Tag Archives: multiplication

Why is the cell valuable to you?

handsMy core cell has been together a long time now. We sent off a cohort at one point and we absorbed part of a dispersing cell at another. But the basic core has remained together. While we have not multiplied in the usual sense, we have been a remarkable little factory for spiritual growth. I often look at how individuals have developed over our time together and marvel.

Way back in January, we took a little poll of one another by asking “Why is the cell valuable to you?” We did not do any theologizing to come up with what we “should” say, we just pondered what it was about being part of the cell that makes it meaningful enough to show up to our meetings.

As it turns out, I think we have been doing the word, because what we came up with spontaneously looks like what the Bible teachers wanted us to do. Here is what we listed when asked “Why is the cell valuable to you?”:

I have a sense of belonging.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5

In it, Jesus is tangible.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

It is a safe place.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:5-7

If I have a good week someone will have a bad one.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Corinthians 12:26

We have good food.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10

The cell is the church, what more do you need?

To Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home. Philemon 1:2

It stretches me in new directions

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

I observe others and participate in different approaches to life.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—  you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:2-5

I learn by watching people love in ways I don’t.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-17

So the Next Generation Would Know

We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
the marvelous things he has done.

He planted a witness in Jacob,
set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God,

Psalm 78 (The Message paraphrase)

Family businesses tend to crash at the third generation [link to Business Week article]. This is a little unnerving for Circle of Hope. We are a family business devoted to the proposition that the body of Christ multiplies as it grows and the descendants of the original cells or congregations do not diminish in character, but reflect the DNA of their parents. We look for maturation, not deterioration. I suppose I could take heart that we are not a mere “business,” we are an organism. And I do take heart to see how we have matured. But, to be honest, we are something like a business, too. We have plans, structures, meetings, representations like a website, a speech or a mailing, that take the kind of oversight that businesses use to keep their enterprise moving along. The leaders who follow the leaders before them need to be as astute and capable as their mentors. Will we crash someday?

Our first ever congregation “hive-off” called Northwest lasted, fitfully, for seven years (!).

DNA replicating

But it eventually died. One of the main reasons it died was that it was never a fully-connected part of the network and did not replicate the DNA that made the original viable; until we installed Bryan Robinson, the leadership did not fully “feel” Circle of Hope. Our most recent church planting called 19G is an actual third generation congregation; BW begat FN begat 19G. They don’t seem to be in any danger of crashing, but will they be able to create and adapt, or will the network be able to keep up and adapt to what they bring? Will their new school do in our version of old school?

Similar questions apply to cells. Cell multiplication is all about making it to the third generation and onward. Our whole church is about not diminishing in character as we multiply. We are always going through a process of adapting to our neighborhood changes, adapting to changes in the congregation, adapting to growth in number, and adapting to people coming into their fullness as leaders. We hope to reproduce a good replica of what God hopes as a new cell is born and goes through the process of growing and multiplying. Sometimes our oldest and should-be-wisest leaders stop adapting and just give up. Sometimes our youngest leaders don’t even bother finding out what we already know and invent something that isn’t nearly as brilliant as what we have already proven to be effective. The process can deteriorate.

Last week, I wrote a little “psalm” for the cell leaders based on Psalm 78. It is a psalm that calls us to be a “good business” that beats the odds by being God’s business. So far, we have beaten the odds magnificently. But we are always bumping up against our weaknesses, our lack of imagination and our lethargy. What’s more, the world changes so rapidly it challenges our capacity to meet people where they are at. The Church, in general, seems so messed up (and the BIC is no exception), it is doing more crashing than building, so it doesn’t help much.

I think it is an exciting time. I feel like I was born for it. I think Circle of Hope was made for it; and in our small, unique way, we are meeting the challenges. But we could crash if we don’t pay attention and don’t give our hearts to the cause. I think we could use a little Psalm 78. Here’s an attempt to bring some. Those listening in can apply their own name and listen with us:

Listen Circle of Hope;
listen to your own proverbs
the stories of your past, distant and recent.
We have a wonder to speak.
We have wisdom to relay to the next generation.

God planted a witness in us.
We are charged, like parents loving their children,
to tell the truth we are given
to generation after generation of what God generates,
lest they be left prey to the faithlessness
that surrounds them.