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Dealing with Problems in the Cell Group

by Joel Comiskey

Winter 2009

Recenly in my LIFE group (Living In Fellowship to Evangelize), I confronted a member about a particular issue. I felt he was overstating his point. I felt justified in pointing out a “blind spot,” but after the LIFE group my wife nailed me: “Joel, don’t you think you could have talked to him afterwards about that issue? Don’t you think he would have accepted your words better in a more conducive setting?" Ouch. I knew she was right, and I also knew I had it coming. My confrontation with the brother made everyone feel uncomfortable, and it was hard to regain the momentum of the LIFE group after it happened. I did talk to this brother later, asking him to forgive me for my timing. He accepted my apology and we forged an even deeper bond between us [and during the next meeting I apologized to the entire group].

Cell groups are born for intimacy and in such a close atmosphere conflicts will occur. You’ll see weaknesses in your brothers and sisters. You’ll witness areas that need correction. You might discover, for example, that a cell member is out of control in financial spending, drinking, or pornography. Or perhaps there are issues of pride, rebellion, workaholism, ignoring children or wife, skipping church, or not tithing. Care enough to confront. Holding back and being “nice” when you should share the truth does not serve the person’s best interests. Challenge the person and he or she will appreciate you for it. The Bible even says in Hebrews 3:13: “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Yet, here are a few guidelines when you do confront.

  1. Ask for permission
    You might say, : “Jane, can I have permission to share with you something I’m seeing about your life?” This is so important because people feel slighted if we barge in on them and tell them our ”expert knowledge.” By asking permission before you bring up a problem or concern, you increase the respect your members/leaders feel for you. You’re placing the control where it belongs—in the hands of the person. Asking permission is especially important when the issue is unusually intimate or potentially uncomfortable for the person.
  2. Consider timing (this is the area I needed to work on in talking with the brother)
  3. Confront ASAP (that is, talk about the matter when it’s still fresh; don’t wait until it’s no longer relevant)
  4. Separate the person from the wrong action
  5. Avoid words like always and never
  6. Affirm him or her as a person and a friend

If you have an additional technique in confronting a brother or sister, please comment here.