Finding light in the midst of darkness

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One Response to “Finding light in the midst of darkness”

  1. David Troublefield Says:

    In 2009, your church bringing more light into more dark places this way (complete article from jon.randles@bgct.org) . . .

    “. . . Fortunately, then, no two church cell groups must look exactly alike and function identically. Participants in them ought to enjoy small groups which reflect, not just the larger body, but who they are together united in spirit and purpose. All such groups need not conform strictly to some preacher’s notions about them nor to a prescription for them found in the latest bestselling Christian book. However, sensible group leaders seeking the greatest good for members and the best community service done by them cannot ignore proven ministry principles. Cell groups can become as unique as they desire while still applying those principles of ministry within their contexts.

    “In the end, cell groups represent the larger body and exist, not for themselves alone, but to help ensure their congregation’s future as a useful harvest tool in God’s hand. So, implement cell groups which would be evangelistic with the following body-building list in mind.

    “1. God’s will is for the growth of churches (cf. Matthew 16:18). To be one of a local Christian church’s cell groups, making plans to raise participants’ maturity level through Bible study or to aid in their recovery from dysfunctional behaviors, but developing no strategies to assist in the biblical growth of the body through on-going evangelistic outreach is not to understand accurately the concept of cell or body, or the purpose of cell groups. Teach every congregant what God means by the word church; train workers to maintain appropriate respect for the church body, and guide them to discover concrete ways for supporting the body by witnessing or assimilating efforts of the group.

    “2. Principles of biblical church growth apply to all congregations in all places, at all times (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-7). The conclusions of research conducted by Natural Church Development International suggest that, everywhere they’re found and without exception, churches growing possess certain characteristics to specific quality degrees or higher (‘small groups which are holistic relevantly’ is a characteristic of growing congregations worldwide). Many of the churches holding those attributes, and all of this planet’s largest Christian bodies, now are located outside of the prosperous United States—some even existing in the midst of conditions which would seem to prevent those churches’ continued increase. God grows the local church (1 Corinthians 3:6-7), and He can grow any church which will grow. Believe that church growth is possible and that God will do it through the cell groups which may serve, for newcomers to the faith, as front doors of the body which the groups represent. Learn and practice the principles which apply to evangelistic cell groups.

    “3. Biblical growth is symptomatic of a healthy church (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10). The pattern observed in God’s creation is that living organisms—including social organisms such as families and churches—naturally experience a process of growth when the systems of which they’re composed aren’t dysfunctional or diseased. If they’re designed for it and possess at least a minimum degree of health, the organisms also can reproduce. The growth and reproduction of healthy churches should be virtually automatic—when neither is so, there’s reason for serious concern. Check for the following symptoms of health and of disease, acting through the cell groups either to manage health or to cure disease: (1) baptisms: 6+ per 100 members points to health—but, 5 or fewer per 100 members means illness; (2) finances: 33% of participants giving 66% of the money points to health—but, 25% or less giving 75% or more means illness; (3) average member tenure in the church: 0-9 years points to health—but, 10+ years means illness; (4) small group membership: a net annual gain points to health—but, breaking-even or a net annual loss means illness.

    “4. Identifying and overcoming hindrances to the growth of churches is possible (cf. Revelation 2-3). It’s reported that Chicken Little thought the sky was falling and that he acted as if nothing could be done to stop it. Similarly, some declining churches in 2008—if they aren’t altogether ignoring their sad condition—also may have concluded they’re doomed. Though more than 2500 U.S. congregations go out of business annually, a turn-around is possible for most of them before their sanctuaries go into mothballs. It’s the effective leaders of all kinds of organizations who can diagnosis accurately and discuss honestly the needs of their groups—be one of those leaders. Often, small groups are the best things going in a strife-torn church. Where it’s so, celebrate it and keep inviting the neighborhood to experience the holistic ministries of those groups while working to resolve conflicts in the larger group.

    “5. Growth of churches requires adequate prayerful planning (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The sustained growth of Christian congregations is a spiritual happening—and it’s an administrative thing. Spiritualistic believers (whose maturity level appears high but proves low upon examination) down-play requirements for management of church growth; technocrats focus on planning for growth to the exclusion of the Spirit. Scriptures tell the church, though, that its spiritual and numerical growth result from the activity of God in individual and corporate lives—that He acts through the witness of Christians to produce other Christians and the work of churches to establish more churches in the world. Cell groups can network with cell groups literally to pray down upon their towns and friends the revival or spiritual awakening productive of growth, and they should hold each other accountable always to be Great Co-missionaries.

    “6. The dynamic for growth of God’s church is the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 2:16-22). The Holy Spirit was biblical for a long time before He became Charismatic or Pentecostal or anything else which might be the reason Baptist Christians avoid Him. Without the Comforter’s ability to make lost folks horribly uncomfortable in their hearts about their sins and dark destinies, no church since the Cross ever would have existed. On Texas Baptists’ best ministry day, the credit for souls saved and lives changed still will go to the Holy Spirit. It will not be by strength, it will not be by might; it will be by His Spirit, says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6)—or churches and their cell groups in Texas just won’t be. Tell Christian cell groups which would become evangelistic, ‘Pardners, the Holy Spirit is your Partner.’

    “7. Leadership is the key to church growth (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-4). The condition of Christendom in the U.S. cries today for effective leadership. Leaders see a preferred future and show the way; they plan remediation which will overcome deficits preventing progress; they organize work and workers; they share authority and responsibility; they create teams and guide them from adolescence to learning, to achieving exceptionally. Effective leaders, like Jesus, shed their own blood, sweat, and tears for the good of the whole. If lead, follow, and get out of the way are the options in 2008, Texas Baptists must choose to lead. Cultivate leadership qualities among cell groups’ members so that the millions of Lone Star State residents without Him can know the Leader of leaders, Jesus Christ the Lord.

    “8. When the biblical growth of a local church is sustained, it’s via that congregation’s evangelistic small groups maintaining a balance in relevantly living out the functions of the New Testament church in their communities (cf. Acts 2:41-47). It’s predictable . . .”

    David Troublefield
    Minister of Education
    Lamar Baptist Church
    Wichita Falls, TX
    dgtroublefield@sbcglobal.net

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