FEASTING ON BETWEEN-MEAL SNACKS ‘FAMILY’ RELATIONAL TIME WHETS APPETITES FOR MORE TOGETHERNESS
BY RANDALL G. NEIGHBOUR
I have spent hundreds of hours in cell meetings experiencing incredible times of worship, learning, and giving and receiving ministry. These weekly meetings were exciting and balanced when cell members immersed themselves in ministry, discipleship and lifestyle evangelism during the week. But when members didn’t have a clue about living in Christian community, the meeting time felt rushed and insufficient to meet the group’s needs, or we were just plain bored because no one felt comfortable enough to enter into worship and ministry.
Conversely, the hours invested in discipling cell members, helping them move furniture and coaxing them into joining me in building projects outnumber the meeting times tenfold. Meetings fade away, but memories of kingdom-building activities are precious and remain forever.
I’ll never forget kingdom-building with my friend Harry. He was a single guy about my age who bought an old house in the same
neighborhood as my wife and me. Our common bonds were (1) Jesus and (2) the urge to use power tools on the other guy’s house, in that order.
Harry was my cell leader; I was his intern. We prayed together for hours each week, lifting our cell members and the lost to the Lord. We ministered to a Chinese couple by helping them with transportation to and from cell meetings and Sunday celebrations.
With the prayers and assistance of the rest of the cell, they became followers of Jesus.
Did our stellar cell meetings make us successful kingdom-builders? Not so you could notice! We messed up most of the cell agendas and stumbled through ministry time week after week. Without Harry’s determination week in and week out to move every cell member into a lifestyle of helping others and to model this for me, we would have dissolved the cell and joined a garden club.
Harry knew that the best way to build community was to ask for help and to offer it as often as possible, so he focused on between-meeting ministry opportunities. As I reflect on that, I see that our prayer time prepared our hearts and gave us a hunger for servanthood. We gave the daily interaction among cell members as much clout as those weekly meetings, and our cell grew and increased the kingdom of God.
Snacks and Dinner Too!
Between-meal snacks were frowned upon in my mother’s kitchen. If I filled up on potato chips or cookies after school, my mother was certain my appetite would be spoiled and I wouldn’t eat all those nutritious vegetables served at dinner. Truthfully, I could inhale every scrap of food in the house at 4 p.m. and still eat seconds at the dinner table. I was a growing boy and a voracious eating machine.
Dinner at our home was a spectacular daily event. My two older brothers and I would sit at the table and impatiently wait for the blessing. Dad often would give thanks (my mother liked to pray for all the missionaries before she asked God to bless the food) and then we’d dig in. My mom prepared the best food in the whole world. I don’t remember all the dishes she cooked, but I clearly recall the times we laughed and talked and loved each other’s company as a family should. I often invited my friends to stay for dinner, and many of them came to know my parents as Uncle Ralph and Aunt Ruth. Our meal times weren’t an exclusive event, but my parents understood that daily interaction among the family members would keep us strong and prevent us from growing apart.
Your family of origin may not have looked like mine. But your cell “family” should resemble the dinner table of a healthy family:
• Get together with members outside your weekly meeting time to fellowship, share dreams and discuss problems. Make these “between-meeting snacks” a priority. They will increase your appetite and whet it for more relational time, not spoil it!
• Pray together whenever possible. This keeps the group’s focus on Jesus and on the need to share Him with others.
• Look for ways to meet each other’s needs. If your members aren’t comfortable enough yet to let you serve them, ask them to do something for you.
• Invite outsiders to partake of “between-meeting snacks” before you invite them to a cell meeting. They will see how real you are and how real Jesus is inside you.
A few months ago, Harry and I took our wives to get an ice cream cone and catch up. He’s a married man of a few years now and lives in the suburbs. We don’t even go to the same church any more, so visits like these are special. While we talked about those days of close friendship and teamwork, we recognized that God had placed us together for a season to learn, grow and model that selfless lifestyle for others.
The ironic thing about cell-based community is that God gives it to us to achieve something very special for a short period of time. We shouldn’t look at community as a goal. It’s a gift God gives us because it’s one of the most powerful tools we have to minister to each other and reach our world for Jesus.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY TOUCH OUTREACH MINISTRIES, 2000, PAGES 207-209.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.