I visited Jim Gunther today (not real name). We were best friends throughout elementary school, played YMCA sports together, and eventually partied together in junior high and high school. Jesus rescued me from the drug/party scene during my senior year in high school, but Jim continued down that road for another thirteen years. In 1988 I had the opportunity of leading Jim to Jesus, baptizing him and his girlfriend, and then marrying them.
Ten years later Jim lost his only son and was overcome with grief. His grief and addiction to pain pills caused Jim to turn inward, become depressed, and eventually led to a heart attack. During his hospital stay and open heart surgery, Jim was able to withdraw from his over-dependency on pain pills and renew his commitment to Jesus.
Today at his house we had a great time of fellowship and prayer. He confessed his desperate need for a small group. He realized he couldn’t just sit in his house alone, but that he needed to talk to others. I live 1.15 hours from Jim, and it bothered me that I couldn’t recommend a church in the area that prioritized holistic, weekly small groups. I’ve been reminded today that one of the primary needs of cell ministry is open sharing and transparency. People need a safe place to share their grief and problems.
Cary Sove understands the power of transparency in the small group. It saved her life. Listen to her testimony:
â€œI went through a horrible divorce,â€ she said. â€œMy husband, who professed to be a godly Christian, turned out to be a con artist and drug addict. He preyed on people like me. While we were in Israel, he stole all my money to purchase drugs. And then he left me. He shattered my dream of being a missionary to Israel, and his actions caused intense devastation and shame.â€
Cary was so hurt and embarrassed by the situation, she wouldnâ€™t come out of her house. Her lonely, dark thoughts â€”spurred on by demonsâ€”drove her into an emotional death grip.
Spending time alone didnâ€™t help Cary at all. Her individual thoughts, rather than being a comfort, confused and tormented her. Cary needed other people to help untangle her web of confusion. Someone invited Cary to a small group. She felt warmth and love and was able to share her hurt, struggles, and problems. â€œThey didnâ€™t judge me or try to correct me. They just allowed me to share. I realized I wasnâ€™t alone in my struggles. I slowly began to understand that perhaps I wasnâ€™t abnormal.â€
But it wasnâ€™t human warmth or psychology alone that helped Cary. Yes, her brothers and sisters in the small group used plenty of that. But the small group centered on prayer and the Word of God. Godâ€™s Word began to speak truth into her life and guided her onto the right path (this illustration appears in my new book, Relational Disciple in chapter six).
One reason that both Mike and Cary Sove love cell ministry is because of the power of transparency. What about you? What is the role that transparency plays in your group? Can you share a testimony?