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Friday, March 7, 2014

One, Two, Three – GO!

Wikipedia defines Numerology “any belief in the purported divine, mystical . . . relationship between a number and some coinciding events.”
Adam needed Eve, so the number “two” became connected with having a “suitable helper” (Hebrew ezer). And together, the two were able to produce “baby” – and now we have the significance of three.
God divided Israel into 12 tribes and the Israelites were divided into groups of 10 for Passover celebrations. There are 144,000 in Revelation 7:4 and in Revelation 7:9 “a great multitude that no one can count.”
We have a tendency in the cell world to be enamored by the number 12 or 2. Some have deified them as the perfect number causing growth. One Brazilian pastor even replaced the Cross on the front of the sanctuary with the High Priest’s breastplate containing 12 stones, the “sacred” number.
Can we agree that any number, in the proper setting, is the “right” number, but to give prominence to any number may be to breed one more passing fad?
ONE, -- When Paul prayed for direction in Acts 16:9, he was alone. There are times when One is the intimate way to meet God.
TWO, --When Jesus sent the disciples and the seventy to penetrate the lost, He sent them in Twos.
THREE, --He defined His Presence as becoming a part of Two or Three “gathered in His name.”
TWELVE --His prototype for His new body was the calling of the Twelve, but He chose Three of them to be closest to Himself.
120 --He entered 120 at Pentecost and they quickly multiplied to 3,000 who went in small groups from house to house.

Let’s sublimate our passion for numbers with proper settings!

The setting sets the number. Mentoring often takes place one on one: that involves Two.
But there is greater power in groups of Three because community now exists. People first experience intimate community in a triad.
Community begins with Three and ends with Twelve. Why? Because of this formula: N x N –N = CL (Number of people, times number of people, minus number of people, equals communication lines). After 132 “CL’s” you enter into public gatherings mode where intimacy is impossible.
I writhe in agony when some pastor brags to me about his groups who he has allowed to grow to 25 or 45. Through ignorance, he has destroyed the value of his home cells!
The proper setting for intimacy with God is “One” person in the closet.
The proper setting for working with unbelievers is to send “Twos” into households, to live among the family and find the “Man of Peace.”
The proper setting for mentoring, as Jesus said, is in “Two or Three” with Him making the Fourth person.
The proper setting for a Cell is a gathering of three to twelve.

(MORE ABOUT THIS IN PART TWO}

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

CELL LEADER APPRECIATION IS IMPORTANT!

SHOWING APPRECIATION TO CELL LEADERS

What ministry title in scripture best approximates the ministry performed by a Cell Leader? Elder or Deacon? Perhaps one of the five titles mentioned in Ephesians: Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist? Or, what about Shepherd? Servant? Other titles to be considered could be Counselor, Comforter, Advisor, etc.

The point is this: the ministry of a Cell Leader from time to time may involve all these areas. This person may be the first one at a family in crisis, the first mentor of a future missionary, the one who intercedes into the night for those in the home group.

It involves a significant sacrifice of time to lead a cell, a restructuring of priorities to put the needs of the families of the group ahead of leisure activities. Consider also the commitment of the spouse and even the children as they release this person to serve month after month.

I shall never forget the first trip to Seoul in 1963 to visit Pastor Yonggi Cho. Among other things I discovered was that he had just taken by the busloads all the Cell Leaders of the church to a seaside resort for a multi-day “Thank You” event. This annual time with the Pastor was a great blessing to those who had served so faithfully.

When I went to Singapore to help build the Faith Community Baptist Church cell ministry, we budgeted from the start a special annual event for all Cell Leaders, taking them to a seaside resort in Malaysia. In addition, personalized gifts were presented. 24 years later, I still unzip the little leather case of nail clippers with the church logo we gave to each person. In addition, there were significant awards at this annual event for the Cell Leaders who had multiplied their groups several times and those who had brought the most new believers to Christ.

While we averaged about 2 ½ years of service before cell leaders either took time off or were promoted to be responsible for overseeing 5-6 cells (Cell Supervisors) or moved to a pastoral position (Zone Pastor), we had many who chose to remain a cell leader year after year, often seeing several generations of “daughter cells.” These were given special honor. I noted in a recent article by Pastor Mario Vega that they had just honored a woman who had led a cell since the founding of the church!

For unsalaried cell leaders, their greatest “rewards” are not going to be a special annual retreat or banquet or trophy or pin. It will be the lives they have invested their prayers and hours to mentor and inspire. This is the gold, silver and precious stones that they will be rewarded for when they meet God at they enter into His eternal home and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” But a congregation that recognizes the faithful service of its cell leaders will prosper!

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”



Saturday, November 23, 2013

About My Mentor, Avery Willis

My contacts with Avery Willis as I recall them can be divided into three stages.

Stage 1:

 About 1974 I was living in Singapore to develop the house church movement there. At that time Avery was president of the Baptist seminary in Semerang Indonesia. He invited me to come over and spend a couple of weeks with him. He had a few missionaries he assembled to train to write programmed learning materials. He had done great research and had compiled A little booklet that I think I still have but cannot locate after much searching. This was a  booklet that walked through all the stages of how a person learns, including the cognitive, affective,  and psychomotor domains. He also taught me the basic facts so I could write programmed learning material.  It has remained one of the most profound learning experiences of my lifetime and has influenced all my writing of training materials through the years.  I remember the many hours we sat on the veranda overlooking the river below and sharing our common vision of the changes that had to take place in the body of Christ. He was a godly, wise mentor and became a close friend.

Stage 2:

Avery and I reconnected through Dr. Roy Edgemon  when we were both writing and working with the church training department at the Baptist Sunday school board.  It was at this time I wrote the survival kit for new Christians, following his coaching and collaborating with A man who recommended who did the program learning segments of the book. He wisely counseled me about the problems I was making for myself by being overly outspoken about denominational politics. At this time I was writing A sequel to the Survival Kit and he gave me A suggestion that I took for the name, Life Basic Training.  I carefully followed his suggestions about how to create each division of that training manual.

At that same time, Avery was commissioned to prepare a discipleship series, MasterLife, for the Sunday School board and he retained me to write portions of it.  It was a great joy to help him as he pieced together what I gave him along with other writers as he put it altogether. It became the most valuable discipling tool the denomination has ever had.

Stage 3:

I learned that Avery had contracted cancer and had come to Houston to work with the hospital here. I quickly phoned him and began to visit him on a regular basis in his apartment near the hospital. These hours with him were very precious because at this stage he had discovered a cell group style of church that he felt was a final answer to the problems in Baptist circles. Once again, as in previous contacts, I had my notebook in my hand to jot down his many thoughts that shaped my further thinking.

So when I think of Avery, I remember him as a missionary on the field seeking to mentor those around him and shaping vital parts of my own future by what he deposited in my mind and heart. Then I recall the doors open for me, both in my mind and in the contacts he opened at the Sunday school board  related to becoming one of his writers.  Then I lovingly remember his courage as he slipped downhill in the recurring visits to Houston for treatment. His passion never waned in its intensity all the way to his home going.

I consider him among the five most important influences that have touched my life.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

The “Make or Break” in Ministry


1.  Internal motivation. If you “own the vision” it will not carry you when things get tough. The vision MUST OWN YOU!
2.  Believe that God is bigger than man.  No matter your circumstances or situation, have a clear picture of God as bigger than your struggles.  God-focused, and not man-focused.
3.  Be up-to-date with the stage of life you are in and the testings that are coming.  Be able to make adjustments with the new pressures and responsibilities.
4.  Pull your family into the vision.  Everyone needs the vision!
5.  Be open to change until the day you die.  This is a vital part of your lifestyle – be teachable, open to correction and rebuke.
6.  How you handle rejection determines how you will make it over the long haul.
7.  Comparison has to go!  Be a learner from everyone.
8.  Be willing to give up individuality and/or creative pride.
9.  Sharpen the saw – always be learning and staying ahead of the issues.
10.  Never get out of the local church, even through the various ups and downs.
11.  Never lose your first love.  Boredom is an indication of having lost your first love.  Stay hungry.
12.  Have an appreciation for even the mundane of life.  Find God in the mundane.  “Practice the presence of  God.” 
13.  Learn to overcome depression.  When you are unable to find God in the midst of the pressure, burnout happens.  Realize:
           a.  It will come!!
           b.  You are not a victim of the devil/flesh
           c.  You are not immobilized
           d.  Self-awareness is important.  Knowing what “pushed
                buttons” got you there
           e.  You are not pressured by God – people cause pressure.  
                You are not on a performance track.
14.  You have to find and know how you connect with God.  Realize that everyone is different and “connects” in different ways.  Some ways are:  hearing or reading something inspirational, being alone, reading apologetics or something that stirs intellectually, planning and working things out before the Lord, etc.
15.  Never, never, never, never quit!!!!!!!!  The right value system gives you the right perseverance.
16.  The five percent bad issues in you won’t resolve on their own, but will ruin/spoil the other 95 percent that is good.  The question is not, “What’s been done to me?”  but, “What’s God doing in me?”
17.  What you judge you will serve or end up doing the same thing yourself.
18.  Your response to trials determines how you make it over the long haul.  Learn to be an overcomer.  (See number 6 above)
19.  Nobody owes you anything!  Don’t blame others for your problems and situations.  Don’t expect apologies…B e sure that everyone is “debt-free” in your eyes…especially those you are helping…Don’t expect your team to give back to you…Explaining and having the others understand is OK, but it is not ok to demand that they understand and/or agree.
20.  Be concerned with internal wholeness and not external perfection.
21.  Get feedback on what you feel God is saying.  Don’t walk independently.
22.  Learn to handle failure and learn from it.

23.  Ability to encourage yourself in the Lord.  Team, family and enemy pressures come, but you must develop the ability to seek God and encourage yourself in Him.
-- From a message by Jimmy Seibert

Monday, October 21, 2013

Children's Cells

The greatest pitfall facing the Cell Church movement is our failure to form cells for children between the ages of 5 and 13. Our tendency is to develop home cells for young people and adults, relegating the children during cell meetings to baby sitters or viewing television.

George Barna states: "What you believe at age 13 is pretty much what you’re going to die believing." Research compiled by his Barna Group shows that children between the ages of 5 and 13 have a 32 percent probability of accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. That likelihood drops to 4 percent for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18, and ticks back up to 6 percent for adults older than 18.
I am an example. 79 years ago as a five-year old child, I accepted Jesus as my Lord sitting on my father’s lap. It has amazed me to meet Christian workers who think we do not need to focus on harvesting children.

A remnant when a traditional church transitions to a cell church is the retaining of children’s programs (Awana, for example). Programs are organizations, not an organism. An authentic ecclesia replaces programs with body life. It becomes the family of God, cherishing each child as a vital part of the community.

Children who become part of a cell with other children develop a bond that lasts for a lifetime. In our TOUCH FAMILY, formed in 2000, we blended children with parents in our home cells. When we gather for worship, these children treat each other as brothers and sisters. They have had years of sharing, praying, learning about their Bibles together and most of all they only know “church” in its cell/congregation format.

A cell church that does not blend its children into its home groups, ignoring them or causing them to be left out of the adult group, will produce unattached young adults who will not have cell life as a core value.

A memory I cherish from the 1990’s when Lorna Jenkins led our children’s cells attached to Faith Community Baptist Church is a cell group where a man in a wheel chair came for prayer. The adults prayed fervently for him, without any observable healing. The adults drifted into the kitchen for refreshments, leaving the man and an 8 year old girl behind. The child stared at the man and finally said, “Well, why don’t you get up and walk?” The Spirit of God fell on him at that moment and he rose up and walked into the kitchen. Astonished, the adults asked, “What happened?” “It was the little girl! She told me to walk.” When the adults queried the girl, she simply said, “Well, you all prayed for him. So I just told him to walk because he was healed.”


Childlike faith must be stimulated by mingling with all the aunties and uncles that compose a home group. Let’s include them, not isolate them!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

THE MOUNTAIN OF MOSES

Greetings!

As we complete the fourth week of this amazing training event, I want to share some thoughts before I get back to the USA. You have no idea what the spiritual level is when you have 10,000 devoted people who are willing to spend an entire month of daily gatherings to focus on the kingdom of God. People came from many nations with the predominance being from the Ukraine. These are all Russian speaking people who have been victimized by communism and even today are considered to be a sect within their societies. One dear Pastor has spent four years in a Muslim prison for preaching the gospel, another elderly man spent 20 years in a Siberian prison camp. 

The issue that makes this community of Christians different is their awareness of the supernatural and that there is a radical difference between churchianity and true, authentic activities directed by the Holy Spirit. Because the history for 1000 years has been rooted in dead Russian orthodoxy smothered by communism, the past generations were worshipers of demonic powers. Witchcraft and curses and belief in horoscopes, etc., with unspeakable immorality and drunkenness are all generational curses. 

Most unique is the way this pastor came into the knowledge of God. After spending much of his teenage years in prison for stealing and selling drugs at the age of 20 he had destroyed his body and doctors sent him home to die. For the first time a Christian intercepted him, gave him the New Testament, and he was introduced to the God he had never known. Without knowing any believers he fasted and prayed and was instantly and miraculously completely healed. From the moment of his conversion he became a healer through a very simple method. In the gatherings, he says we will wait on the Holy Spirit to come and set you free from whatever bondage you have been living with. It is an amazing thing to see 10,000 people who are all in one accord, all having experienced deliverance of one sort or another, silently waiting for the Holy Spirit to fall upon the group. Yesterday afternoon we waited in unity together for an hour and when God began to work there were people healed and set free from demonic control. Only in the Ivory Coast have I seen such demonic manifestations! Those in the Western world have no idea of the way a possessed person is caused to scream when the demonic power fights to remain. I feel so sad that "moderate Christians" in America are limited in their understanding of what supernatural activities are in the heavenlies and the warfare of the battle we wage. Here it is not contrived but very real!

This Godly pastor amazes me. Pastor Vladimir has not built this ministry around himself. He is continually letting others he has mentored pray for the sick, preach, etc. He slips away for 3 days at a time to devote himself to prayer. One of the "experiences" of the Mountain of Moses he teaches is sacrificial giving to the Lord. He taught them to make a sacrificial gift to the Lord without even knowing what it would be used for! He told me privately, "we need to teach sacrificial giving! Not for causes, but unto the Lord." Last year the giving in the special offering was $225,000 and the total sum was sent intact to a church in Siberia, a cell church that was exploding and needed larger facilities. This year, the 10,000 people gave an offering of $325,000. Last night the Leadership Team designated the entire amount to be wire transferred to Yonggi Cho at Church Growth International for him to distribute as he saw fit! I was asked to make the contact since I have known Cho for years. When I contacted them they assumed this was another scam . . .who sends such an amount out of the blue?????

I am now waiting for wire transfer instructions!

I addressed about 2,500 Cell Leaders at 6 pm last night! I am now ready for heaven! What a joy to be with my brothers and sisters who together lead at least a quarter of a million Russians in weekly home groups!

Monday, July 8, 2013

BIBLICAL BASIS FOR LARGER GATHERING

Bill Beckham has described the cell church as a two-winged bird that has a “large wing” and a “small wing.” The two wings are clearly described in one verse, Acts 2:46: (1) they went to the temple to hear the Apostles teach and (2) broke bread in their homes. The two dimensions of a cell church require both teaching and prophesying.

The large wing is for biblical instruction, equipping the believers for the work of their ministry.  The large gathering of believers took place in the Jerusalem temple. In Ephesus, Paul taught large groups in the school of Tyrannus. They also gathered in Corinth on the “first day” (Acts 16:2). In Acts 20:7, believers crowded together in Troas on the first day of the week as Paul taught them into the night.

The small wing is where all prophesy and reveal Christ’s presence and power. (1 Cor. 14:3, 24-25). The primary purpose of the cell meeting is for edification, exhortation and comfort as believers manifest supernatural gifts to build up the body. This produces “Body Life Evangelism” as observing unbelievers fall on their faces, declaring they are witnessing the activity of God within the group.

Thus, there must always be two components in a cell church. The assembled community gathers for biblical guidance and instruction so they will properly function as “one another” priests in the cell. The cell penetrates the people within their oikoses and draws them into the cell meetings to observe Christ’s activity as His gifts are manifested.

Contemporary cell churches must remember that the gathered assembly is for the purpose of equipping believers through biblical teaching. Too often in a consumer-oriented Sunday service the sermon is directed toward making the audience “feel good.” One TV church commercial in Houston promises that those who attend will “get a lift for the rest of the week.” No! The general assembly is for the guidance of the priesthood as they serve for the week.

Also, contemporary cell churches must remember that the basic community gathered in homes is the way the indwelling Christ manifests His presence and power through ALL believers prophesying as the ungifted and unbelievers watch. If this is not taking place the cell is not the authentic body of Christ.

Two wings take care of two separate ministries. In the large wing, believers are equipped and edified from the scriptures. This gathering is for believers, not unbelievers. That is why in Wesley’s cell church the attenders had to obtain a ticket in the class meeting (cell) before they could come to the large service!

In the small wing (cell), purification of the body members takes place as all prophesy and unbelievers observe Christ’s power. Note: unbelievers are not first taken to the large service where teaching takes place.


We seek to evangelize in the wrong place by the wrong method. One experience in a Spirit-filled, Christ-empowered cell as healing and deliverance takes place, is worth fifty trips to a boring large wing church service!