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Teaching Obedience in the Cell

by Joel Comiskey

Small Group Network- www.smallgroups.com

November 2000

I love education. I’ve dedicated my life to learning. But I must constantly remind myself that learning should never become an end in itself. The end or goal is obeying God’s Word, thus giving glory to His name. The Hebrew word for obey means "to hear." To truly hear God’s Words implies obedience as opposed to simply receiving information. James writes, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."(1:22) The Greek phrase for obey literally means to "hear under." The idea of obedience in the New Testament is a hearing that takes place under the authority or influence of the speaker, thus leading to compliance with the teachings.

Jesus Required Obedience

Jesus asked that his disciples "hear him" to the point of complying to His requests. Often the disciples didn’t understand Christ’s words or teaching. They failed to grasp the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross (Mt. 16:22), their own place in the kingdom (Mk. 9:33-37), and humble service to others (Mt. 20:24). They lacked the finesse and education that characterized the elite of that day. Yet, Jesus must have noticed their humble commitment to trust and obey His teachings. How can we put into practice Christ’s truth in the twenty-first century? How can we emphasize teaching that leads to Biblical obedience rather than just knowledge? Let me suggest two action steps.

Teaching Mixed with Practical Application

  • I do; you watch
  • I do; you assist
  • You do; I assist
  • You do; I watch

If you’re the cell leader, allow your intern to watch you and then explain what you did, and why you did it. Next, observe the intern as he or she does the same thing and objectively explain strengths and weaknesses that you have observed. You must provide remedial activity to strengthen the weaknesses. More and more you must turn the task over to the intern, while you withdraw using "benign neglect" as your strategy. You must remain a close friend, while treating the intern as your equal. This sequence, is the key to maintaining a teaching that that leads to Biblical obedience rather than just knowledge. When obedience is not required or when the teaching is not put into practice, information is the result.

Monitor Each Step

Second, monitor the practical application of the teaching. For one year now, I’ve been preparing two leaders in my cell group to lead their own groups. In January 2000, Janet and Fabian began receiving personal training from me. At the same time, they took baby steps in leading parts of my cell group—first the icebreaker, then worship, then vision casting, and finally they took turns leading the entire lesson. They not only received information from me (training track) but they also applied it. As they were faithful in the little things, I gave them more. On Nov. 14, 2000 Janet will start her group and on Nov. 16, 2000 Fabian will start his group. I’m excited and confident that they will successfully lead their own groups because their obedience in the small things has led them to this point. On the other hand, John, (not his real name) seemed like a great guy for me to mentor. He made a point to seek me out and I felt equally attracted to minister to him. We spent lots of time together both formally and informally. On various occasions, I invited John to dinner at our home. My children eagerly looked forward to John’s visits. Everything seemed to click, until I noticed a fatal flaw. I discovered that John didn’t follow through on commitments. He would say yes to my suggestions in order to please me, but then failed to act. I desired honesty, more than blind obedience, but I expected him to keep his word. I noticed that failure to keep his word was a pattern in his life, and eventually I was forced to cut off the mentoring relationship. John continues to wander through life seeking work here and there with little success.

Go beyond Information

Paul warns of evil men in the last days who are ". . . always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). Knowledge without obedience doesn’t cut it in the kingdom. Thankfully, Paul could point to Timothy as someone who faithfully applied God’s Word. He said, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others"(2 Tim. 2:2). Commitment, faithfulness and obedience are essential qualifications for discipleship. As we obey God’s Word, He’ll give us more knowledge and we’ll have a greater impact for His glory

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