Social Action through Cell Ministry

JOELElton Lin is the pastor of Haven, a church plant in the San Jose area. I’ve had had the privilege of coaching Elton and can testify that he has a compassionate heart for needy people. He has repeatedly felt burdened to equip his cells to reach out with the gospel AND with practical acts of service.

Several months ago, he gave each house group $5,000.00 and basically said use it to make a difference in the community! justiceHe called it the Justice Project. Here’s what he wrote and gave to each group:

Objective: To find ways to “act justly and love mercy” [Micah 6:8] within the community that we live.

  • Practice hearing God’s voice
  • Develop an eye for people in our community who are poor, marginalized, neglected, under-resourced, under-privileged
  • Find creative ways to make our resources matter to those who need it
  • Put our faith into action.

Summary: The house group will be given $5,000 USD to be a resource for putting our faith into action in our communities. Each person will also contribute a suggested amount of at least $50. If you cannot afford $50, prayerfully contribute what you are able. The hope is NOT that we would donate money to a charity, but that we would pray, seeking God’s heart and seeing our local community through his eyes. We hope to find opportunities to tangibly love those around us and use the money as a means to serve people. The goal is always to love God and people.
Suggested Pathway:

  • Pray – Pray for God to open our eyes to people who are marginalized, neglected and experiencing injustice.
  • Investigate – Investigate the needs of these people.
  • Discuss – Discuss tangible ways to serve, love and empower these people.
  • Devise – Devise a concrete plan [objective, costs/materials, date, required personnel].
  • Pray – Pray for God to revise, adjust and provide in regards to the plan.

Sample Ideas [not limited to]:

  • 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.

Other Parameters:

  • If project requires, Haven may provide more funds upon request.
  • Compete Project by October, 2007.

As soon as I know what happened, I, Joel, will let you know.

Comments?

Joel

Hope

You have hopeless people in your cell and/or church family.  This reality is not a sad thing– it’s just true.  It isn’t something to be ashamed of.  As a matter of fact, hopeless people walking into your home or worship center is a good– no– great thing.  It’s no secret that healthy, growing churches offer hope.

My hunch is that we have all been hopeless at one time or another.  Hopelessness will probably visit our door many times this side of heaven.  When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed.  Proverbs states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

For most people, hope is something they do, but the Bible talks about hope as something you possess.  Romans 15:13:  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  If you are a child of God, then you have hope…you possess hope.  Why do you (at times) feel hopeless?  It’s normal.  It’s human.  We make a choice to push away the hope of God within us and entertain other ideas and notions.

Hope is the expectation of good in the future.  It is the confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill His promises to us.  God gives hope because today is tough, rough, and rugged.  The purpose of hope is to keep us engaged in the task, mission, relationships that we need to be in to make it another day. 

If you find yourself (or your cell members) in a state of hopelessness, consider these thoughts.  First, surrender defensive hope.  This is the hope that things will get better because I want them to get better.  It’s like wishing upon a genie in a bottle.  This type of hope is rooted in wishful thinking and blind optimism.  Next, express your hopelessness to God.  You won’t ruin his day.  Hopelessness means you don’t have the answers or a plan.  When we are at the end of our rope, then that is where God loves to do his work and extend his mercy and grace.  Finally, grieve.  Grief allows you to let go of things that you cannot control.  You may remember that Jesus was “well acquainted with grief.”

Moving from hopelessness to hope requires action.  You need not travel this road alone.  Learn to trust others.  Live in the truth.  Share your hopeless state with a friend whom you admire and trust.

It’s a GREAT thing for hopeless people to be in our midst.

“I will wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him” (Psalm 62:5).

Comments?

 by Rob Campbell

www.cypresscreekchurch.com 

 

 

Serving through Cell Ministry

JOELCalifornia 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 servingLong Beach, CA last week during the height of the Santa Ana winds. We tried to take a walk on the Seal Beach peer, normally a fresh, cool diversion. We walked about half way on the peer 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 famous cell order is the four Ws. The last W is Witness or Works. A great way to use the Witness time is to minister to people in need.

On Steve Cordle’s blog three weeks ago, he mentioned that many of the cells at Crossroads were out in the community serving unchurched people in practical ways: painting homes, doing repairs, passing out water on a walking trail, or 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.

How has your cell group reached out to hurting people? Next blog I’ll share how Elton Lin, a cell church planter in the San Francisco area, is equipping his cell leaders to meet social needs in the community.

Comments?

Joel

Reaching Generation X through Cell Groups

joelJim Wall pastors a growing cell church in Chesapeake, VA (Jim is the one in the red shirt to the right). You can read more in-depth information about about Jim’s church, Western Branch Community Church, on my web site. Jim was sharing with me a few days ago about the victory they’ve had in integrating the Generation X jimwall crowd into their normal celebration services. Jim told me that Dale Sauls came to Western Branch in the mid 90s to start a Generation X Sunday celebration service along with cell groups. The church realized that they were effectively reaching baby boomers but not reaching their young adult children. Pastor Dale began to grow a “church within a church” to about 600 with two Sunday morning celebration services and two dozen cells.

Pastor Dale eventually left to become senior pastor of a church in North Carolina. With Dale’s departure, Western Branch opted to leave the cells in place, but phase those celebration services out. The church simply invited the Generation X people into the “general adult services.”

Pastor Jim Walls writes, “To my knowledge, the only people we lost in the transition were those who attended the Generation X celebrations but were not in a cell! Today, three years later, that age group is the fastest growing segment of our church – without a celebration service of their own. They are happy to celebrate with their parents and grandparents because they have their cells which still tend to form around common age groups.”

What an exciting testimony of the connecitng power of cell groups–and how young people love to celebrate intergenerationally.

Comments?

 
Joel

Joining God’s work

by Steve Cordle

If you have the privilege of coaching a number of groups, you know that there are always some groups that are “up” and some that are “down”. As a coach it can be natural to focus on the group that is experiening a “down” time. After all, we want to “fix” them, don’t we?!

But the most effective coaching stance might be to focus on the groups that are doing well. Learn from them – what are they doing that is effective? Resource them, what ideas and prayer can help them move ahead even more?

Some years ago Henry Blackaby taught us to “find what God is doing and join Him in it”. To coach in this way means to sense where God is at work in a group and to join Him in it. It doesn’t make sense to ignore a move of God and focus on where there is none.

Now, I am not saying we should ignore struggling groups. Far from it. Those groups deserve good coaching too!

But the bulk of our time, focus and prayer can be strategically used in connection with groups that are going well. We might think they need nothing, but atually they need help since they are growing and changing.

Where is God at work in your network of groups?” How can you join Him in it?
 

Reaching Out in a New Neighborhood

joelOn Monday’s blog, I gave the first part of Michael Sove’s outreach testimony (Michael is the guy on the right with sunglasses). Michael is the cell champion at Allen Memorial Baptist Church (Bill Warren, the man on the left, is the senior pastor of Allen Memorial Baptist Church). Here’s part two of Michael Sove’s testimony: bill and michael

At this party I discovered many new bridges to my neighbors. Next week I’ll be golfing with one; this Friday we are going to another couple’s house to teach them a new board game. The following Friday we will attend a football game with a single mom whose son is on the local team. The open doors are limitless and I have never experienced this level of openness in all my years of ministry. I directly relate it to prayer walking and making myself available!

One story is worth repeating and reflects what God is doing. Last week a new family arrived and I noticed they were from California. I try to get to newcomers within 24 hours simply to introduce myself and welcome them to the community. So my wife and I stopped by and introduced ourselves. While standing in their driveway my wife noticed a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers – a Christian ministry) sticker in the car window. We found out that their furniture wasn’t due until the following week. On my way home from our celebration services the next day the Holy Spirit prompted me to go over and offer to help the neighbor put in his garage door opener which was laying on the garage floor. He thanked me for the offer and said he couldn’t put it up because he was missing a bracket. It was then that the Holy Spirit gave me another prompting. I said to my new neighbor that he had two choices for dinner, he could either take his family out and pay for dinner (I was looking at an empty house) or come over to my place for free pizza.

He was thankful for my offer and sure enough they called shortly after. As we stood over the pizza that evening I asked if it would be okay if I prayed before we ate (I always ask when I’m unsure if they are Christian) and they said that was fine. As I closed my prayer their little seven year old belted out “Amen!” I now knew I was probably standing with new neighbors who were Christians. The next two hours we shared testimonies of God’s work in our lives and really knitted our hearts together. They told me that their neighbor who I had reached out to previously had invited them to attend my cookout the following weekend. Like I said, the neighborhood is working together. Yesterday they came with their two children and had a wonderful time meeting all the other neighbors.

This morning I received a call from one of my neighbors saying that the family called her and said they had to take the two year old to the hospital because of some medical problems and asked this neighbor to call me for prayer. Not only was I able to go to the hospital and pray over this mother and child, my other neighbor is going to watch the other child as the father goes with me to the airport to pick up a friend who is flying in from the west coast to help them at this time. I also sent this prayer request to all the cells in our Church. God is doing great things at Cedar Commons!

I want to challenge all of you to consider what you could do in your neighborhood as well. It’s nice being in a brand new development but there is nothing stopping any of you from walking through your neighborhood, praying as you go and asking the Holy Spirit for “Divine Encounters.” Walk – Pray – Talk, you can claim your neighborhood for Christ as well!
 

There’s Nothing Like Affirmation

The past few days I’ve had the opportunity to retreat with the leaders of my church family.  They are the church elders (we call them overseers).  We range in age from 43 to 78.  Most of us have been together for fifteen years.   We know each other well and love each other deeply. 

We began our annual getaway utilizing an affirmation exercise created by Intimate Life Ministries.  Every man cited a character trait that we admired in each other.  We linked this character trait with an example or story about that specific individual.  Character traits included:  security, dependability, compassion, acceptance, wisdom, discernment, patience, virtue, gentleness, generousity, deference, and more.  Tears flowed.  The laughter was contagious.  A memory was made.  We experienced “being in one accord.”

Some comments that permeated the room included:  “I dread the day when we don’t have you in our midst any more.”  “I feel safe here…covered.”  “I will always have your back.”  “We are blessed men to have each other.”  “No one has ever said to me that I have the humility of Chirst.  Thank you.  It’s the greatest compliment I have ever received.”  “I want to make sure that you are hearing how much these men love you.”

Let me encourage your cell and your cell pastors to participate in such an experience.  It is life-giving.  It fosters unity, trust, and security.  Hearts will be knitted together through love.

Years ago, after participating in an affirmation experience, one of the leaders who had just received affirmation fron his co-leaders stated, “I’ve been waiting all my life to hear those words.”  Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29b, NLT).

Warning:  The most difficult part of participating in an affirmation exercise is not affirming others.  Rather, it is RECEIVING the affirmation of others.  Receive well.  It may be that you have been waiting to hear those words all your life.

If I may provide a more concrete framework for an affirmation exercise you are contemplating, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Comments?

by Pastor Rob Campbell

www.cypresscreekchurch.com 

Evangelism in a New Neighborhood

joelI have the privilege of coaching churches in cell-based ministry. Each week I talk on the phone to pastors and try to help guide them in making cell ministry work in their churches. One of those pastors is Michael Sove, cell champion at Allen Memorial Baptist Church in Salisbury, Maryland (about 2 1/2 hours from Baltimore).  Michael is the guy on the right with the glasses. Bill Warren, the man on the left, is the senior pastor of Memorial Baptist Church. bill and michael

I was so excited about Michael’s attempt to reach out to his new neighborhood for Jesus that I asked him to write his testimony down, so that I could share it with you on this blog. Because of the length of Michael’s testimony, I’ll include the first part today and the second part on Wednesday. Michael Sove writes:

My adventure began in March as my wife and I signed a contract on a new townhouse in Fruitland, Maryland, which was contingent on the sale of our condo in Ohio. I was called one year ago to be the Cell Champion at Allen Memorial Baptist in Salisbury, MD. We have grown in one year from nine cells to twenty cells with three more getting ready to launch in the next month. Our cells are called “Neighborhood Life” as we want to bring the life of Christ into our neighborhoods.

Our condo sold at the end of March and we got approved to build our townhouse in a new community called Cedar Commons. The target date for moving in would be the middle of July. This was very exciting because we would be some of the first residents to live in this new housing development. The plan was for seventy nine townhouses, fifty duplexes and 27 single family homes. From the moment I sensed God wanted us to build in this community my wife and I began to drive over daily to pray over the land, asking God for His favor in this community and the opportunity to influence this whole development for Christ.

When we moved in on July 17th there were only five other families currently living at Cedar Commons. I began to take a prayer walk every morning and evening. I continued to ask God for His favor and the favor of the residents. As I walked and prayed I promised the Lord that I would never walk by a person without talking to them and befriending them. The Lord has been faithful and has allowed me to meet every person in the community. There are now fifteen families and God is opening a whole world of opportunities to minister to these families.

Shortly after moving in I had an open house and invited some church friends as well as my neighbors to come celebrate with us. I went around and invited neighbors in person and if they didn’t answer the door, I left a flyer giving the invitation. Four new families showed up including a young woman who, after meeting William Warren, the Senior Pastor, and I, started crying and said, “I need God and now I know why I came to your house.” She has been at Celebration and Cell ever since that day. My next door neighbors weren’t attending church together and they have connected with us as well. The stories go on and on.

My neighbors who are Christians have now caught the vision for claiming our neighborhood for Christ and are excited about the cell group I’ll be planting in our development on Nov 7th. As I meet people in the neighborhood I tell them about my vision for bringing people together and how I’d like to throw a monthly party for that purpose. Everyone seems open to the idea and are all excited about this and a few have begun to offer their help and homes as well. I just held my first monthly party, a cookout and invited all fifteen families to attend. Three families were out of town but eight attended. What an awesome day we had together!

The second part on Wednesday. . . .

The Influence of Pastor Enrique

JoelI mentioned last Wednesday that I just got back from a ministry trip in Tabasco, Mexico. I ministered at a growing cell church called Jesuscristo es la Vida Eterna. The founding pastor of the church was Enrique Ochoa Dueñas. Enrique received Jesus in 1980 and his life was transformed. Stories are told about how he was so onfire for Jesus that he would often spend hours sharing the Word with whomever would listen. JOELHe did the same with his children. They told me that their dad would often explain Biblical insights to them for hours at a time, and that they would look for a way to escape from his preaching. Yet, Enrique’s fire rubbed off on his kids.

Pastor Enrique died in 2003 while in the ministry. He died three years after establishing the cell church vision and helping the leading the church to grow to  700 people. 

The wonderful thing is that his children now pastor the church. Pastor Carlos the fourth-born is the lead pastor. Pastor Alejandro, the third born is the cell champion. The first-born, Rafael, concentrates on missions. The second born daughter, Patricia, is also in fulltime ministry and leads the music ministry. And the mother is totally dedicated to church life.

The children follow the vision of their father in that none of them receive a fulltime salary, even in a church so large. Pastor Enrique always worked outside the church becuase he felt that he should contribute financially to the church, just like everyone else. The children receive some support from the church but not all of it. They believe they need to be tent-makers and volunteer much of their time to the Lord.

I was super impressed with how one man’s fire (pastor Enrique Ochoa Dueñas) could bear such amazing fruit even after his death. Would to God that our fire for Jesus would influence our children to serve HIM all the days of their lives and make an impact for Jesus!

Comments?

 

Joel

An Eye for Opportunity


by Steve Cordle

 

Faith is “being sure of what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1)

One of the ways faith is released in cell ministry is through envisioning what could be; for example, the unreached person who could become a follower of Jesus through your group, or the group member who could become a leader, or the current group that could become two groups. Faith is “seeing” this future reality and following the prompting of the Spirit to take steps toward making it real. That usually involves spotting and maximizing opportunities.

Every day we are presented with more opportunities than we recognize. That’s because these opportunities often come disguised as problems (like a group leader who is stepping down) or simply are not noticed (like a cluster of friends who could become the core of a new group).

The church in Mexico which Joel wrote about in yesterday’s blog was practicing this visioing in their weekly meetings: they focused on outreach, and therefore were able to recognize and leverage the opportunities the Lord gave them. 

Do you have a group leader stepping down? That problem might also be an opportunity. Perhaps the coach can help a new leader step up with even more vision and a goal to help the group birth.

There might just be a number of people in your church who could beomce a new group if the leader catalyzed it. And you might note several friends on the outskirts of your church who are receptive to becoming the core for a new group if given the chance.

Coaches can help leaders recognize and act on opportunities because they are a little less consumed with the details of operating the group. Effective coaches help their leaders see and seize possibilities.

What opportunities do you see the Lord presenting you to help launch new groups and advance your cell ministry? Are you scanning the horizon in faith for opportunities?