Egyptian Christians Band Together

by Jeff Tunnell

As the world focuses on Egypt I am hearing reports of Christians banding together inside that nation.  The lines between Coptic, Catholic and Protestant believers are fading as believers quickly abandon their differences for the sake of safety, protection, prayer and mutual support.  I believe that as we, their brothers and sisters around the world (Hebrews 13:3) pray for them, they will become a radical identification of Jesus to their friends, neighbors, and family members.  For some this will have a negative impact in this world, as death may be their reward.  Unbelievers who witness the power of Christ resting in the midst of these banded-together believers will find a compelling invitation to receive the Savior who gives His people peace during tribulation (John 14:27 & 16:33).

While theirs is a forced urgency to band together, my question is “how do we develop this type of urgency before we must?”  The cell structure is the best, biblical method for banding together in times of peace and times of tribulation.  Building faith and trust in a small group community provides a place of refuge and evangelism as the cell shares its blessing of living in fellowship with Christ and one another.

But how do we compel one another to band together prior to the need to do so?

Community that Reaches Out

While speaking at Bethel Community Church yesterday, I reminded the participants that community and evangelism go hand in hand. For part of the time I talked about the need to build a sense of family in the cell, pointing out that many lonely immigrants were pouring into the greater New York/Newark area. “People are lonely and looking for community and a sense of belonging,” I told the 800 pastors and leaders present. During the seminar, I also talked about evangelism and outreach with the vision of raising up a new leader. In other words, community and evangelism are different sides of the same coin.
Research and experience show that better, more biblical community develops when a cell reaches out to non-Christians. The newer person actually adds to the growth of the believers in the group by giving them an opportunity to minister—and thus grow.
When a small group has a common evangelistic objective, it starts working together to accomplish a goal. The common objective creates a unity and camaraderie. Everyone gets involved—from the person who invites the guests to the one who provides refreshments to the one who leads the discussion. The team plans, strategizes, and finds new contacts together.
The friendship and love (community) develops in the process of reaching out as a group to non-Christians. Today’s broken society desperately needs a loving family. How will people find it unless small groups who are living in community are willing to spread it?
The cry of the lost drives cells to share their rich community rather than hoarding it among themselves. When multiplication takes place, new groups are available for lost people to receive wholeness.
Comments?
Joel

“Ask and I’ll Give the Nations to You” Part #2

by Michael Sove

In a land of 300 million gods, everywhere you look as you travel through India you see temples, mosques and statues.  Obviously one of the questions on my mind as I shared the Gospel was, are they going to simply add Jesus to their list as an additional god?  And if so, how do you share the uniqueness of Jesus in a land of many gods?

#1  To find your god you need to go where your god is but to find Jesus, He will come to where you are.

#2 You have to carry our own god for your day to day life but Jesus is the one who carries you.

#3  These gods expect you to serve them.  Jesus came not to be served but to serve.  Jesus takes your burdens and serves you at your point of need.


I found the people of India to be extremely open to the Gospel.  The second part of my trip took me to Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh.  Pastor Suresh has planted a church in the city and is now planting branch churches around this city as well.  He has cell groups and the greatest challenge he faces is one that we all face, the raising up of additional leaders.

My final week in India I moved in to the State of Karnataka.  It was here I was involved in a couple of large open-air meetings.  One was held in a schoolyard and the other in a town square.  Over the course of four nights we were able to speak to approximately 4,000 people and 400 people opened their hearts to Jesus Christ.  Pastor Sanjay has an army of young passionate men who will help follow up all these new converts.

Cell groups are a great strategy in India as you can penetrate villages and make a real difference.  In some villages there are only a few Christian families influencing many for Jesus Christ.  I’m hoping and praying to come up with an effective training strategy for raising up a whole army of cell leaders and cell church planters in the days ahead.

Comments?

Michael

“Ask and I’ll Give the Nations to You” Part #1

by Michael Sove

Rita Springer, in a song called “You Said,” writes the following:  “You said, “Lift up your eyes; The Harvest is here, the kingdom is near.  You said, Ask and I’ll give the nations to you.”  Lord, that’s the cry of my heart.  Distant shores and the islands will see Your light as it rises on us.  O Lord, I ask for the nations.”

This has been the cry of my heart for years.  I would have never dreamed as I cried out to God for the nations that He would burden my heart for India.  I have just returned from my third trip to the land of 300 million gods.  The one true God showed Himself strong during my four week journey as 500 plus people gave their hearts to Christ, and I was also able to share cell church principles in a multitude of settings.

Over my next few blogs I want to tell you about this amazing experience and challenge you to ask God for the nations and watch as He delivers on that request.  For me it began three years ago as I received an e-mail from a pastor from India who visited the Joel Comiskey Group web site.

He said after reading one of my articles that he felt we had a similar heart and vision and asked if I would like to mentor him in cell church principles.  This is where it all began.  Now after three years I have a whole group of pastors from India I’m connected with and it is growing all the time.

This trip took me to the State of Andhra Pradesh as well as Karnataka.  I spent the first week and a half in a remote area of Andhra Pradesh and a town called Giddalur.  Pastor Samuel has spent his life ministering in Giddalur and the surrounding villages.  He has access to 60 villages and God is doing amazing things in his ministry.  On New Years Day 2000 people walked to his location on the outskirts of town.

During the week I had the privilege of visiting many villages and branch churches that he has planted.  The people are hungry for God and will sit for hours to hear the Word of God.  What amazes me is that my team and I are the only foreigners to have ever visited these villages.  As a result we have wide open doors to share the Gospel.  People come out of curiosity and are excited to meet us and hear what we have to say.  Every time we spoke and gave an invitation people opened their lives to Jesus Christ.

Obviously India is predominantly a Hindu nation but God continued to tear down barriers.  After spending a few hours in one village just loving on the people and giving out balls to the children, a woman who was like the spokesperson for that village, came to my translator and said, “We would like to lay aside our religious differences, could you ask them to pray for us.”  For the next 20 minutes we laid hands on those Hindu villagers and asked God to open their eyes to the light of the glorious Gospel!

At a Sunday service in Giddalur my wife preached a message on God’s love and His passion for His children.  A Hindu man who had been attending the services there for two years gave his heart to Christ when the invitation was given.  He went forward and asked to be baptized that day, along with others who had given their hearts to Christ.  Three pastors spent quite some time asking him if he really had given his heart to Christ because for two years this man was very stubborn and refused to surrender to Christ.  The man insisted he truly had received Christ during the invitation and when asked what finally changed his mind, he said that if a woman was willing to travel around the world to tell him and others about this God that loves them, and how much He cares for them and how precious they are to Him, then He must be real.  To God be all the glory!

Most of the people we came in contact with are considered the “untouchables” and they don’t know how to respond to even a simple hug. My wife and two other women accompanied me on the first 18 days of this trip and it was awesome to watch as they would hug the women they ministered to and in many cases the women would break down and cry as they have never been held like that or cared for like that.

The Indian believers are passionate for God and really understand the importance of prayer and fasting.  They all want to be prayed for at the end of a message.  We would end up some times praying over individuals for an hour and one half after the message was finished.  At the start of every month they have three days of fasting prayer at the church facility which is really just a roof supported by pillars and slabs of stone for the flooring.  People come expecting God for healings and miracles and I heard many stories of God’s amazing works among them.

One of my favorite experiences is to hike up “Prayer Mountain.”  The pastor goes up here almost every day with many of the believers.  From the top of Prayer Mountain you can see Giddalur and many of the surrounding villages.  When they reach the top they separate and spend time seeking and listening to God.  Then they gather back together to share what God has shown them or revealed to them.  Prayer is the key behind this ministry and the growth of this ministry.

Pastor Samuel has great vision for the future as he desires to start a Bible training and retreat center as well as plant churches in surrounding cities.  Some of the factors that hinder his ministry is the lack of transportation and support for his pastors.  Another thing I’m asking God for is a simple discipleship approach that they could use to grow believers and raise up new leaders so more cells and churches could be planted.  “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”

Comments?

Michael

Who Can Help?

by Bill Mellinger

Hebrews 10:24 NIV – “24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Whenever we get together, we have the opportunity to “spur one another on.”  This is true in the cell and in our other “meetings” as well.  I can do all the pastoral care or I can look for opportunities to encourage everyone to “do the work of ministry” as Ephesians 4 says.

One of the simplest things that we can do in the cell is to ask someone to pray for another person who has just shared a heartfelt need?  This is great for modeling that prayer is the most important thing that we can do for one another.  The personal prayer of someone who felt moved by the needs of their friend draws both people closer to each other and to the Lord.  As leaders and pastors, we need to look for opportunities to encourage people to minister to one another.

A great thing about the coaching meeting is that it gives you the opportunity to emphasize important things to the entire team.  Since we gather to do training and receive reports on the cells, the coaching time is an important opportunity for people to care for one another.  As the group ministers to fellow leaders, we are teaching that we all are ministers.  It seems like every time we meet for a coaching meeting, there are personal things in people’s lives that need the support and prayers of the community.  Modeling community in the Coaching meeting is an important tool for developing it in the groups.

When we know of a need, we need to let the group know about the need so they can respond with love.  Group members can be encouraged to visit or the group can even talk about ways to help someone in the group or in the community.  Every cell is a potential force ready for God’s service in our community.  Sometimes, we just need to tell them to go.

Comments?

Bill

Community as Part of the Christian Life

mario

by Mario Vega

As I have written on other occasions, after some time, cell ministry becomes part of the Christian culture of the people. New generations of believers enter the cells as naturally as they enter the Christian life.

Community relations also occur very naturally. Being a Christian includes being a cell member. To be a cell member provides a foundation for relating with others. The sense of community and evangelization are implicit in the Christian life within a mature cell church.

When talking about a mature cell church, I’m referring to those churches who have more than a decade in cell work and are experiencing conversions within the cell strategy.  The leader’s role continues to be vital, but he or she does not need to exert loads of effort to establish friendship ties. The community is established by an inertia that comes from the strength of a well established tradition. Granted, to make this happen, it takes diligence, patience, and consistency. The good news is that those who sow in hope today will reap with joy later on.

Comments?

Mario

Translation into Spanish

La comunidad como parte de la fe.

Como lo he escrito en otras ocasiones, cuando un trabajo celular lleva ya bastante tiempo llega a convertirse en parte de la cultura cristiana de las personas. Nuevas generaciones de creyentes se suman a la actividad celular y, con ello, ingresan a las células de manera tan natural como ingresan a la vida cristiana.

Las relaciones de comunidad se producen de manera, igualmente natural. Ser cristiano, incluye el ser miembro de una célula. Ser miembro de una célula proporciona una base para relacionarse con otras personas. El sentido de comunidad y de evangelización están implícitas en la vida cristiana dentro de una iglesia celular madura.

Al hablar de madura, me refiero a aquellas iglesias que llevan más de una década en el trabajo y que sostienen la experiencia de lograr conversiones dentro del modelo. Las personas creen en una iglesia celular dinámica.

Desde ese punto de vista, el papel del líder sigue siendo importante. Pero, no necesita hacer muchos esfuerzos para establecer esos lazos de amistad. La comunidad se estable por una inercia que viene de la fuerza de una tradición muy bien establecida.

Claro, esa incorporación de la vida celular a la cultura evangélica es el resultado de un trabajo cotidiano, paciente y constante. Los que hoy siembran con esperanza, cosecharán con gozo.

Call for Community

by Jeff Tunnell

It is my recommendation that pastors and/or cell champions make the extra effort necessary to contact a cell leader when they become aware of important events in a cell member’s life.  This may be a birthday or anniversary event, business opening, family celebration or a distress call.

For example, due to a cell member’s emergency hospital visit, the church office may receive notification from the hospital staff or chaplain.  Immediate contact with a cell leader may be difficult due to their other responsibilities (work, school, etc) but the effort must be made to allow this leader to shepherd their cell member in distress.  If the leader is unavailable to respond, then we must encourage them to contact another cell member who CAN respond to the need right away.  These efforts are often bypassed due to a mindset prevalent from a previous program-driven paradigm that assumes the pastoral staff is paid to be available for these needs.

Let’s be honest; as long as paid staff are assumed to be the first responder to all needs, the cells will not learn to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.  This does not prevent staff from responding along with the cell leader or cell member, it simply moves the shepherding care to the cell.  Bonding will be deep when cell members share traumatic moments as well as joyful events together while building community that endures.

Sharing the Relational Load

JOELby Joel Comiskey

I remember a conversation with a cell leader at a church I was coaching in southern California. He was wrestling with guilt over not being able to spend individual time with members of his cell group apart from the actual cell meeting and celebration time. This leader had a fulltime job and a young family. As we talked, I reminded him that he should not feel like he needs to develop all of the relationships in the group. I said to him, “Your cell members are equally responsible to develop relationships. In fact, perhaps more so, because they don’t have the additional job of leading, like you do.”

But how do you get members to share the relational load? One way is to encourage cell members to meet together during the week in gender specific sub groups for mutual encouragement, like Neil Cole teaches in his book, Cultivating a Life for God. Cole recommends that these relational sub-groups hold each other accountable by using questions patterned after John Wesley’s 18th Century bands:

  • What is the condition of your soul?
  • What sin do you need to confess?
  • What have you held back from God that you need to surrender?
  • Is there anything that has dampened your zeal for Christ?
  • Who have you talked with about Christ this week? (For a complete list of Wesley’s questions, go here)

Other ideas to stimulate interaction among cell members include:

  • Rotating from house to house to get to know each other better
  • Developing a prayer chain among members
  • Exchanging phone numbers, emails, facebook, etc.
  • Hanging out together during the celebration service
  • Encouraging gathering together for sports, picnics, etc.

Perhaps you have some additional ideas? The key is to share the relational load among cell members.

Joel

Celebrating Community

STEVE
By Steve Cordle

How many times have you moved? If you are the average American, the answer is 11.7 times (I guess that last time the truck didn’t make it all the way to the new house!)

All of that mobility is hard on relationships. Many in our churches do not have old friends or family near by. But God’s gift to us is that we can always experience the family of God with brothers and sisters in Christ, especially through a cell group.

Groups can build and experience community in many ways, both in and outside the regular group meeting.

One way to celebrate our community is through communion. Many of our groups have a practice of holding a special communion service. Often at the end of a year. The tradition is for members to serve communion to each other. The leader starts by carrying the cup and bread to where a fellow member is seated. Before serving that member, he or she names a specific way in that person has influenced him/her while in the group. Then the leader offers the cup and bread.

Next, that member picks out another member of the group, and does the same thing.  And so it goes around the whole group, until everyone has been served and shared and heard about their influence.

It is a moving experience, and always a little surprising. Members are often unaware that they have made an impact on anyone else in the group. They may have thought they were there just to grow in their own faith. They may even have felt they were not worthy to help someone else, but they discover is that just by spending time each week together, and doing life as a group, they have made a difference. It’s a way the bonds of Christ-centered community are made visible.

Comments?

Steve

Call for Help

bill

by Bill Mellinger

James 5:16 NIV – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

It was Saturday afternoon, and we were nearing the end of our Encounter Weekend. We were using the material that Joel Comiskey shared with us last year in our first Encounter. There had been some good community already. Our individual times and our times of prayer with a partner had already drawn us closer to one another and to the Lord.

We placed a chair in the center of the room. Everyone had been told at the previous session that we would be inviting people to sit in the chair, so that they could be prayed for, if they desired it. Our discussion had centered on the healing that Jesus wants to give us.

I began the session by reading James 5:14-15, where James invites the sick to call for prayer from the “elders.” After sharing that the chair was there for people to sit on and request prayer, we went into a time of worship. Then, I added the text from verse 16 where it tells us to confess our sins one to another. The Holy Spirit drew us close. It was obvious that the Spirit had some work to do and that it needed to happen in community. We had already been honest with God. Now he wanted to give us freedom by sharing/confessing to one another.

Some shared requests for personal healing. Another shared generational curses in their family. A couple openly and tearfully shared their struggles with sin, and unforgiveness. God was faithful, and we were experiencing His healing. Some were afraid to “sit in the chair.” Their pain was evident on their faces. Sometime they will “call for the elders,” and there will be healing, but it didn’t take place at that time.

God has placed us here to respond to one another when we “call for help.” This is the beauty of the community that is developed in the safety of a cell group or on an Encounter weekend.

God bless you when you “call for help.”
Bill Mellinger