Here in Singapore, we are already working hard to put together the 1994 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE CELL CHURCH.
This will be our third year. The first year we prepared for 350 and had 450 and turned away several hundred. The second year we prepared for 800, stopped at 1,000 and turned dozens away. Over 20 nations were represented last year.
This year we are absolutely going to cut off the attendance at 1,400, the size we can cram into our TOUCH CENTRE facility. We know there will be scores more who will not be able to come.
The format has been revised to accommodate requests from many who came the first two years. The Plenary Sessions will be presented on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, March 3-5. To accommodate all the attendees in our Celebration Service,we will probably have 5 or even 6 services on Sunday,
Then on March 7 and 8, we are going to offer tracks to train delegates at every level of the Cell Church life. Lawrence Khong and I will provide a track for Zone Pastors. Simultaneously, there will be training for Cell Leaders and those responsible for doing such training. Parallel tracks will be offered for Zone Supervisors, Children's Cells, Youth Cells, and for Celebration Leaders.
We will give this training as a "Simulation/Game," merging everyone into 300 special Cell Groups to be conducted by the delegates themselves in the homes of our church members. Teams of 8 delegates will form a "Cell Group" structure, and after being trained, will conduct a cell meeting. This cell meeting will be attended by delegates taking the Zone Supervisor track. These ZS's will function as our own Zone Supervisors function, evaluating and troubleshooting the cells they attend. Those in the Zone Pastor track will be preparing for a "two-tiered" session on Tuesday, as we structure the prototype of what we do monthly with all of the Cell Leaders and Zone Supervisors.
Special books of materials are being prepared for the exclusive use of our delegates. Personal appointments will be scheduled for those desiring conferences with our 120 staff members who work full time with cells. Special video segments are being prepared, and these will be made available to those we train.
This year, we expect many pastors to bring teams of 4-10 from their churches for this training. Japan will bring 100, Taiwan 200, and we are expecting a very large group from the USA. Groups from Canada, South Africa and Hong Kong, among others are already in contact with us. If you have an interest in coming out from the USA, our TOUCH office has a package that is priced astonishingly low, with a stopover in Hong Kong to boot. But don't wait until the last minute. We expect to be fully booked and close off all registrations possibly before our January 15 deadline. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity!
A. Within 12 months, it is very likely that your groups will have multiplied or at least be on the verge of multiplication. If a group is not ready to multiply by this time, it typically is an indication that there is something unhealthy about this group. Here's another way to look at it. If you place a group of 6 committed Christians together, they should be able to reach and integrate 1 new person into their group every 2 month. At this rate the group would be at 12 committed persons within 1 year.
There are several options to look at if a Cell has not grown in 12 months. One option is to have another Cell consume the members of this Cell. This would give the chance for the Shepherd to learn from someone else who hopefully has learned how to grow a Cell group. Another option is to divide the group between several Cell groups. This will keep you from overwhelming one group with an influx of people who don't yet understand Cell life. It will also give you an opportunity to divide up people who have probably been together too long. Another option is to bring a couple of strong, healthy leaders into the Cell to help the Shepherd and model Cell life. These people would take over the group leadership until the group moves off high center.
A. Once a group begins to consistently run about 12 adults, it is time to begin to plan for multiplication. While children are a very important part of a Cell, they are generally involved in their own special activities during the Cell time (with probably 2 members of the Cell working with them). As such, they are not considered in this calculation (we have one family in our church with 6 children who would always be their own Cell if we counted children, because their family alone already has 8 people). The reason for limiting the number of persons to 15 is so that communication can still be accomplished. As the group grows, it becomes more and more difficult for relationships to be developed and maintained, and group ministry to be facilitated.
A. We have found in Cell life that group members will typically be as transparent and open as the leader is willing to be. In other words, group members will seldom "risk" transparency and openness until they have seen someone else take the same risk. A Cell Church pastor must learn to be open and transparent, becoming vulnerable to others. In the end, whether it is safe or not isn't the question. The question is whether God would have all of us be open and vulnerable. Living in community means living in relationship, and living in relationship means vulnerability and transparency.
I met "George" at a conference. He was an enthusiast, very committed to Children's Ministry, and beginning to learn about the Cell Group church. His own church leadership had decided to adopt the cell group church vision, but they had no idea where the children fit in-and George desperately wanted to know.
"But what exactly is a children's cell group?" he asked. "Isn't it just another name for a Sunday School class?"
I shook my head. "If you saw one, only once on a Sunday morning, you might possibly think it was a very fine Sunday School class, but the differences become more obvious as time goes on. A children's cell group takes only a small change in mind-set, but the results are radically different."
"All right," said George. "Tell me this mind-set change, and I'll tell you if it's radical."
"More important, George, you can tell me if it's Biblical. You see, the Bible never talks about school for children at all. School was a popular idea for the Greeks, but the Hebrew ideal was that children should learn in a family context with its daily give and take of life. The best teaching agent, therefore, would be the lives of the surrounding adults. This idea can be demonstrated in both the Old and New Testaments." (Deut. 6:4-9 Luke 18:15-17; Acts 16:33-34)
"But Lorna, you can't live in the past forever. Schooling has become the pattern for children's learning. Shouldn't we be teaching children in ways that they already know?"
"Depends what you want to teach them. If you want them to learn a body of information, then a school is a good way to do it. But when you want to teach them attitudes and values and a transformed life, school is not a very good tool. Even the schools know that. They are introducing relational groups or "families" as a context for teaching children values and social interaction."
"Let me show you what I mean. When you wanted to teach your children how to say "please" and "thank you," did you sit your children at the table with a blackboard and write down the words for them to repeat? Did you list ten occasions when they should say "please" and "thank you" and ask them to memorize them for a test the next day?" "Of course not, " laughed George. "It took years of nagging away before they got the idea."
"But how did you teach them then?" "Well, I suppose as much as anything, it was by example. They saw that was the way we treated people and they copied us. And then we reminded them whenever we were actually in the situation. We never let them get away without saying 'Please.' " "How did you know when they had finally learned to do it? Did you give them a test?"
"No. It was when they started to do it automatically, without being told. In fact, they started treating people with gratitude and consideration," said George.
"In other words, it was a life transformation," I said. "It was more than a habit-it was a change in who they were. That's what we're aiming at when we are teaching children about the Christian faith. A child can answer all the questions and repeat the memory verses, but their lives may be totally untouched. They may not know Jesus at all." "Does this mean we should leave Christian teaching to the family at home?"
"Well, of course that's the first place for children to learn faith. But families also need the wider spiritual family, the church, and that's where the children's cell group comes in. Children often do not learn within their natural families, but that's not an excuse for changing to a schooling model. The family is still the best model for teaching children within the church." "So that's the big little change in mind-set, huh?" said George. "That's right ," said I. "Now let me show you the radical part. Start with the words we use. We discuss schooling words like teacher, pupil, student, lesson, class and so on."
"Isn't that just cosmetic? Does it matter that much?" asked George. "Yes it does," I said. "Words betray mindsets, and if you speak that way, you think that way. I prefer words like "leader, members, topics, group." All those words suggest participation and interaction. Think of your children's group like a small family or a home group, and you get a whole different atmosphere. The leader is a facilitator or a friend but not a teacher. The group members care for each other and share their joys and sorrows together. Teaching the lesson is not the major pre-occupation. Meeting the children's needs is the priority even if the lesson has to be abandoned when a need arises. To know the children's needs, we need to listen to the children, hear their heartbeat and not just introduce the lesson. The children are our friends, and they can minister to us too."
"That would mean being very open with the children and telling them some of our needs," added George.
"True-and that is a major part of a children's cell group. The leader must be open to the children so they can see for themselves the reality of their leader's Christian life. In a family, the younger ones learn by copying the older ones. If they only hear our words, they have no evidence that what we say is true."
"But do these children ever learn the Bible? It sounds as if it's all discussion and no teaching?" George looked troubled.
"On the contrary, the Bible is the source book for all the sharing and discussion. The children not only find out what the Bible is about, but they also discover that it is powerful and active in our lives today. The question is not, "How much do you know?" but "What are you going to do about it?" You could call it "edification." It builds the children up into maturity as well as knowledge. Then the other strand is evangelism. It's not enough to urge the children to bring their friends along to keep the attendance records high. The real aim is to create a spirit of concern in the children so they really care about their friends and long for them to know Jesus too."
"So where do we start, Lorna? Should we convert all our Sunday School classes into children's cell groups on Sunday morning?"
"Well, that's one way of starting, though it requires re-training all your existing staff or recruiting new staff. It's just too easy to relapse back into the old familiar patterns, rather than doing anything new. Teachers feel more comfortable when they are talking and the children are silent. The other problem with Sunday is that it is hard to be evangelistic. Fewer and fewer children from outside the church want to be in church on Sunday morning. Also it gets to be like a spiritual hothouse-steaming with religious language and pious talk but a very strange atmosphere to your average non-church child. However, church children enjoy the opportunity to be regarded as real people with questions, problems, ministry and responsibility."
"I've heard some churches include their children in the adult cell groups. What do you think of that?"
"It can work brilliantly if the adults are prepared to be honest and understanding and the children are taught how to participate. It can also be symbolic if the children take control of the group or the adults ignore them. It's good to let the children get to know a whole cell group and regard them as family. It's worth working for. It's a good idea to be together for worship and reporting news. Then separate for edification, ministry needs and praying for friends. The group can also have food and fellowship together."
"Would you advocate neighborhood children's cell groups-like backyard clubs?"
"Sure, that can work too and so can lunchtime groups, evening groups, weekend groups, or any other kind of groups where children can meet together around a leader. You see, George, children's cell groups are not a program. They are a way of looking at children's ministry. The focus should be the cell group. There may be target events or interest groups to attract the children's attention. Then, once the children have become interested in Jesus, they need secure personal relationships with people who can impact their lives. They will also want to learn and ask questions freely. As they come to know Jesus, they will begin to be concerned about their friends and family. The children's cell group is a microcosm of the church. It is children being the church to each other. They do not live in isolation, but within the care and sponsorship of parents and adults." "Lorna, I want to talk some more about very practical issues. Can I meet you some time later to follow through on this discussion?"
"Anytime George. Just give me a call." (To be continued.)
Dr. Lorna Jenkins is a writer and consultant in children's Cell groups. As an author of books and resource materials, she currently works with Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore, helping the leaders develop their children's Cell group ministry.
Pastors are continually asking me, "How do I get the full measure of commitment from my church members required to establish Cell Groups?" The American church suffers today because it has ignored a biblical principle for equipping saints. We have violated the principle of mentoring so clearly taught throughout scriptures. Now we are paying the price! The solution will not be easy, but there is finally a scriptural structure for the Body of Christ which can make it happen.
Jewish fathers were commanded to mentor their own sons, causing them to memorize and repeat the Shimei on a regular basis. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 gives this direction: "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds...Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Today, church members take their children to the church building for strangers to teach in Sunday School! When new converts comes to Christ, we want to put them in a New Member's class at the church, cutting off the all-important modeling of their new life.
Jesus spent his years on earth mentoring 12 men who made up His Cell Group family. Some were to be stronger than others, but His daily lifestyle impacted them all.
Paul used the mentoring method with his men, as evidenced by his words in 2 Timothy 2:2: "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others."
There is a special form of mentoring in the Cell Church, which forms around a trusted counselor or guide for each person. In Singapore, we call this person a "Sponsor;" in Hong Kong, Ben Wong uses the term "Builder." Whatever the person is called, the relationships established between Cell members provide a system of mentoring.
There have been books written by the discipleship people suggesting that we must look for "F.A.T." people (faithful, able, and teachable) and pour our lives into them. One book shows a chart of the steps to develop a leader, indicating it is a seven year process (Jesus developed 12 men in three years).
Ben writes, "For a Cell Group to be effective, its members must be relating to one another. A Cell's life is measured by the kind of relationships built between its members. This relationship must be well beyond just a superficial kind of fun relationship. It must be able to touch the inner life of each other."
It is important that the new believer should, as quickly as possible, become a mentor. It is in the giving away of our lives that we get life. Think of what it meant to you for God to bring into your life someone who was a special friend, who believed in you when perhaps you could not even believe in yourself.
It is usually not the contents, but the contacts, that change people's lives. The important things are not taught-they are caught.
Using the new Journey Guide now available to you, we arrange for the Cell Leader to prayerfully select a Cell member to become a Sponsor for each incoming person. The Cell Leader and the Sponsor then visit the incoming member together. The Journey Guide is completed in advance of their visit, and there is a solid season of sharing in the interview. The new member is assigned either Welcome to Your Changed Life, or if the person is advanced beyond that material, The Arrival Kit. In both cases, the Sponsor is given directions to help in their times of sharing together.
Those who want a "cookbook approach" to being a Sponsor will have problems. Sponsoring is part intuition, part illumination from the Holy Spirit, and part listening intently to what is being said. It is from these factors that sponsoring gets its power. There is a significant difference between counseling and sponsoring. Sponsoring goes beyond just giving advice. It is help that extends beyond obligatory relationships. It is more like becoming a friend or an elder brother/sister in the Lord. The Sponsor becomes a companion, not a teacher or a leader. Paul spoke with the heart of a mentor when he wrote, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..." (Galatians 4:19). To become a Sponsor is to change a lifestyle of self-centeredness into one of caring for another Christian like a father does for his child. Impromptu sponsoring requires an awareness of the needs in the Sponsee's life and a willingness to pause or listen for a while. For those who are task- oriented, it may cause significant stress to adjust to caring for other people. Zone Supervisors who systematically visit Cell Groups will quickly sense the difference in Cells with Sponsor-Sponsee relationships and Cells who do not have them. It shows up in a hurry!
Ben Wong tells this true story: "In my own experience, I cannot tell you all that my [Sponsor], Doug, taught me. However, he greatly influenced my life by his own. He just loved me for Christ's sake. He loved me more than I experienced from my own parents. I am a very different person today. God used this man to change my life dramatically. The only reason I have a ministry today is that God brought along my path a person who was willing to be committed to my success."
Do not neglect the pattern of sponsorship in your Cells. They are critical to their success!
Here is a list of some of the things that Sponsors do (not in any particular order):
by Happy Leman, Pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Champaign-Urbana, IL
What is the hardest thing in transitioning from a Program-based design church to a Cell-based design? Is it changing the structure and rearranging the leadership team? Is it changing the people's concept of church? Or is it raising up enough leaders to fulfill all the new roles in the decentralized strategy?
In my opinion, none of the above- as difficult as they are- represent the hardest issue in transition. I personally believe the most challenging task is getting Christians into the lives of non-Christians in a proactive, relational sense. This ties in with what I have said to be most important all along-
a fundamental change in the values and lifestyles of North American Christians. Our lifestyles are becoming more and more secularized and isolated from those around us. The challenge we as Christian leaders face is to turn the tide that is all around us and move our people back into lifestyles of effective outreach.
Here at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, we are now just over two years into our journey toward being a Cell Church. It all began when we read Ralph Neighbour's book Where Do We Go From Here? It picked up great momentum when we visited Singapore in March of 1992 for the annual Cell Conference. (See the Summer 1992 issue of CCM for the article entitled, "Our Singapore Experience.")
From the beginning, we have based our transition on the concept that we can never steal another man's program until we adopt his values. Thus our central emphasis has been to change the foundational values of the people who call this place home. Values changing means working from the inside rather than the outside of an individual. We believe that at the very core of an individual are their world views which give rise to their beliefs. From these beliefs come the values that determine actions. If we want to change the behavior, we must begin to work on the inside.
Changing our values here at the Vineyard hasn't been an easy or speedy task. We have come to the values that we hold over a long period of time, and generally they are not quickly adjusted. The major tool that we have used to adjust values is Life Basic Training, produced by TOUCH Outreach Ministries. We saw that this 11 week class had some very important principles which our people desperately needed. In order to make it more applicable, we took the time to write a Leader's Guide for those presenting the material so that we could draw out the points that we wanted to emphasize rather than covering the entire class point by point. Life Basic Training has produced some life-changing results here at this Vineyard. First, we began to realize that we as sons of God were called to serve the sons of Adam. Serving is, after all, why Jesus came, and He stated that it was to be our task as well. However, many of us had essentially stopped serving the lost. For example, as a pastor, I had concluded erroneously that I was not required to serve the lost, but rather to help the people do it. Housewives would often say their ministry was simply their children and had no expectation to serve. Excuse after excuse was peeled away as we were all left with the realization that each member of the family of God had an obligation to minister to the people they touched on a weekly basis.
Life Basic Training also taught us to combine the "Listening Room" (our prayer time) with specific action for outreach. We realized that we could ask the Holy Spirit to reveal specific ways to serve those around us. This service would express Christ's love and open doors for people to consider or receive Jesus.
While not everyone was excited about the actual layout of Life Basic Training, people were impacted by the Scriptural focus of the material. They saw the simplicity of Jesus' command to serve those around us as a way of life rather than as an occasional "good deed." People for the first time began to make comments like, "Now I understand what Christianity is all about," "I never realized how simple it was for me to be involved," and "I'm confident I can do this."
With people becoming more concerned to reach out, we saw the need for a Small Group based, action oriented guide to help us put these LBT principles into action. We wanted something that would help us take the values we were learning and implement them. Further, we wanted it to build upon Ralph Neighbour's principles of the oikos and "Listening Room." The oikos is the Greek word for our circle of influence-those people in our friendship circles, neighborhoods, workmates, relatives, with which we spend a considerable amount of time each week.
As we were looking for a curriculum, we also wanted something that would allow people to "unpack their evangelism baggage" and think in a new way. In other words, our goal was to have them take a fresh look at biblical principles. We wanted people equipped to share their personal testimony and able to use a simple, flexible, Gospel presentation that could be used quickly or in depth, depending on the situation.
After much prayer, staff discussion, and asking others, we finally developed The I Factor: How To Influence Your World. While we initially produced this for ourselves and tested it thoroughly here at home, we soon found that others were interested as well. Our excitement for the curriculum grew as congregations in several states and a couple of foreign countries tested it and enthusiastically endorsed it. As we saw the interest growing, we presented it to TOUCH Outreach Ministries to help us refine it further. Their input was invaluable in cleaning up the manuscript, stream-lining it, and ultimately being the publisher.
The results of The I Factor have been an absolute blessing here at the Vineyard. Using it in combination with Life Basic Training, we have found a fresh release of concern for the lost. This is not to say that we have produced instantly dynamic and successful evangelism, but we have begun to change internal values. I see the foundation being laid for us to penetrate our entire community through relational and supernatural contact. At the same time, outreach has become joyful and fun. This has been a major breakthrough for our fellowship as we've begun to reach out through specifically arranging golf tournaments, block parties, dinner exchanges, picnics in the park, athletic teams, joining bowling leagues, influencing people at work, talking to students at schools, running neighbor-hood Bible studies, etc. Many people in the church are now coming back with broad smiles saying, "This is the most fun I've had in the Kingdom for many years."
I don't want to say we have had instant success, but I will say we have made significant changes in the way people are thinking and even begun to see lifestyle changes. People are beginning to understand that we have been saved to partner with Jesus Christ and not just for our own benefit.
As a Senior Pastor, I continually remind myself and our people that we should do as it says in Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good. For at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Since we had many people who were not even sowing, it will take some time before we can reap. The good news is we are just beginning to see the reaping of a huge harvest.
We are excited to recommend The I Factor to you. We believe it is designed to fit in any church that is attempting to reach out. To make it easier for you, we've specifically written a Leader's Guide that helps the leader walk through the six weeks step by step. We believe it is a practical, tested, and economical tool to make your hardest task a lot easier. We hope you will find it as valuable as we have!
In addition to his pastorate, Happy Leman is founder of North Star Strategies-a resource agency designed to help Program Based Designs transition into pure Cell Churches. North Star provides help through monthly newsletters, materials, on-site consultations and conferences. For information about North Star Strategies, contact the Director, Jim Egli, at 1500 N. Lincoln, Urbana IL 61801, 217/384-3081.
We have produced a generation of youth that are consumers with the attitude of, "Hi, my name is Jimmy, What are ya' gonna gimme?" Our present methods of ministry reflect and breed this type of consumer.
I have recently resigned as youth minister of one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. It had at the center of its mission, "Entertainment." The strategy was to bring in the multitude and entertain them with quality music, drama, comedy, and non-threatening user friendly messages. It is even putting together a country & western service for those "Red Neck Jimmy's." As the head of the youth ministry, I proceeded to offer the finest quality of entertainment to our youth. We had smoke, lasers, comedians, professional football and basketball players. We invited an Olympic pole- vaulter, Mr. America, Mr. Universe, and Mr. World. We took them swimming, fishing, skiing, surfing, and skating. We played broom ball, volleyball, fooseball, ping pong, wallball, and beach ball. After we got tired of following the bouncing ball, we would start over.
Then it happened; Jurassic Park came out and a group of Jimmy's got together and threatened to leave the youth group if we couldn't provide a live dinosaur. That was it. It finally happened-we couldn't keep up.
Every night when the smoke cleared, the bands went home and hundreds of youth filed out of the door. With tears in my eyes I asked myself what we had really accomplished. Sure, we had shared the gospel and the youth responded, but I knew a multitude went away hurting. This form of ministry reminds me of a show on TV years ago. A man would spin as many plates as he could on top of poles. He would keep adding to the number of plates spinning until he had to re-spin the ones that were slowing down. One by one, each plate eventually crashed to the ground, prompting howls from the onlooking audience.
It's the same way with program-based youth ministries. We had a program for everything. When we finally had one program going well we would have to move on to another-only to return to the first to jump-start it. It is no different than the hectic pace of adding plates, running back and forth endlessly, knowing full well that the plates will eventually lose momentum and fall.
Perhaps entertainment worked in the 80's, but this generation lives in a society that devours its youth. Teenagers in the 90's face incredible challenges. Suicide remains the number two killer of youth today. In fact, it's up 400% in just the last ten years. Teen pregnancies and abortions continue to steadily increase and gang violence has impacted virtually every high school across the country. In addition, divorce has left many teens without a sense of acceptance or belonging.
If we think Entertainment Evangelism can help this generation of the walking wounded, we need to wake up. We, as ministers of youth, will never be able to compete with what comes out of Hollywood, but let me tell you something. Hollywood can never compete with what comes out of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that can transform an individual's life.
There is a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit around the world which has transcended denominational lines. It is the Cell Group Church. I have spoken with countless youth pastors who have been prompted by the Holy Spirit to move towards a Cell Group youth model for their ministries. It is the answer to this generations needs.
Today's youth have been called the "baby busters"-children of baby boomers. They were given the name because they have been handed a world that is broken. God is raising up a structure that will help put back the pieces.
In future articles, we will deal with some specifics of youth cell groups: how to form them, curriculum, leadership, administration, training, and much more.
If you're spinning plates, don't give up hope-there's another way.
Ted Stump is the director of TOUCH Phoenix Ministries. This ministry was formed out of his desire to work with youth and to reach their parents as a result. You may contact Ted at P.O. Box 5003, Glendale, AZ 85312. If you are currently using youth cells in your Cell Church, Ted would be interested in networking with you. Send any curriculum you may have developed to the above address. Many Thanks for the kingdom effort!
By Randall Neighbour, Contributing Writer
At 4:30 am, they started marching. They marched around the church property for two hours blowing horns, singing praises, and praying. They were at war, and much like Jericho, they were bringing down the walls that Satan had built. They marched on behalf of the church, its leaders, and the visitors that had come from all over the world. These were definitely the noisiest bunch of nationals I have ever run into. This went on every day during the annual celebration meeting in Abidjan, on the Ivory Coast of West Africa.
I arrived on a Friday evening flight, and after wading through immigration and baggage claim, I was taken directly to the stadium. Although a shower and a pillow were certainly in order after 22 hours of travel, Gran Pierre had different instructions. We piled into his old car, and he drove me through the city to the celebration in progress. As I walked across the field to the platform, a Nigerian woman said, "who is that white man on high podium with short pants?" Just the thought of offending these people with my casual western dress sent a chill up my spine. I had been in the country less than an hour and already messed up! But they really didn't care. They were happy to have me in their midst, even if I was forced into showing off the fairest pair of knees in a 100 mile radius.
This church loves to help Americans. We are the great mission field of the West-anyone coming over to learn and return is treated like royalty. We are indeed the high-tech, yuppie-filled country that doesn't believe. "Believe in what?" you say. Believe in the power and wickedness of Satan and the simple truth that God is bigger. They pray fervently that Americans will learn what they see in their country every day-people serving God or Satan, and no gray areas between. They are even sending missionaries to the United States. We have some right here in Houston, planting a cell church for French speaking folks.
Due to their passion for the power of God, submission to leadership, and vision for multiplication, the members of Eglise Protestante Baptist Oeuvres et Mission (EPBOM) have grown to over 35,000 members in 18 years. From 1975-1985, they grew from 2 to 783. Then cells were formed, and the full activity of the Holy Spirit was realized. In the seven year period from 1985 to 1992, there was a growth explosion from 800 to over 20,000. These numbers may seem astronomical to you an me-but Yaye Dion Robert sees things differently. Dion Robert, an ex-detective in his late thirties, is a man of simple faith-and God has blessed this church mightily!
Pastor Dion and I were walking back to the church from an outing when we heard a praise & worship service in progress. The auditorium was packed to the rafters-3500 people praising God to the rhythm of a full band. Was he concerned about being there? Not in the least. He didn't even want to stick his head in the door to show me what was going on. Thousands of his members were in worship, and he didn't need to be there. As a matter of fact, he was more intent on going upstairs to the church restaurant with me to eat something and talk. How unheard of in the U.S.! The huge church is not Dion's burden, it is a fulfillment of God's continued vision, for which He has amply provided the resources and leadership. During my stay, I saw many come forward to be delivered from demons. The people of Abidjan entertain the occult, witchcraft, and many forms of voodoo. I even heard stories of witch doctors performing baby dedications! Many are affected by curses and affliction. These manifestations are not self-induced; this is the real thing. The altar calls are frequent during the celebration services. Most have come in faith to be healed and delivered from the grip of Satan. They know the power of darkness all too well-and they desperately seek the Light of God. As they come forward for ministry, there may be a demon manifestation. EPBOM has a widespread training program for those called to minister to the afflicted. Thousands of trained members rush out in five person teams to take the possessed people to a ministry area behind the platform. As many as thirty will be receiving ministry of this sort at any given time during the celebration. Praise music and singing seems to stir up the demons and make them uncomfortable. This is when most of the manifestations occur.
After deliverance, each person is interviewed, and their name, address, telephone number and age are recorded. One copy stays with the church, and another is routed to the Shepherd of the Cell closest to their home. Now having a "clean house," a different set of trained members (Evangelists) give these an opportunity to turn their lives over to Christ and shield themselves from Satan.
Africa is not a very well-oiled machine. It took all the patience I could find to stand in a disorderly line at a downtown bank for over an hour to cash a traveler's check. The simplest things are complicated by disorganization-but this was not true at the church. With amazing speed, Pastor Dion can get a message to the entire church body with two or three phone calls. Visitors just don't fall between the cracks. The leaders call in Cell attendance information after every meeting, and within 24 hours, the church office has Cell counts by zone in addition to ministry needs of each cell.
I had some time to ask the kind of questions of Pastor Dion that you might ask yourself. When I asked what the key to success was, he said his people were people of prayer. "Our members are excited about Jesus. They will do whatever it takes to see the world won for Christ." Many have left good jobs and sacrificed free time to spend in prayer for the lost. They are people of action. My attention turned to questions concerning the Holy Spirit. Dion said many theologians portray the Holy Spirit coming in waves of revival, but he does not. "The Holy Spirit is a river. As believers, we choose whether to stand at the bank, letting the water run over our feet, or we jump in to depths over our head. It's our choice. God wants to pour Himself out and completely fill us if we have a clean vessel and a willing heart." At this point, I was so blown away by his simple way of sharing truth that I had to stop asking questions. Every time I asked another question I felt a little more stupid. But has that ever stopped me? Not on your life-I just needed a breather.
When I asked Dion what America needed to see this kind of growth, his reply was simple. "The people of this church are servants. They have developed servant hearts, and always look for ways to serve." I can tell you from my personal experience there that he was making an understatement. I sat in my room and listened to ministry taking place for hours on end. 24 hours a day, people are caring for one another- preparing food, washing clothes, driving across town, counseling-and the list goes on and on. The people I met were sharp. They knew the discipline of simple faith; they easily surrendered their own agenda for God's; and gladly took direction and correction from the church leadership. They worked as a team. As I mentioned before, this church prays for America. They visit us and see all the traps-materialism, individualism, and deception.
I asked Pastor Dion "why this moving of the spirit didn't happen in the U.S?" He said "the demons in America are very strong and deeply rooted." The missionaries here in Houston are learning to diagnose and bring deliverance in a different way-it's a more involved process. Most everyone in the U.S. thinks they're a Christian because they believe in a "Higher Power." This is the difficult part for the missionaries from Abidjan. In Africa, you are either a devoted follower of Christ or involved in witchcraft or another form of Satanism. Few buy into wholesale religion like Americans, and they believe in the power of darkness from first hand experience-there is no middle ground. Dion has told me on a number of occasions that when Christians in the U.S. will corporately bond together in love to serve unbelievers, ignoring the entrapments of our earthly surroundings, we will see an evangelistic breakthrough.
I left Abidjan with a new understanding of the church and a personal challenge to make some big changes in my own life. While I am not interested in seeing 20,000+ churches in the U.S. for the sake of size or stature, I long for the day when we see Christian masses reaching the lost for Christ. They will grow with the understanding that Satan is alive and well here, and that God is more powerful. Each member will bring the lost to Christ through service and unconditional love-as the first priority in life. This was the challenge I have taken on, and I pray it's contagious!
By Joey Beckham
In the past few weeks, I have talked with several pastors who have read both Prepare Your Church For The Future by Carl F. George and Where Do We Go From Here? by Dr. Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr. Each of these confused pastors has communicated, in one way or another, that they still don't quite understand the differences between these two models. This article is written for pastors and others who need clarification on these models.
"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
Pastors are hungry for a fresh vision from God. One that has been imparted by HIM, not a committee, their traditions, or the denomination. In The Power of Vision, George Barna clearly defines this term. He uses a mosaic of qualifiers to flesh out his definition for this often misunderstood word. Here are some things Barna says about vision:
"Vision is foresight with insight based on hindsight. This vision for ministry is a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based upon an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstances. Vision is never about maintaining the status quo, but it is about stretching reality to extend beyond the existing state. Vision seeks to create a better situation in which to minister, rather than relying upon random circumstance and hoping that the result is better than what has existed. With vision, you can assert control over your environment, based on God's empower-ment and direction, and make a better future. This vision is specific, detailed, customized, distinctive and unique to a given church. It allows a leader to say "no" to opportunities, and it provides direction. It empowers people for service and it facilitates productivity. True vision is conceptual, but it also is practical and detailed"(Power of Vision, pp. 28-49).
Many pastors recognize the comprehensive nature of the Meta- Church and Cell Church models and are wisely testing the waters before they commit their lives and churches to these visionary church models. This hunger for clarity and understanding is forcing those who support these various models to more clearly define and articulate the principles and components of the models they support.
Much of the confusion about these two models is a direct result of neither model precisely defining their terminology. This may sound simplistic, but let me illustrate. In the Thai language, words that look and sound very similar can have very different and distinct meanings. For example, the word "maa" can mean "mother" when said with a falling tone, but it also means "dog" when said with a rising tone. In this, failing to recognize subtle distinctions can result in your calling your mother a "dog" instead of "mom." In fact, one missionary lady stood up in a Pastor's wives meeting and passionately declared, in Thai of course, that ever since she was a child, she had longed to be a dog. Here was someone who failed to recognize the need to be sensitive to subtle distinctions! This analogy directly relates to your difficulty in understanding the difference between these models. It is critical that you have a clear under- standing of how each defines the words Meta-Church, Cell Church and Cell.
The first step in understanding the difference between the Cell Church model and the Meta-Church model is to develop a clear definition of the two terms. Just what is a Cell Church, and what is a Meta-Church? The term Meta-Church signifies both a change of mind about how ministry is to be done and a change of form in the infrastructure of the church. The change in mind is represented by a paradigm shift, a shift of vision, perspective, and understanding of how the Church is structured and functions. The change in form is represented by a reorganization of the Church around small groups (groups of 5-15 persons meeting for loving, learning, doing, and deciding) and a large group celebration service. One type of Meta-Church is a Cell Church. In fact, any church that has small group meetings as well as large group meetings is to some extent a Meta-Church. Meta-Church is a broad classification for different types of churches built around small groups. Because of this, further distinction between these various small group churches cannot be accomplished by simply stating that they are a "Meta-Church."
Let's look at this another way. Webster's dictionary defines a mammal as "the highest class of vertebrates, including man and all other animals that nourish their young with milk." Webster says, in essence, that mammals are warm-blooded, generally produce their young in their body, have hair, have mammary glands and small ear bones, a brain with four optic lobes, a muscular diaphragm separating the heart and lungs from the abdominal cavity, a left aortic arch only, and red blood corpuscles without nuclei (except in the fetus).
While this broad definition gives you a feel for what a mammal is, it still doesn't help you understand why bats, seals, whales, cows and humans are all mammals. You see, "mammal" is a broad term that provides no framework for differentiating between the various types of mammals. To further differentiate, you must understand more specific orders and subclasses. In the Meta-Church "class," one of the "orders" is the Cell Church. The Cell Church order cannot be further defined by simply stating that it is a Meta-Church, any more than stating that bats and humans are "mammals" differentiates between the two! We must define the term "Cell" if we are going to have further clarification.
At the very core of the difficulty in understanding the relationship between these two models are the definitions these models give to the word "Cell." In the Meta-Church model, the term "Cell" is defined as any group of 5-15 people meeting in connection with your church and practicing the four key elements of loving, learning, doing, and deciding. These groups could range from support groups (emphasis on loving), to Bible study groups (emphasis on learning), to usher groups (emphasis on doing). All of these groups would be defined as a Cell group.
In the Cell Church model, on the other hand, a Cell is better understood as a Basic Christian Community, which is the primary activity of a Cell Church. Any other groups that exists would be a sub-group of this Cell group. In the Cell Church, share groups will minister to the lost, and ministry groups will be provided for those not healthy enough for Cell life. But these groups do not exist independent of the Cell.
The Cell is the basic building block for the Cell Church. This small group is not simply a once-a-week "get together." It embodies the essence of all that the Bible says about "Church." Here people live in community and account-ability with one another. Here in this group, the presence, power, and purpose of Christ is experienced. Here the saints are equipped for the work of the ministry. Periodically, all these Cell groups join together for times of large group meetings, but the focus and life of the Cell Church is in its Cells.
Hence, the Cell Church model and the Meta-Church model use the term "Cell" as their primary group but give very different meanings to the term. In these definitions, any small group would fall under the definition of "Cell" in the Meta-Church model, including groups that are defined as "Cell" under the Cell Church model. While the Meta-Church would see the importance of groups built around the Cell Church definition of "Cell," it would also call other groups "Cells" that the Cell Church model would never consider a Cell group (but perhaps called a share group or ministry group). In the Cell model, the Cell is the most critical meeting for a Christian. The Cell is the fountain from which every value of the Christian's life and every function of the church finds its source. In the Meta-Church model, a "Cell" is simply any small group of 5-15 people that meet for loving, learning, doing, and deciding.
In the Cell Church, everyone is a member of a Basic Christian Community, the primary building block of the church. While they may be involved in other groups as well (Share Groups to the lost or Ministry Groups for those not healthy enough for Cell life), this involvement never replaces their commitment to and involvement in the primary group, the Cell. The Meta-Church, on the other hand, does not hold one type of small group up as the most important group to belong to. In the Meta-Church, people are free to be in a share group or ministry group or any other type of small group without being part of a Basic Christian Community.
There are several steps that you can take to get a better understanding of these two models for the church.
If you have simply read the books, one great way to get a better under-standing is to attend one of the many seminars presented on these models. This will give you an opportunity to have the concepts and ideas presented through another medium beside the written word. To find out more about Cell Church seminars, call Touch Outreach Ministries at 1-800- 735-5865. For information on Meta-Church seminars you can contact Fuller Institute at 1-800-238-5537.
Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. You have just read about 1,000 words on each of these models, and you can definitely learn more by seeing them in action. I recently visited with a Pastor in our office who had some questions about the Cell Church model. In our discussion, we talked some about the Meta-Church and how it relates to the Cell Church. That evening this Pastor visited the Basic Christian Community of a Cell Church in this area. The next day the Pastor called me and apologized for being arrogant about his understanding of Cell Groups. He said that he had no idea how a Cell functioned and had learned a lot from his visit to a Cell Group. He said that his experience in the Cell Church the night before radically illustrated to him the difference between a Cell experience and his previous experiences in small groups.
Once you have expanded your understanding of the various models, you must take some time off (maybe a weekend), and get alone with the Lord, hearing His vision for your ministry and life. God has a plan for each of us that is specific and special, and you will miss out on it if you do not spend time alone with Him to hear his counsel and direction. This is critical, because your ability to carry through with either of these models requires more than just Ralph Neighbours' passion or Carl Georges' vision.
Ultimately the vision and passion for you and your church must come from God. Only then will He be able to build His church!
Joey Beckham has been the Executive Director of Touch Outreach Ministries, USA since December, 1990. During that time he has visited many of the Cell Churches described in Cell Church Magazine, while consulting with churches across the United States who are moving into this model. He also serves as an elder in Shepherd Community, a Houston based Cell Church.
by William A. Beckham
Those who come into contact with the Cell Church often feel that it is complex, confusing and painfully difficult to actually implement. The general consensus about the Cell Church is promising and exciting, but much too complicated!
Books, conferences and case studies on the Cell Church often add to the impression that we are looking at a extremely complex system. By the time all the different parts of the Cell Church are defined and described, the whole idea seems even more disjointed and involved. Although our first impression of the Cell Church may entail ideas of great complexity, when properly viewed the Cell Church is a very simple and practical way of seeing the Church. It is a correct theory, and "there is nothing so practical as a correct theory."
There are three factors that may contribute to the perceived complexity of the Cell Church:
Approaching it from a mechanical rather than a functional perspective.
Trying to use old operational procedures to make it work.
Failing to distinguish between essential and non-essentials.
In order to experience Cell Church simplicity, I must see it in its functional rather than mechanical context. The functional context concerns itself with actually doing it-operating it. The mechanical context considers all the details about how all the parts of the Cell Church works. When we do this, we get bogged down in understanding the intricate details and often miss actually doing it.
Consider the automobile. It is a "correct theory." If it were not a correct theory, we would not have cars all over the world causing traffic jams and pollution as the price of quickly getting from point A to point B. Like the Cell Church, the car is a practical and simple machine in its operational context but extremely complex in the mechanical context.
Suppose you are going to teach a man to drive who has never seen a car before. You sit him down in a small library of mechanic's manuals to explain how a car works. What will happen? As you begin to detail all the car's working parts, as laid out in the mechanic's manuals-the electrical system, transmission, engine and etc.-a spirit of complexity will take charge. The poor fellow will quickly reach the conclusion that he can't drive that car. "This machine is far too complicated to operate."
However, take that same person, seat him behind the wheel of the same car that looked so complicated in the mechanic's manuals, teach him about the steering wheel, the gas pedal, the brakes and the gear shift. Show him how to turn on the car, and he will be able to begin driving. Remember, the car is "a practical theory" that functions simply at the point of operation. This is the primary point of understanding for one that wants to go from point A to point B. No matter how complicated the operation of a car may appear when one sits at a table with the mechanic's manuals, it is simple to operate from behind the steering wheel. In fact, most any person will be able to tell the key points about driving after an hour or two of practice. Books, conferences and case studies on the Cell Church are often more like a study of the mechanic's manuals than instructions on how to operate the thing. Some select persons may need to know about the mechanical parts of the Cell Church and the automobile. However, aren't you glad that every driver isn't required to understand the mechanical intricacies of a car before being able to use it?
Fortunately, God has not assigned most of us to do the repair work on His Church, but to use it. If I am going to use a Cell Church, I need the simple instructions on how to operate the thing first, not the complicated procedures about how all the parts fit together or work. In fact, learning the simple operating procedures will then substantially increase my understanding of the mechanical details. I must see the Cell Church in its operational rather than functional aspect.
Using old operational procedures can also cause the Cell Church to appear complex. When new machinery comes on the market, often we need to unlearn old operating patterns in order to correctly operate the new machinery. Mixing new methods of operation with old ones can complicate the process and make a new, simple piece of machinery appear extremely complex.
My paternal Grandfather, whose life's stories have turned into great family folklore, had an experience that illustrates this principle. One piece of folklore records the first time my Grandfather tried to drive a car. Since Pa, my Grandfather, was born in l877, he came into contact with the automobile as a man who had already developed skills with other machinery. His primary experience was with farm machinery, pulled staring at the backsides of his two faithful mules, George and T Bo. T Bo and George were operated with bits and reins and with voice commands: gee for right and haw for left; get up for start; and whoa for stop. Some operators of mules might have used more graphic commands, but as a serious Christian, Pa's working vocabulary was limited to these more acceptable, less colorful terms.
The first time Pa got behind the wheel of a Model A Ford, it ran away with him. The Ford was making right and left turns as if it had a mind of its own. He frantically tried to control the mechanical beast and bring it to a stop. In the midst of all the confusion, Pa reverted to his old way of operating machinery, which meant George and T Bo. He was heard desperately yelling, "Gee!, Haw!," to give right and left commands. As the Model A headed toward an immovable object, he shouted, "Whoa! T Bo!" Of course, the Model A tuned a deaf ear to such commands and would not respond to the same kind of operating procedures as George and T Bo. (From what I hear, George and T Bo didn't respond correctly every time either.)
I know my Grandfather survived that experience because he lived to be almost 96. But you know, I never did see my Grandfather drive a car all the time I knew him. Maybe he had already stopped driving by that time. Or maybe that one experience with the Model A Ford affected his attitude about driving cars and convinced him that the automobile was too complicated a machine to drive. Pa's bad experience was the result of mixing old operating procedures with a new kind of machine.
Even simple operations become complex if we try to use old operating procedures. Pa did not just need to learn how to drive the new contraption. Pa needed to unlearn how he had always operated machinery that was pulled by George and T Bo. His voice commands may have been designed for George and T Bo but not for Model A.
What does this have to do with the Cell Church? Old traditional operating procedures will not carry over in operating the Cell Church. Combining Cell Church operating procedures and those of the traditional church will cause confusion and complications. If you see the Cell Church as complex, it may be because you are mixing the old operating procedures you have used in the traditional church with those necessary for the Cell Church. This will surely bring confusion and doubt.
Failure to distinguish between essential and non-essentials will also cause the Cell Church to appear complex. The KISS principle comes into play here. "Keep it simple, stupid." Don't let the non- essentials that cause complexity confuse the simple and practical essentials that cause the Cell Church to work.
I inherited a 1984 Buick LeSabre from my Mother. It was a wonderful car in its day, offering every possible option known to man. Ron, my mechanic, loves that car. Every time I take it in for repairs, he assures me that my 1984 Buick LeSabre is special among cars built during that year. I often wonder something as I'm paying my monthly repair bill to him. Does his high opinion of my Buick have anything to do with the fact that he gets to repair all the fancy extras on the thing?
Now, my Buick would work with far fewer moving parts, the essentials-which are still doing surprisingly well. Its the non-essentials that are self-destructing. Don't get me wrong! All the fancy non-essentials are nice and do serve the important function of making at least one person on earth very happy-my mechanic. If a power window (which could be a simple handle) sticks in the down position, my mechanic gets to repair this non-essential luxury for a charge of $200. In the long-run, I would be better off if that 1984 Buick had fewer bells and whistles.
A Cell Church with minimum but essential working parts provides easy instructions for operation and low maintenance. These are the moving parts of the Cell Church. Get it right at these points and it will work. If we focus on these areas we need not be a rocket scientists to lead a Cell Church.
I want to put you in the driver's seat of a Cell Church and give you eight simple operating instructions. You don't need to be a trained professional to drive it-only one who desire to move forward. It is a correct theory (God's theory) and practical at the operating level. Give attention to these eight aspects of the Cell Church and it will work. "Gentlemen, To your cars." Get your head out of the mechanic's manuals and get behind the steering wheel! Here are your instructions:
Get into the CELL body of the car.
The cell is the framework around which all of the parts of the Cell Church are fitted.
Turn on the VISION key.
Vision activates the Cell Church. Vision is the electrical system of the Cell Church.
Put your hands on the LEADERSHIP steering wheel. Leadership guides the Cell Church.
Fasten your SCRIPTURE seat belts.
The Bible protects and provides safety for the journey.
Activate the EQUIPPING gear shift. Equipping transfers the power from the driver to the engine.
Make sure the EVANGELISM wheels are aired up.
Evangelism takes the car forward into new territory.
Check the WORSHIP gauge for fuel and water.
Worship fuels and waters the life of the Cell Church.
Let the PRAYER engine provide power.
Prayer is the engine that furnishes the power of the Cell Church.
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