Help Me!

coach-tunnellby Jeff Tunnell

Oh No! My cells are falling apart around me.  Leaders do not report regularly, attendance in cells is down, spiritual direction is not cohesive (every man does what is right in his own eyes), Christian events within our town offer short-lived experiences that compete with steady discipleship and community within the body of Christ.  New people are not being assimilated into cells, no salvations and only one water baptism this month, ushers don’t “ush” and deacons don’t “deac”, while elders meet and pray (best move yet).  Among the congregation vacationing is at the top of the importance list and summer plans are messing with attendance at Celebrations too.

The old confusion sets in upon me; should I be concerned about the ABCs of western church (Attendance, Buildings, Cash) or focus on the health of cells?  If leaders can’t (or won’t) lead, there will be no cells left very soon.  What’s happening? Am I imploding? Maybe it’s my training track that jumped the tracks?  Most of all, what does God want me to do in this situation?

I am probably the only one facing these issues because I am a small cell church, in a tourist town, with a two-man staff, small budget, minimum resources and maybe even a lack of faith. So, reverse blogging is in order today….HELP!

What should I do now?

20 thoughts on “Help Me!

  • Jeff,

    You ask, What should I do now?

    May I suggest you buy yourself a nice Harley and do a lot of roadtrips. Hey, works for me! By the way… mine was the one sitting just outside the front door during the symposium 🙂

  • Jeff
    Recognizing the danger of the blind trying to help the blind, and seeing our church having similar struggles,…..
    Just thinking out loud- are leaders spreading so thin that they are helping fewer effectively? Jesus invested in 12 for 3 years daily and had problems. We keep wanting to live in community when it comes to cells but somehow keep the rest of our lives seperate, I think that is where the rub starts. Our lives are so full of “stuff” including the good stuff that we barely have time for our families many weeks, so how can we be spending our most precious commodity- time, with those we want to mentor if we already feel we do not have enough to go around….As an old friend once told me…we do what we value and value what we do. I am guessing the amout of time we spend with our leaders will equate on some level with the amout of them “getting it” in our churches. at some point we became so busy doing church that we quit being the church…..Preachers preach louder with the values they live than the ones they speak ion Sunday morning especially to the lay leaders who do care and want to make a difference ….
    I also agree with Rick…a motorcycle helps 🙂

  • I agree with KIm & would like to say very loud:

    We can not build the cellgroups just to worship & study the Bible, being invloved in the devil’s economy.

    We must start building an economy of God by helping & doing business witrh those who want to help themselves by adding values to others outside of church actvities. It can be about the Bible all the time. Thank you, Kim!

    As far as evangelism concern, we must focus on edification of the Church more tham anything.People in this country in & outside the church live in misscoceptions,deceptions & lack of knowldge on every subject exist, ignoring the history of revival in this Great Country. When, where did revival come from & what did it do to the country?

  • One thing that Jeff didn’t say is that Jeff sent out a pastor from his church to revive a small struggling Foursquare church down the road and a number of people went with him. I know the loss of a number of people made a big HIT on the bottom line at Jeff’s church. Yet, in reality, it’s a gain for the KINGDOM. Bless you, Jeff. Thanks for your honesty. Maybe you also need a new SPEED BOAT for BIG BEAR LAKE. . . and a Harley.

    See ya in a few hours. . . .

  • So…do you think we can get that Bike in the budget? Or, on second thought…a speed boat might make more sense…we can call it an outreach or ministry to tourists. Maybe blend it into the youth ministry or make it part of the 4th “W” (Witness) in cells. Don’t know how that will work in the winter time but I’m sure the youth can figure out something. Let’s give it a shot!
    Levity aside, this is a hard thing especially when you’ve been doing it as long as Jeff. Sometimes it feels like fighting an uphill battle is just not worth it. Wouldn’t it be easier to let gravity take over and go with the flow of the falling rocks on the hillside? Yeah, sure, but even those rocks can only fall so far. Eventually they’ll hit bottom. (You’d think those rocks would know that after the first couple of rounds.) However, those on the upward side of the slope can just keep going. The sky is the limit. It’s just so frustrating when you feel like you gain so much ground and then one of those falling rocks hinder your progress. Lately it feels like an avalanche. I feel it too.
    I’ve always admired you for keeping with the vision God has given you; and even stepping in front of one of those falling rocks and taking the hit so that another person can keep up their stride and take some ground.
    That being said, the other side of that is I believe there are others that stride right alongside of you and believe in what you are doing. But because of a lack of experience or maturity in fighting uphill battles, when they get hit with a falling rock, they get taken out or are pulled further behind. At that point we feel like we have to slow down so that they can catch up. But we don’t stop moving forward.
    Remember the last battle scene in the movie “Patriot” when the militia was called in to fight against the British on the front lines? They stood face to face with their enemy and shot something like 20paces away from each other. (There’s a message in there somewhere but that’s not my point) The enemy called in their cavalry and like a flood the American troops were pushed back over the hill where they thought they could surprise the enemy with an ambush. When it started to look like things weren’t going their way and it seemed all hope was lost the American army started retreating but Benjamin Martin grabbed the American flag out of one of the people retreating and started running forward yelling, “NO RETREAT! HOLD THE LINE!”. At that point seeing the American flag in front of them and the one known to be a man of principle holding it and yelling at them to keep charging gave them all hope that if he can fight so could they. They won that battle and eventually they won the war but they fought for something bigger than them. They were fighting for something that would turn the tide of the nation for their grandchildren’s children. They wouldn’t even know how much their self sacrifice would impact the future of their nation.
    I’ll let that speak for its self and you can draw any metaphor or allegory you want from that. Or maybe not… You know, I’m the last person that should be speaking to you in this way because I’ve felt so hopeless in times like these before. But just knowing that we have the Lord of Hosts behind us and a leader like you, a man of principle, leading the charge is enough to keep on going. Just keep up your tenacity! You have a great team behind you. And as long as you keep His banner waving we’ll fight right alone side of you.
    Love ya Pastor/Friend!

  • Ed said, “…a speed boat …we can call it an outreach or ministry…”

    Actually, up until I got the Harley, I did have a bass boat I named ‘Visitation’ — as in a convenient name for a boat whenever church members called looking for me and were told that ‘I was out on visitation’… 😉

  • Jeff,

    Stop, put down the concerns and slowly step away from the vehicle. Everything you wrote in your first paragraph IS the problem. Leader’s reports, Christian events, ushering, deacing, assimilating — ENOUGH ALREADY! Even the advice above is nice and it seems people care, but they are wrong.

    Quit doing ministry in a mechanical, results-driven bubble. These people want to go on vacation because that how they do life. So, give them something they can take with them to study and grow. Their coming back and you may learn that they got more “spiritual” on vacation than at church.

    You don’t need another pep talk or conference “shot in the arm.” Do the hard work of knowing your context intimately. Stop counting the people in your huddle and run a play.

    Scrap cell groups in the summer time. Instead, have all your people serve the tourists.

    Make the “Celebrations” a time of learning how to live missionally, it doesn’t sound like you have much to celebrate anyway.

    Ditch the principles you’ve learned about cells. They don’t apply. Learn your context. Where do you live? Meet the present needs with the resources God has given you in people, not the ABC’s.

  • COMMENT BY JOEL COMISKEY “One thing that Jeff didn’t say is that Jeff sent out a pastor from his church to revive a small struggling Foursquare church down the road”
    Hey, Joel, it’s Trish again with a slight correction in your blog.
    It’s true that Pastor Jeff released his associate pastor in order to bring on a younger man for the future, however, Jeff did not send him to another church. The Lord opened a door for Mike to pastor the Foursquare church after he was released from his position at Big Bear Christian Center.

    Pastor Jeff, I’m sorry cells have been in decline at BBCC. I know you have put everything into Cell Ministry for many years. I appreciate the comment made about giving the people something they can take with them on vacation to study and grow. Summer travel months are always rough. I pray we all make it through and thrive on the other side of this season.

  • Jerry Kinard writes on facebook about this blog:

    “Jeff, my suggestion (if you have not done so already) would be to step back for a moment and spend some alone time with the Lord. Ask Him first, what should you do.”

  • Chad Richardson writes on facebook about this blog:

    “Good discussion. I think to many people are focused on the numbers game when God has called into the people game. I too live in a very tourist run town and God has called my people to be in community living out Jesus wherever they go. We are working to build the community of true sheep because no one church ministry can take things back from the devil, it takes a community of believers.
    I am glad that Jeff Tunnell is being so transparent. We need more leaders like that.
    God bless.”

  • I’ve felt like a failure and a slacker and felt the painful bite of decline where it seems the prayer meetings turn dry or there is low turnout or where there is infighting and gossip and gross sin or some schmuck advising someone to go ahead and sin because they can always ask forgiveness later.

    Still, it seems God keeps reminding me to stay the course, never be satisfied for business as usual, depend on God, seek God, and I mean really seek Him. This morning I woke up reminded again about II Chronicles 7:14, and sometimes all the sevens in this verse gets my attention. There are the obvious 7 and 14 staring you in the face, so that’s three sevens. Anyway, not to get into any weird kind of numerology, but when you get into the verse, we see God promising to do three things if we will do four things, adding them up gives you another seven as a memory aide.

    God is promising to hear from heaven, to forgive our sins, and heal our land. That’s a rock solid promise, so if any of those three things are not happening, then we have to ask ourselves what conditions God gave for those three promises.

    God said if we are His people, called by His Name and we will 1) humble ourselves, 2) pray, 3) seek His face, and 4) turn from our wicked ways, then He will do those other three things.

    So, if our land is not healed, then we have to go back and let God examine our hearts. Are we humble, or playing humble? Do we connect when we pray? Do we seek His face? And are we holding onto sin in our lives?

    I know it’s basic, and I hope you will forgive me for giving you a baby Christian verse almost every Christian in the world knows well by heart and has probably sung in songs hundreds of times. But, I feel more can be done taking time with God and getting these things straight than working oneself and one’s congregation to death trying to have a thousand programs all run perfectly like clockwork. Sometimes we have to give up the busyness and take time with God and our spouses and our children and learn to connect and love and pray and have our hearts searched thoroughly. God can do more in a very short time than we can in years of labor on our own.

    Sorry if I share this with people much more successful and experienced in ministry than me. I hope you will forgive me if this is too basic and you feel you’ve been there and done that and are not getting anything new from this. I don’t mean to underestimate anyone’s wisdom or experience or come to preach to someone more experienced in this area than me. It’s just something God keeps bringing me back to personally again and again.

    Love in Christ,

  • Just do what God is telling u sir. dont mind the result. were all Gods servant and everything happening good or bad in our sight is good if everything is done according to his will.

    just as what he told Moses “Throw the staff” and God will be the one who will make it into a snake.

  • Dan,

    GREAT post and I’m-a-thinkin you’re dead on Brother. Bro Jeff isn’t experience anything that the rest of us haven’t or are currently experiencing and I believe you explained II Chronicles 7:14 in such a way that really sums up everything that we heard at the recent cell church symposium in Waco such as the need of ‘dying to self’ and the need of ‘spending more time and going deeper in prayer’. Thanks again Dan!

  • Jeff Flowers said “Ditch the principles you’ve learned about cells”. I would say re-visit them, re-embrace them. If they were good principles when you learned them, they should still be good principles! (Otherwise this blog should be closing down…)

  • I wholeheartedly agree with Iain and believe, with all the struggles we’ve encountered, if the vision of cell-based ministry was something I owned, I would’ve ditched it and bailed out long ago BUT it would be a foolish thing for me to do since this vision owns me.

    I would never be content being outside of God’s will for my life. I believe the question boils down to this, “Are we wanting to pasture a crowd of spectators or could we be content with a core of true disciples?”

    So what if pasturing a core of disciples means we must be bivocational? I mow yards for a living and have yet to go without a meal, clothes to wear or a roof over my head! That makes me richer than 85% of the world’s population! Again, do you own the vision or does the vision own you?

    Doesn’t it just make good sense to continue to pursue God’s purpose and direction for our lives?

  • I must thank ALL OF YOU for your high level of concern, willingness to come alongside, encourage, exhort, rebuke and speak into my life. Joel asked, “have you got some help from these posts?” and the answer is a resounding “YES” of course.

    If I were a sinking man (and it appeared that I was) you have thrown me the lifeline, and some have even jumped in the water to come to my rescue. I am impressed and grateful for all of our blog readers and comment writers.

    It occurred to me while I was wrtitng this blog post that it would be “common” to others reading it. Some have gone through (and offer us assistance) others are still in similar conditions and could use your advice as well. Thank you for expressing your insights and for “loving one another” – and me!

    Remaining faithful to the heavenly vision and call of God to serve my community.

  • looking at this with interest as an outsider, I hope you don’t mind my thoughts here, but cropping and fallowfields comes to mind, maybe if during this summer period when your ‘cells’ are at the quietest, it might be a time for your flock to nuture their families and build on strengths there, maybe during this fallow period when external grounds are nourished those who still want could be brought together as an alternative cell (or maybe keep prayer triplets or similar going that could expand on learning further if they wished), until such time is right to return. Guess I’m thinking rather like crop rotation? Hope this makes some sense to you, either way I shall pray you find a good solution….

  • Thank you for your interest and please do not remain an “outsider”. My childhood years were in the midwest USA on a family farm, your illustration makes sense to me. Good principles that meet present conditions and generate continued health or foster recovery are in order!

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