By Joel Comiskey
I remember one influential businessman in Ecuador who was passionate about meeting the physical needs of those in the country. He was bright, influential, and zealous to help the poor and needy of Ecuador. He pressed the pastoral team to organize a social outreach ministry and then pushed us to make Sunday announcements. We were only two years into our cell church transition and trying to say “no” to new programs. I told him, “Juan [not real name], you need to organize the cell groups to meet social needs. Cell members not only know the needs of those attending the cell, but they also know the needs of the community. They are better able to meet physical needs.” But Juan wanted to make announcements in church and organize a program that he could control. He loved making announcements, and we wrestled with trying to integrate his vision into the church’s cell ministry. I struggled with trying to integrate Juan and his vision throughout my time at the Republic Church.
Most churches budget some money to meet the physical needs of the members. Some churches might form a committee to give out benevolent funds for needy people (both members and non-members). If a church member or person off the street has a physical need, he or she can go to that particular committee for help.
I believe cells are a much better way to do this. Cell members know each other. Cell leaders are aware of what’s happening in the lives of cell members and the community around them. The cell might take a special offering to meet a particular cell member’s need or to reach out to someone in the community. I’ve also known churches who have distributed the “benevolent fund” to the cell groups. One cell church pastor in Canada gave $300.00 to each cell group each year to minister to needy people (whether in or outside the cell). One of the cells in this particular church poured their time and money into a poor, non-Christian family from the school, whose father was dying of cancer. The dad eventually died and asked the church to do the funeral. The parents of the deceased father (the mother a former devout Jehovah’s Witnesses) were so touched that they started attending the church.