Set Free to Serve

JOELMost of us would have passed over Mary Magdalene because of her sad spiritual state (possessed by seven demons). Yet, Jesus released her and used her mightily. According to the gospel writers, after his resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9). Often the most set freeeffective cell leaders [and team members] are God’s treasures that simply need to be developed and unwrapped. Jesus is all-powerful. He’s able to take the brokenness of sin, heal it, and transform us in the process

I remember visiting a cell church where I met a drug addict who had just come back from an Encounter Retreat. His eyes just sparkled with the love of Jesus. Oh he didn’t know the Christian lingo and all the Christian culture habits, but he knew his mission. He had been touched with the flame of Jesus Christ that burned from his bosom. And this cell church was ready to use this young man in the ministry. Yes, he had more training to complete before entering cell leadership. Yet, it’s through people like this young man, that this particular cell church was reaching their nation for Jesus.

The bottom line is that those who freshly know that Jesus is the true liberator want to tell others about that fact. They’re ready to make disciples of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Surely, they still have glaring weaknesses. We wouldn’t consider such people “mature.” But like Mary Magdalene, they know who has set them free and they can clearly and pointedly disciple those around them.

Knowing the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few, let’s commit ourselves to prepare and use young Christians, women, the less likely, and everyone else who is willing to serve.

God Uses Abnormal People

joelSome are better than others in finding and using “leaders” (disciples who make other disciples). John Wesley excelled in this area. less likelyHoward Snyder in the Radical Wesley writes, “One hears today that it is hard to find enough leaders for small groups or for those to carry on the other responsibilities of the church. John Wesley mastered the art of finding the gem in every person.Wesley put one in ten, perhaps one in five, to work in significant ministry and leadership. And who were these people? Not the educated or the wealthy with time on their hands, but laboring men and women, husbands and wives and young folks with little or no training, but with spiritual gifts and eagerness to serve. . . Not only did Wesley reach the masses; he made leaders of thousands of them.”

My survey of cell leaders confirms the strategy of Wesley. I discovered that the potential to lead a fruitful cell group does not reside with the gifted, the educated, or those with vibrant personalities. The answer, rather, is prayer and hard work. I discovered that male and female, educated and uneducated, married and single, shy and outgoing, those gifted as teachers and those gifted as evangelists, equally multiplied their small groups. The anointing for cell multiplication doesn’t reside with a mysterious few.

Who really is comfortable anway with the “normal” type leader anyway? Calvin Miller is his book, The Empowered Leader: 10 Keys to Servant Leadership, writes, “But I am convinced that great leaders are rarely normal, well-adjusted people. Frankly which of us is not a bit tired of normalcy anyway?” (27)

I personally think it’s extremely refreshing to watch our extraordinary God work powerfully in very abnormal people! How about you?



Conflict and Christmas

Conflict is a central component to the Christmas story.  God sent himself to provide a pathway for man to be reconciled to the Creator.  In essence, mankind was in conflict with God.  Potential conflict, very real conflict, and conflict that led to terror are all present in the story of Christmas.

Consider Joseph and Mary’s predicament.  Consider Mary’s parents:  “Now, tell me exactly what happened one more time, please young lady.”  Think of the terror of Herod.

Indeed, conflict lurks around the Christmas experience today.  For many, the Christmas season is painful because of some “unopened boxes” labeled “unresolved conflict.”  Many folks “grin and bear” the season dreading their time with their family of origin, extended family, and/or Uncle Fred and Aunt Phyllis.

As a reminder, conflict is common to all relationships and is seldom every resolved accidentally.  Further, the choices that you make during conflict will either drive you apart or bind you together.  Do you remember being taught the various stages of a cell’s existence?  The first stage is the honeymoon stage.  Next, conflict happens.  The third stage can be resolution.  Finally, the cell has the opportunity to grow deeper in relationship if the conflict is handled in the spirit of Christ.

Be attentive to those in your cell who are experiencing the reality of conflict this holiday season.  They need someone to provide care, comfort, a listening ear, and wise counsel.

A closing thought:  It is more rewarding to resolve a conflict than it is to dissolve a relationship.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

by Rob Campbell



Women in Cell Ministry

joelI’ve been talking about seeing the leaders around us and using them. Does that mean only male leadership? What about females? In my own church, the most effective cell leader is female. She has successfully invited person after person to both cells and celebration. Have you discovered similar results at your church? In my book Leadership Explosion I wrote the following four paragraphs: WOMEN

When I visited Yoido Full Gospel Church in 1997, I desired to know how this church succeeds in raising up so many cell leaders. One clear answer is that Cho trusts his lay people. He believes in the priesthood of all believers—whether they are men or women.

Today, David Cho’s church is the prime example of a cell ministry that was launched by women and that uses women as the vast majority of cell leaders. For years, Cho tried doing everything himself. One night he tried to baptize 300 people, and he had a physical breakdown that required ten years to overcome. His doctor prescribed strict bed rest. In desperation, he asked his board of elders to help him pastor the church. They refused–even considered finding another pastor. With few alternatives, he gathered all the women leadership in his church, saying, “I need you to help me to pastor this church.” They said, “Yes, pastor, we’ll help you. They began to pastor and care for the church through the cell ministry. When Cho had his physical breakdown, there were some 3,000 people in his church. When he finally recovered in 1978, there were 15,000 people in his church.

In Cho’s church today over 19,000 of the 25,000 cell groups are led by women. The women who lead cell groups in Cho’s church are not considered authoritative Bible teachers. Rather, their authority is derived from their submission to Pastor Cho’s leadership. These women leaders are seen as facilitators ministering under Pastor Cho. Their job is to encourage the spiritual life of the group by visiting, praying, and ministering to each member. New Hope Community Church in Portland Oregon views their women leaders in the same way. At NHCC an equal number of men and women are Lay Pastors.

Most of the rapidly growing cell churches make extensive use of women in ministry. This is not a new phenomenon. Back in the days when Wesley turned England upside down through a powerful small-group ministry, the majority of his cell lay leaders were women. The proliferation of cell groups creates a need for more leaders and it becomes especially critical that a church not eliminate 50 percent of its potential small-group leaders on the basis of gender.




Releasing Newer Believers

joelIn yesterday’s blog, Steve mentioned some key leadership hindrances. Another hindrance is thinking that only very mature people can make disciples who make disciples. We must remember that one of the most effective evangelists of the New Testament was the woman of Samaria—a new convert of a few hours. Immediately after her encounter with God we read that the woman of Samaria went into action: leadership

“[She] . . . went back to the town and said to the people, Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him. . . Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’ (Jn. 4: 28-30, 40-42). In Leadership Explosion I wrote the following three paragraphs:

How long did it take the Samaritan woman to get into ministry? Long enough to go into the village and come back! Don’t miss the opportunity of using newer Christians in cell leadership. Jesus didn’t; nor did Paul.
Fatima, a newly baptized Christian, planted the first daughter cell from my own small group in Quito, Ecuador. Plagued with a debilitating bone disease, she felt compelled to share the gospel while there was still time. With the zeal that characterized the Samaritan woman, Fatima gathered her non-Christian family and friends for the first meeting. Her house was packed—some arriving two hours early. They listened to the gospel message with rapt attention and in the months that followed, several of them decided to follow Jesus Christ. Fatima’s zeal and effectiveness clarified to me the importance of using newer Christians in small group ministry.

Peter Wagner reminds us that the potential for evangelism is much higher in new Christians than mature ones. This is primarily due to the fact that new Christians still have contacts with non-Christians. New Christians are enthusiastic. When they are not allowed to evangelize or serve right away, they become stagnant and lose their enthusiasm. Our problem so often is not seeing far enough down the road. We fail to connect the person who walks down the aisle to receive Jesus with future leadership in cell ministry. For lack of proper guidance, many potential cell leaders slide out the back door.




Leader Eaters

by Steve Cordle

I have appreciated and learned from the posts and comments on leadership this week!

Raising up and discipling those who disciple others is not easy work, and we surely don’t like to see disicple-making leaders fall away for any reason. If we can identify and neutralize forces which sideline leaders, our ministry fruitfulness will be deeper. Some of the more frequent “Leader-eaters” I have seen would include:

* Family issues – if the spouse is not involved and supportive, or there is a marital strain, or the children have suddenly increased needs/issues, the leader may not be able to continue.

* Spiritual sag – leaders who are not personally meeting regularly with God will probably drop out of ministry eventually

* Distractions – work, house-remodeling, coaching soccer… need I say more?

* Sin – it happens

* Ministry frustrations – an unresponsive group, quarreling members, decreasing attendance…they all can undermine a leader’s confidence and enthusiasm.

When we consider that it usually takes extended one-on-one discipling and on-the-job development of ministry skills and teaching to equip someone to become a leader, and then fighting off “Leader Eaters” like these to stay a leader, it’s no wonder that the list of fruitful, long-term disciple-makers is shorter than we’d like it to be! Praise God for each one you’ve got! And help them fight off the Leader Easters.

Adjustments to Everyone a Leader

JOELThis has been a very healthy discussion about seeing everyone as a potential cell leader. Steve Cordle mentioned the importance of leading in a one-on-one situation. He shared some of the adjustments he’s been making in preparing leaders. In yesterday’s post, Rob Campbell talked about his own journey in preparing leaders. birds

I’ve also made some adjustments over the years. For example, my five-book basic equipping series finishes with the book called Lead. That book is specifically designed to prepare a person to lead a cell group. Yet, I now teach that when person has finished Lead, he or she might personally lead a cell or be part of a leadership team that starts a new cell. There was a time that I taught that a person needed to be the sole leader of the cell. Now I teach that a person might be part of the a leadership team that starts a new cell. Why? I’ve becoming increasingly convinced that team leadership is so critical in cell ministry. I rejoice in those who can start a cell from scratch. Yet, another option is to encourage lay people be part of a leadership team.

Another adustment I’ve made is to use the word disciple-maker rather than the word leader. I’ve found from experience that it’s simply more Biblical to use the term “disciple who makes other disciples” than to use leader. If we can help each person to become a disciple who makes other disciples, we’re helping people to understand the Biblical base for ministry. I teach that a D-1 disciple is some who is in a cell. A D-2 disciple is someone who is in the equipping track and is participating in the life of the cell. A D-3 disciple would be taking someone else through the equipping track either one-o-one or one-on-three, etc. A D-4 disciple would either be part of a leadership team that starts a new cell or someone who is leading the team. A D-5 disciple would have multiplied the cell, etc. The goal, then, is to get everyone through the process.

The main reason for quoting so much from Leadership Explosion lately is to help open our eyes to the possiblities around us. Jesus wants us to raise up an army of “disciples who makes other disciples.”

For more on seeing everyone as a potential leader/disciple-maker, click here.




If We Were All Leaders, Then…?

If I was a betting man, then I’d bet you could finish the title of this post.  “If we were all leaders, then who would follow us?” OR “If we were all leaders, then where are all the followers?”  By the way, I’m loving these recent posts by Joel and Steve on leadership.  If you haven’t read them, then take a moment to catch up as this post deals with leadership as well.

In Steve’s last post, he is candid and honest wrestling with the thought that everyone is a potential leader.  I, too, embraced this cell church prinicple and taught it for many years.  I’m not so sure it’s valid at this point.  Yes, I do agree that with the right heart and through mentoring, discipling, practicing, and more…a person can develop into a fine leader.  I trust that you have seen this with your own eyes!  Super!  Yet, we should not diminish the valuable heart and contribution of a “non-leader.”

In Larry Osborne’s latest book, Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God, he writes, “For those of us who are leader types, we can expect to find plenty of help for our spiritual journey.  We’re the prized prospect, the kind of Christian most churches and ministry organizations encourage and motivate best.  We need to keep at it; we’re vital to the future of the church and God’s kingdom.  But we also need to work hard not to project our personality and calling on everyone else.  The goal of spirituality is not to lead– it’s to know and please God.”

Larry reflects on the life of his own parents.  While they held a few leadership roles in the church, they would opt out more than in.  He writes of his Mom reading the New Testament over and over again.  His Dad was a disciplined reader.  Larry states, “All they did was live of life of obedience with grace and dignity.  All they accomplished was raising three children who would walk with Jesus as adults– and who, strangely, would all have gifts of teaching and leadership….In my mind, they were not only spiritual, they were spiritual giants.”

As already mentioned in the most recent posts, God is quite creative when calling out leaders.  Let’s trust His heart when we can’t trace His hand.


by Rob Campbell


Christ and the Twelve

joelWhen talking about seeing the leaders around us, we need go no further than Jesus Christ. Look at the ones he choose. They were an odd assortment of lower class, simple folk–and a few rebellious ones as well. Here’s a paragraph from Leadership Explosion: disciples

It’s surprising that Jesus did not choose key, prominent men to form part of His twelve. None of Christ’s disciples occupied important positions in the synagogue, nor did any of them belong to the Levitical priesthood. Rather, they were common laboring men, having no professional training, no academic degrees, and no source of inherited wealth. Most were raised in the poor part of the country. They were impulsive, temperamental, and easily offended. Jesus broke through the barriers that separated the clean and unclean, the obedient and sinful. He summoned the fisherman as well as the tax collector and zealot. Jesus saw hidden potential in them. He detected a teachable spirit, honesty, and a willingness to learn. They possessed a hunger for God, a sincerity to look beyond the religious hypocrisy of their day, and they were looking for someone to lead them to salvation. In calling the despised to Himself, in sitting down to a meal with publicans, in initiating the restoration of a Samaritan woman, Jesus demonstrated that even these people were welcomed into the kingdom of God.


Christ’s small group was full of problem people. We would label most of them as the “extra grace required” type. Yet, Jesus molded, shaped, and prepared them to be the key leader’s of His church. Are we willing to welcome those with rough edges into our cell groups with the view of preparing them for future leadership? I know it’s hard, but it is the way of the Master.