Early this year, the youth minister at my church shared that he was headed to Ethiopia on a missions trip. With as much artificial enthusiasm as I could muster, I said “Sounds exciting.”
I’ve been to Africa twice and have no desire to go back. It’s hot, dirty and in many places, dangerous. When I visited a cell church in the Ivory Coast six years ago, I became violently ill for days with food poisoning. On the plane trip home, I distinctly remember telling God, “Anywhere but Africa. Don’t make me go back to that continent!”
This summer, I made friends with the folks at our local Union Baptist Association and met the believers who take groups to Addis Ababa. In an area meeting for cell pastors, I met two pastors from the church and they shared about the need for training in their church. All I could think of during the meeting was “God, don’t make me go to Ethiopia. I’m really busy and I’ll probably get sick as a dog again. Don’t make me go back there.”
Take some advice from a friend in Christ . . . never give boundaries to God, the One who gave you your breath. It’s unbearable! Every time I have prayed since that meeting — regardless of the subject — the Lord’s voice has been clear. “Go where I send you! And this time, be careful what you eat and drink.” Surrendering to His call on my life, I’m headed back.
Is God calling you to join me?
I will be taking a group of cell leaders and members to work with a growing cell church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the summer of 2001. If you’re reading this, I hope you will ask the Lord if you are to join me. We will be working with cell leaders for a week, helping them in various aspects of cell ministry. If you are in a cell group, you are qualified for this trip. No special leadership skills are required! (See page 27 for more details.)
If you’re not Baptist, don’t worry. This is a cross-cultural, non-denominational effort. Concerned about money and time off from work? You have a 10 months to plan, pray and find the funds to go. If you manufacture any other reasons you can’t go, examine your heart. God may be prompting you to go and you’re just a little scared. That’s ok! You won’t be alone.
Two issues ago, cell leaders and members from around the world fasted with me for seven days. The spiritual breakthroughs were too many to count! As my favorite T.V. chef says, “Let’s kick it up a notch!” and do some missions work together. You will gain a new understanding of God’s kingdom work and get a great deal of sleeping and reading done on the 25 hour flight! (end of article)
Evangelism - Making Him Known - By Karen Hurston
“Prayer triplets” are powerful! Mobilize your group to reach the lost.
“I didn’t know God answered prayer so quickly!” the excited teenager exclaimed. Just one week after she had targeted her lost friend in a prayer triplet, her friend gave her life to the Lord.
One man felt impressed to place a lost woman named Jan on his list of three, a lady known for her sharp and biting tongue. Not long after, he met her on the street and blurted out that he was praying for her. Two Sundays later, he was surprised to see Jan in church. After seeing her there, they met on the street again and Jan declared, “I’ve come through to the Lord.”
Jan now openly witnesses to her friends, and the people around her ask, “What’s happened to Jan? She’s such a different person!”
Another prayer triplet prayed for a man who often drank and beat his wife. Six months after they started praying for him, he came home unexpectedly in the middle of the day, saying to his surprised wife, “I don’t know what’s happened to me. I can’t work. When I realize the things I’ve done wrong in my life, I feel so rotten.” After he burst into tears, he called a local pastor. Within a few days the man became a Christian, and never touched another drop of alcohol.
What do each of these three stories show? The impact of a prayer triplet.
The Prayer Triplet Defined
In a prayer triplet, you link with two other believers in your cell group. Each of you identifies three lost people you know in your area, creating a list of nine target unbelievers for whom you pray on a regular basis. Outside your regular cell meeting, you gather with your triplet partners for a joint time of prayer each week. You then spend time with target unbelievers, and later invite them to your cell meetings and to church services.
Are prayer triplets biblical?
Joshua and the Israelites won the battle against the Amalekites after Moses, Aaron and Hur held up the staff, symbolizing prayer and intercession (Exodus 17:8-17).
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John beheld the glory of Jesus, Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:28-35).
While Solomon asserted that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12b), Jesus Himself — one of the Divine Trinity — declared, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
These scriptures show prayer triplets to be a biblical and powerful way to reach the lost and defeat the enemy, with examples from modern day, well-known Christians.
How Prayer Triplets Have Been Used Today
Before Billy Graham arrived in England for his 1985 three month preaching tour, 30,000 prayer triplets were formed. Of that number, 3,500 saw one or more of those they targeted in prayer become Christians.
A missions organization in India formed hundreds of prayer triplets leading to an evangelistic group termed a “discovery study.” Through these triplets, they planted more than 600 churches in various areas of that country.
According to Dave Auda, coordinator of small groups in Los Angeles’ Mosaic Church, since the mid 1980’s they have adapted the use of prayer triplets into their groups with great success. Other congregations, like First Assembly in Lufkin, Texas combine prayer triplets with other evangelistic cell strategies. Convinced of the success of prayer triplets?
Three Keys to Success
Simply forming prayer triplets in your cell group is not enough. I have found three keys necessary to a successful prayer triplet.
1. Continually encourage and persist. When you decide to pray and reach out to the lost, the enemy of our souls is quick to discourage and distract you (see article “Paving the Road to Salvation” in the last issue of CellGroup Journal for ideas in praying specifically for the lost).
The effective leader encourages others by being personally involved in a prayer triplet, by checking in with other triplets and by encouraging them to persist. Jesus followed this principle with His disciples. In Luke 18, He told them a parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
2. Focus on relationship-building and celebrate small victories. Remind triplet partners that it is important to deepen relationships with one another during weekly times of prayer. Also highlight the importance of taking the time to develop relationships with the “target three.”
No “Bible bullets” need be shot at the lost; let times together be fun and relaxed! Salvation is much more than an event; it is a process of drawing ever closer to our God. When a targeted lost person makes any move toward to the Lord, it is time for the triplet to celebrate.
3. Coordinate a gathering for targeted unbelievers. Near the end of the third month together, plan a fun outreach or special cell meeting that is attractive to those you are targeting. Most find that good food has a strong appeal. Personally accompany those you’ve been targeting in prayer to the event, introducing them and knitting them into your group with as much fervor as possible. If you don’t bring them to this event, they probably won’t show up.
Some groups have found it crucial to have two to three hours of joint prayer the week before the special event, asking God to further draw the targeted lost to Himself and to remove any spiritual hindrances.
Five Steps to effectiveness
1. Identify your “target three.” First, identify three lost people in your oikos (where you live, work, or go to school). These people will be friends, acquaintances, co-workers, employers, employees, neighbors, teachers or relatives.
2. Identify your triplet partners. Triplet partners are two believers in your cell who you know and trust. Most groups who form triplets prefer that they be of the same gender. As you form your triplet, remember that each partner should have three target lost people with a combined list of nine lost people. Agree to form triplets for a minimum of three months, committing to another three months at the conclusion of the first cycle.
3. Pray daily as an individual and weekly as a triplet. In your individual devotions, pray daily for the needs and salvation of the nine people your triplet is targeting. Weekly, come together with your triplet partners for a joint time of prayer for the salvation of your targeted lost, usually 10-15 minutes before or after the cell group meeting (some even have triplet prayer during the cell meeting). Be sure to share any insights or progress with your triplet partners; this will help your partners pray more specifically.
4. Spend time developing relationships with your “target three.” After you have bathed your target three (and the other six targeted by triplet partners) in prayer, it is time to put feet to your prayers. Spend one hour each week developing a relationship with one of your target three, doing something you mutually enjoy. Take him or her out to lunch. Watch a decent movie or sports event together. Remember, this is not time to be religious, but simply to develop relationship and trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to work.
5. Invite! Near the end of the three months, invite your “target three” to a regular cell group meeting, or to a special event planned by your cell or church. Remember to accompany that person or persons. This will make them comfortable and knit them into the life of your cell and church as soon as possible.
Want to focus on the lost?
Consider forming prayer triplets in your cell. They are biblical and proven to work in any culture. May you then join with one excited teenager exclaiming, “I didn’t know God answered prayer so quickly!” (end of article)
-Karen Hurston is an international consultant to cell churches based in Gulf Breeze, FL. Visit her website at: www.hurstonministries.org
Cell Leadership - By Billy Hornsby
Why do leaders fail? Healthy leadership comes from deep relationships.
After laboring for over a year, Raymond had finally achieved his goal of becoming a cell leader. In his new position, he saw himself as being in charge of a group of people who would work as his “assistants.” He felt that as the leader of the group, people should look up to him as he taught them the principles that he had learned from other leaders. Within six weeks, however, no one wanted to follow Raymond anymore. Confused and upset, he dropped out of cell leadership and finally, his local church.
Why do people like Raymond fail? These leaders do not to understand how to build and maintain healthy relationships within the cell context. Believing that people will follow them just because they have the “leader” title, they make no effort to cultivate relationships with the people in their groups. Instead, they become authoritative, and eventually, group members get discouraged and stop going to their cells.
The five aspects of leadership
Building relationships of any kind takes time and effort, and cell relationships are no different. However, if you will implement the following five aspects of leadership, I believe that you can build lasting relationships within your cell.
1. Maintain personal contact. One of the greatest boosts to any relationship is spending time together. During such times, people interact in many ways that deepen relational ties. The apostle Paul told Timothy on two occasions in II Timothy 4, “Do thy diligence to come unto me.” He also told his protégé that he “greatly desired to see him.” Paul knew the importance of keeping the bond strong with the young man he had mentored.
Spending time with your cell members brings the relationship to a level of mutual support rather than just business-like acquaintance. Commit to making time for your cell members, and learn to extend grace and fellowship to each one.
2. Have fun! A dear friend of mine once told me he had lost the vision for cell ministry and was leaving his cell group. Thinking that perhaps he had been offended or turned off by something “weird” going on during the meetings, I asked him not to quit until we had had a chance to talk. When we met, my friend confided his reason for leaving: “It ain’t fun no more!”
What does fun have to do with ministry and relationships? Apparently a lot more than we might think. My friend felt like the leader had taken the fun and laughter away by becoming legalistic and demanding. By requiring adherence to certain rules and presenting himself in an overly serious and super-spiritual way, he had destroyed the fun atmosphere in the group.
Think about the people with whom you love to spend time. They’re fun to be around, aren’t they? Now imagine them becoming pushy, always pressuring you to do more or to be more spiritual. Like me, you’d probably back off from the relationship. But if you keep fun and laughter in your cell group, you will develop lasting relationships.
3. Share confidences. One of the elements of true, devoted relationships is the sharing of information that one of you holds as a personal confidence. When a person feels secure enough in a relationship to become transparent and share his heart, the relationship has significantly deepened. Sharing “secrets” seems to penetrate barriers in a way that nothing else does. Keep in mind that secrets shared must be kept in the strictest of confidence. If the secret leaks out to others, the relationship could be destroyed.
4. Find common interests. The longer I am married (and that has been for 33 years), the more my wife and I seem to have in common. The more we have in common, the more we want to be together to share those interests. We enjoy rides to familiar places, dining in favorite restaurants, having the grandchildren spend the night, and many other simple pleasures.
The challenge in my marriage (as in any other relationship) has been to learn to appreciate the interests that my wife and I don’t mutually enjoy. For example, Charlene loves shopping and I dislike walking into a mall. She likes classic movies; I enjoy sports or fast-action movies. Because I value my relationship with her, sometimes we do what she enjoys doing even though it may not appeal to me. In the same way, learn to enjoy and participate in those activities that your cell members enjoy, and watch a new dimension in the relationship develop.
5. Keep an attitude of equality. Did you enjoy going to the principal’s office when you were in school? If your school was like mine, the principal stayed in a big office with a big desk that had a big paddle in the top right drawer. Needless to say, going to his office was not an experience I looked forward to. In fact, I dreaded it!
In the same way, some cell leaders act superior and make everyone uncomfortable in their presence. Your members will avoid close contact with you if you make them feel that you are “over” them. If every time they see you, you want to teach them something new or correct them in some way, they will grow weary of you. Your cell members do want to learn from you, but they don’t want to be looked down upon as mere subordinates. So, don’t exalt yourself over others; they will despise it! Rather, let Philippians 2:3-7 be your guide, esteeming others above yourself and taking on the form of a servant, like Jesus.
Building enduring relationships in your cell is a slow process that cannot be achieved overnight. However, if you consistently maintain personal contact, have fun, share confidences, find common interests and emphasize equality in relationships, you will be rewarded with true friendships that provide a lifetime of relational ministry. (end of article)
Billy Hornsby is the director of Bethany Cell Church Network in Baker, LA. Check out BCCN’s resources and web site at: www.bccn.com
Toolkit - Practical tips and testimonies written by cell leaders for cell leaders
Have you have ever panicked when you realized it’s cell night at your house . . . tonight . . . and the house is a total wreck?
My life is anything but organized. So I have worked out a plan that gives me the appearance of “Mrs. Cleaver” when I find myself in a time crunch to prepare my home for a cell meeting. Here’s the story behind it all and what I call “the drill,” or my plan of action . . .
My day began with an early morning emergency trip to the vet (my poodle hacked up something indescribable)! I heaved a guilty sigh when the vet wanted to keep my poodle “for observation.” Even though I was trying to be concerned for the family pet, all of this was very time consuming. Returning home, I faced a day of home schooling with my older kids and a five-year-old who gleefully went on a search-and-destroy mission throughout the house. Lunch was a random feeding frenzy and by 1 p.m., I craved a nap.
Finally, a call came from the vet. The dog was fine, but in order to avoid boarding charges, I needed to pick him up by closing time. I loaded up the kids for the joyful reunion and a side trip to the grocery store before our evening meal.
The poodle and groceries made it home safely. I hastily prepared our evening meal and as I was wrapping up, my husband called. He would be working late. I began to feel sorry for myself and thought “what else is new?”
Pondering an early bedtime for my children, I received a strong electrical shock. It was a test of my body’s Emergency Broadcast System! “It is 6:30 p.m. CELL NIGHT! People will be here in less that 30 minutes!”
Not to worry! Here’s where the drill became my lifesaver. The drill is to cleaning a house what Cliff Notes are to Gone with the Wind. It’ll do in a rush, but if you lean toward to the Martha Stewart side of house keeping, you will be shocked and horrified at what I am about to say. But, it works well!
First, grab a big laundry basket. Go through every main room, except the kitchen. Keep in mind that you are only dealing with the rooms everyone will see. Everything that does not belong where it lies should be thrown in the basket. Don’t put it away. There is no time for that! Every sock, shoe, toy, paper wad, book, jacket, towel, apple core, video, tool and game piece go in the basket. Carry the dishes to the sink to be dealt with in a moment. Store the basket in your garage, a large closet or an off-limits room. Tomorrow, you kids will earn their allowance by putting everything where it belongs.
Move on to the kitchen. Picture a dishwasher full of clean dishes you have no time to put away, and a sink full of dirty dishes you have no time to wash. Grab your largest cookie sheet, clean or dirty. Carefully pile all your dirty dishes on it and pop it into the oven. (If your oven will be in use for cell, let the dish laden cookie sheet keep company with the laundry basket.) Now, please pay attention because this next kitchen tip is extremely important.
Remove your oven knob. This simple step will save you untold dollars in melted Tupperware! When you forget that those dishes are there, the missing knob will jog your ravaged brain. Now, mentally add those dishes to the kids’ list of chores for tonight, immediately after the meeting concludes.
Now deal with what I call “surfaces.” Grab your all-purpose cleaner and squirt down your kitchen counters, stovetop and table. Without wiping down the kitchen, run to the bathroom (let the cleaner do the work for you). Once there, squirt down only the sink and toilet. Pull the curtain on the tub. Quickly arrange the crooked towels, and without wiping the bathroom, run back to the kitchen. Then, grab one cleaning rag in each hand, and wipe like crazy. It doesn’t have to be perfect. To be honest, it just needs to be decontaminated and smell like cleaner to give the illusion of spotlessness! Then run back to the bathroom and finish there.
You are almost ready. Get a small whisk broom and dustpan, and sweep up the largest dust bunnies or hair balls. Oh yes! Don’t forget to clean up what your dog hacked up. Then spray your entrance down with a fantastic smelling deodorizer. Last, but not least, turn on a worship CD.
Pause just inside the front door long enough to thank the Father for the privilege of His church taking place in your home. Go ahead! You still have a few minutes left. Ask Jesus to make Himself comfortable in your home tonight. Take courage in the fact that not many strong or wise people are called (1 Cor. 1: 26-31), so you and your home more than qualify! Bow your head, and speak a blessing over all that come, asking the Lord for strength for the rest of the evening. I think I hear your doorbell ringing!
— Sheila Atchley, Harvest Church, Knoxville, TN
RUNNING IN GOD’S RACE
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12: 1
If living the Christian life is like running a marathon, then home church (that’s what we call our cell groups) has been a vital part of that race. It has met the physical and spiritual needs of people’s lives in our group.
We have had numerous examples of the love that comes from our home group to its members. For instance, when a single, elderly woman needed to move, the men and women in our group pitched in. Another woman was out of work and we surprised her with a gift certificate from a local grocery store. A man in our group whose explosive temper got him fired at work and in trouble at home is now destroying those old patterns through group prayer and discipleship. Another man in our group who wouldn’t pray in public conquered his fear and has sought out co-workers to start a prayer and bible study group.
Best of all, we have a chance to experience the presence of Jesus on a weekly basis. We are able to sit at His feet in an intimate setting and worship Him. I am not saying it is easy to lead a group, but it is definitely worth the effort. We have tasted the promised blessings of this life and are looking forward to the blessings and the persecutions that come with running the race (Mark 10: 29-30).
-David & Sandie Moore, Big Valley Community Church, Modesto, CA
For Example (sample cell agenda)
The Importance of Perspective
The following quiz would be an incredible Word portion for your next cell meeting. It lets your cell members realize who the important people are in their lives while letting you get to know your members better. Type or write these out and give them to your cell members to answer individually. Then go around and ask each person to answer one or two of the questions verbally. This allows everyone to think about the questions and answer them without taking up too much group time. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time in prayer afterward! This discussion will be very convicting.
Try to answer three of the following questions…
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
4. Name ten people who have won a Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last ten World Series Winners.
How did everyone do?
My guess is that it wasn’t that easy. The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields, but the applause dies. Awards will tarnish. Achievements are forgotten.
Read 1 Corinthians 1: 26-29. Now try this quiz with your group . . .
1. Name three teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Name five people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Name five people you enjoy spending time with.
6. Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.
How did everyone do? Was this one easier for you and your group?
The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care. They are the ones who love you.
Take time now to pray for those people in your life who mean the most to you. Pray blessings over them. Give them a call some time this week to let them know how much they mean to you.
— Contributed by Delray Bruce, Garden Oaks Baptist Church, Houston, TX
Pick up your mat and walk!
For a week in May, I fasted with Randall Neighbour and others from across the nation, and I experienced some major breakthroughs. For several months, I had a burden on my heart for the youth of our church. I prayed that God would raise up more people if He wanted me take on the responsibilities of a youth group. I didn’t want to get ahead of His plans, but I didn’t want to lag behind either.
During the fast, God spoke to me through John 5: 1-11 regarding the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. After being lame for 38 years, Jesus told him to “Get up, pick up your mat and walk!” I had been waiting for others to come forward and help but He told me to “Get up, pick up your mat (the things He has already equipped me with) and walk.” He told me I needed to take the first step. He would guide me and show me, but I could not sit around and wait for others to help me. I don’t want to be sitting on the side of the pool another 38 years!
It is now the end of July. I shared my vision with the pastors at my church. My associate pastor, who was previously a youth pastor, helped me get the ball rolling. We gathered our youth together for some activities during the summer to break the ice. We had an outstanding response. The youth have come and invited their friends! I am also excited to see many adults coming forth and volunteering to help! Praise God!
The youth are currently breaking up into small groups during Sunday school. Beginning in the fall, we will invite our middle school youth to be small group leaders to our elementary school kids during Sunday school. Following the Sunday service, we will have a youth group meeting where our youth will be in small groups. This will be a time devoted to sharing and praying for each other from the lessons they learned alongside the elementary children. The transition will be easier for the few kids who are already involved in intergenerational cells.
God had been preparing not only me, but the hearts of your youth and adults. It all comes down to taking that leap of faith, getting up, picking up your mat and walking! Thank you Lord for your nudge!
-Kim Shannon, Paso Robles Community Church, Paso Robles, CA
Daily Survival Kit
Where are certain things in life needed for daily survival? A bible, prayer and good friends are what most of us would say, but the following is a list of things to remind us everyday of who we are in Christ and what that means. You’ll need . . .
• A toothpick to remind you to pick out the good qualities in others (Matt. 7:1).
• A rubber band to remind you to be flexible though things might not always go the way you want. (Romans 8:28).
• A bandage to remind you to heal any hurt feelings whether they are yours or someone else’s (Col. 3: 12-14).
• A pencil to remind you to list your blessings everyday. (Eph. 1:3)
• An eraser to remind you that everyone makes mistakes, but it’s okay (Gen. 50: 15-21).
• A piece of chewing gum to remind you to stick with it. You can accomplish anything! (Phil. 4:13).
• A mint to remind you that you are worth a mint! (John 3:16-17).
• A candy kiss to remind you that everyone needs a kiss or a hug everyday (1 John 4:7).
• A tea bag to remind you to relax daily and go over that list of blessings (1 Thess. 5:18).
— Contributed by Kathy Hensarling, Hosanna Church, Houston, TX
Missions - Go Ye Therefore - By Sam Scaggs
Revival requires good stewardship: Faithfully using all you have for God’s kingdom yields incredible results!
It was a very hot and sticky day when the young Indonesian pastor answered my question for the second time. He repeated, “There will be 365 people baptized in this evening’s service.”
Every month this cell church on one of the 17,000 islands of Indonesia holds a water baptism service for a minimum of 200! It would have been hard to believe if I didn’t witness it with my own eyes.
It was like watching an army at work. The large, simply built building was filled to the rafters. Hundreds of cell leaders were positioned on both sides of those to be baptized.
The 2,500 present for the service prayed aloud throughout the service for these people to follow Christ all the days of their lives. There were three rows of people inside the huge baptistery. Elders in white shirts baptized them, prayer warriors in red shirts kept one hand on each person for prayer, and coordinators in blue shirts lined up to help people find their place in and out of line! It was simply amazing.
Overcome with joy, I could not see from my front row seat because of my endless tears. I thought to myself, “this is one incredible church that practices good stewardship . . . stewardship of the Gospel!” Not just because of their ability to organize such a grand service, but because of what I experienced beneath the surface. This service was indicative of what was happening throughout the entire ministry. They empowered their leaders for ministry. The members used their gifts for ministry and depended on it!
I discovered that the key to revival—in the midst of tremendous religious persecution—was a healthy root system. The loving relationships between the cell leaders and members, and their obedience to the truth of stewardship produced hundreds of converts a month.
Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). In a series of messages I am preaching on stewardship, we have been learning about stewardship of all our resources. Finances, time, spiritual gifts and the greatest resource of all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Our Indonesian brothers and sisters are under great persecution, but they are modeling an incredible truth. They take seriously the stewardship of the Gospel. However, there is a price to pay for obedience.
While writing this article I received word from the pastor and his wife asking that I mobilize prayer for them. A motorcyclist tossed a package on top of their vehicle with a large magnet secured to hold it fast. Stopping the vehicle on bridge, the two leaders (who borrowed the pastor’s car) took the package and threw it into the river below. When it exploded, it was powerful enough to destroy a home and the one next door!
There have been two more assassination attempts prior to this event, but the Lord is protecting these leaders. To them, the Gospel is a very rich treasure and must be shared, even in the face of adversity.
What will the Lord say to us when we are called to give an account of the Gospel that He has place within our care? Will he say, “well done good and faithful steward?” I know He will! Take the Gospel to your neighbors, those in your oikos and to the unreached of the world. And pray for your brothers and sisters in Indonesia . . . they are praying for you! (end of article)
Sam Scaggs provides direction for the Cell Church Missions Network, USA and lives in Virginia Beach, VA. Visit his organization’s website at: www.stragetgicnetwork.org.
[The name and details of the church described here have been withheld to provide a level of protection for the believers in Indonesia.]
Cover Article – By Martha Rees
Marketplace Evangelism: If you really want to impact others and touch their lives, you must be willing, available and obedient in the marketplace
Due to a personal battle with migraine headaches and the need to pick up medicine for one of my children, I was a frequent customer at our neighborhood drug store. Elaine, a friendly nineteen-year-old pharmacy assistant, was always there to help me when I picked up our medications. While there were always other assistants on duty, I made it a point to find Elaine. After a short time, she looked for me when she saw my prescriptions waiting. After a few short weeks, our greetings of familiarity became short, enjoyable conversations. Elaine and I had become marketplace friends.
Late one evening, my husband and I came into the drugstore to pick up medicine. Elaine commented that she had waited on both of us separately, but had never seen us together. She thought we made a cute couple! Looking behind me, I saw no one else in line, so I used the opportunity to ask “Elaine, do you have a special man in your life?”
She responded with negative comments of disillusionment in her hopes of ever finding a good guy. I told her that God had given me my husband Jeff, but Elaine did not think that she deserved good things from God. Because she didn’t know my background, I let her know that God’s love had done a great work in me. Despite my past, God had given me a wonderful husband. God’s unconditional love was certainly something Elaine needed to hear that night.
Elaine had left a spiritual door wide open for me, and I wanted to continue but a line had formed behind Jeff and me. The urgency to talk to her and the fact that we had become casual friends motivated me to move this over-the-counter friendship to a deeper level. Our church’s Christmas candlelight service was the next weekend, and I thought this would be a great opportunity for her to get to know me better and learn more about God’s love. I had enough time to give her all the pertinent information concerning the service without causing the people behind me any frustration, and she responded with interest.
A few days later, Elaine came to our candlelight service. I was standing at the front door, waiting to greet her. I introduced her to my friends, and prayed for her during the service. Noticing her tears throughout the candle light service, I asked Elaine if she wanted to find a quiet place and talk afterward. As she poured her heart out that night, I was given the honor of leading her to accept Jesus as her Savior.
The next evening, Elaine made a surprise visit to my home bearing gifts for my birthday. She had found my birth date on the computer at work, and she wanted to thank me for reaching across the counter and giving her a new lease on life. From that point on, our friendship steadily developed and she was hungry to learn more about God.
As I discipled her, I shared with Jeff that that we could minister to her more deeply if she moved in with us. He was in full agreement, and Elaine moved into our garage apartment. By her living with us, we were able to love her and guide her in her spiritual walk.
My three children fell in love with her immediately. “Miss Elaine” spent time with them by baby sitting, attended their sports events, helped host birthday parties, and joined us for family gatherings. In a matter of months, she joined a cell group and our church. Elaine now had a strong spiritual family!
One of Elaine’s first revealing comments to me in the drugstore was that she admired my relationship with my husband. Through her discipleship process, she learned that God wanted to give her good things.
GO YE THEREFORE INTO ALL NATIONS...
What better place to go than into the marketplace of your own nation first? Every day, we encounter people who are lonely, discouraged, and hurting. We interact with them briefly in grocery stores, dry cleaners, gas stations, convenience stores and office buildings. It’s so easy to move through our daily routines without a thought for the mailman, the grocery store clerk, or the waiter at a favorite restaurant. These people have been placed in our path for a reason!
Jesus did not wait for the Samaritan woman to come to the local synagogue or to one of his follower’s gatherings to share God’s love. Jesus went to the well to get a drink of water, much like you and I go to the convenience store to buy a can of soda. Because Jesus asked this woman for help, she entered into a short dialogue with Him. He purposefully engaged in conversation with this woman with the intent to share the message of salvation, and take care of a practical need in his own life. He asked for help, struck up a conversation, and impacted her life with His words and the knowledge supplied to Him by the Father.
If you are faithful to strike up a conversation in the marketplace, God will give you the right words. After all, He designed you for this very purpose! Why would he put you in the path of a hurting unbeliever and not give you the words? Don’t be afraid. If you are turned away or mocked, remember that you have little to lose . . . this person is not a lifetime friend. But when a person responds because they see you hold the only key to true happiness, you will see the power of marketplace connections. Following Jesus’ example, make the most of your interaction with others and you will be amazed at how God will use you, just the way you are.
MAKE STRATEGIC CHOICES
When looking for a baseball league for my two sons, a Christian friend invited us to register with a local church league. Our sons were in public school, and the thought of a Christian-based league was very appealing. But I kept thinking, “How are we going to meet unbelievers if we keep surrounding ourselves with Christians?”
My husband and I agreed that the neighborhood league was where we needed to be. When we shared this with our friends, they also joined the neighborhood league. Together, we purposed to show the love of Jesus to all who had eyes to see.
If you have ever experienced little league baseball, you know that mothers spend a great deal of time watching their children practice and play games. As you can imagine, we also do quite a bit of talking, covering a wide variety of topics.
One day, I met Sonya in the bleachers. We both were special education teachers at the time, and my husband assisted her boyfriend Greg, who was one of the coaches. These common threads of interest gave us lots to talk about. As I was bonding with Sonya, Jeff was bonding with Greg on the field. These two never knew what hit them.
Jeff and I decided to get to know them better, so we invited them to our home for dinner. After we ate, our children played in another room and the men struck up a conversation in the family room. Sonya and I talked at the kitchen table. She shared with me that she lived with Greg and his two children. When I asked if she was ready for marriage, she was unsure.
I said, “You know Sonya, you said you are a Christian . . . do you think living with Greg is what God has for you? God’s stance on sex outside of marriage hasn’t changed.”
Sonya looked down with tear filled eyes, and said, “I know.”
We spent the next hour or so talking about getting right with God and what she needed to do. She knew that she needed to move out because her present situation was not honoring God. It also did not help Greg understand how to have a relationship with God. Avoiding the things of God for the sake of comfort and convenience was holding her back. That night, she was honest with me and God. That changed her life.
Sonya and Greg attended a cell meeting and visited our church the next Sunday. They knew how important God was to us and they desired to have a life that connected them to God too. We invited them over for dinner again to specifically talk about decisions they had to make to find that meaningful relationship with God.
Greg was ready to give his whole life to Jesus’ Lordship. When we talked about separating until marriage, Greg noticed that this “Jesus thing” was not a religious decision, it was knowing and serving a righteous God. He knew the profound significance of accepting Christ and giving Jesus his life. It wasn’t just a cognitive decision without lifestyle changes. Greg was willing to make those changes to enjoy God’s will and plan for his life.
That night, Greg asked Jesus into his life as Savior. After several years away from her parents, Sonya moved back into her parent’s home. Sonya and Greg stayed sexually pure and lived apart for the next four months until their wedding day.
MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY
You can develop relationships and build the kingdom of God while you have your prescriptions filled or while you are watching your children play little league baseball. There are people all around you who need to hear of Jesus’ love! If you really want to impact others and touch their lives, you must be willing, available and obedient in the marketplace. As you move through your day, don’t become too busy or indifferent to those around you.
As I look back on the opportunities with Elaine, Sonya and Greg, I see certain things I did to help these productive relationships. Here are a few pointers to help you develop relationships with marketplace people:
1. Make Regular Contact. Use the same restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, department stores and hair salons with the purpose of getting to know the employees. Be intentional when you choose a line to check out in the grocery store, or the time of day you are in the establishment. Find the same sales people each time you are there, and call them by name, which will set you apart from the ocean of faces they see each day. Making and maintaining regular contact fosters a sense of trust among people. You’ll go far when you build a relationship through numerous interactions.
2. Initiate Conversation. I usually try to make a comment about an attractive feature of a person, asking them about themselves, or introduce a thought that would cause them to engage in conversation. I love to make a game out of trying to get someone to talk to me! Most people prefer that someone else take the initiative to start a conversation, so I jump right in, even if I’m tired and just want to get home. Jesus initiated conversations with many people who eventually trusted Him as Lord and Savior. As a follower of Christ, we can follow His example and begin to cultivate relationships by starting the conversation. If you’re shy, there is no better reason to be bold and make new friends. Ask God to give you the right word, and He will!
3. Find Common Ground. With Elaine, it was easy to talk about medications. I soon learned that she was an asthmatic, and that we could share struggles and concerns with this illness (my son has asthma). Sonya and I had the common ground of both being special educators. Jeff and Greg made a point to talk about sports and the performance of the kids on the baseball diamond. Look for the common thread of interest that God has provided for you when you meet someone new.
If you can’t find one common interest between you, ask yourself “Who in my cell group has similar interests or background with this person?” God might be using you as a relationship “bridge.” When you prayerfully figure it out, bring that cell member with you to meet your new marketplace friend.
Taking a self-help class or hobby class with the purpose of making new friends is also a great way to develop relationships with unbelievers and find common ground. In this environment, you’ll make new friends and have lots to talk about. Sooner or later, you will have a wonderful opportunity to share what God has done in your life and what He offers anyone who comes to Him.
NEVER BE TOO BUSY TO BE A MINISTER
The Samaritan woman at the well was so excited to tell others about Christ that she left what she was doing to share the Good News. John 4:28-29 says, “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I did. Could this be the Christ?’” Filling her water jar was part of her daily duties. She stopped what she was doing to go and tell others about Jesus. If we will just look up from our own water jars long enough to see the people around us, we may find unexpected and unscheduled opportunities to reach out to others!
We often neglect marketplace opportunities because we are lost in our own priorities. The best way to break yourself of this habit is to spend 60 seconds praying before you leave your car or while walking into an establishment. Ask the Lord to help you see the person who needs His touch, and will respond to you. Soon enough, you’ll be praying this way all the time and acting on Godly impulse.
SEIZE EVERY OPPORTUNITY
Marketplace people need simple encouragement from you, even if you don’t think you’ll ever see them again. This kind of encouragement comes in the form of thanking a waiter for a job well done or commenting on how hard a salesperson is working.
Last week, I was at a discount store where the air conditioning was in need of repair. The temperature was a sizzling ninety-five degrees outside, and warm inside as well. At the checkout counter I asked the clerk why it was so hot inside, and commented that I couldn’t imagine having to work in such heat. She was glad to tell me about the heat, and seemed to appreciate my concern for her warm working conditions that day. Before I left her checkout counter, I promised to pray for her. That discount store was in another town, three hours away from where I live. Although I may never see that woman again, my words of encouragement and prayer are not in vain.
Was this conversation fruitless? In Ephesians 4:29 we are told to speak a word that “is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I hope my words that day were a touch of grace and my comment to pray for her sparked a spiritual interest.
Most importantly, you may never know what God can do through you in these brief moments. As you move in and out of stores, restaurants and establishments, know that God wants to shine the light of His Son through you!
Being a witness is kingdom business. God uses all his servants to draw unbelievers to Him. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever see the person again, share the joy of the Lord and encourage the fellow or the lady across the counter (or behind the apron).
You may never know the impact of your friendly smile and your words of encouragement. It could be the very thing that causes that person to find their Christian friend or relative and say “God really loves me. He used a total stranger from out of town to say the exact same thing you’ve been telling me for months!”
DON’T LEAVE ‘EM HANGING!
Several years ago, Steve Camp wrote a song that included the words, “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them until you’re ready to love them too.” Telling people about Jesus is exciting, but how can people receive this message if we don’t love them? “Loving them” means investing in their spiritual walk. It takes time and effort to make disciples, and that’s what we’re commanded to do.
God led me to ask Elaine to live with us. After ten months, I felt very strongly that it was time for Elaine to move out on her own. I was right, and Elaine understood that it needed to happen. But I accepted the responsibility of discipling Elaine until she was spiritually on her feet. What she really needed was a place to live and the example of a Christ-centered family. While my other marketplace friends don’t come to live with me when they accept Christ, I do spend time with them and help them become strong in their faith.
The discipleship process is a gift of love and friendship, as only God can do through you. As you reach people for Jesus in the marketplace, be the friend that Jesus was to his own disciples. He walked along the shore with them, went out in their fishing boats, served them in many ways and knew them as well as any man. In a world filled with religious rules, He showed them God’s grace and unconditional love.
WHERE ARE MY MARKETPLACE FRIENDS NOW?
Greg and Sonya have been married for six years and have been given another child, a honeymoon baby. They have moved out of our community and our local church fellowship, but they have not left the family of God. They have united with another church in their neighborhood and are growing in the Lord.
Elaine and Brian have been married for two years and are leaders of a youth cell in my home church. Two of the youth they minister to are my own teenage sons! What a joy it is to labor in the marketplace and see the fruitfulness of the labor so close to home.
The next time you pull into a parking lot to grab a bite to eat, pick up some groceries or get a prescription filled, ask the Lord to give you a new friend. Look for a person who needs encouragement, and connect with them in your own special way. Take interest in them, ask good questions and share your heart. You’ll find that soon enough, you’ll be discipling an Elaine or Sonya of your own!
I started working at a neighborhood drugstore at the end of 1993 as an excuse to get out of the house and make some money. What I didn't know then is that God had a definite plan for my life which He would begin to reveal to me over the next four years. Two weeks into my job I was transferred to the pharmacy. Through my first years at the drug store, there were many customers, but few that actually lingered around and made conversation with me. I remembered Martha and actually looked forward to her coming in. Something drew me to her.
I used to joke with the pharmacist when I saw her coming. I would bet him a dinner meal that she would ask me to go to church. Inevitably Martha would invite me before she left the store.
After repeated invitations, I met Martha for the Christmas candlelight service at her church. That night filled me with a great deal of emotion. Martha came over to me and asked if I needed to talk. The questions she asked me left a lasting impression on my life. She asked me if I knew Jesus Christ and if would I like to know him personally and make Him Lord and Savior of my life. I didn’t understand what that truly meant, but I figured it had to be better than what I already had, so I said “yes.” That night, I accepted Christ. Martha ended with some encouragement, a hug and the words “I love you.” And I knew she meant it.
Not long after, I moved into the garage apartment at Martha's home. While I was there, Martha challenged me about many things in my life. She told me that I was no longer just dating, but I was looking for my future husband. As God would have it my future husband was in my Sunday school class. I just didn't know it yet.
I know now that it was God working through Martha and her family. They accepted me as one of their own and loved me unconditionally. This has brought me to an understanding of who Christ is. Martha's genuine concern and willingness to be in my life is what made all the difference.
-Elaine DeMien, Garden Oaks Baptist Church, Houston, TX
(end of article)
Martha Rees is the mother of three, a school teacher and pastor’s wife. She lives in Houston, Texas, and is part of Garden Oaks Baptist Church.
Feature Article - By Don Tillman
The Spilling Over Effect
I can’t tell you how important this group has been to me,” Beverly said. “Why, I could not have done what I did last weekend if it were not for the prayer and the loving accountability offered here. I was able to handle a very difficult situation in a Christ-pleasing way. I wasn’t capable of doing that three months ago.”
“The same goes for me,” said Bill. “Recently, I was stopped by a man who told me how impressed he was with my honesty. It made me feel really good to be known in that way.”
Both of these statements were made in a recent cell meeting where I was present. They are both examples of what I call the “spilling-over effect.”
Over the years, I have endeavored to learn how to walk closer and closer with Christ. I have a longing to know God in a deep and personal way, and to please Him with the way I live my life. But I have found that being the person God wants me to be is rarely easy! The practical application of biblical truth in everyday life is easier to discuss than to experience.
At times in my past, I thought I was actually going backward — rather than forward — in my efforts to be a better follower of Jesus. If I was not going backward, then certainly I was in neutral. But through an exciting process of spiritual discovery, I realized that anything other than authentic spiritual growth was less than satisfying. So I set out to understand how I could become more of the person God would have me to be.
Watching other believers
It didn’t take long to see I wasn’t the only one struggling with the practical application of biblical truth in everyday life. The more I watched, the more I saw; and the more I saw, the more shocked I became! In spite of these believer’s best efforts, they were behaving much the same as the worldly people around them. Given similar circumstances, those who professed belief in Christ seemed to choose similar solutions as their law-abiding, moral-by-society’s-standards, non-believing neighbors.
So what was wrong? There certainly was no shortage of
believers desiring to do the right Christian thing. Some had even become
legalistic in their efforts, thinking they could measure their righteousness
with external actions. I saw people who distinguished themselves from the rest
of society only
in that they attended church services regularly and gave their money solely to religious causes.
As for the values that undergirded the everyday decisions of life, I saw little difference as well. This reality hit me hard when a Christian couple I knew took their pregnant daughter to an abortion clinic in order to solve the “problem.” Until then, they had been some of the most outspoken voices against abortion I had heard.
Discovering the Truth
One day it dawned on me. Talking righteousness does not make us righteous. Wanting righteousness does not make us righteous. In the end, following a list of rules does not remove our vulnerability toward taking the easy way out of a troubling situation. For us to be righteous, our righteousness must flow from the One who is in us, not be produced for the One who is in us. Jesus said it Himself. “For apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Godly behavior must spill out from within us. When we
fully submit ourselves
to the Christ who lives within, we will find ourselves behaving like Him. That’s the whole idea behind the spiritual fruit discussed in Galatians 5:22-23. It is His fruit we are to bear.
How can we bear His fruit? We can’t! However, we can allow
Him to bear His fruit in us. The “spilling over” effect occurs when Jesus is so
alive in us and controlling our thoughts that we behave as He would in every
situation we face . . . and do so
naturally. It sounds too simple to be true,
but if you try it, you’ll look back after a few months and see a new person in the mirror. Intentionally allowing Jesus to control your thinking, desires, and your ambitions will result in behavior that is different than that you would have chosen for yourself.
I have become firmly convinced that if I am to apply biblical truth in my everyday life, I must approach the endeavor in an entirely different way. Rather than concentrating on improving my behavior — patience, for instance — I must concentrate on giving Jesus authority over my lack of patience and give Him the right to exercise His patience through me. The more I strive to know Him and to surrender myself to His control, the more I begin to act like Him. It’s supernatural! It’s the spilling-over effect.
To experience Christ’s spilling-over effect in your life:
1. Come to grips with the fact that it is not what you profess, but what you do that indicates the core values steering your choices and decisions.
2. Read Paul’s letter to the Galatians. You will clearly see that a legalistic approach to faith will leave you wanting in the end. Legalism is too heavily dependent on your own ability to follow the rules.
3. Rather than “trying hard” to change your behavior, seek to submit that area of your life needing change to the authority of Christ. Do this as often as it comes to your mind. After a period of time, you will look back and see the changes He has made, and be pleasantly surprised!
4) Begin watching the spilling-over effect start to spill over into the lives of others who are watching you.
As a cell leader, what could be a better gift to offer the people you serve? (end of article)
At the time this article was published, Don Tillman was a church planter in Reno, NV and the new TOUCH Conference Director.
Editorial - By Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.
A new wave of revival: It’s happening all over the world, but not in America. What must we do to see it?
A “tsunami” is a tidal wave caused by an earthquake under the surface of the sea. It rises 120 feet in the air and smashes into the shoreline with a force so powerful it has wiped out entire towns.
Will there ever be a spiritual tsunami that will inundate America’s unharvested whitened fields? It has proved to be exactly that in other parts of the world. I have just visited with Pastor Ojawa from Indonesia, who grew from 2,000 to 10,000 cell members in only two years . . . the last two years! Tsunami! Why isn’t this happening in America?
THE BONDAGE OF INDIVIDUALISM
Read this keen observation from Australian Chris McGillion, feature writer for The Sydney Morning Herald: “. . . the faith of Americans is an easy believism that accommodates itself to the surrounding societal values. Creeds, customs and doctrines are not allowed to stand in the way of the believer’s relationship to the Divine. Freedom of conscience means not only voluntary belief but also excessive individualism among those who do believe. Theology has been reduced to a name-it-and-claim-it gospel that sanctifies consumer-oriented capitalism and all it has to offer as an expression of God’s grace.” (Sept. 2, 2000)
The positive side of this bondage is the American’s openness to new, innovative forms of belief systems. The cell church movement endorses a culture that flies in the face of American values, but those exhausted by individualism will be drawn to it.
In England, where only 2% go to church, Alpha has exploded. This activity offers an investigative Bible study in a ten-week group, complete with a meal. The secret of its awesome success is the bonding that takes place between Christians and pre-Christians. It fits the American who says, “I am certainly not religious, but I am a spiritual person!” TOUCH Family, the experimental cell church I have started here in Houston, will use Alpha. We believe people are starved for life in true community!
THE BONDAGE OF “CHURCHIANITY”
Dr. Leigh Kennedy, a member of my church, has coined a stinging phrase for some Christians: “Daddy Brats.” The term is a reference to the brother of the prodigal son who sat around the father’s house enjoying the “goodies.” I still writhe in disgust when I recall a woman who rejected helping her cell group target single moms. She said, “We have so many confused people inside our church already that I don’t have any desire to reach new people.”
It’s a harsh term, but it stabs you in the heart: “Daddy Brats”—busy with church work that keeps Christians “doing the work of God” inside the insulated building that points to God with a steeple, but not with hands that reach out!
A starved America is searching for God in all the wrong places. They are looking for a people of God dressed in garments of love and compassion. The next wave of harvest in America can be a cell-based Tsunami that floods the culture. It’s up to us.
I would like to propose to the American cell church movement that it has the best opportunity to harvest the unreached in our culture. Only a limited percentage of Americans will respond to the building-centered entertainment approaches of the creative church groups.
If each existing American cell would begin to relate directly to the unreached, we would see the same explosive growth here that is taking place overseas. Our problem is that the individualism bred into each of us by our culture has crippled our cells. We must “look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (end of article)
Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr. is the publisher of CellGroup Journal and an author of 35 books. He is currently planting a hybrid citywide cell-based church in Houston, Texas.
Intergenerational Cell Groups - By Daphne Kirk
Celebrate the baptism of a child!
The practical aspects of cell involvement and working with parents.
“When my children were baptized it was a very special day to witness them taking a step of faith on their own. I’ve watched them continue to grow in the Lord, in our family and in our cell. To express my feelings that day is difficult to put into words.”
Baptism is a sign that the past is buried and that new life has begun after a personal commitment to Jesus. It is a step taken in faith and obedience and identifying with Jesus (Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:3-14, Mark 16:16, Matt. 28: 19). Biblical principles are not affected by race, gender, denomination or age. The criteria for baptism is that the child has been born again and repented of their sin. As we mature in Christ, we gain a deeper understanding of the significance of our baptism. If you believe that baptism is a command and that it is a powerful occasion that releases the blessing of God, can anyone deny your children the opportunity to obey and receive that blessing?
When a child in your cell asks to be baptized, how can you ensure that parents are rightfully honored at this important time?
Visit the child in his or her home, with the parents present. This will show you honor and respect them. Maintain parental responsibility and avoid confusion so they will all hear your explanation of baptism and the child’s responses. If the parents are not Christians they will have the opportunity of hearing the gospel as they listen with their child. If the parents are believers — or leaders in your church — they will appreciate being served in this way.
What if parents disapprove?
If the parents disapprove, the child needs to understand that the decision surrounding his or her baptism belongs with Mom and Dad. This will resolve any conflict between the church, the parents and the child. It will also recognize and respect the office of parenthood itself and be a bold witness for Christ.
In some cases, unbelieving parents can feel bypassed by a cell when their child is being discipled and they have chosen not to attend. This is a wonderful opportunity to pray for them and develop a friendship with them while you allow them to express their concerns.
If this occurs in your cell, invite these parents to an upcoming baptism to see what happens and what their child is considering. It is very possible that they have never seen what takes place, and will be open to it later.
When my daughter wanted to be baptized, our pastors did not agree because of her young age. She and I sat down to discuss the decision. I said “Daniella, there is something more important than being right. I want you to learn this early in life. It is something that many adults never learn. I want you to wait with a happy heart.”
For many years she did so, though at times it was a struggle. The day she was baptized, I said to her with joy in my heart “I am so proud of you, you kept your heart sweet. I am even pleased God gave you this opportunity.”
Isn’t this the heart attitude we want to encourage in our children? We must honor the authority in our lives, including parents and pastors.
How can the cell be involved?
Involving your cell in a child’s baptism will reinforce a family atmosphere and bring a heightened sense of ownership to each member. Here’s a few ideas to help you foster cell involvement:
1) Ask the child to share why they want to be baptized at your next meeting. Then, ask other members of your cell to share testimonies of their own baptism experience. Close the discussion with a time of prayer for the child.
2) Create a special card to be given to the child on the day of their baptism, with a word of encouragement from each member written in it. If the Lord gives a member a special word for the child, include this as well.
3) If the child’s parents are not Christians and they are in agreement, remember to call and offer to pick them up and take them to the baptism. Reserve a seat up front and sit with them if they do not know anyone else at the service.
4) If you (as the cell leader) have the opportunity of baptizing the child with his or her parent, it will be a great honor and a very moving experience for both of you. It will also bring a feeling of security for the child.
5) If the baptismal site is roomy, ask your cell to gather around the baptismal pool when the child is being baptized. This will make the experience exciting for your whole group.
6) A photograph of cell members with the child will provide a personal reminder of the day.
7) A “cellebration” after the baptism will bring a heightened level of excitement for the child and the group. Celebrating the event is a super opportunity for the child to invite unchurched friends and relatives.
Is all this necessary?
These ideas do not add to the baptism, but they do highlight the importance and maintain the values of being a cell church.
A baptism in a cell group is a very special occasion. It indicates that the group has a strong, lived-out vision to reach the lost and disciple new believers. When a child in your cell is baptized, you have helped a young person find purpose in life at a very early age.
Disciple the children in your group and watch them grow up in the Lord. They will become strong leaders in their teenage years, and you will play an important role in developing workers for the harvest. (end of article)
At the time of publication, Daphne Kirk was a staff member of Ely Christian Fellowship in Cambridgeshire, England. Today she lives in Memphis, TN and continues to write and speak all over the world.
Leading Student Cells - By Randy Riggins
Do you remember my name?
Sharpen your listening skills and show your cell you care.
Have you ever walked away from your cell meeting wishing you had listened a little more intently to what was being said? Whether we choose to blame it on our attention span, our busy schedule or our lack of sleep, if we are not careful, we can come across to our group members as though we don’t care about them.
As a youth pastor, I get introduced to new visitors all the time. Sometimes, I find myself moving out of those conversations feeling as if I have definitely not been the listener that I should have been. I know this is true because the results often lead to embarrassment! My worst case scenario usually has to do with an overly friendly and gregarious visitor who returns to me later that night or the next week and asks me “Do you remember my name?” To which I reply, “duh . . . uh . . . uh.”
I’ve made some progress in this area, but it’s taken a great deal of intentional effort. Improving in this area shows that I value those visitors and desire to have a positive impact on their lives . . . even if it means simply remembering their name and something about them.
As a cell leader you have the same opportunity to positively impact the lives of those who are in your cell. When you are leading your student cell group each week, how would you judge your listening skills? When someone is speaking, are you able to give them your undivided attention? Are you remembering their hurts and personal struggles not to mention their names?
Let’s take a look at some possible reasons why you may not be listening effectively. Sometimes, you may find yourself concentrating on everything but what the other person is saying. Your mind is filled with a variety of thoughts which have absolutely nothing to do with the situation (ie.“I wonder if I’m going to pass chemistry?” or “Do I have something hanging out of my nose?”).
Often, thoughts enter your mind that do pertain to the meeting such as “I don’t know how I’m going to get through all the material I’ve planned for tonight!” Even though your thoughts may be directly related, they often do more harm than good by keeping you from hearing what the person is saying across the room.
Most people are poor listeners because they have already made certain assumptions about the conversation beforehand. They assume that what is being said is something already heard, or is of little or no value. Or, something is said early in the conversation that has a negative effect on them. Poor listeners choose to judge a persons’ tone of voice, body language or choice of words as offensive, challenging, or rude and ignore the speaker. It is in these judgments that the poor listeners shut down and decide not to listen carefully to what is being said, or not said!
What can you do to counteract these negative habits, tendencies, and patterns in our listening skills? A look into God’s Word will give us some practical helps for our cell group discussions. James 1:19 says be “quick to listen and slow to speak . . .” This verse challenges us to enter into our meeting ready to hear what other people have to say, even at the cost of allowing fewer words to come across our own lips.
How to become a great listener
The key is to remain focused. Make certain that the center of your attention is placed on the person who is speaking. Here are some practical tips for making this happen in group:
Give feedback. Repeat back to the group member what you hear them saying. Here’s an example: “What I hear you saying is that you believe our group should be less cliquish.”
Write things down. Taking the time to write down important things that are said in group (prayer requests, applications to Scripture, creative ideas, etc.) can have a positive impact because you will retain more of what you experience in your meeting. It will also help the group members feel that you are actively listening and caring about what they are saying.
Listen with correct body language. Your physical presence in a conversation can not only help you listen better, it will also assure the speaker that you are listening! Helpful reinforcements in this area may include maintaining eye contact, leaning forward, and nodding at appropriate times. Notice I said “nodding at appropriate times” and not “nodding off at appropriate times!”
Ask open-ended questions. These types of questions show that you are interested in what the speaker has to say, and that you are listening with the intent to understand. An example of an open-ended question might be: “Why do you think that your parents don’t care about you?” Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a yes or no.
Adopt group guidelines. You can help your group by brainstorming and adopting specific guidelines that will create a better listening environment. One example might be: “We will not speak when another group member is speaking.” Learning to respect each other in this way will deepen relationships.
See people the way Jesus sees them. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus says: “Do not judge. . .” When we practice seeing the people in our group through Jesus’ eyes, our faulty assumptions and judgements begin to disappear. We will see the value of each person in our group and what they may express. God’s Spirit is able to help each of us become sympathetic listeners. Ask and you will receive!
When you begin to practice these principles in your group, your energy will be focused on listening, and not preparing to speak! You will be giving others the opportunity to be heard. You will also be heeding the warning found in Proverbs 18:13 “He who answers before listening . . . that is his folly and his shame.”
Good listening skills will take some practice, but training your ears will go a long way toward showing your group members that you genuinely care. Remember, effective listening spans from remembering the name of a visitor to hearing the needs and comments of those God has entrusted in your care. (end of article)
Just for Pastors - By Randall Neighbour
“I need a break from leadership.” How to prevent cell leader burnout.
Burnout among cell group leaders is on the rise. Sadly, I will counsel a growing number of cell church pastors in the days to come. Their major concern will be . . . “How do I build a growing cell church without wearing out my leadership?”
After visiting with cell leaders around the country, I believe the root of this problem is one or both of the following:
1) Cell leaders do not understand the responsibilities and boundaries of their role.
2) Numerous pastors have transitioned to or launched a cell-based ministry without providing the required cell member weekends and systems necessary to maintain healthy new groups and leaders.
THE ROLE OF THE CELL LEADER
Your cell leaders are “undershepherds” and care for your flock in certain ways. By no means are they “mini-senior pastors” or total caregivers. If you have been pouring yourself into your leaders and expect your leaders to pour themselves into their members without a member support system, your cell groups and leaders face a slow demise. While you may think I’m overstating the problem, I see it in every cell church I visit in the U.S., with few exceptions.
As a pastor, you have chosen members who are strong, maturing Christians with a passion for ministry and developed them into cell leaders. Most are dependable and low maintenance, making your personal ministry to them a joy.
Your cell leaders, on the other hand, do not have the luxury of culling the finest members in your church to be a part of their group. They have a wide variety of people, including growing, struggling and hurting Christians.
It is my hope that each cell leader in your church has an intern. This eases the load on the leader’s ministry to members, but modeling and training new leaders adds to the load in a different way.
I know many students of the cell model would be quick to point out my omissions surrounding each member ministering to another, making cell leadership a near-effortless joy. This cannot be expected without a member support systems that removes certain responsibilities and pressures from cell leadership.
Without pastoral support to the members, your “do whatever it takes” cell leaders will assume they must insure each member has found freedom from strongholds, is fully discipled, evangelizing friends and realizing their leadership potential. Good leaders rise to the challenge, but become weary after a few months when family pressures and physical exhaustion kicks in.
The other scenario is the smarter of the two. This leader surveys the situation and decides that facilitating the weekly meeting is as good as it’s going to get if the staff and church culture aren’t going to pull their weight. Both outcomes result in leaders who resign their posts and leave few trained leaders to take their groups.
VITAL WEEKENDS & SYSTEMS
In order to enjoy long term cell growth, you must provide the following for your cell leaders as they care for your flock:
• A weekend designed to help cell members deal with satanic strongholds or spiritual bondage. Cell churches who take the time to walk each member through deliverance early in cell life (within 8 weeks of becoming a cell member) are growing rapidly. The spiritually-free members are hungry to be equipped and see their purpose in life . . . to glorify God and make disciples. Quarterly weekends like this, facilitated by coaches and staff pastors in your church will create a strong, growing environment where your cell leaders will flourish and enjoy leadership.
• A clearly outlined discipleship track that takes cell members through an understanding of Lordship, the kingdom of God, living out Christ’s values and strongholds that get in the way, relational evangelism, mentoring others as a lifestyle and the basics of cell life.
This track must be part of your church culture and prominently featured from the pulpit on a regular basis. By creating church-wide momentum to complete this track, you relieve your cell leaders from having to introduce it and re-introduce it to every member who joins the group. The momentum this creates on the cell level to meet with one’s mentor and move forward will give your cell leaders more emotional energy to devote to between-meeting interaction and ministry.
• Provide cell agendas for your cell leaders. Asking them to develop their own agenda each week will frustrate the typical cell leader, requiring them to invest hours coming up with good questions instead of spending time with cell members. Supplied agendas will keep your groups discussing the same issues and provide measurable results in cell meetings.
• Cell Reporting must become more than a numbers game. The questions on your weekly forms should dig deeper than attendance. When you ask tough questions such as “What ministry needs of your members must be addressed this week?” and “Who in your group needs more attention than you can offer?” you will find out the breaking point of each leader. Helping each leader with tough situations will strengthen them and give them energy to keep at it.
• A Counseling Center or a referral system for the cell members who need more than cell life and a deliverance weekend must be put on your priority list. Cell leaders will crash and burn if they have members who are not receiving good Christian counseling when they need it. If you have this in place, help your leaders define boundaries for their role and guard them from doing more than they should be doing through regular one-on-one meetings and weekly reporting.
• Notes and calls of encouragement to cell members is one of the most powerful things you will ever do as a pastor. Write a card or note to each family in your church at least once a year (more often if possible). Call a member at his or her office and tell them you will be focusing on them in prayer today. Ask for specific ways to pray, and close your brief phone conversation with a prayer blessing. If you invest fifteen minutes every day into a cell member and write a few cards each week, your leaders will see you really care for your sheep in a tangible way. Your members love the attention, and this is great modeling for your cell leaders!
• Recognition and rewards for your cell leaders is mandatory. In your “all-volunteer army,” this is the best way to keep them excited about ministry. Brag on a cell group’s creativity or conversion rate from the pulpit. Give them a gift certificate to a nice restaurant (and coordinate baby sitting from their members). Take your leaders and spouses away for the weekend once a year and just love on them (ie, no long training sessions). These small tokens of appreciation will keep your leaders feeling special.
Your cell leaders are super undershepherds, not Superman or Superwoman! If you will supply the necessary events, equipping and recognition their members need without placing the full load on their backs, you will retain existing cell leaders and eliminate burnout. (end of article)
Randall Neighbour is the editor of CellGroup Journal and the President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries.
Worship - By Gerrit Gustafson
The worship leader’s nightmare: Not having the right song available when you need it is scary!
The armies of darkness are closing in on the people of God! The only thing that can save the day is the right song. The commander gives you the signal . . . you reach into your bag of songs and . . . Arrrgh! You are horrified to discover the right one is not there!
This is probably more dramatic compared to what happens each week in your cell group, but if you’re like me, you’ve been there and it’s scary. Having great songs available and knowing which is the right one for the occasion will save the day more than you know.
Songs are to the worship leader what tools are to the mechanic or colors on a pallet are to the artist. Your craftsmanship as a worship leader is largely about your skills in knowing and selecting songs appropriate to the worship experience of your group.
So let’s discuss how to “fill your bag” with great songs and how to choose the right ones for your group.
You probably already have a basic collection of worship songs. Let your list grow as you gather songs from listening to other worship leaders, worship albums, friends, a favorite songbook or from the radio. The Internet is also becoming a valuable source for new songs. Check out these web sites: www.wholeheartedworship.com and www.worshiptogether.com are both good sources for free worship songs.
Are you listening?
My high school speech teacher told us “a good speaker is a keen observer.” The principle applies to worship leaders as well. A good worship leader is always listening for new worship songs. When you hear that fresh new song, find out where it came from, go to its source and see if there are more like it.
When you find a song that you are drawn to, it’s important to have some kind of system to store these songs. A master song list is a must. A simple alphabetical list on a word processor is a good start. I have my list in a database file which includes the song’s title, author, tempo and key. When I print the list, I usually sort by tempo. You also need to have a lyric sheet or lead sheet for each song you plan to use. A lyric sheet has the song’s title, author, words, chords and copyright information). A lead sheet has all that information plus a melody line. For simple songs, a lyric sheet is all you need.
As you gather songs, consider these guidelines:
1) Stock your song bank with treasures old and new (see Mt. 13:52). Include classic hymns (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”), newer hymns (“How Deep the Father’s Love”), classic p&w songs (“As the Deer” and “Give Thanks”), newer classics (“Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”), and brand new songs. This last category could be songs that someone in your fellowship has written.
2) Balance content with emotional impact. Songs have different proportions of intellectual and emotional content. Some songs are more testimonial, experiential and subjective. That is, they “get down” where we live. An example is Kelly Carpenter’s “Draw Me Close.” Others are more theological and objective, centering on God’s unchanging nature. “Holy, Holy, Holy” exemplifies this. Be careful not to fill your song list with all of one or the other. Those you lead need expressions for mind and heart.
3) Build variety in tempo and styles. Every worship leader has his favorite groove. Some like ballads; others favor upbeat praise songs. Some are convinced the Messianic style is what God really likes; others are just as convinced that “pop” is where itat. Just be aware of your biases and vary the styles you use. Don’t get in a rut.
Choosing the Right Songs
Hopefully, you’ve gathered songs both old and new, for mind and heart with a wonderful blend of tempos and styles. But there are 175 songs on your list and you need to choose 4 or 5 for your group’s meeting tomorrow night. Here are some principles to keep in mind.
Know your songs. Don’t try to lead a song that you don’t know well. Regularly review your list and rehearse songs you haven’t done in a while. Work out that new song until you can do it in your sleep! Until you’ve got it down — the right chords, the correct melody line and an interesting arrangement — that song is not ready for action.
Know God’s heart for your group. Ask the Lord to show you where the group is and what would serve them best. If it has been a season of trials and hardship, find songs that comfort and give hope. If it’s a time of vision and awakening, find songs that reinforce what God is saying. If there’s a spiritual oppression, measure out some rejoicing.
Evaluate your own leadership. Have you recently done mainly older ballads? Have you been introducing too many new songs? Do you just use songs you have written? Are you including thoughtful hymns? Would your group be able to worship with the larger Body of Christ? Like a balanced diet includes nourishment from the basic food groups, balanced worship should include hymns and spiritual songs.
The Nightmare’s Over
Now you’ve read the article, there’s no reason to get uptight or have nightmares about leading cell worship. If you will seek God’s face for your group through prayer and use the practical tips found here, you’ll never be without the perfect song. Sure, it takes time to develop what I’ve outlined for you, but beginning the process will give you a level of confidence and peace about the process. Keep bringing others into worship, and sleep 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.
Nucleus - By Larry Kreider
Healing for burned stones: Trust in the overruling providence of God to heal old wounds.
Many of God’s people have been hurt by someone they trusted. Some were hurt by a relationship deteriorating after spending a lot of time developing it. Others were disillusioned when a natural or spiritual father disappointed them, so they gave up. Living in deep despair, they fear the Lord will never be able to use them again.
The enemies of God’s people ridiculed Nehemiah and his workers as they started to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. The wall had been broken down for ages and the stones looked charred and useless. The enemies of God’s people mocked them, saying “Can these burned stones live?” (Nehemiah 4:2).
The devil may be throwing similar accusations at you today: “How do you think you can function with all the baggage you carry from your broken relationship with your father?” or “You’ve made too many mistakes, how do you expect to help someone else?” Devastated by the past, you promise yourself never to be in a position to be hurt again.
Believe God, not the lies of the enemy
We cannot believe the lies of the enemy and expect to live victoriously! As a cell leader, you serve your members as a spiritual parent. If you feel unable to fulfill the Lord’s call on your life because you have believed the lies of the enemy, you will become spiritually paralyzed. You cannot look at your natural circumstances and give up!
Our God is a God who forgives and restores burned stones, restoring those who have been burned because of sin, bad role models, or by not responding properly to tests He allowed in their lives. He wants us back in fellowship with Him and others and is restoring spiritual fathers and mothers to their sons and daughters in these days (Mal. 4:5-6). He is gently placing them back on His wall of service. He is calling His renewed people to become spiritual parents to others.
We must believe that, although our own resources may seem to be few at the moment, we can carry out God’s work because we are going to trust in the overruling providence of God. The burned stones were charred and looked useless, but God’s people chose not to look at the dismal circumstances. Because they refused to listen to their enemies’ discouraging words, they succeeded in rebuilding the wall.
Drink the cup
Are you a burned stone? Maybe you think you made a mistake from which you will never recover. Perhaps you feel misunderstood or wrongly accused. God’s Word cautions us from trying to vindicate ourselves when others accuse us falsely.
Instead, we should “drink the cup” and the Lord will vindicate us as illustrated in Numbers 5:11-20. In the Old Testament, a man who suspected his wife of adultery brought her to the priest where she was given dirty water to drink from a cup. If she was guilty, she would get sick and diseased and become a curse among her people. If she was innocent, the Lord would vindicate her. She would be fruitful and bear children. Either way, she had to drink the cup!
It does not help to try to prove your innocence on your own. God has to do it. Your role needs to be one of forgiveness. You must forgive others just as you want to be forgiven. Luke 6:37 tells us we must extend mercy to others and leave the judgment to God. Mercy always triumphs over judgment! (James 2:13).
God loves to use burned stones
When iron is heated in a fire, it gains great strength. Those who have faced difficulties and allowed God to temper them are refined and ready to be used because they are stronger.
If you are a burned stone, receive the grace of God today from your heavenly Father to be made whole through His son Jesus Christ. Then expect the Lord to use you to help other burned stones receive the Lord’s mercy and healing and find their place back on God’s wall of service. (end of article)
Larry Kreider is director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a world-wide network of cell churches.
(end of issue)