Church in Many Houses Read Through: Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Moving From “Growing Deeper” to “Reaching Outward”

Summary: While not the complete totality, you cannot have healthy growth in your life in Christ if you are not actively and consistently involved in looking outward to share the love of Christ. The cell model provides an opportunity for this to happen and to enable pre-believers see the work of Christ in the Body of Christ.

“We encourage Christians and churches round the world not to focus on their own needs and desires! If you do, you will surely shrivel up and die”– Chinese house church leaders” (Location: 789)

Note:In our lingo, the key to being able to go church shopping is “I’m not being fed”.

“Cell groups reach out to pre-Christians to offer new life in Christ.” (Location: 802)

Note:The term “pre-Christian” can be a helpful reminder that we have no idea what God is doing in this person’s life.

“Perhaps the biggest difference between program-based small groups and cell groups is that small groups are generally focused inward while cell groups are focused outward. Program-based small groups are usually avenues for Christians to “go deeper” through Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. Cell groups also study the Bible, pray together, and form close relational bonds; but a healthy cell is resolutely pointed out the door, too. Cell ministry is not about organizing the congregation into groups for better care; it is about reaching and discipling new believers. This outward emphasis does not hinder the spiritual growth of group members, it enhances it.” (Location: 802)

Note:We have believed the lie that spiritual growth comes at the cost of reaching out. But we don’t have to live that way. Oftentimes the best way to grow deeper is to look outward.

“In the popular book and movie trilogy, Lord of the Rings, a small band of mythical creatures embark on a quest to save the world. Their task is to destroy a magical ring, so that it can never fall in to the possession of an evil entity which wants to use its power to rule “Middle Earth”.” (Location: 808)

Note:**All Tolkien fans groan when they read “creatures” in this sentence.

“Groups and churches are healthiest when they are pursuing the quest to reach pre-Christians. As they share the love and good news of Christ with others, they also grow spiritually. If a church allows evangelism to slip from the primary focus to a secondary activity, not only will the church’s numerical growth slow down, the church will also decrease in spiritual vitality.” (Location: 832)

Note:One reason why a culture of outward focus is healthier is because we are constantly forced to realized how much we need God’s grace everyday. We don’t sink so quickly into thinking we have it all together.

“In spite of persecution, 30,000 Chinese per day are coming to faith in Christ.” (Location: 835)

Note:I am interested to know where this statistic came from. I’m skeptical.

“Larry Kreider points out,   ‘The primary focus of each home cell group should be outreach and discipleship, rather than fellowship, although great fellowship will be a healthy by-product of the home cell group that is constantly reaching out to others’.” (Location: 855)

Note:There is a fellowship that is unique to the Body of Christ. But there is also a love that can only be seen and experienced when the believer interacts with a pre-believer.

“We need not fear that emphasizing outreach will weaken our spiritual depth.” (Location: 860)

Note:I would argue that an individual will not be able to grow to a depth necessary without engaging with pre-believers over Scripture. The reason is that a pre-believer can be honest about where we are just living out a Christian culture, not the true Faith. We need that interaction!

“There are two main ways groups can reach out and grow numerically: 1) directly, by inviting unchurched pre-Christians to their group meetings, or 2) indirectly, by inviting unconnected worship attenders to their cells.” (Location: 867)

Note:Here the author is sliding back into the numerical growth trap. He would do better to keep his focus on “healthy growth” rather than “numbers”.

“Direct cell outreach is very exciting because it decentralizes evangelism and makes each cell an entry point for new people.” (Location: 871)

Note:In this example, isn’t the believer still farming out the responsibility of sharing the gospel to the cell group? The individual would have had to already share something of the gospel to arrive at the point of inviting a pre-believer into seeing a group of believers. It seems to me that the author should be focusing on the unique witness opportunities available when the pre-believer can observe and interact with a group who share a common bond in Christ.

“We find that the majority of new people (though not all) attend a worship celebration before they attend a group.” (Location: 876)

Note:How much of this is unique to the American culture?

“A mainline church leader once emailed me, “I really like the idea of outreach-focused cell groups. But in my denomination most parishioners believe evangelism is the pastor’s job. They seem terrified of inviting someone to worship. Will lay people really do this?”” (Location: 885)

Note:The pastor, and author, are equating “evangelism” with inviting someone to a service or group. This is a trap.

“Believers will reach out if they have: 1) the passion, 2) the training, 3) the determination, and 4) the prayer life to sustain their efforts.” (Location: 887)

Note:This is all individual focused. Evangelism starts with God. When someone come to know and love Him through His work in their lives, they will share that with others.

“Church consultant Bill Hull, author of The Disciple Making Pastor, says, “I think this reflects the deadening effect of much institutional Christianity. When you have a pulpit-centered, institutional church model, where accumulating Bible knowledge and being involved in insulated programming shuts you off from the world, it desensitizes Christians to others’ needs. There’s an old axiom, ‘No contact, no impact’.”. (Location: 901)

Note:This is both pastorally and congregationally fed. It is so easy to slide into.

“I encourage them to tell the group who they are seeking to reach, and then to enlist the group’s prayer support. Then, at future meetings, the leaders give updates on how their outreach efforts are going. And, of course, it is important to share the victories. This way the group gets involved in the action.” (Location: 910)

Note:I have been incredibly encouraged when others have done this with me.

“One time-tested format for training individual believers to share their stories is to ask them to think through the following three prompts:   a. Before I followed Christ… b. How I started following Christ… c. Since I followed Christ…” (Location: 921)

Note:This is the format Paul followed as he was dragged before crowds and leaders in the book of Acts.

“a. Make a list” (Location: 928)

Note:If we pray for everyone, we essentially are praying for no one.

“The most effective cell churches see their mission as nothing less than reaching their city for Christ. Cell ministry is a city-taking strategy; it will not work if it is seen as simply a membership care tactic.” Location: 954

Note:We are not truly caring for our members if we intentionally, or unintentionally, encourage them to stay wrapped up in themselves.