toolkit – Practical tips, written by cell leaders for cell leaders
LOVING ENOUGH TO CONFRONT
No one likes to confront bad behavior. Most employers wait until the last possible minute. Temper tantrums in grocery stores can be embarrassing, but spanking your child in public brings “child abuse charge” fears to mind. Even worse, when confrontation is handled poorly in a church setting, a congregation can split over such issues.
To begin with, encouragement toward righteousness should be a part of our daily Christian lives with each other. “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14) It should not be out of the ordinary for us to challenge one another’s values, attitudes, and behaviors. Again, in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
However, at some point in the Body of Christ there are times when confrontation must be done that goes beyond just gentle correction. Jesus taught a simple approach in Matthew 18 when a brother sins against you. (Paul extends this further to sins that are not just against you in 1 Corinthians 5.)
1. Confront the individual privately about his sin. If he listens, great! You have won back a brother to the Lord. If in doubt about whether or not a complaint is legitimate, ask God, not the rest of the church.
2. If he does not heed the first correction, go back with one or two believers and confront the sin again. This provides for more strength to the first confrontation as well as the two or three witnesses established by Old Testament law.
3. If he still continues on with the sin, bring it before the church. In the past, “church” would have been defined as the entire congregation. In your context, church can be better understood here as the cell group.
4. If the third correction does not solve the problem, Jesus makes it clear what should happen: “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” This should not be taken to mean that you totally disregard him, but to treat him as a non-believer, still trying to win him back to Christ. As a cell leader, you must go to your pastor or coach and ask them how to go about this.
At all points before, during, and after confrontation there are three guidelines that should be followed:
The confrontation of sin has to be biblically based. Romans 14 teaches us that there is a wide variance for what is acceptable behavior (read this passage before you confront!) It is not wise to confront what you consider sin unless it is clear the Bible condemns it and not just your standards of morality. If in doubt, ask your pastor or coach.
Confrontation must be motivated by love, not by judgment or retribution. There is no room in the Kingdom of God for correction that is based out of ungodly anger or revenge.
Finally, and most importantly, all confrontation should be bathed in prayer. The goal is to help people spiritually and confrontation is as much a spiritual matter as it is a process. Pray before confronting. Pray while confronting. Pray after every step of confronting. If you must disassociate someone, continue to pray for that person, “so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” Pray, pray, pray!
At every point in the three-step process above, your attitude should always be with love and great patience to “woo” the offender back into God’s arms. When he does return, Paul urges to reaffirm your love for him (2 Corinthians 2:8).
Remember, it is not only your pastor’s responsibility to confront. This is a matter that must be modeled and taught to every believer. At no point in these three main passages on confrontation does it mention the leaders, but instead, “If a brother sins against you . . .” It would certainly be wise, if possible, to involve a cell leader at the point of taking a witness along.
A national interfraternity worksheet on confrontation gives seven guidelines for the actual moment:
A) Initiate contact. Set a time and place.
B) Establish rapport. Have their best interest at heart.
C) Identify the issue/problem. Avoid excuses by asking “What...” and not “Why?”
D) Agree on the problem: if the individual does not agree a problem exists, you must return to B or C.
E) Obtain attainable commitment: Agree on a solution that the person has the ability to fulfill.
F) Follow-up on commitment: Set a date. Get together again and check to see if the commitment has been kept. If so, move to next step. If not, return to the previous step and redefine what is an attainable commitment.
G) Praise success: Reaffirm your love and care for the person. Offer praise and positive feedback. Then obtain commitment for further changes and extend the attainable commitment even further.
—Steven Reames, Boise, Idaho, Check out Steve’s website! www.fishingwitha.net
KIDS PRAYING FOR KIDS!
While washing dishes, I listened to my daughters talk at the breakfast table about their summer plans over a bowl of cereal. The conversation included sleeping in, playing with dolls, making crafts, going swimming and the most exciting of all, going on vacation. I smiled as memories took me back to the ages of seven and ten and having those same goals for my long, wonderful summers in rural Pennsylvania.
Suddenly the conversation got low in tone, even to a whisper. I could barely hear them mention a clubhouse and how neat it would be to have one. I stopped for a minute and thought about the space below our back deck. It had become a collection of old bikes, swings, boards, etc. So I mentioned how junky it was down there, and the girls lit up with excitement! “If we clean it out, can we use it for a clubhouse?” Courtney asked. I agreed.
Courtney, Heidi, and our 11-year-old neighbor, Katy were soon busy cleaning out the cluttered area. Two old crates soon became a podium and old tires became seats for the new club members. They worked hard, and I was proud of them.
A week later, they had their first meeting along with Hannah and Abi, our next door neighbors. They had come up with a plan for their time together. They discussed it and thought it would be neat to have singing, testimonies, prayer, play time and snacks. Sound familiar? Hannah suggested that they call their club, “Kids, praying for kids.” They all agreed, and the Fla-Vor-Ice was passed out for all to enjoy! Whether they realized it or not, they had begun a children’s cell group! Praise God!
Their goal is to reach other little girls in the neighborhood with the love of God. Since then, Courtney and Heidi have shared their ideas for cell group with me. Today, they are going to make a “lighthouse of prayer” banner, and hang it outside the club “door.”
It’s been tough getting the club “off the ground” with challenges like neighbors on vacation and parents’ work schedules. But, I know that with the prayers of God’s people, Courtney, Heidi, Katy, Hannah, Abi, Ashley and Emily will be “Kids Praying for Kids.”
— Michelle Morgan, Cornerstone Church, Rockingham, VA
HOW TO PRAY FOR YOUR CELL MEMBERS
* Be thankful for their faith and changed life, even if you can’t see it today.
* Ask God to help them know what He wants them to do.
* Ask God to give them deep spiritual understanding of His Holy Word.
* Ask God to help them live for Him every day and be a light in a dark world.
* Ask God to give them more knowledge of Himself through others and experiences.
* Ask God to help them see their leadership abilities.
* Ask God to reveal strongholds and attitudes that are of this world.
* Ask God to give them strength for endurance in all situations, good and bad.
* Ask God to fill them with joy, strength, and thankfulness.
A NURSERY FOR NEW CHRISTIANS
the cell that my wife Lori and I lead has had the awesome opportunity to see three men come to the Lord in the last four months. Two more people (the wife and the mother of one of the three new Christians) have joined our cell, though they haven’t yet made solid commitments to Christ.
The great thing about the salvations is that they didn’t occur in a cell meeting. Salvations occurred as we reached out to our oikos members at work and in our families. Those that have committed to Christ—though they are in varying stages of growth—are all progressing in the life of discipleship. Two have been fully assimilated into our cell, and one still has not. The one who hasn’t, though, is open to visiting and we’re still praying that the barriers that keep him away will be removed.
Prior to these salvations, our cell had been in a time of transition both in members and in leadership. We were longing for new vision and direction for our group, and we often discussed and prayed about this. Over the course of a few months, God directed us very clearly to focus on outreach. We prayed, fasted, gave out “Jesus videos” to oikos members, and had an overall heightened sense of God’s desire for the lost to come to him. It was in this context that God worked salvation in the lives of our friends and family.
Our cell has become a nursery for new Christians, which is both exciting and extremely challenging. The excitement comes as a result of seeing God work and watching people grow. The challenge is in nurturing and discipling them. But, isn’t this what cell is all about?
—Roger Erdvig, Island Christian Fellowship, Patchogue, NY
MULTIPLICATION: FUNCTION OR FAIRNESS?
One time I saw a PBS documentary on twins joined at the hip who were being surgically separated. The doctor was asked how they decided which organs and limbs (when they aren’t duplicated) go to which child. He said it’s not about fairness, it’s about functionality. Just because one gets the leg, it doesn’t mean the other one gets the kidney. It has to do with which child is going to use the organ or limb the best and who’s got the best chance of keeping it.
Multiplication of cell groups is much the same. It’s not about who wants to be with whom or who likes whom best; it’s about the body of Christ and the functionality of the members. Where does Christ want them? Who is going to function best in conjunction with others so that both grow and fulfill God’s purpose in their lives?
When I explain this to members at multiplication time, it seems to help them distinguish their motives as they pray about which group to be in.
A VERSE “POTLUCK” FOR YOUR MEETING
We really like to eat together at our church and often have cell group potlucks . . . everyone who is able brings a dish or dessert. There is always enough for everyone to go home satisfied with the food and fellowship!
Below are some guidelines for having a “Verse Potluck” during the Word time of your next cell meeting. The idea of having everyone come prepared with a specific verse to contribute was started by a cell leader in one of our groups. Now we encourage all of our leaders to have one from time to time.
Divide the cell group list between yourself and your intern and call everyone at least two evenings in advance of the meeting to inform them to come prepared to share with the group a scripture verse or passage that has ministered to them and how it has done so. Explain that their sharing does not need to be elaborate, just something that is meaningful to them. Decide ahead of time if you want the kids to stay in for the verst potluck (this is my preference) so that their parents can help them prepare something to share.
At meeting time, do Welcome and Worship as usual. For the Word time, begin with one person that regularly shares in the group, ask them to share their verse and why it is meaningful. Follow the same pattern around the circle.
Look for themes that emerge in the sharing. This may be what the Lord is speaking into your group! (ie. many verses touching on God’s faithfulness in times of trial; verses dealing with sinful attitudes that have been or need to be confessed, etc.) Also, keep on the lookout for needs in your group. Be ready in an instant to minister to a need through listening to the person, then to the Lord, then praying and sharing Scripture.
Finally, bring closure to the Word time based on what you sense that the Lord has accomplished. You may hold hands in a circle and ask people to pray about what the Lord has impressed on them. Or, you could be more directive by asking what people will do in the days ahead to apply what the Lord has shown to them.
A verse potluck really encourages member ownership of the group and gives the Lord an opportunity to touch needs and to work in ways that the leader had not perceived before. Plus, this makes a great opportunity for younger kids to share with the whole group.
—Carney M. Lane, Kascade Community Church
HIDE AND SEEK! (Sample Cell Agenda)
Objective: This cell agenda is designed to help your cell members see how important it is to live in community, talk through difficult issues with other believers and not spend too much time out of fellowship.
Welcome: When do you most often feel the need to be alone?
Worship: Use songs that speak of God’s love for us, and fellowship if you can find them. Also victorious songs of God’s power over satan would be great! If you have a hymn book, this may be the best time to draw an old favorite out and sing it together.
Word: Ask someone to read Luke 8:26-29. Then ask the following discussion questions:
1) Why do you think this man had gone to the tombs?
2) What stands out to you in this passage concerning the way satan works? Does satan like community, or would he rather have his victims alone to torment?
3) Can you describe a time in your life when satan was able to get you by yourself so that he could fill your head with lies?
4) How can our cell group guard each other against the schemes of the devil? Deeper discipleship? Mentoring? Praying together regularly?
Works: As always, take time to pray for the lost. Then ask God to reveal ways you can deepen your relationships, giving satan no room to divide and conquer!
Cellular Thinking - by Randall Neighbour
The goal is clear. Live out your purpose. Your job description as a cell leader is simple if you are purpose-driven.
My first experience as a cell leader was in 1978. After seeing five of my high school friends come to Christ and start their own cell groups in a span of 12 months, I fully understood the power of basic Christian community.
Since then, I have led many cell groups. Some saw families come to Christ; others mended hurting relationships. A few groups made me weary of cell leadership. The exhaustion and a lack of results frustrated us. As Etna and I prayed about what to do next in cell life in August of 1999, we knew something had to change. So, we prayed hard and God gave us some very good answers.
You would think I would have caught on to my purpose as a cell leader way back in the 70’s, but I didn’t fully realize it until seven months ago. In September, Etna and I launched a new cell group. Three young married couples, two singles and us, the old people in the room (I’m 38 and Etna is, well, 29 again). Everyone knew each other from a previous cell or the Sunday services, but we were a new group with new dynamics. The greatest difference was that Etna and I were 10+ years older than our members.
We saw this as a golden opportunity to do things differently and produce results. I resolved to be goal-oriented, and very candid with these younger people. What could I lose?
At the end of our first meeting, I shared my vision that every person in the room would see a friend, family member or co-worker come to Christ before our cell multiplied at the end of the school year. I shared that this wasn’t an unusual thing for a cell leader to say, but I wanted to make sure everyone knew right from the start that I would act on it immediately. Then, without really thinking about how it would sound, I blurted out “My only role in your life will be to help you get this accomplished, so get ready to be challenged. You’re about to grow.”
I don’t think my cell members really understood what I said for the most part. It may not even sound that revelatory to you either as you read these words, but it’s been a sizeable paradigm shift for me.
Realizing my purpose in life
For years, I thought cell leadership meant loving the sheep in my flock as an “under-shepherd” to my pastor and my Lord as we reached out to a hurting world. To rephrase, my goal was to nurture my cell members and pray that they would get a heart for the lost during our time together. I modeled the life of one who hungered for the lost, but it accomplished little in the way of fulfilling my sole purpose in life, which is to get this planet full of people saved rapidly.
Contrast this with my new, revised purpose in life as a cell leader. Today, my newfound purpose is to help every one of my cell members get a friend, family member or co-worker saved within six months or earlier, if possible. As I work with them toward this goal, I will see areas of need in their lives, ways to bless and disciple them, and we’ll have a lot of fun together too.
Can you see the shift? Evangelism became the first priority. Why? Because it gives each of my members a strong sense of purpose in life! Now they know why God put them on earth and in their families, neighborhoods and jobs!
A New Results-based ministry
As you can imagine, the results have been positive, even though I’ve only been at it a few months. I am now determined to help my interns get a friend saved or I will not recommend them for leadership. If they can’t reach someone for Jesus, they certainly won’t be able to show a cell member how to do it.
My cell members are naturally talking about forging friendships with the lost and, without prompting, invite unbelievers to our game nights, camping trip and weekly cell meetings. They have caught the vision and it excites them! Everyone needs a strong purpose in life. My members now understand their purpose, and they are living it out. Helping a cell member find his or her purpose in life is the most valuable thing I will ever do.
The “Oikos” string
Our group has grown with a new member who got involved in our group to get back to God and make some decent friends. Mark’s a single guy with a good job. He’s stable, friendly, and we really love his “everything looks new” attitude about God and fellowship with other believers.
But Mark’s participation in our group reaches far beyond himself. He is attached to three or more reacheable unbelievers or Christians who have fallen away from Christ’s Lordship. I have determined that this is my cell’s oikos string. We found a man of peace, went into his home, and met his friends, who are within his circle of influence.
Our group prays fervently for Mark’s friends. We’re constantly inventing ways to be around them (game nights, Super Bowl parties, etc.) so that they will become friends with various group members beyond Mark. We have developed a strategy to win souls as a team, and it is priority #1. We will refine it and continue to strategically place ourselves in these unbeliever’s lives. There is no escaping the love of Jesus.
Your Goal is clear.
Does your group go months without seeing a lost person saved or a lost sheep come back into the fold?
If so, it’s time to make some changes in your ministry! During your next cell meeting, make a bold announcement. Let your cell know that your new role in their lives is to help them reach someone for Jesus in six months or less. You won’t neglect their personal needs or stop having fun while you’re doing it, but your relationship will become much more focused and intense in the next few weeks. Tell them to get ready to grow!
Cell leader, this is what it’s all about. Your goal is to help your cell members realize their purpose in life. It’s fulfilling, it’s scriptural, and when you see souls saved, you too will understand the power of basic Christian community. (end of article)
Randall Neighbour is the editor of CellGroup Journal and President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries.
Intergenerational Cell Groups - By Daphne Kirk
Children are natural evangelists: Are you overlooking your most enthusiastic members?
Do you long for cell members who are fresh, enthusiastic and have a way of appealing to and being able to touch the hearts of many people who do not know Jesus? If you lead an intergenerational cell, these enthusiasts are your children!
Children are natural evangelists. They talk about things that are important to them. They love anyone who responds, and they assume that you are interested in them and what they have to offer, which is Jesus!
I believe that there are anointed adults who are God’s gift to us, but children are able to penetrate the playgrounds, the class rooms, and their friend’s homes better than any adult.
Your children can minister to their friends and relatives for the cause of Christ. Your children can go with you or other cell members as they reach out into the community. Your children can even go on an overseas mission trip! All they need is support, prayer and training from you, their cell leader.
The greatest “training” you can offer is to help their parents and other cell members be a living witness to Jesus. When the children see this kind of relational involvement with unbelievers modeled for them, they will win souls for Jesus if encouraged to do so.
How can you release your children to be natural evangelists this week? The same way that you release the adults of your cell. As your cell reports on their oikos and holds each other accountable for reaching their unsaved friends in your next meeting, encourage the children to do the same.
CHILDREN REACHING CHILDREN
I arrived at the home of David, an eight-year-old boy who greeted me at the door with a friend. I smiled when David said quite boldly “Hello Daphne, this is my oikos!” His friend had an odd look on his face, but David was as proud as punch! David clearly understood his role in helping his friends find Jesus.
The greatest thing about David’s cell group is that the parents are involved in their children’s oikos. With the help of other cell members, they strategize reaching these children through parties, invitations to homes, outings or interest groups.
The most natural way for children to reach children and families is the invitations that are exchanged between children. This builds a natural connection between parents, leading to relationship and trust. But, these simple, natural ways of reaching out often need identifying during the Works section of the cell meeting when families are together.
Children’s Interest Groups
Children’s interest groups that are supported by and resourced by the intergenerational cell provide a strong outreach arm. Interest groups can be based on a wide variety of crafts, a weekly game time or a summer vacation Bible school.
Remember to include the children of your cell. Include them in the planning and prayer, and you’ll have some very excited children. This gives them a sense of responsibility to make it a success. After all, who knows best what children will enjoy? The children are the experts on that!
Children reaching families
As your cell discusses family-based evangelistic outreaches, include your children in the discussion, planning and working parts of the event. They have the most wonderful, bright, creative ideas! This gives them a sense of ownership, as well as seeing adults taking evangelism seriously.
A few years ago, I visited a cell where there was an animated discussion about outreach plans. When the cell leader got home, he realized that he had not asked the opinion of the children and young people. Even though he was happy with the decision and excited about the envisioned results, he was not happy that the children had not been included at this late stage. This cell leader knew that this would have repercussions when he wanted them to bring their freshness and enthusiasm to the project!
The next week he apologized to them and asked them to forgive the adults for ignoring them. When he asked for their input, they became actively involved in the whole process and new plans were forged.
What part can children play?
Two young boys went with two adults to visit elderly people. They talked to them, listened and prayed with them, testifying about the love of Jesus. That night, in a home for the elderly, there were angels singing as some of them gave their lives to Christ!
The greatest contribution for children in kingdom building is to be themselves and be involved. It is a powerful witness to see children working with their parents and cell members as a team for the Gospel.
Take a fresh look at your children and reinforce the command of Jesus, who told them to “Go!” Involve them in your plans, and help them forge evangelism plans of their own. Hold them accountable for growth, pray for them, and when you involve them and see the fruit, you will taste a little bit of heavenly enthusiasm from the youngest among you! (end of article)
Evangelism - Making Him Known - By Karen Hurston
Sparkplugs, Passion and Evangelism
Seven guiding principles to see the lost won for Christ in your cell group.I’ll never forget Mrs. Kim. Soon after she become a cell leader in Dr. Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea, she personally led 50 people to the Lord in one year. Within three years she had birthed eight ladies’ groups.
“I am a full-time homemaker,” the kindly Mrs. Kim explained. “I meet all the women in my neighborhood, and visit each one at least once a week. I find out each woman’s concerns, offer to pray with her, and try to show God’s love in practical ways. I am diligent to pray fervently, give them relevant Christian books or our church newspaper. Because of prayer, God’s mercy, and persistent acts of caring, I have been able to lead many of the women in my neighborhood to the Lord. Many become members of our church and even lead their own cell group.”
“Sometimes a woman tells me she is not interested in Jesus and does not want to become a Christian.” Mrs. Kim shook her head. “So I go to her home when I know she will be there. Because we have developed a relationship, she will ask me in. I sit in her living room, bow my head, and start to cry. I cry genuine tears of grief. Then the woman asks, ‘Why are you crying? Is anything wrong?’ ”
Mrs. Kim paused, tears brimming her eyes as she continued. “I respond by telling her that I am crying because Jesus loves her so much, and wants to forgive her sins. Jesus not only wants to spend eternity with her, but He also has a great plan for her life now. I tell her I am crying because she is rejecting Jesus and all the good and wonderful things He wants to do for her.”
Around the world, I have met hundreds of cell leaders like Mrs. Kim, who have effectively led their groups in evangelism.
Jesus clearly told us Christians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15). Yet many cell groups — unlike Mrs. Kim’s — have not led even one person to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Why? What makes the difference? In most evangelistic cells, there are seven guiding principles.
1. Make winning the lost your passionate priority. Many cell leaders assume that evangelism will be a natural by-product of building Christian community. Mrs. Kim believes the reverse: as a group reaches the lost together, Christian community will be a by-product. Evangelistic cell leaders have a passionate priority of bringing the lost to Jesus, a priority that permeates both their prayer life and their actions; everything else is secondary. I have met many cell leaders who even schedule specific weekly time with the lost in their regular calendars. Is evangelism your priority?
2. Get at least one “sparkplug.” A sparkplug is a person excited about bringing his unbeliever-filled oikos to the Lord and to cell life. Andrew was the sparkplug who brought Peter to Jesus (John 1:41-42). As an active sparkplug ignites an engine, so the evangelistic cell must have at least one sparkplug. Ideally, this person is the leader, such as in Mrs. Kim’s case. There are limited cases when the sparkplug is a new convert the leader has helped “ignite.” Once this human sparkplug ignites, most in that cell move out of their comfort zones into the harvest field. Do you have a sparkplug in your group?
3. Pray with fervor. Evangelistic leaders like Mrs. Kim pray fervently for target lost people. Many even fast once a week for the salvation of those in their group’s oikos. They lead their group members in praying for lost people and hold members accountable to do the same. Are you praying and fasting?
4. Develop relationships, expressing practical love. Some evangelistic groups have special meetings and events just for members to bring lost friends and relatives; others do not, and regularly include lost people in typical group meetings. Some do things they mutually enjoy with oikos members, allowing the Holy Spirit to give natural opportunities to share their faith in Jesus. But all evangelistic cell groups focus on one basic approach: develop personal relationships with target unbelievers, minister Christ’s love in practical ways, and invite them to participate in cell life. Can you make time with unbelievers a priority in your weekly schedule?
5. Sow God’s Word. Whether in casual or intentional conversation, the believer is to sow God’s Word. Mrs. Kim and many cell leaders use a “tool” to sow God’s Word, such as relevant Christian literature or an interesting Christian book. Leaders at Bethany World Prayer Center use an adapted version of the Southern Baptist tool of the “F-A-I-T-H” acrostic. What can you find or use?
6. Plan for the future. Once a lost person comes to the Lord, then what? Evangelistic groups have a plan for the new convert, whether that includes an equipping track, a “baseball diamond” of classes or material to study. Evangelistic groups also provide involvement for potential interns. Do you have a workable plan of action?
7. Persist! Evangelistic cells persist in reaching the lost. I met one leader who made brief visits to a couple each week for two years before they decided to receive the Lord. Church growth expert Elmer Towns reports that strong Christians rejected the Gospel at least three times before repenting of their sins and embracing an enduring faith in Jesus. Do you give up easily, or are you tenacious for God?
Ignited by at least one human sparkplug, evangelistic cells pray and persist in passionate priority in winning the lost. They focus on developing caring and prayerful relationships with target unbelievers, with a plan for their future growth. They proclaim with the psalmist and with Mrs. Kim, “Those [cell groups] who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He [the cell group member] who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6, NIV). (end of article)
Karen Hurston is an international consultant to cell churches based in Gulf Breeze, FL. Karen’s column focuses on specific principles, practices and workable strategies to help you and your cell be more like Jesus.
Cell Leadership - By Billy Hornsby
Is your group on fire with enthusiasm for ministry week after week?
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
Wouldn’t it be great if every Christian had a clear understanding of I Corinthians 6:19-20? If we all grasped the vivid revelation of not being our own, but bought by Christ to do His bidding, we would arrange schedules, priorities, and activities around His desire for our lives. This would be the greatest motivating force imaginable, propelling each one of us into the work of God. Knowing that we have been redeemed by Christ and that we are debtors to the world for having received such great grace, we would wholeheartedly serve Him!
Unfortunately, the ideal scenario as described above is almost never the reality. Within the cell setting, the first thing we have to realize is that each individual has his own reason for being involved. The fact that the pastor is excited about cell groups because they help the church grow may not be sufficient enough motivation for someone else. There must be a stimulus —a “spur in the side”— that causes each person to be faithfully involved for the long haul. As a cell leader, you must help each person in your group find his or her particular stimulus for involvement. With this in mind, let’s look at several motivating factors that will inspire most people to attend and to lead cell groups.
Respond to a sense of duty — Having a sense of responsibility, feeling obligated, and a “have to” attitude are all terms that aptly describe the word duty. It is not wrong as a leader to share with your group that they have the responsibility to edify each other and evangelize their community. The Bible is clear about this. Matthew 28:18-20, Ephesians 4:11-12, and other New Testament scriptures reveal that the “saints” are to do the work of the ministry. Be careful, however, not to use duty in a negative fashion. Condemnation and fear are unproductive motivators and will eventually destroy the positive nature of your group. Nevertheless, properly presented, duty will lead your members to fulfill what they know to be God’s will.
Recognize the privilege of involvement — Privilege is a stimulus that accentuates the benefits of serving in the cell group. One of my cell members once commented to me, “We grew so much this year!” Growth reveals the progress being made in reaching potential and is of great benefit to the cell member, thus motivating him. Learn how to help your cell members see the opportunity that the group offers them to serve God, and they will respond to the privilege of involvement. When a member understands that he has the right as a Christian to be trained to minister to others, he will serve with enthusiasm!
Birth a burden for ministry — Have you ever noticed how naturally and effortlessly you respond to a situation when God has given you a burden for it? What may be impossible for one person may be easy for another. God grants incredible grace to each of us for a different area of ministry, and we become burdened to live it out.
Burden does not come alone, though. It is normally accompanied by spiritual gifts and grace for the situation. It always comes with a special love for the people to whom you are ministering.
A friend of mine had a burden for the people of Papua New Guinea. I visited him there and thought I could never live or bring my family there! What seemed impossible for me was relatively easy for him and his family. Why? Because he had a burden for the people God had sent him to. Location, degree of difficulty, or amount of time required to fulfill a ministry do not matter when a God-given burden is present. Challenge the members of your cell group to pray fervently for the goals of your group, and ask God to give them the burden for the ministry.
Exhibit a life-giving attitude — Where there’s life, there are people. Seldom (if ever) do we attend a fast-action sporting event where there is not an excited, loud crowd of people. Such exuberance and energy add life to the game and attract untold numbers of people. However, if the team has a losing record and is “ho-hum” about playing, the crowd dwindles, enthusiasm is lost, and motivation for attending wanes.
The same holds true in your cell group. If the leadership loses enthusiasm and the group meeting becomes a boring event each week, motivation will die. When you come together, there must be life-giving activity and ministry.
In I Corinthians 14:26, Paul says, “How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.” In other words, Paul is saying, “Each one of you has something to offer the other.” When each person in the cell realizes that he has a part to play or something to contribute, he will attend with enthusiasm and minister with passion. The result will be everyone adding his own unique “ingredient” to the pot, bringing out the full flavor of the Kingdom of God.
Maintaining motivation in your cell is the key to keeping it vibrant and thriving. Motivation will keep your members “in the game, at the wheel and pressing on” to greater things for God. Emphasize the role of duty, privilege, burden, and life-giving activity when you spend time with your cell members, and you will maintain motivation in your cell week after week. (end of article)
At the time this article was published, Billy Hornsby was the director of Bethany Cell Church Network in Baker, LA.
Cover Article by Scott Boren
Wrestling With God: Great Cell Leaders Lead Out Of Brokenness
Since leading my first cell group, I have wanted to be a great cell leader. I have wanted to be someone others would find wise and powerful. Someone who sees God move, mobilizes new leaders and multiplies groups. As I lead groups and work with cell leaders today, I have found that I am not alone in the search. We all want God to use us in great ways.
In my desire to be that great cell leader, the Lord has led me to the story of Jacob, specifically to the time when he wrestled with God. In this story, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel, signifying not only what God was doing in Jacob’s life, but also the heritage he would leave behind. I too wanted to leave a good spiritual heritage.
Yet Jacob’s life reveals the things that take a leader beyond being great. He shows us the condition of the heart and how God moves through a man or woman. He shows us the difference between leading out of strength and leading out of brokenness.
Jacob’s Plans for Greatness
Jacob was smart. He was good with money. He set goals, and he worked to accomplish those goals. He was not afraid of hard work.
He wanted his brother’s birthright, so he traded for it. He longed for his father’s blessing, so he deceived his father for it. Then he saw a woman. He worked for 14 years to earn her hand. After this, he found a way to get rich, so he made a plan and implemented it. By most cell leader job descriptions, Jacob would have had no problem leading a group. He had the personality and strong will to make it happen.
As I read through Genesis, I found that Jacob achieved his goals by blocking himself from those close to him. He left his father-in-law after living with him for 20 years. They had deceived one another so many times they had to build emotional walls and promise not to harm one another. Some family!
As the story is written, Jacob headed back home with his wives and children. But his home was not a place of “open arms” either. The last time he saw his brother, Esau, he had to run for his life because Jacob had stolen Esau’s birthright. Now his brother was coming to meet him as he entered his homeland.
To appease Esau, he sent him a gift of 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 50 cows, and 30 donkeys. When they were young, Jacob lied. Now he would try to buy Esau’s love. More walls!
Even with this bribe, Jacob still feared for his life. He was not smart enough, strong enough, rich enough nor determined enough to protect himself this time. His walls were crumbling. In Genesis 32:11, Jacob prays to God, “Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me and also the mothers with their children.” But God did much more than that.
WRESTLING FOR A BLESSING
On the night before meeting Esau, Jacob was alone and the Bible says, “. . . a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” As they wrestled, God touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it. But before Jacob would let Him go, he demanded a blessing. So God changed his name. Instead of being called “Jacob, the deceiver,” he would be forever called Israel, or “God-struggler” (literally, “one who wrestles with God”). In fear, Jacob asked God to protect him and bless him. But the blessing did not come as expected.
God did not bless Jacob with strength to meet his brother. He did not give him more money to handle the problem. Nor did he make him smarter. Rather, he made him weaker. God blessed Jacob with brokenness. He brought him to the end of himself and gave him a permanent limp to remind him of his new name and his Master.
After the blessing of brokenness, the walls were torn down between Jacob and his brother. Jacob came in humility and Esau came in forgiveness.
BLESSING AND BROKENNESS
Receiving God’s blessing as a cell leader does not come without brokenness. He will not give His children success without first changing them. He will not let us taste victory without showing us the right way to win.
So often, we think that we should lead out of strength. “As a cell leader, I should be smarter than everyone else. I should be stronger and more successful.” But God does not want to make us stronger. He wants to make us weaker and more dependent. This is the place of blessing!
I experienced this for the first time in college. As I prayed for my small group meeting that night, I felt God leading me to remain silent during the meeting. Although this made no sense to me, in obedience I told the group that I felt like they were supposed to do the talking that evening while I listened.
That night, something happened. Two girls shared how they had been abused as teenagers and how they were in the process of being healed. Tears flowed and softened us toward one another. While I cannot remember what need I revealed at that meeting, I showed my weakness and I saw my need for brokenness. That night, I quit peering over my walls and joined the group. God broke me. I quit trying to make the group successful and was blessed.
BROKEN CELL LEADERS
Give me broken leaders over those who lead out of a checklist and a fixed agenda! Broken leaders come out of the ivory tower of leadership and live in the real world. They know their limitations. They do not live a lie by trying to be perfect.
A cell group is a zoom lens on the life of its leader. It does not take long for cell members to see beneath the religious language and activities that a leader uses to hide his or her life. It quickly becomes obvious when a cell leader does not love. Everyone will see through a control freak. Sometimes the know-it-all is the last to know the obvious!
A few years ago, I was working in a church in Vancouver, B.C. While there, I realized that I loved to preach. When I stand up in front of people, a surge rises up within me. One night, I shared this with my cell group. They asked me why I did not preach more. I responded, “If you will not follow me in this small group, I have nothing to say on Sunday morning. You guys see the ‘real’ me. I must prove myself with people who know me intimately before I stand before people who only know my name.” It was hard to voice, but it was honest.
It’s easy to put on a religious face in church life. So many enter the building on Sunday with a smile and a “Praise the Lord!” Some lead worship, a few give testimonies, someone preaches and then a ministry team prays for people at the altar. Everyone looks like they have it all together.
Often, cell leaders carry this “have it all-together” mentality into the cell group as I have in the past. And it does not work. Get me off the platform and spend an hour with me and you will see hurt, unanswered prayers and questions mixed in with my faith, victory and hope. Eventually, all the stuff I try to hide comes out and people see the walls I live behind.
Potential walls come in the form of cell leader responsibilities, clearly outlined in typical training resources. For instance:
1. Make three phone calls per week.
2. Visit at least one home per week.
3. Pray everyday for the cell members.
4. Train an intern.
5. Reach the lost for Jesus.
6. Prepare for the meeting.
If a cell leader performs each of these tasks to perfection and does not love, his actions are a nagging nuisance. If he leads the meeting without flaw and does not love, the meeting will become an obligation. If he works with all his might but does not have love in his heart, he is only a workaholic with the name of Jesus taped on his shirt. People do not follow leaders like this!
Leaders also use their titles to keep people at a distance. Our flesh loves titles, but people do not follow a title. As John Maxwell says, “a leader without followers is only going for a walk.” After four short weeks, titles wear off and the leader’s true colors bleed through. God did not give Jacob a title. He gave him a new name by changing his nature. People follow leaders who exude the nature of God.
SIGNS OF A BROKEN LEADER
Cell leaders are not successful because they do the right things, work harder or have been given a position. None of these are bad; in fact these things can help. But all of the training in the world will not overcome a hard heart. Working every free moment on the cell does not change a person’s character. Wearing the title, “cell leader,” does not mean a godly leader resides beneath the badge.
Only a broken heart can love. Only a person who has come to the end of self can be real. Only a leader with a new name — a spiritual name — will have people following him.
Just as Jacob was given a new name, so will every cell leader who seeks God. Names in the Old Testament reflect the character of the person. Here are a few names the Lord will give you as you enter brokenness . . .
Listener. Broken leaders do not know any “pat” answers. They have forgotten the phrase, “You just need to have faith.” They have denied the temptation to lead with advice. More than anything, people need someone who will listen to them. Research has shown that fathers spend less than seven minutes a day listening to their children. Cell leaders that listen will have more followers than they can handle.
Struggler. Jacob was given the name Israel. The literal meaning of this term is “he struggles or wrestles with God.” Before, Jacob wanted God to bless him to accomplish his worldly purposes. After, he wanted nothing less than receiving what God had to give him.
Even more than listening to others, broken leaders listen to God. A few weeks ago, God would not let me sleep. He gave me a startling vision of a friend in my cell and I could do nothing but pray. I had to struggle in prayer to hear from God. The next day I went to my cell meeting with energy. I had something from God for my friend and others in the group.
Risk Taker. Broken leaders do not wait for things to happen. They are humble enough to step out and give the “non-hugger” a hug. They risk rejection and ask hurting people to lunch. They take a chance and confront destructive lifestyles.
Jacob could have played it safe and remained with his father-in-law Laban. But he would have missed out on restoration with his brother. Every relationship requires risk. No risk, no relationship. No relationships, no group.
One who rests. Americans work more than any other country in the world. We aim high. We work to the edge of burnout then we rest because we must.
Broken leaders rest first and then they work. They rest and hear the Lord and then they get involved with what God is doing.
Over the last few weeks, I slowed down and watched God work in my group. He is adding maturity, vision and more members. I am doing little more than praying. It’s a joy watching God sail this ship!
One who laughs. Broken leaders do not take themselves too seriously. In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis reminds us that the devil has no sense of humor. One of the greatest signs of evil is a lack of humor! Broken leaders not only know how to laugh; they laugh at themselves. They have a reason to smile. God is greater than their weaknesses.
One who walks with a limp. Jacob walked with pride. Israel walked with a cane. After God touches you, your weakness will show. My limp shows when I don’t know how to handle a problem. People see it when I am overcome with tears. God has revealed my littleness before him. Most of all, others see my limp when I reveal a need, a hurt or my selfishness. Then the walls come down, and we walk together as family.
BROKENNESS IS GREATNESS
Jesus told us, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” This is greatness. Being a great cell leader means something totally different now. I am not looking to external labels to bring greatness. Rather, I am seeking a broken heart, a heart that is solely after God.
If you want to be a great cell leader, ask God to change your name each morning. This is the only way your cell group will ever amount to anything in His eyes. Lord, lead us into brokenness! (end of article)
M. Scott Boren is the Director of Research and Development for TOUCH Outreach, The Cell Group People and a staff pastor at Hosanna! in Houston, TX.
Feature Article – By Jim Pesce
Fasting for Results
Years of cell church planting have revealed many of my character flaws and ministry weaknesses. Despite this revelatory confession, the Lord’s grace has enabled my church plant to double our membership every year with over 80% conversion growth.
Even with this kind of success, I clearly saw my spiritual poverty and the deep spiritual needs of our young flock. We hungered for more grace and faith to follow the Lord as He built His church, His way. We knew we needed wisdom and power, but didn’t know how to see it increase in our lives.
I vividly remember the day I asked the Lord for guidance. The answer to that prayer came through the visit and testimony of my friend Brian.
Brian works with numerous Canadian church plants, and he came to stay for a few days in order that we might spend time in prayer and get to know one another better. My wife prepared a beautiful homemade Italian meal for our guest, the same one which subdued tummies long enough to hear the Good News on many an occasion. As Deb prepared, Brian shared with me that he would have to skip on dinner . . . he was halfway through a 40-day fast.
I was blown away. I thought only Jesus and Bill Bright fasted for 40 days! Brian shared with me that he was fasting for revival in Canada. The fact that Brian was an American added to my feelings of guilt as I realized how little I was willing to sacrifice to see a move of God in my own country.
As the days passed, I knew God was speaking to me regarding serious fasting towards serious answers. Early in December 1998, I sat down with my friend Dave Brandon, who helped us launch our church plant. We took out our calendars and set dates for a 10-day, 21-day and 40-day juice fast. This was easy to schedule knowing we were heading into the Christmas feasting season!
But, the first scheduled day in January arrived quickly. As I began, I asked the Lord for very specific results.
1. That God would purify my character and free me from the strongholds that continually tripped me up as I followed Christ.
2. That God would supply greater power in order to set free our young flock from the bondage and strongholds that robbed them of the joy, peace and love of His kingdom.
3. That God would multiply our leadership base within the next nine months so that the next cell multiplications would be lead by equipped and anointed leaders.
4. That God would confirm His will for the direction of our ministry.
5. That God would enlarge our territory and open doors to the nations.
6. For greater personal freedom and holiness.
Fasting broke my strongholds
Like every hot-blooded Italian church planter, I had my share of unique temptations and crippling bondage. I had been to several healing and deliverance encounters, but continued to struggle in two areas. As I entered into the 21-day fast, I prayed hard about these issues. Before it ended, one stronghold was powerfully defeated. Again, as I entered the 40-day fast I prayed and the second stronghold fell to defeat. The Lord set me free miraculously, from the inside out. Through fasting, I now understand a personal reality of “I am the Lord who makes you holy.” The Lord showed me that He alone is the author and sustainer of my purity and that He alone has the power to do in me the things I could never achieve on my own. If you cannot break free from strongholds through confession alone, prayerfully consider a fast. God will lead you to make the right decision.
Fasting brought Healing and Deliverance for my church
Most of the people that came to Christ through our ministry were first generation Christians, the first in their family lines. It was exciting to see these people come to Jesus, but frustrating to watch them continue to struggle with dysfunctional patterns, habitual sins and debilitating bondage and addictions. It seemed the harder they tried, the worse they got!
Through our season of fasting, the Lord ordained various divine appointments with two ministries that mentored us in deliverance ministry. Within several months, we had received and released this ministry to our people with dramatic results. Most of our flock experienced the power of Jesus as they found healing in their relationships, emotions, bodies and freedom in areas of plaguing bondage and sin. The power we read about in the book of Acts was now the power we experienced in church life!
Before, we taught about authority and power over spiritual forces of evil. Now, by God’s grace we minister in that power and authority! We felt that through the fasts the Lord increased both our faith and anointing to “set the captives free.” We also found that when our people went through this type of ministry, it strengthened their resolve to wholeheartedly follow the Lord. His manifested power left us with a holy awe and a healthy fear. If strongholds plague your cell members, fasting and prayer will help you break through, providing you have access to a solid deliverance weekend or ministry.
Multiplication of Leaders and Cells
During the last fast of 40 days, I realized that the cells could not multiply without another level of equipped, willing leaders. This proposed a problem. Most of our new members were young working couples raising small children and recent converts. As I fasted and prayed, I declared God’s promise to “send forth His shepherding laborers” and asked for more than a dozen specific people.
At the end of the fast, I approached those I had prayed for and by God’s grace, each one accepted the call into leadership! I enjoyed a special blessing because I knew they responded to God’s call not mine.
We also asked the Lord to grow our cells with new baby Christians during this fast. By faith, we set multiplication dates based on non-existent new believers, knowing only the Lord could empower us to reach these goals. All but one cell received “new saints” and were ready to multiply well before the multiplication dates.
Some of the conversions were surprises and others were fruit from seeds we had planted several years earlier. It was through fasting and prayer we won the battle for the increase of laborers and souls. If you need interns for your group or you’re not seeing salvations come easily, it’s time to push away the food and pray.
Confirmation, Direction and Enlargement of Our Territory
When we planted the church four years ago, I was given a prophetic word and encouraged to “pray it into being.” The word was I Chronicles 4:10, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory. Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”
I loved the idea! Ministry success without suffering. I could start my own denomination with that philosophy! As I prayed that scripture consistently, I was often attacked with thoughts of doubt, especially when I had to sell frozen chicken for a living in order to support my family as we planted the church.
During the last fast, I was invited out to lunch with some ministry peers. Before we went to lunch, I was told by a church planting buddy, Dave Boyes, that God would reveal His will for us in a greater way at the restaurant that day.
I thought he was crazy and didn’t look forward to the aroma of good food in the midst of a 40-day juice fast! Anyway, we went, they ate and I prayed for God’s revelation.
At the end of the meal, the waiter brought out a small plate of fortune cookies. As I looked at them, I truly believe the Spirit of God said to me that the answer I was looking for was in a specific cookie!
Out of sheer obedience, I grabbed one. The other pastors just about tackled me thinking I was giving into temptation for food or fortunes!
I reluctantly told them I was obeying the Lord. Sitting in front of shocked pastors, I opened the cookie and read “your feet will touch the soil of many countries.” God spoke through a fortune cookie during a 40-day fast. What a sense of humor God has! (For those of you who may be offended by this, I knew that the restaurant is owned by Christians; they use the cookie messages to bless people.)
The combined results of the three fasts were powerful. The Lord empowered my little frozen chicken company to financially support 15 church planting couples in India. In December, the Lord opened doors to Uganda and Kenya through my dear friend Larry Kreider. It was wonderful to work with 30 cell church planters from East Africa who were at the early stages of cell church plants. We were amazed how God used our trials and experience to speak into these couples’ lives for direction and encouragement.
As soon as we returned from Africa, we were invited to various cities in Poland, again to work with cell church planting teams that are at the birthing stage of their work. Within one month of our last fast, God had opened doors for us to equip and encourage cell church planters from six different countries. I became a believer in the power of prayer and fasting and the need for the prophetic to reveal God’s plan for our ministries. God is now giving us a vision to birth a church planting school that will equip and empower church planting couples and teams in every area of this much needed ministry. If you want to take a new neighborhood or region for Jesus, fasting for direction and provision will give you results!
Fasting is now a lifestyle
My wife and I know that regular extended fasts will now be a natural part of our lives. We have a new value. For me, fasting is a very measurable way of saying to God, “Help, I cannot do this on my own.” It is manifested humility. I have found that fleshly passion and humility lasts about three days without food. The 20-40 day fasts revealed my true motives and heart condition.
Having my wife as my willing partner was an incredible source of support and encouragement. It welded our hearts together and inflamed and unified our vision. Every area of our marriage benefitted.
Though our children complained about our lack of interest in food preparation, they became serious about their own service to Jesus as they watched us sacrifice daily.
We also noticed a change in our church members. Some fasted for the first time during our 10-day fast. Many fasted for a week during our 21-day fast and many fasted one to two weeks during our 40-day fast. Overall, our church members were more committed to sacrifice and intercession after the three fasting cycles. Today, we have several people fasting at all times and prayer groups meet daily for the growth of God’s church in our area.
Did we really suffer that much?
People have asked us how we endured the suffering, but the truth is, the strongest word I could use for the fasting would be “uncomfortable.” (During the latter nights of one fast, I had some wild dreams about potato chips!)
I find the hardest time fasting for me is the first three days; after that it gets easier . . . even when you get to day 40. I also noticed that I only needed 5-6 hours of sleep per night and had more energy than when I ate regular meals.
I believe God is calling the church to maturity and power. Fasting and unified prayer will be one of the foundations for this calling. When you are ready to step out in faith I advise you follow these steps of wisdom:
1. Begin with shorter fasts three to seven days before tackling a long one.
2. Inform your spouse and seek harmony.
3. Check with your physician if you have health concerns.
4. Read through Bill Bright’s booklet “7 Basic Steps to Successful Prayer & Fasting.” It’s quite good.
5. Write out the measurable, specific results for which you are praying.
6. Enlist prayer support from friends who will cover you as you fast and hold you accountable.
7. Expect God to do more than you could imagine: keep your eyes on your goals not the fridge! (end of article)
FIGHTING FUTURE BATTLES
Just last year, God told my husband and I that we needed to fast. I fasted sweets for 40 days and my husband fasted meat. At the time, we had no idea why we were to fast. But we were obedient and did it anyway!
To our amazement, God had equipped us during this fasting time for a battle that was to come later.
The days after our fast were a very crucial time of numerous trials for our family. We had to go through three court trials for separate cases and pay lawyer’s bills for each case. We had a confrontation with one of our children’s schools because of an unjust accusation. My husband had a customer who refused to pay his bill of $8,000.00. My van broke down and couldn’t be fixed. To top it all off, I became ill with shingles for six weeks and one illness after another came into our house. Fasting helped us endure a very difficult time to come.
We won all three court trials. The issue with the school was settled. The customer paid up and our family is over all the illnesses. The only hurdle left is my van, but I’m managing!
I believe that God taught us how to fight these battles even before they actually happened! If we hadn’t obeyed, I feel that the outcome would have been very different. God knew the trials were coming and had already won all these victories even before the battles had begun! Fasting encourages me and pulls me close to Jesus. I’m glad I have the privilege to be able to show Jesus how much I love Him.
— Brenda Lyall, Harvest Family Community
Fasting is not for everyone
That’s what I kept telling myself before I started a 21-day fast. Many in our church body decided to fast corporately, mainly to see souls saved and to see the kingdom of God manifest. I wanted to do my part, but was never a “serious faster.” Sure, I did a day here and there, and I had even done three days straight once. But it was not a routine practice in my walk with God.
People were doing all sorts of fasts: desserts, coffee, television, fruits & veggies and the much-dreaded liquid fast . . . whatever the Lord had laid on their heart to do. My heart was to fast, but my flesh said “You’re nuts!” So I decided on a 21-day fruit & vegetable fast.
On the day I started my fast, I believe I heard the Lord say, “Debbie, why don’t you fast all food today?” Figuring it had to be God, I responded with “What a great way to start off my fast. Sort of like a kick-start!” So, I didn’t eat anything and I was quite excited that I had heard from God. The next day I thought I heard my heavenly Father say, “Debbie, you don’t have to eat today, either.” This went on day after day.
To make a long story short, I did a 21-day liquid fast the spring of 1999. Not only did I complete that fast, but it was also one of the greatest experiences in my Christian walk. God’s revelation was so great that even when I sorted laundry, spiritual truths jumped out at me! My hunger to read the Bible increased and the most familiar passages became new and profound.
Regular fasting and deliverance is the only way I see ground claimed and won in the process of my character becoming like Christ’s. I have many days ahead of me spent in repentance and fasting. Like I said, fasting isn’t for everyone. It should only be considered for those who want to grow in the Lord and have heard from Him that fasting is the way!
— Debbie Pesce, Harvest Family Community
Jim Pesce is the senior pastor of Harvest Family Community Church in Keswick, Ontario, Canada.
Just for Pastors - Pastor César Buitrago
The basics of true discipleship: Do you have a father’s heart for your people?
I am convinced that my main task as a cell church pastor is to make disciples and to insure each cell group provides the right atmosphere where this can take place.
In my home church, we had a working discipleship track, but a very important element was not present. The missing piece was the very heart of disciple-making; relating to my disciples as a father.
I received Jesus as a teenager. At that age I knew I needed to reproduce disciples. As a pastor in later years, I boasted about my disciple-making skills, but a simple visit to see a new baby changed everything for me.
My wife and I went to visit a faithful couple in our church who had just given birth to a baby girl. My intention was to give the parents, Mauricio and Angie, a 15-minute visit, but our stay extended to three hours. In a display of Hispanic hospitality, our friends prepared dinner.
They made us feel so special! We looked at baby Nicole and prayed for her. Our fellowship was wonderful until Mauricio said with a smile, “César, it seems that we need to have babies in order for you to come and visit us!” Nervously, I smiled.
“Why is he feeling like this?” I wondered. “Doesn’t he understand that I am a busy pastor of a growing church?”
As we continued our meal, I couldn’t eat with peace. The Holy Spirit tugged at my heart, and I could hear the Lord speaking to me. “Mauricio is your son, and you have never played ball with him.”
My mind was so occupied that I could hardly follow the conversation at the table! The Lord reminded me of how I had met Mauricio and Angie . . .
It was a Saturday morning, and I was leading a counseling and deliverance team at our church building to minister to selected members of my church. Mauricio and Angie lived across the street from the church building. They saw our sign and cars in front of the sanctuary during their morning walk, and came in, thinking it was an open service.
Mauricio and Angie approached me and asked for prayer, searching for meaning in their lives. With tears in their eyes, they asked Jesus into their hearts! A few weeks later, this couple invited me to officiate their wedding in their apartment because they wanted to get right with God. Months later they were baptized and committed themselves to be faithful members of our church.
As the Lord brought this back to me, I felt an urge to meet privately with Mauricio after dinner. I asked him to forgive me for not having been a good spiritual father and neglecting him for so long. He cried on my shoulders as God healed some deep hurts between us.
That evening I learned more about the nature of discipleship than I had gleaned from all my books! Then I asked myself, “Is the necessity of spiritual fatherhood and motherhood biblical?” Digging into the Word I found the following passages:
“Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church,” (1 Co. 4:15-17)
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” (Gal. 4:19)
“As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us . . . For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess. 2: 6-8; 11-12)
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin . . . I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning . . . I write to you young men, because you have overcome the evil one.” (1 Jn. 2:1,13)
In light of these verses, I sadly discovered the following about myself, my members and other pastors I know:
Most pastors have never been fathered themselves; most Christians in the church are orphans; many Christians are rebellious and independent because they have lacked the loving discipline of spiritual fathers and mothers; immaturity in believers is directly proportional to the lack of spiritual fathers and mothers.
Discipleship—even in a cell church—can become another program without strong spiritual fathers! We need a discipleship paradigm shift from a school model to a family model.
I have applied these practical steps to my ministry, and I offer them to you:
1. Ask God to manifest Himself as Abba Father in your life and church.
2. Identify your sons and daughters and confirm the relationship with them.
3. Disciple your spiritual sons and have your wife disciple their wives in order to keep the families together.
4. Whether you are following a G12 model or a 5x5, organize your cell groups following the principle of spiritual fatherhood.
5. Establish family planning: you can only have a few sons and daughters.
6. When you have new spiritual babies, give them to one of your sons or daughters as soon as possible.
7. Be prepared to lose a few rebellious, independent children.
8. Raise your spiritual sons and daughters to maturity with a balance of unconditional love and discipline.
9. Listen, learn, pray and play with your spiritual children. Each is important.
10. Enjoy your sons and daughters and the grandchildren!
The body of Christ has excellent materials for discipleship; what we lack is fathers and mothers who are willing to lay down their lives for their spiritual children. Remember, the heart of discipleship is a father’s heart, not a book! (end of article)
César A.Buitrago is the servant pastor of Nueva Generación en Cristo, a cell-based church in the city of San José, CA.
Nucleus - By Larry Kreider
The Bride is being prepared! The emerging church leadership is young, and it’s strong.
On the day I was married, I looked for my bride at the back of the auditorium ready to walk the isle to become my new wife. If she had slipped in the mud a few minutes prior to her entry, what do you think my reaction would have been? To reject her? Certainly not! I’d have done whatever it took to clean her up to prepare her for the wedding.
Our Lord is preparing a bride for Himself. This bride (the church) has been soiled and badly wrinkled during the past 2,000 years. Its track record has often been marked by the frailty of man, filled with corruption and selfish ambition. Although the fires of revival have burned in various parts of the world through the ages, the church certainly has not yet become the vital force God created it to be.
However, our God is committed to cleaning up His church and presenting her to Himself as a glorious church, perfect in every way! He has promised to return for a church (a bride) that is without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:27). Jesus told His disciples clearly, “. . . I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it!” (Matt. 16:18 NLT). This gives me great hope for the future church of Jesus Christ!
There are many flavors and expressions of the Lord’s church in our communities. All who proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and honor His Word are cherished by our Heavenly Father. There is no single church or denomination in any given city or region that has all the truth. We are all needed!
In light of this, we should be careful what we say about our Lord’s bride. If someone ever speaks against my bride Laverne, he will have to deal with me. Likewise, if we speak against the bride of Christ, we will have to deal with Him! He loves His church, even though she is still in the process of becoming all He has intended her to be.
Christ is in us! He is our “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) . . . the very Word of hope personified! When we — as the church — fully grasp the life which is ours through Christ, we have confidence for His church. Specifically, we have confidence for the new generation of leadership He is raising up among us.
I meet this new breed of leaders week after week as I travel and speak throughout the world. Humility and servanthood marks this new generation of leaders. They embrace and honor their spiritual parents who believe in them and coach them. They have no desire to build their own empires.
These new leaders see their gifts and anointing as just one of many critical pieces of input needed as they find the mind of Christ together. They honor and lift up other ministries, churches, leaders and believers in their regions. They are secure in their identity and in the Lord’s call on their lives as they bless those around them.
Two weeks ago I was the guest speaker at a youth Bible study in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Within the past two years, this interdenominational Bible study has grown from less than a dozen to one thousand young people coming together for worship and teaching from the Scriptures each week. It is a grass roots movement that is led by a group of young people training other young people to be cell group leaders and disciple the new believers coming to Christ. They encourage these young people to serve faithfully in local churches and to honor their church leadership.
Many of our future leaders are presently serving as leaders of cell groups in churches of all denominations. Our God is preparing them for future leadership and ministry. I have great hope for the church of Jesus Christ and the leadership that is emerging among us in our day. If Jesus says He will build His church, you can count on it! (end of article)
Larry Kreider is director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a world-wide network of cell churches and travels extensively to work with cell church plants.
(end of issue)