Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why cell groups could be a colossal failure

cell_groups… or life groups, … or home groups, … or… (I will be using the phrase “cell group” to refer to anything similar to the concept, such as “life group,” or “home group.”)

Cell groups can be a real blessing to a church or a real curse. The question is, What are they in your church?

In so many cases, cell groups are measured by how many people are pulled into these cells from the church, or how they meet people’s needs.

I have been part of cell groups for many years. I have been part of the model since the 80s. What makes a successful cell group? Meeting needs? Having the biggest cell group? Having the best socials? How superficial must a cell group be to be successful?

What happens these days in cells is that they are good at all those questions asked above. They meet needs, many of them are bursting at the seams, others have great socials, and as a result, many of them are very superficial too! Many cell groups would not be recognized as church groups if someone had not informed us. Cells are not just social clubs! In fact, they are not social clubs at all!

Many books have been written about what makes a good cell group and how to be a good cell leader or how to lead a cell well or easily, or.... However,cellbook many of these books are geared toward making cell groups fun events to attend. As a result, in my mind at least, these groups are failures, notwithstanding the many people that have been helped, or the number of people that are attending, unless the leaders are well trained, not just in leading cells, but theologically too. It is in this area that I feel the church has let down its people the most. There are just too many cell group leaders out there that are clueless when it comes to theological distinctives and what the foundational doctrines of Christianity are.

In too many churches, cell group leaders are seen as facilitators and not actual leaders. It is for this reasons that there are cell leaders that are theologically clueless! Cell group leaders are the church’s first line of defence. It is here that many questions are asked, and the right answers must be given.

I remember being trained in the army as a corporal. I was going to be a leader over 10 others guys. I had to lead from the front. I wasn’t just a facilitator of a bunch of guys with highly destructive weapons! I had to lead from the front, knowing these weapons and what their capabilities were. In combat, I had to be able to control these men, and know where to station them when the bullets started flying. We trained these men, many times very repetitively to handle certain scenarios. Then, one night while sleeping under the Angolan night sky, enemy combatants (terrorists) walked upon our camp as the men were sleeping. The night watchmen responded as trained, and in no time, even if we did sleep in a circle, the squad responded as one (even though most just woke up), the bullets started flying, and not one of our guys was hit. And, that from having just woken up!

The point is that our cell group leaders must be trained, not just to facilitate a cell group meeting, but to be knowledgeable on the Christian doctrines that are so dear to the true church of Jesus Christ. If you are in a reformed church like I am, then these leaders must be knowledgeable on what makes the church reformed. What is predestination all about, and election? What is TULIP, and can the cell leader explain it from Scripture?

While Paul wrote that it is good to aspire to be overseers (1 Tim 3:1), James also wrote that “[n]ot many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1 ESV)” Being a leader in the church of Jesus Christ is no small thing and should not be taken up lightly!

How is it possible to steer a ship when everyone wants to go in their own directions. This one believes one thing, the next believes the opposite. This ship will go nowhere, FAST! Our church leaders, especially our cell leaders, must be trained properly in order to make sure that they’re all on the same page. These are the people that will deal with the flock in a more direct way! Not training them, is letting down the sheep!

Leaders must be invested in. They‘e the ones that must lead the sheep on the ground. We all know that investment does not come cheap or easy! It takes time and effort to invest in people, and those aspiring to become leaders in the church will be sifted when it is made clear that becoming a leader in the church takes time, effort and study! If becoming a leader was easy, then being a leader would end up being a light-hearted issue. We want leaders who understand the gravity of being a leader in the church of Jesus Christ!

This would obviously not be just a weekend program to train these leaders. I remember when my family and I lived in Columbus, Ohio, we joined the Assemblies of God church in Dublin, Ohio. My wife and I decided that we would like to get involved in their children’s church. Before we could do that, we first had to do the church’s foundational study course, which lasted for six (6) months! You read that correctly! It took 6 months to complete the course, after which we wrote an exam, and only then could we become leaders in their children’s church! This ensured that everybody understood what the church stood for, and also that once the leaders were trained, they wouldn’t teach the children a lot of nonsense! This must be the same for cell leaders. It MUST be a long term commitment!

So, what could be taught in such a long term course to aspiring cell group leaders? Here is a possible list:

  1. Theology Proper. The doctrine of God and who He is. Do your leaders really know who God is?
  2. Bibliology. The doctrine of the Word of God is essential. Is the Bible inspired, inerrant, etc?
  3. Anthropology and Hamartiology. The doctrine of man and sin will inform the leaders who and what man is and how man landed up in this precarious position of sin.
  4. Christology and Pneumatology. The doctrine of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Who is Jesus and what has He accomplished. Who is the Holy Spirit and what is His involvement in our lives?
  5. Soteriology. The doctrine of salvation will inform the new leaders who gets saved, when it happens and why.
  6. Atonement. What does the atonement involve and why did God send Jesus to die?
  7. Ecclesiology. What is the church and what is its mandate on the earth.
  8. Eschatology. The doctrine of the end times tells us about how everything God is doing will eventually take us to the end of time and what happens then.
  9. Doctrine and heresy. Now that the leaders have learnt about doctrine, it is time they learn about those that bring false teaching and heresy into the church.
  10. Word-of-Faith heresy. One of the leading heresies is that of WOF. This is dissected, and the new leaders can see in a practical way how false doctrines can be held up to the light of God’s truth.
  11. Hermeneutics. It is an absolute imperative for all church leaders to know how to interpret Scripture. It isn’t just enough that they read it daily, they must know how to interpret it in order to understand it clearly.
  12. Reformed Distinctives. Several weeks can be spent here to cover subjects such as TULIP (one week per letter), election, predestination, etc.

I have written my own short course that will take about 14 weeks to complete and can be found here.

If you‘e a pastor in your church, do you ensure that your leaders are all on the same page and that they all understand your church’s distinctive doctrines?

Come pastors, start training those leaders now!

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