In September 2007, California fires ravaged San Diego, Orange County, Malibu, and mountain homes around Arrowhead. I live right in the middle of it all, and our windows were closed the entire time because the air outside was so contaminated (a very small inconvenience compared to those who lost homes, etc.). I remember visiting my 83 year old dad in Long Beach, CA last week during the height of the Santa Ana winds. We tried to take a walk on the Seal Beach pier, normally a fresh, cool diversion. We walked about half way on the pier and had to turn around because the 94-degree winds were so uncomfortable (and this was literally on the ocean!). Many, many people in California now find themselves in crisis because of the fires.
What can cells do to reach out to people in times of crisis? Most of you know that the most well-known order for a cell meeting is thefour Ws (Welcome, Worship, Word, Witness/Works). The Witness/Works part normally concludes the cell meeting and a great way to utilize the Witness time is to minister to people in need.
At Crossroads Church (senior pastor Steve Cordle) the cells serve unchurched people by painting homes, doing repairs, passing out water on a walking trail, and other missional/service-oriented projects.
One of our own cells at Wellspring recently asked their non-Christian neighbors, along with their own cell members to prepare shoe boxes full of goodies for Operation Christmas Child.
Elton Lin, pastor of Haven, a cell church plant in the San Jose area gave each of his home groups $5,000.00 to make a difference in the community. He called it the Justice Project. The objective of the project was to find ways to "act justly and love mercy" (Micah 6:8). He asked the groups to develop an eye for people in the community who were poor, marginalized, neglected, under-resourced, and under-privileged. He gave the groups sample ideas:
- Building Handicap Access Ramp for People w/Disabilities
- Establish and Resource a Computer Lab for a Community Center in an Under- Resourced Neighborhood
- Helping to Renovate a Food Bank or Shelter
- Prepare and Give Out Street Survival Kits for Homeless.
Another pastor I'm coaching is James Penner, senior pastor of Ross Road Community Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Pastor James felt a burden to make a difference in his community. He decided to adopt a nearby school called Ross Road Elementary School. He told the principal that his church wanted to love and serve the school in anyway possible. James figured that by serving the public school, the church would be reaching out to the community.
Since that time, the church has sent approximately ten to fifteen volunteers to the school to help out. The church has financed a literacy program, raised money for the school, and tutored needy students. The church found out which families at the school were in fnancial need and asked some of the small groups to reach out to these people (food, Christmas presents, etc.).
The church gives $300.00 to each small group at the end of the year to minister to needy people. James told me that his own small group poured their time and money into a poor, non-Christian family from the school, whose father was dying of cancer. The dad eventually died and asked the church to do the funeral. The parents of the deceased father (the mother a former devout Jehovah's Witnesses) were so touched that they started attending Ross Roads Community Church! James told me that he's trying to change the DNA of his groups to become outreach oriented.
Let's always remember that there's a hurting world around us with many needs. God wants to use us as His vessels to meet those needs.