By Joel Comiskey, The Relational Disciple, 2022
Have you ever felt lost in a crowd? Lonely even though people are all around you? This happens to me when I’m in a crowd of people I’m “supposed to know” but don’t have anyone specifically to communicate with.
Many people feel like this on Sunday morning in our churches. In fact, many don’t come to church because of the loneliness they feel in a crowd. And friendly, handshaking greeters can’t overcome the angst that people feel. Nor can free donuts and coffee. Church growth experts have tried for years to construct a way to make first-timers feel welcomed, but those techniques don’t satisfy the need for intimate friendship and a sense of belonging. What really helps is to have intimate friends in the church with whom you can count on.
When I first started visiting cell-based churches around the world to discover how they worked, I noticed that cell members would often sit together in the worship services with members from their cell. Cell members had become friends in the process of sharing their lives and experiences in the cell. They genuinely liked to hang out with each other.
In the cell, members get to know each other because they are sharing life, confessing their sins, and opening their hearts. In other words, the members grow in intimacy and then naturally gravitate toward these “friends” within the larger church framework. I believe we should encourage these relationships and even make sure they take place.
The leader must not think they have to make all the relationships happen. Rather, the leaders simply encourage the members to care for one another. Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
We’ve talked a lot about evangelism, raising up new disciples (multiplication), and even church planting, but let’s not forget the key principle of membership care. For the month of April, leaders and pastors will write 20 blogs on the topic of care in the cell and the celebration. If you’d like to receive these blogs in your email inbox, click here. We’ll cover:
- April 03-09: The biblical base for caring for one another in the cell and celebration. There are 50+ one-another references in the Bible and most of them have something to do with some kind of care (love, serve, etc.).
- April 10-16: Closing the back door. Many churches have a revolving back door. New people come and others leave because they’ve never addressed the care problem. We’ll explore how cells can close the back door by really caring for people and helping them become part of a true family of believers.
- April 17-23: We’ll look at how members can care for one another in the cell. The cell leader needs to encourage members to spend time together and grow together. Often cells will have picnics and other relational building times.
- April 24 to April 30: Care in the celebration service and other network gatherings, like coaching meetings, one-on-one gatherings outside the church, and so forth. Notice how these other events are still connected with the cell group but it gives a chance for members to receive care at a broader level.