Vision with a Deadline

 by Steve Cordle

Today I’d like to continue the conversation that started with Joel’s post yesterday concerning the importance of goals in the multiplication process. (There were some great comments on that yesterday!)

Joel’s research found that a group is more likely to birth when the members (and leader) easily remembered the date of their expected multiplication. I believe this finding points to the role of vision rooted in faith.

A goal certainly can be merely a manifestation of fleshly ambition. However, that human-generated goal is a distortion of true vision. God gives vision to his people. When He wants to do something through His people, He usually gives someone a vision of what He wants to do. God even gives visions to cell leaders about what He wants to do through their cells!

In an earlier post I mentioned my conversation with the pastor of a great cell church in Kazakhstan. I asked him what he would say to a leader or pastor who is not seeing growth in his cells. He said he would first explore the faith they have for thier groups to multiply. He is saying that if we don’t truly believe and expect that our group will multiply, it probably won’t. God asks us to add our faith to His vision.

Rick Warren has said a goal is simply a dream (vision) with a deadline. Without the accountability of a goal, we can too easily drift into unfocused ministry and be lulled into contentment with the status quo.

It’s not our goals that bring the Kingdom, but goals allow us to more fully co-operate with God’s purposes. As Iain said in the comment section yesterday, a goal “helps us focus our faith on what we are aiming for (together with God).”

There is mystery here, but “without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.”




Planning for Multiplication

John, the person who criticized my definition of the cell group, felt that multiplication could easily become divisive among cell members. He thought that it was best not to tell the group of future multiplication. Rather, when people were transformed, he reasoned, there would be a natural desire to multiply. But is it so simple?

If you don’t tell the people in the group that multiplication is the plan, would they suddenly rejoice in multiplying because one or more people were transformed? And wouldn’t this be a “bait and switch” strategy to inform them after a transformation had occurred? I think it’s far better to tell the group from the beginning what the game plan is. If you tell them soon enough (perhaps a year before you actually multiply), you’ll give them plenty of time to prepare their hearts.

The idea of setting a multiplication goal was confirmed in my Ph.D. research of seven large cell churches in eight different countries. The 700 cell leaders surveyed were asked, “Do you know when your group is going to multiply?” Possible answers were “yes,” “no,” or “not sure.” When the survey results were analyzed, cell leaders who knew their goal—when their groups would give birth—consistently multiplied their groups more often than leaders who don’t know or just “hope it will happen.” In fact, if a cell leader fails to set goals that the cell members clearly remember, the group has about a 50-50 chance of multiplying. But if the leader sets a clear goal for multiplication, the chance of multiplying increases to three out of four.

It’s my observation that the focus of most small group ministry is exclusively community. I’ve also noticed, however, that  community and personal growth does not lead to multiplicaiton. There needs to be a clear focus and vision to reach beyond the group to others–to give away the community. And the group leader and coach need to promote multiplication to actually make it happen. The idea that it will simply happen “when” people are transformed is idealistic thinking, in my opinion.

What do you think?


Three Key Ingredients for Cell Multiplication

I believe Joel’s post yesterday on cell multiplication was excellent.  In essence, he suggested this definition of a cell:  “A cell is a group of 3-15 people who meet weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community– with the goal of making disciples that results in multiplication.”  It’s a slight tweak from Joel’s previous definition of the cell.  I like it.  Read yesterday’s post if you happened to miss it.

Indeed, multiplication is quite a challenge for the majority of cell churches.  I would like to offer three quick thoughts that can easily be overlooked as we seek to make disciples that results in multiplication. 

Here are three necessary ingredients for a healthy cell multiplication to occur.

First, pray for your cell members to grow in Christ and for the Holy Spirit to place in their hearts a desire to lead a cell.  My fellow JCG team members (Joel and Steve) tackled prayer in the cell last week in their posts and offered some outstanding thoughts, suggestions, strategies, and more.  To be specific, wouldn’t it be great to know that God was the catalyst behind your cell multiplying?  You, therefore, can relieve yourself of arm-twisting, spiritualizing, and/or manipulating others.  Let God be God and allow Him to birth your future cell multiplication.  Pray consistently with great anticipation of what God is going to do.

Next, love your cell members.  Think of how Jesus loved his disciples.  Have you ever considered that Jesus loved his disciples into the ministry?  In other words, it was through the love of Christ that his disciples were invited to carry the gospel message to the world.  Love was the motivation of Christ.  It can be our motivation as well.  Love you cell members in such a way that they trust God’s leading meshed with your desire for them to one day lead a cell. 

Finally, “Passion will find a way.”  JCG team member Steve Cordle said that to me two years ago as we were discussing cell multiplication.  Here’s what that phrase means to me.  When an individual is passionate about God and the vision of the church, then cell multiplication will happen.  Steve has learned over the years that a passionate cell leader will find a way for cell multiplication to take place.  He/she is able to prioritize his/her life call, being ever mindful of potential distractions and detours.

Needless to say, when people ask me:  “How do you multiply the cells in your church?”  I respond, “Through prayer, love, and passion.”  By the way, I’ve tried to multiply cells in many other ways and made some silly mistakes and serious miscalculations.

One final thought:  Don’t minimize the importance of multiplication.  It’s vital. 



The Goal of Cell Multiplication?

Recently someone criticized my cell definition: A cell is a group of 3-15 people who meet weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and discipleship with the goal of multiplication.

Most people that criticize this definition focus on the part about weekly cell meetings or the phrase “outside the church building.” John (not real name), however, criticized the part that says, “with the goal of multiplication.” He argued that the goal should not be multiplication but transformation. He expanded on this by saying that the real goal is Christ’s presence in the cell.

Yes, I agree that the real goal of God’s glory and Christ’s presence is beyond any definition. In reality, the over-arching goal of the Christian life is God’s glory and Christ’s presence, and this is certainly implied in my above definition.

I also have to admit that multiplication can be misinterpreted as multiply at all costs. I visited one cell church in which each cell leader led two to three cell groups. This church was so hung up on reaching “the goal” that they failed to develop leaders.

When I talk about multiplication, I’m referring to leadership development–the essence of the cell church. Multiplication is simply the context in which disciples are made. Jesus told us in Matthew 28:18-20 that we are called to make disciples who make disciples. Multiplication simply provides the venue for making disciples who make disciples.

Thus, if you wanted to be technical, you could finish my definition this way, “with the goal of making disciples that results in multiplication.”

I believe it’s important to include multiplication in the definition because it gives practical direction and necessary movement to the cell. It reminds the leader and members why the cell exists–to penetrate a lost world through raising up disciples who make other disciples.



Prayer: Interceding for others

In the last two blogs, I focused on church-wide prayer and individual prayer. Yet, don’t forget the need to intercede for others. Paul the apostle was constantly asking for others to pray for him:

In Colossians 4:3-4, he says, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” This is not the only time Paul asks for prayer. In I Thessalonians 5:25, Paul says, “Brothers, pray for us.” In Romans 15:30, Pauls says, Now I be you, brothers, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive with me in your prayers to God for me.” Again in 2 Corinthians 1:11 Paul says, You also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” Then again in Philippians 1:19, Pauls says, For I know that this will turn out for my salvation through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Finally in Philemon 22 he says, “I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.”

Praying for others is essential. Of the many factors studied in my survey of 700 cell leaders in eight countries, the one with the greatest effect on whether a cell multiplies is how much time the cell leader spends praying for the cell members. This case study proves that daily prayer by the cell leader for the members is essential for a healthy, growing group. The survey asked cell leaders how much time they spend praying for the members of their group. The responses: Sixty-four percent pray daily for their cell, 16 percent every other day, 11 percent once a week, and 9 percent “sometimes.” Comparing these answers with the data on cell multiplication confirms that cell leaders who pray daily for their members are far more likely to multiply cells than those who pray for them only once in a while.

Praying daily for cell members transforms your relationship with them. God uses prayer to change your heart toward the people for whom you are interceding. A oneness develops through the bonding power that prayer creates. Paul writes: “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is” (Colossians 2:5). This verse seems to indicate that it’s possible to be present “in spirit” with someone through prayer. Prayer opens our hearts to others and enables us to touch people at a deeper level.

Regularly praying for someone can mend your broken relationship with that person. Through prayer, the healing balm of the Holy Spirit often breaks the strongholds of bitterness and unforgiveness. Prayer changes cells. Those cell leaders who pray daily for each member of the group are more effective in cell ministry.

When you speak with your cell members, tell them, “I’m praying daily for you.” It develops an immediate bond with that person. In Prayer Shield, C. Peter Wagner details the necessity of intercessory prayer for Christian leaders, as well as how to recruit it. Frankly, this book should be mandatory reading for everyone in cell leadership. Every level of church leadership needs to develop a prayer shield and also form part of someone else’s prayer shield. Practically, this means that cell leaders pray daily for each person in their cell group. Section leaders pray daily for each cell leader in their section. Zone pastors pray daily for their section leaders; district pastors pray daily for their zone pastors. Finally, the senior pastor prays daily for the district pastors.