Evangelism and Multiplication

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I, Joel Comiskey, asked pastor Mike, associate pastor at Big Bear Christian Center, to write this article because of the tremendous success he and Big Bear Christian Center were having in reaching AA (Alcoholic Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) people through cell groups.

Leading Cells into the Harvest

by Dr. Mike Erickson

November 2005

I believe the best way to introduce people to Christ is through friendship evangelism. We are living in a day when people don’t want to hear about Jesus whom they don’t know, from someone they don’t know. People are looking for relationship, and through a process of time and observation, they can discover the truth through someone they know and trust.

As a pastor, one of the difficulties for me has been the ability to develop relationships with those who need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Where do I meet these people?” “How do I get them to come to some kind of meeting?” Or “How do I get invited to come and be with them for the purpose of sharing the Good News? These questions were going through my mind, so I began to look for opportunities and open doors to develop relationships with people who needed to come to Christ.

The cell group provides a wonderful place for those who think the church is hypocritical, irrelevant or cold and indifferent. They conclude that the church simply cannot meet their needs. Yet for many of them, there is a desire to find something to fill the spiritual void in their lives, but they don’t know where to look or how to find the answer.

Cells present the best of the church to the world through its people. Cells are taking the sting out of what a new seeker might see, specifically the church as a building with people and a host of rules and regulations. In the cell they begin to see people like themselves who have found community and spiritual fulfillment. They begin to see hope for themselves, and in the course of time they begin to receive the truth of the Word of God. Later they begin to understand that this is the church. They begin to understand that all the Christians in the cell are a family, a church family.

Reaching the Lost Through Cells

During the last year I have had a cell group meeting in the home of Keith and Patty White. My time with the Whites and in the cell group has been a great experience. I would like to share a brief testimony of the history of this cell and some of the events from the past year.

The Whites moved here about two years ago, and based on their background they began to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. To be connected with those organizations each person needs a sponsor. Keith’s sponsor was Tom who has been attending Big Bear Christian Center. Soon the Whites became sponsors of about 10 people each in the AA/NA programs. Tom then brought Keith to some college classes held at our church. It was through these classes that I approached Keith and Patty about starting a cell group in their home, hoping to draw from both the AA and NA programs.

The cell group began immediately with about a dozen people, all unchurched and about half of the group unsaved. We started with great amounts of time on relationships, using most of our time on “Welcome” and sharing personal testimonies. After several weeks of this we began to discuss some of the lessons of our pre-encounter materials. The group was unaware we were beginning to teach the foundations of the Christian faith. One night Keith pointed to Dustin across the room and said “don’t you need to get saved?” Dustin said “Yes” so I put a chair in the middle of the room and Dustin gave his heart to Jesus in a powerful way. When that time was finished Kenny said to his girlfriend, Tiffany, “do you want to get saved too?” and she said “Yes” so we all were so excited and put a chair in the middle of the room and she also confessed Christ as her Savior. In the next few weeks two or three others came to the Lord and others began to rededicate themselves to the Lord. Soon after the salvation and rededication experiences happened they wanted to be baptized in water. We met for teaching, and in two separate baptism services 8 were baptized.

One couple who found Jesus in the cell group and were baptized confessed in one of the cell meetings that they were living together and needed help because they were now under conviction. So over the next several weeks I gave them marriage counseling and performed the ceremony. There were about 75 people at the ceremony, all from AA and NA programs. By that time I knew about half of them. Since that couple was married two more couples in the group have confessed the same, and have been seeking counseling and how to proceed.

Later I was encouraged to attend an NA meeting to see how things work for the people in the program. I went to a Friday night meeting where there were about forty-five people. Surprisingly I recognized about a third of the people there. They said that never has a pastor come to their meeting and taken an interest in them. Next I attended an AA meeting and found the same response. Soon I began hearing reports about myself and the cell group. We were now getting the attention of people in the NA and AA programs.

Keith and Patty now made plans to move to San Antonio. Just before leaving for Texas, Keith said that he would like to see one more water baptism before they moved. So Keith and I set up the baptism place and time. He began to announce in the NA and AA meetings that anyone who wanted to be baptized was to see him and he would give them the details. He said to them “but before you are baptized you must saved”. Most of them responded, “Okay, we’ll get saved on the night of the baptism”. When Keith told me that we had nine to be baptized and that most, if not all were not saved I began to feel a sense of panic. What am I going to do? Then I remembered Acts 2:38, that upon confession of faith the 3,000 were baptized, and also the story of the Ethiopian eunuch’s salvation and baptism, so I agreed to proceed with the baptism.

On the night of the baptism everyone who was to be baptized was required to completely fill out the cell information sheet that we provide for all members of the cell groups. I heard a conversation between two of the girls who were going to be baptized. One said to the other “I don’t know what to put here for a salvation date” and the other one answered “don’t worry, just put the day when you came clean”. I interrupted the conversation by saying “put today’s date because you are both going to get saved tonight”.

At the baptism service everyone was so excited and the anticipation was really great. As I began to invite them to come into the water one-by-one I asked them, “Tell us when you got saved and what happened?” The reply was the same for seven out of the nine - they would say “I’m not saved yet”. I would have them face me and I would explain salvation to them carefully. It almost felt like a wedding ceremony. After that I would lead them in the ‘sinners’ prayer. Each one had a tremendous experience in salvation. After their salvation experience I would explain the significance of water baptism. Then they were baptized and after coming out of the water they were received with great jubilation by all who were present.

That night we began to make plans to plant three new cell groups to preserve the harvest. We arranged for each one baptized to receive contacts from three separate people for follow-up. To this point twelve have been saved, five have rededicated their lives to the Lord, and twenty-two have been baptized, resulting in three new cell groups.

The Potential for the Harvest

Another example from our cell group happened last year when a young man came and gave his life to the Lord. A few weeks later he brought his girl friend, and she received Christ. They were so new that finding the books of the Bible was not possible without the table of contents. Each week there was new growth in them and their knowledge of the Word. Soon they were water baptized. They have since become married and bought a home. Today they are hosting a cell group and they are on fire for the Lord. They make calls and connect with people throughout the week. The cell group was recently thrilled to hear that this couple is now going to have a baby. The group feels like it will be a birth into the cell family. God is now moving them towards the training track with the goal of becoming future cell leaders.

I am hoping that this story will be repeated throughout our cell groups to reach people for Jesus Christ. Reaching people with the Gospel must go beyond sharing Christ through the salvation prayer; it must lead them in the process of discipleship. I believe that people are not yet fully disciples until they can bring someone else to Christ and disciple them. A great part of that discipleship occurs when people are connected to their cell group.

The vision for evangelism in the cell groups has become a reality for us. It opens a new world of training by experience, which has come to us only through the reaching of the harvest. Everyone one in the cell groups are beginning to see the exciting process of people being saved, baptized in water and entering the beginning stages of the training track.