THE BODY OF CHRIST: JESUS IS THE REAL CELL LEADER
BY RALPH W. NEIGHBOUR, JR.
Have you seen a TV program or movie that shows a lineup through a one-way mirror? Now imagine that you, as a cell leader, are watching a lineup of your cell group in such a manner. There they are: eight or 10 people, all with different needs and strengths. You have met with them long enough to know which ones are emotionally healthy and who is spiritually strong.
Look again. What (not whom) are you viewing? These dear ones are literally the body of Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 12 tells us they are all body parts. The Holy Spirit selected them (v. 13) and joined them together as hands, legs and even “inward parts.”
Of course, you know which one overtalks and which one arrives late most of the time. But do you know this about them – every single one has the same degree of righteousness! Paul explains in Romans 3:22 that Christ is our only source of righteousness. When He indwells our lives, we receive all the righteousness we will ever have for all eternity.
I once sat in a Bible study led by Jackie Pullinger in the Old Walled City in Hong Kong. Those attending were former cutthroats and vagabonds who had recently accepted Jesus into their lives. While they were clean on the inside, their body odor revealed that they needed to bathe. Regardless, one of the seediest members of the group shared a profound insight with the others. A pastor friend looked over at me in disgust. He later asked Jackie, “Why in the world did you let that smelly bum share that spiritual insight?” Jackie scolded him: “Do you think because you went to seminary you have any more righteousness in you than he has in him? He has exactly as much righteousness right now as he will ever have, and if Christ wants to speak through him, that man has every right to be a channel for our Lord!”
Take another look at your cell group. Recognize they are a “basic Christian community;” a fancy way of explaining they are joined to become the very body of Christ. His glorious Spirit lives and moves in them.
Sense the dynamics that take place as the icebreaker moves into worship and then into edification. Feel again the burden that arises as you share the vision and pray for unbelievers on your “Blessing List.” Renew your awareness about Christ leading this group. You are only the facilitator!
1 Corinthians 14 speaks of the duties that each one is to perform (vs. 26). The term for “each one” in the Greek is hekastos, a word that depicts every person participating. In a cell group, there are not to be any “shy Janes” who passively observe the others. We are all expected to function as body members.
Body parts do not function independently. They are all directed by one source. The head of the body directs the hands, the eyes, the legs. None of these parts acts independently. There must be a central control, Jesus Christ, who induces the body to perform His ministry through them.
The Christ Who Dwells in Me Greets the Christ Who Dwells in You
When Jesus lived on the earth, His Spirit occupied a body immaculately conceived. His life demonstrated the presence of God. He healed, He raised the dead, He cleansed the leper, He forgave the harlot. However, He could be at only one place at one time. His ministry was limited by His human body.
After Jesus arose from the dead, God gave Him a new body – one that exists all over the world, all the time. His new body provides the hands, feet and presence that penetrates all cultures everywhere. That new body is the cell group, the “basic Christian community.”
Paul wrote in Colossians 1:26-27 of a great “mystery” that had been hidden for generations. He said, “I share this mystery: Christ dwells in you!” Think of what that means to your cell group: Every person in the cell has Christ living in him or her. He wants to cause/the cell to function as His body, even as the body provided by the Father and Mary, His mother, gave Him opportunity to perform supernatural acts.
The Main Factor in Making Your Cell Successful
The life force of a cell is Christ empowering it – Christ is in the midst, incarnating, indwelling it. He is the catalyst directing your
cell how to grow and what to do. Christ must lead the cell. You are to serve the cell, but Christ must lead the cell. Beware of thinking too highly of yourself. You are a servant who facilitates the group so they can experience the life of Christ flowing into them for healing and restoration. Your cell members must also sense His presence guiding them into ministry to the unreached people around them.
I have often told cell leaders that they are not the group’s “teacher.” Nor is the assignment to be the primary caregiver and to solve every person’s problems. Rather, their job is to create an environment where the presence of Christ is known, and where His life operates in the body members.
Here’s a suggestion: Instead of trying to control the group during your next Edification Tune, usher in the topic with a very brief review of the scriptural teaching presented by the pastor. Imagine as you speak that you are rolling a ball of introduction into the center of the circle. Then be quiet! Let the Holy Spirit guide what happens next.
I learned years ago to briefly introduce the topic to the group and then stare at the toe of my shoe. By doing so, I was indicated that I would no longer control what happens. After a period of silence, someone invariably speaks. He or she probably addresses me, but I deliberately do not establish eye contact. The group realizes that I have released them and will not guide the discussion. In that freedom, the body members begin to listen for the voice of the Head, Jesus, instead of the voice of the facilitator. What happens next can be awesome!
Principles for Recognizing His Presence
The experienced cell leader is sensitive to the activity of the Holy Spirit as Christ guides the group. The leader knows that His activity is taking place when these things occur:
The group thoughtfully considers the direction in which the Spirit is guiding the edification time. They know that a cell meeting frequently focuses on one or two members, becoming specific in ministry to them. I have seen this scores of times. As a cell leader, I think, “Lord, I see that we are meeting tonight particularly because You want us to minister to Audrey as she agonizes over her recent divorce.”
Usually the edification time begins with general statements by a few of the members. Others may still be thinking. I am sensitive to who is not speaking. At an appropriate time, I may say with a smile to a silent member, “And now – a word from Mary!”‘ I try to help every (hekastos) person in the group to share. By the time one-third of the edification time transpires, I as the cell leader want to be sure each person has participated.
Learn to read body postures by observing the group. If a hand or hands cover all or part of a face, that may be a sign the person is
approaching confession. Crossed arms and legs may denote withdrawal or discomfort with the discussion. When a cell member shares deeply and perhaps makes an honest confession, the dynamic of the session takes a new direction. Christ has spoken in a special way to this person.
As the cell leader, I must now reinforce the group by confirming the person who is sharing deeply. Voice tone and repeating what has been shared is important: “Jim, I hear you saying that you have never been able to forgive your father for the cruel way he has treated you. Some of us have been there. We understand!”
No issue is so deep that Christ cannot bring victory. When the group senses the activity of the Lord in one or more hearts, a time of silence is helpful so the members can reflect and hear what the Lord is saying. Remember that edification means that I hear your need, and then I hear Christ’s voice, and then I share what He has given to me so you may be built up. Pausing to listen to Him in the edification time is very important!
Once the cell hears the clear words of the Spirit flowing through the sharing time, the cell leader needs to bring the issue to a conclusion. “Let’s go around the group and share what each one of us has learned from this session. Perhaps some of us would like the group to know where we can focus our prayer about where we go from here.” I recall one man saying, “Pray that when I pass by a newsstand in a strange city I will not be tempted to buy pornography.”
Many years ago, our cell was called to an emergency meeting by one of the members. With tears, the person confessed, “I have sinned against my Lord and against our life together as the Body of Christ.” After the sharing, we promised to create a 24-hour prayer chain while this person traveled to a distant city where previous immorality had taken place. Many faxes and phone calls were sent by the cell to support this person. Just before our member flew back, we got a call: “I have found total victory from my sin while I have been here!” The cell greeted the member at the airport with a banner that read, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” We all rejoiced because one of the body members had been triumphant! When a cell finds joy at the conclusion of their lives together, Christ is in the midst in a special way.
How to Tap into His Presence
The more time you spend in the “Listening Room” interceding for your cell members, the greater will be the awareness of Him when you meet with your group. As the cell gathered, I frequently sat with a deep sense of awe that we were about to assemble the hands, legs and other body parts of Christ, and that He would be revealing Himself in a special way that cannot be experienced by those who are not bonded into His glorious community. Intercessory prayer for one another is the secret of tapping into His presence.
Be a Witness!
Once a cell discovers the active work of Jesus within them, the cell is never the same. It moves to a new dimension that shakes all their value systems. But that is not enough! It is evident from reading the four gospels that Jesus was ceaselessly active in reaching out to the lost. Indeed, He said He had come “to seek and to save those who are lost!” How, then, can a cell group possibly think they are pleasing to the Lord if they are not targeting a group of unbelievers and using their cell as a witness to draw others to Him?
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 makes it clear that the greatest tool of evangelism a cell group possesses is their meeting together with
observers who are “unbelievers or ungifted ones.” When Christ’s presence is powerfully manifested in a special way in a cell meeting, unbelievers are awed by His evident presence and exclaim, “Wow! I have watched a lot of hocus pocus on religious TV, but in this room I really have met Christ. He is certainly among you!” And, says Paul, they will fall on their faces and be saved.
The full evidence that Christ is in your midst takes place when the unbeliever is also in your midst and finds Him in you!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY TOUCH OUTREACH MINISTRIES, 2000, “CELLEBRATING” CELLCHURCH MAGAZINE, PAGES 143-148.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.