In the scriptures, we find a strong, dedicated leader of the people of God– his name is Moses. Moses was a brilliant man, educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. We recall God using him to part the Red Sea. We remember the challenges presented to him by his own people as they wandered through the wilderness. We think of his mentoring abilities with certain proteges like Joshua. There were times, however, when Moses needed others to experience God’s power. Let me cite three examples.
First, Moses was called by God to speak with the Egyptian Pharaoh and lead God’s people to liberty. I trust you remember his response. He was not comfortable with his communication style being “slow of speech and tongue.” He lacks confidence and power. How does God respond? God instructs Moses to take his brother, Aaron, with him to speak with the Pharaoh. In essence, God said to Moses, “Okay, my chosen leader, look around you– who is best qualified on your team to deliver the goods?”
The second episode illustrating Moses’ need for others occurs during Israel’s battle with the Amalekites. You can read the story in Exodus 17:10-13. It’s a beautiful story of Aaron and Hur lifting up their leader’s arms in the midst of battle. The battle on the ground is important and victory resides in the heavenlies.
Finally, in Exodus 18 we find a tired and weary leader. Moses was serving the people as judge from morning til evening. Enter Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. Jethro was worried about Moses’ condition and advises him to select capable people who would serve as judge over the thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens– leaving only the most difficult cases to Moses.
Notice in all three cases cited above, God provided the power for Moses to be an effective leader. God sent to Moses other people– his team members. Don’t miss Moses’ response. He received his team members as a gift from God. This reception of help is rooted in humility.
A cell leader/pastor can experience the same type of power through the team that God has empowered, prepared and provided. A cell leader/pastor who does it “all” is not wise and needs a good “Jethro” talk. With humility, receive your team members (and cell members) as a gift from God.
I was talking last week to a church planter who left a high position in a denominational church to plant a church from scratch. He did it out of obedience when he realized that in his denomination, he would never be able to start a church planting movement. He took a huge pay cut to do so.
This church planter shared with me that God doesn’t promise to provide us with enough money to keep up with the American dream. He does promise that He will meet our needs. I was reminded that the early Romans during the time of Jesus lived for the present and tried to gather their worldly goods in order to live a pleasurable life in the here and now. The early Christians, in contrast, lived for their reward in the next life. They often suffered persecution and death, knowing that an eternal, enduring reward awaited them.
While at Xenos Christian Fellowship, I talked to another pastor who left a huge salaried position to plant a church from scratch. His church was not moving ahead and was playing cultural Christianity. Yes, they were paying him a lot of money, but he walked away from it to start a cell-based church.
We need to be careful not to allow secular consumerism to dictate what we do and and how we act. God will meet our needs, but He hasn’t promised to always meet our wants.
Yesterday, Jeff Tunnell talked about his church’s summer cell barbeques. I’ve been to one of those at Big Bear Christian Center, and they are awesome. What kind of summer outreach ideas are you planning? Here at Wellspring we’re planning two picnics in which all the cells will come together for fellowship but also to reach new people. One picnic will be at a local park and another at a Southern California Beach called Bolsa Chica Beach. We also will have our free car wash that we do each month in the summer. People are always wanting to pay something for us to wash their car, but we tell them that we’re doing it because God’s love motivates us.
Don Flynn, cell church pastor in Nutley, New Jersey, writes, “Two ideas I have tried recently with my neighbors: 1) I put together a co-ed volleyball team with 3 other people from my church and 7 others from the neighborhood, and we joined a town league. We got hammered, but had a great time. And bridges were built that we are continuing to cross; 2) I am trying to rally my neighbors to do a block party in September. They all love the idea. (“Personally, I don’t have time for this stuff. I am too busy working on my evangelism sermon series!” :-)”)
Don talks above about neighborhood evangelism. Celyce and I rejoiced last week to be invited over to our next door neighbor’s house to celebrate the wife’s 50th birthday! All of their close family and friends were present, so we counted it a great joy to be invited. We’ve been sowing seeds into their lives for six years with very little visible results. We see this is a key victory.
Let’s face it, evangelism isn’t easy in the western world. IN FACT, it’s very difficult. So let’s keep pressing on! Let’s encourage each other to keep on reaching out.
Hello, this is Jeff Tunnell, sitting in for Steve Cordle today (Steve is on vacation).
Last week was “Cell BBQ Week” for us. This is a time for ‘congregation’ meetings; i.e. when multiple cells come together for fun, food, friendship AND net fishing for new souls who have yet to accept Jesus as Savior.
We set it up like this: all cells that meet regularly on Monday forego their individual meetings and gather that night for a congregation BBQ (in our case this is about 6 cells per night). Tuesday cells meet Tuesday night, Wednesday, Thursday, etc.
This is a great time in which each cell is able to meet the members of other cells in a relational atmosphere. During the barbeque the cell members can introduce their friends to the concept of the weekly cell meeting and invite them to continue in relationship the next week. Before each barbeque concludes, I take the opportunity to greet those present and bring a simple word of encouragement and a message of “good news” which the cell leaders and members can follow up with their guests before going home.
The Cell (3-15 members), Congregations (5-10 cells) and Celebrations (all cells gathering to worship God for what He is doing in the cells) are part of the principle-centered approach to cell ministry. And summer is a good season for casual time and to do some ‘fishing’ together.
Net fishing is bringing in the harvest, expanding His kingdom, and multiplying cells for the Glory of God.
Cast your nets over the other side!
I presented two messages at Xenos Christian Fellowship’s annual summer institute last Friday morning and Friday evening. There were 900 people present on Friday morning (I spoke on coaching leaders) and 2200 on Friday evening (I spoke on using your spiritual gift in the cell).
Rob Campbell’s blog yesterday talked about the importance of diversity and the fact that our God is a creative God. Xenos Christian Fellowship is an example of that diversity. Xenos doesn’t fit any box that I know of in North America and beyond. Xenos has house churches (ranging from 20-60 people), cells (3-15 people) and celebration services!
I was thankful to be invited over to the senior pastor’s house (Dennis and Holly McCallum) after the Friday night service. We sat around with about fifteen university students and talked about reaching people for Jesus through small group ministry (students come to the McCallum’s house every Wedneday evening). I discovered that Xenos is reaching more than 600 university students through their house church/ cell structure.
They told me that 55% of those who attend the meetings are either unbelievers or have come to faith in Christ through this ministry. Each house church of 25+ meets weekly but the cells within each house church also meet weekly. The cells are gender specific (male or female). I was impressed by the student’s vision to reach a lost world through Jesus Christ and how they are reaping the harvest through their small group ministry. They carefully disciple everyone who comes through their cell structure. God is using Xenos to evangelize and disciples the masses for Jesus.
God is creative!
Years ago, I heard a speaker at a Promise Keeper’s gathering declare, “Diversity is not the enemy of unity.” I think it’s a brilliant quote actually. I believe it to be true.
Are the cells in your church diverse? I trust there are some commonalities in format, vision, and more. But, there’s diversity, right? Because every individual is unique, certainly there are some unique aspects to each and every cell. I would suggest that this is a beautiful thing in the local church.
Years ago, I watched my father begin a new hobby. He got interested in stain glass. I remember looking at his workbench adorned with a myriad of stain glass pieces that he had cut with his own hands. There were various colors and unique sizes represented. They were all different. Eventually, the carefully crafted and cut pieces were placed together displaying a nice piece of art.
To me, this illustration is like the church. We are formed by our Creator in many different ways and His Spirit fashions together a church family. It’s a piece of art, isn’t it? Yet, the pieces are so diverse– sometimes completely different in color, size, and more.
To the point, it’s a good thing when a church has diverse cells. A “one size fits all” type of Christianity in expression and spiritual formation is not reality. I would encourage you to celebrate the diversity– it is a thing of beauty.
Two listening techniques stand out to me as being very important.The first one is eye contact. If you are physically present with the person, it helps to look the person in the eyes.Looking people in the eyes while concentrating on what they’re saying has been an important revelation for me as I seek to listen to others.
For example, when I’m leading a cell group and someone asks a question, it’s easy to get distracted by the “other voices” in the room (e.g., John’s yawning, Mary’s coughing, the car passing by outside, etc.). Looking the cell member in the eyes, helps me to lock into what he or she is saying.
Making comfortable eye contact can help you to concentrate. It steers all the voices in your head directly to the person at hand. It helps you to give yourself to the needs of the person, rather than trying to deal with all the competing noises.
Granted there’s a fine line between looking someone in the eyes and staring. Staring makes the person feel uncomfortable and is not helpful. Slight glances away can break you free from the staring mode while honing in on every detail of the conversation.
The second tip is listening for the unspoken words. Often, the unspoken words are more important than the spoken ones. Yet to hear the unspoken words, It’s important to read between the lines. Experts vary on how much of the total communication package is non-verbal, but estimates range from 60% to 90%. They all agree on one thing: the vast majority of the communication experience is non-verbal. Reading the body language and voice inflection is essential in understanding what the person is truly saying.
Which of these two techniques have helped you the most?
I coach various pastors. I prepare myself by going over each pastor’s case study. Yet, lately the Lord has been showing me that my preparation should primarily prepare me to listen more effectively–not talk more. God has been showing me the critical nature of listening.
I don’t know about you, but I find my mind racing around when someone is talking. I have to admit, I often am subconsciously thinking about how I’m going to reply. I don’t like the uncomfortable silence that follows listening. Yet, the Lord has been showing me that listening to people (and not fearing the silence that follows) is critical to effective coaching.
And of course, this application goes way beyond coaching pastors. It applies to all of life. The most effective cell leaders know how to truly listen to their cell members.
Someone said that when you’re fifteen years old, you are concerned about what others think about you. When you’re forty-five you really don’t care what people think about you. When you’re sixty-five, you realize that no one was thinking about you anyway! The truth is, all of us spend most of our time thinking about ourselves. Effective listeners are able to stand back from self and really hear what the leader is saying. Listening involves separating yourself from the noise in order to truly hear your leader.
Are you able to step back from the hustle and bustle of your own life and concentrate on those around you? What are some techniques that you’ve utilized to make you a better listener?
by Steve Cordle
It can be exciting to hear about what is new and cutting edge. And since we want to be more effective in our ministries, we want to hear about fresh insights that we can use. This is all good.
Yet so much of what makes cell minsitry effective is simple and basic. It is doing the basics like praying for the group members and for the life of the cell. It is reaching out to the lost in love, it is spending time with an emerging leader. It can feel rather ordinary and so…daily.
Most of our group leaders do not need to hear about another ministry insight or technique – they just need to be faithful in the basics. Sure, creativity is important, but so often when I see a group that is struggling, the way forward is to return to basics. To the group which isn’t growing – have you been praying for specific lost people? Have you been reaching out to them and spending time with them? Have you actually invited a lost person to a group function? We do what we can and watch God do what only He can do.
If your group leadership doesn’t seem very spectacular, that’s normal! God can do some exciting things through cell ministry, but our part often seems ordinary.
So, keep on doing the basics of group life – so often it is in the ordinary that we see the supernatural God at work.
For my next three blogs I plan on focusing on something that has really been on my heart lately: listening.I’m discovering that listening to others is critical for effective cell ministry—whether it’s at the level of cell leader, cell pastor, or cell member. In fact, effective listening is critical to all aspects of life and ministry!
The word listen in the Bible occurs 352 times, and the word hear is found 379 times. Jesus said, for example, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen” (Luke 8:18). Part of the reason that listening requires “careful listening” is because we talk much slower than we think (some have said we think 5Xs faster than we talk). When someone is talking, the listener’s mind can race around to many other topics, and often does.
Most people don’t listen carefully. I love Steven Covey’s famous quote , “Most people do not listen to understand; they listen in order to answer. While the other is talking, they are preparing their reply” (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) . Yet, Scripture says, “He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Really listening to others takes hard work.
When listening, at times, I don’t feel like I’m doing much work. I naturally equate speaking or teaching with work. Yet, careful listening often requires more work. Listening to the cell member or cell leader means that you need to direct your attention to the leader’s needs and life, and that’s hard work!
Do you find it difficult to listen?