The Church That Jesus is Building – Part Fifteen

As we conclude our brief look at the mixture of CELEBRATION and CELL in the life of the Church that Jesus is building….


First, we create healthy relationships where hearts are knitted together (CELLS)

Then, we find a collective spiritual identity as we connect with something bigger (CELEBRATION)

This allows for unity, shared direction, people knowing the big picture, an emphasis on missions that will be shared by everyone, and a Kingdom-mindedness

This will allow a common spiritual identity to be formed that will be expressed at the CELEBRATIONS

A sense of ownership, commitment, alignment (unity and focus) will be seen and experienced

Thirdly, we can face the challenge that Jesus has given to us – to jointly take on the task of winning and discipling the neighbourhood (work place, town or city) where we live and work

AND, this structure of Life Transformation Groups allows us to immediate integrate as many as are being saved or are expressing an interest

I believe that this is part of the new wineskin that Jesus spoke about

“…Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and he wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17

The Church That Jesus Is Building – Part Fourteen

Let’s continue looking at the benefits of meeting weekly in small accountability groups which I am calling Life Transformation Groups…

1> Greater Participation
2> A place of life transformation and accountability
3> Persecution-proof
4> A part of “normal life”
5> A place to grow as a disciple
6> Allows unlimited growth as a church

7> Takes care of the “pastoral care”

As the numbers grow (the church experiences life and growth) there is no added weight placed upon the ‘professional pastor’ or the leadership team

In most churches – as the numbers grow the quality of the pastoral care usually goes down because the pastor can no longer tend all of the sheep personally and in depth

The CELL solves that issue as almost all pastoral care is now received through the small weekly groups that meet as we minister to “one another”

8> A terrific place to lead people to Jesus

People who would not come to the weekly CELEBRATION will come for a cup of coffee at a cafe or coffee shop
This is a natural and normal part of life – informal, friendly, personal, available
This is a great place to influence people on their journey to Jesus

9> A great place of growth for new Christians

Small groups (CELLS) meeting over a coffee or a meal is a very effective way for a new disciple / believer to grow and mature
They will see how Christians live
They will feel free to ask questions within the natural setting of coffee and food
Provides spiritual fathers and mothers – not just teachers and notebooks

10> A way to grow leaders

Because there will be many more CELLS then there are CELEBRATION groups people have more opportunities to develop leadership skills

Leadership is not given an opportunity to arise in the CELEBRATION because this is an informational system
Leadership will arise in the CELL because it is a transformational system

11> Reverses the general flow and direction

In the regular CELEBRATION we are directed towards getting people to “church”
In the CELL understanding we are getting the “church” to the people

12> This is a biblically based pattern

In the Bible we see that CELEBRATION and CELL go together
However, there was, right from the beginning a definite emphasis on CELL life

Acts 2:46-47 “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, raising God and having favor with al the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”

When the temple was destroyed by Titus, the Roman general, in 70 A.D. then we see a rise in the use of homes (coffee shops) as CELL meetings continued to be the daily norm

Celebrations (big groups) not always possible…

13> It is a means by which to influence a town or a city

Acts 5:28 “You have filled our city with your teaching”

This because of the constant multiplication of CELLS that enabled the early church to influence whole cities and regions very quickly

I am sure there are other benefits to the CELL – Life Transformation Groups / LTGs

But, that’s enough for now…

The Church That Jesus Is Building – Part Thirteen

I want to continue the series I have been researching and writing … We are looking at THE REINVENTION OF CHURCH…. so that we can be part of the Church that Jesus is building. We are examining the two aspects of life in the Church – Celebrations and Cells. For the sake of this discussion we are calling the “cells” Life Transformation groups….

We began to look at the benefits of small accountability groups yesterday… and saw:
1> Greater participation

So, today … let’s continue:

2> A place of life transformation and accountability

You come to know and trust others you are relating to because it is a small group and so you can live out a healthy and loving accountability with each other
Learning new Kingdom values from one another
Helping each other to live out this Christian lifestyle
Speaking in to one another’s lives…

“An analysis of the Western Church shows that the CELEBRATION is almost totally ineffective at changing basic values and lifestyles. Many Christians demonstrably end up with the same lifestyle of the not-yet-Christians around them, becoming indistinguishable from society and losing their prophetic edge. Small, informal meetings provide a far more effective place for the radical transformation of values and reordering of life, offering mutual accountability as well.”

We become a sub-culture as compared to a counterculture

3> Persecution-Proof

If the time comes when the born again church in North America is openly persecuted we can continue without being noticed – – Persecution-proof or at least persecution-resistant

The tradition church with only the weekly CELEBRATION will not be able to adapt and will simply disappear or come under the control of the government

4> Part of “normal” life

It is natural and normal today to meet for coffee with one or two others and simply share what is happening and how we are doing – To share, to laugh and cry together

It is not difficult to add “Jesus” into that normal everyday life happening

“I will certainly be praying for you…”
“Have you considered what the Bible says about that…”
“Gee, I went through a similar situation and this verse really was a help…”

5> A place to grow as a disciple

The weekly CELEBRATION allows for limited growth as a believer
The CELEBRATION is not a discipleship model because its structure tends to prevent effective discipling and mentoring from taking place
Just not designed to accomplish discipling which is more face-to-face

But a smaller weekly meeting of “peers” where the Holy Spirit is free to move will allow powerful growth and development as a disciple
It is personal – – – It is face-to-face – – – It is open and able to go where we need to go

6> Allows unlimited growth as a church

There are an unlimited number of coffee shops in the city and thus we can continue to multiply and grow groups without concern about housing all these groups under the same roof

And, as the CELEBRATION aspect grows so large that we can’t all fit into one room and this means some people are getting ‘lost’ and not participating we can multiply these meetings as well

We have unlimited housing in which to meet to grow and house our CELEBRATIONS

We have numerous places to meet as CELLS and experience life together

REMEMBER: Jesus didn’t come to just plant a church that holds meetings – He came to birth a movement that grows so we can “occupy until I come” (Luke 19:13)

ESV: “”Engage in business until I come”

We are to “seek and save the lost” and multiply…unlimited growth

The Church That Jesus Is Building – Part Twelve

I want to continue the series I have been researching and writing … Yesterday we started looking at THE REINVENTION OF CHURCH…. so that we can be part of the Church that Jesus is building.
Life in any and every culture has two aspects

Everyday living and special events
Everyday living is organic, informal, and relational – even spontaneous

Special events are extraordinary functions for which everyone duly prepares
Weddings, funerals … going to church on Sunday
These are usually more formal, need to be organized, and are often structured

Church – as revealed by the survey of young people in Amsterdam (see yesterday’s blog) – has to be more than a weekly CELEBRATION

Imagine if you had to attend a wedding every weekend
Each wedding followed the same basic pattern
Had the same bridegroom and bride
Even included the same kind of food

After some weeks the excitement would wear off
You would know what to expect
You would know what was going to happen

The wedding would still remain a nice thing, a beautiful tradition, but it would feel odd to have the identical festival or celebration every week

We need to be careful not to do this with the Church
Jesus has shown us not only a way to CELEBRATE, but also a way to live (CELL)

Both aspects are necessary and both are good
But everyday life is not like a wedding, as any married couple will attest

If Church takes on only CELEBRATION structures, it will be like attending a wedding a week
And our behaviour will soon be so far removed from real life that it will cease to make sense to ordinary people (Non-Christian)

It will become an artificial, weekly performance – out of touch with the real world

So, we need to have a way to embrace both the CELEBRATION and the CELL
Both the more formal gatherings of God’s people and the informal fellowship meeting over coffee

So, maybe we need to develop small fellowship groups within the larger celebration ‘crowd’ that allows people to share life together as believers… Let’s call them Life Transformation Groups

These groups would have two or three people who meet weekly. As they pray for and see their lost family members and friends saved the group will grow. As soon at it becomes four people meeting weekly, the groups divides into two groups of two and continue on with the weekly meeting…

The two will see a third added… these groups of three will see a fourth added as another comes to salvation – then that group will break into two groups of two. And the process of life multiplying continues as we influence and impact the city.

In most situations and churches we do the CELEBRATION gatherings well BUT there tends to be a lack of real relational CELL life other than the occasional clique

Let’s look at the advantages of informal small weekly gatherings for coffee or a meal… What we are calling LTG – Life Transformation Groups

1> Greater participation

In a smaller group of two or three believers meeting informally we would see much more participation and sharing of life
You could ask how others are doing and have the time to actually listen to and pray for one another
Everyone would have an opportunity to share what is happening in their life and receive input that is relevant and real

Once a group gets to 10 people or more – some people stop talking and no longer participate

When a group has 2 or 3 in it – everyone has opportunity to share and, in fact, must share because of the smallness of the group and the relational bonds that are formed

More people engaged and involved in good…

The Church That Jesus Is Building – Part Eleven

I want to continue the series I have been researching and writing … Looking for the next few days at THE REINVENTION OF CHURCH….
In a research project in Amsterdam just a few years ago young people were asked if they were interested in God.
One hundred percent of them answered “yes”
Then they were asked whether they were interested in church
One percent said “yes” and 99 percent said “no”
Most pastors who heard this story assumed that something must be seriously wrong with the youth of Amsterdam since everything, in their minds, was right with the church
Today, a few years later, leaders would admit that it is probably the other way around
That maybe the youth of Amsterdam have some lessons to teach the church that most churches have been unwilling to learn

In general we have fallen in love with our own traditions and what we are comfortable with so that we think everything is good when that is really not the case

The church, in general, has reached the point where we are, in many ways, unable to hear and feel and thus touch the world from our safe and “holy” distance

Jesus would put it this way:

“So for the sake of your traditions you have made void the Word of God” (Matthew 15:6)

So, I believe that we are in a season when many things are going to change and a new “church” is emerging

One that is powerful and life-changing where the Word of God will be honored and believers will experience the presence and power of God in a fresh and new way – – In a way that brings life-transformation

Hebrews 12:26-27 (The Message Version) “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words … one last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern. The phrase, ‘one last shaking’ means a through housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered”

We are in that season … and it can be uncomfortable because it means changing…

In the early church there were two aspects to the ongoing life of the Church

The CELEBRATION aspect where they met together in places like Solomon’s Temple Colonnade or outside in the open air by a river

The CELL aspect where the met in small groups often house-to-house

The CELEBRATION was where they worshipped and heard the Word of the Lord for the larger Christian family

The CELL was where they fellowshipped, ate together, prayed for one another, and prayed for the lost

With the lost often attending because it was a comfortable and ‘normal’ location and involved something ‘normal’ – eating and drinking coffee together

The Church That Jesus Is Building – Part Ten

Let’s address two issues that all of us need to think about. These issues are things we have all encountered or, at least, thought about. We run in to them often and just tend to ignore them. We shouldn’t.

Karl Vaters writes: “In my experience, Christians who spend even small amounts of time arguing over fine points of theological trivia seldom have much community or world impact. Such arguments sap our energy, divide the body and alienate people from the core message. Those who quibble over theological and denominational minutiae tend not to be doing much real-world ministry, while those who are doing hands-on ministry don’t have time to bicker.” (Outreach Magazine, January/February 2015, Collaboration, Page 50)

In every church where I minister there is always a number of believers who have their pet topic, a favourite television preacher (and thus their slant on the Kingdom and the Gospel), or a personal understanding of a scriptural issue that is not biblical or well thought out but which they will constantly talk about and, if necessary, fight about (tithing, evangelism, women in ministry….)

My observation is that these people seldom if ever talk to others about Jesus and how He can change a person’s life. These “issues” and “opinions” become their focus and they neglect to “seek and save the lost” as we are all called to do. In fact, I would go further and say that the majority of them are not even actively involved in the life of their local church because they are busy trying to change the church or convince the leadership of the church that they are right and the church / leadership needs to see the truth (as they see it) and change.

It is also my observation that these people are really looking for recognition and a place in leadership although they are missing the character base and people skills needed to be an effective and reproducing leader – not to mention the correct biblical understanding of most issues. And, they remain on the fringe of the flock because they are thinking of leaving due to the supposed non-biblical teachings of the leaders. Of course, pride is the big issue here.

Peyton Jones writes: “The key is getting outside of the building. The four walls of the church building have served in recent decades as a mausoleum to dying churches. A casual reading of the Gospels or the book of Acts will show that most effective ministry in the first century was done outside. When the church rediscovers the secret art of ministry in public space, it will become unstoppable again – and hard to ignore.” (Outreach Magazine, January/February 2015, Connection, Page 80)

It is also my observation that the majority of churches have too many programs that involve much too much of their people’s time. This leaves very little to no free time in which to engage the lost. When the programs and activities of the local church absorbs more than 3 to 5 hours a week of people’s time – there is little spare time left to engage the lost over a coffee or a meal. Life today is seriously hectic and, for most families, there is little time to spare in an average week. When that “little time” is totally absorbed by the events held within the four walls of the local church (prayer meeting, mid-week service, Bible school, training and equipping classes, leadership meetings, Bible study….) then there is little to no effective evangelism taking place. This is true in every nation and culture.

So, we are at a place, I believe, where we need to examine what we are talking about and focused on as well as how we are spending our “spare time.” Hopefully, in this examination we will come to realize that we need to invest time in building relationships with the lost. Not to share a pet topic or doctrine or belief with them; but to share Jesus. And, to build these relationships we need to say “no” to a number of church events (activities within the four walls) and involvements to free up time for the real work of the Christian – seeking and saving the lost as Jesus called all of us to do.

The Church That Jesus Is Building – Part Nine

Here it is – the last of the five steps Jesus took to invite and involve people in His Kingdom…


Everything in life will multiply
Plants, rabbits, bacteria… and life-giving churches

We must expect at the outset that our church will multiply (plant other churches) and grow in numbers and health

It is only through multiplication that we will experience the fulfillment of the Great Commission

There is this man who was leading a small church – a group of believers – in his home but found that he and his wife were doing everything
He went to someone who had been involved in ministry longer than he had and was encouraged to give responsibilities away to others

So he made a list of everything he and his wife were doing – including opening their home, leading the Bible study discussion, and all the other tasks that they did each week to keep the young church alive
When he offered the other members of the group the opportunity to serve, he was shocked – they took everything!

But that is not the end of the story

Over the course of about six months, that single group of believers meeting in one home multiplied into three groups – because God’s people learn, grow, and mature by doing

The beauty of the church is that we can dream BIG and build SMALL
We draw people into small gatherings, spot one or two people to train and then encourage those people to be leaders

Some of these leaders may fall away
But, be encouraged!
Keep pouring your life into others

A very wise man once said, “Throw water on the ground and tend the flowers where they grow.”

To avoid discouragement, we must concentrate our efforts where growth is occurring

Pour your heart into others

As we teach others to serve, the Holy Spirit causes the church to multiply

Successful churches follow the example of Jesus and imitate the natural progression of what He did

He prayed
He met people
He made disciples as He gathered them close to Himself
Then He selected leaders to multiply the impact of His Kingdom

The Church That Jesus Is Building – Part Eight

There are five basic steps we see Jesus take to see people come into the Kingdom and thus allow the Church to be healthy and grow… We are looking today at step #4…

God’s people gather so as to celebrate His goodness (Hebrews 10:25)
God’s people gather to be equipped to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12)
God’s people gather to worship and enjoy God’s presence as a group / family
God’s people gather to hear the Word of the Lord for that local assembly

But this is a little different – this is when you gather non-believers for a meal in your home

People who would not accept an invite to your church service will accept an invitation to come to your home for a meal
Or, a picnic in the park
Or, coffee at a coffee shop or cafe…

Tony Collis, a New Zealander, says:

“Families eat together, and so does the family of God. For the early church, the dinnertime became the love feast during which time they celebrated communion. While they ate together, they shared victories, challenges, and insights. As they consumed they communed. Still today we build relationships over cappuccino at cafes or pizzas in the park. Strangers become friends after only a few minutes eating together, because what can go wrong over food? In a new church plant, the hostess of the meeting had a visitor who stayed for a short time to get a handle on who we were and what we were doing. She was invited to stay and enjoy the meal, and she did. By the end of the evening she became a new member of the group. Food had made a friend.”

Eating together is a very important part of church

That is why the New Testament Church met from house to house and shared meals together.
They were experiencing true family and authentic community – they shared meals and life together, rather than just sitting in a pew and seeing the back of somebody’s head once a week

We don’t need to package the church meetings doing the same thing every week

There’s no need to have a guitar, five songs, and a sermon. If all we are doing is the same thing week-in and week-out then it will often have no life. Remember we are talking about life (see previous blogs in this series). Eating together and discussing life and sharing what is happening with us during the previous week is real life. And people are attracted to this form of church as it is ‘natural’ to them.

When we gather around food and hang out together life will be seen and experienced. And, it will attract non-believers…

Look at Jesus: He was very much a leader in that He spoke with authority. He could say, “Here are the boundaries; here’s where we are going,” but He exercised His authority from beside, not from above. He was not interested in getting a meeting established – He wanted a movement to be born! He was going for the long haul, the big picture. He modeled a style of leadership that facilitated many leaders and participants. He met with His followers, taught, shared life, and ate together with them regularly.

The early church followed this model (Acts 2:42).

So the steps are…
1> Pray
2> Meet (people)
3> Make (disciples)
4> Gather
5> Multiply

We will look at the fifth step tomorrow…

The Church That Jesus Is Building – Part Seven

We are continuing to look at the “Jesus Steps” to growing a healthy Church…


Jesus prayed this prayer at the end of His life on earth:
“The word you have given to Me I have given to the men You have given Me.” (John 17:8)

Jesus invested Himself in others
He discipled, coached, and encouraged them!

Who are the men and women God has given you?
He has people just for you
Church is about intentionally investing in other peoples’ lives

If we are meeting with those people, pouring into them, praying together, and growing together, we don’t worry about our churches turning into (little) selfish holy huddles

Instead, we will be growing, dynamic, Jesus-following, Jesus-obeying, Spirit-led communities where the power and presence of God touches and changes lives

If a church is having problems with people sitting around nitpicking and complaining
We need to get those people going for God
I have learned by experience that if you want people to grow, you have to motivate them to make disciples, to pray for people, and to be outward-focused

Realize this:
Disciple making does not have to start AFTER people become Christians
If you really think about it, there’s no biblical difference between discipleship and evangelism
Discipleship is simply a journey we enter into that takes people from where they are (unsaved) to the cross (saved) and beyond….

The journey (discipleship) starts when you and they connect

As soon as we befriend someone we are walking with them and so we are on a spiritual journey that will, in time, take them across the line of faith and into the Kingdom = discipleship


Bill was working in Amman, Jordan, with a church-planting team
He also had a circle of Muslim friends
The Church-planting team started meeting together in Bill’s house to pray for their community
One day, one of Bill’s Muslim friends discovered that people were meeting regularly at Bill’s house and he wondered why he was not invited

In his mind, they were “secret” meetings, and in Muslim culture, the home is always open and welcome to friends. Friends don’t have secret meetings.
So, Bill’s friend came to him and asked, “Why haven’t you told me about this meeting in your home” May I attend?”

Now imagine, the church-planting team was meeting to strategize and pray about how they could reach the Muslim people in the community … and a Muslim man wanted to attend.
Bill assured his friend that he could attend, meanwhile telling the church-planting team not to speak in ‘Christianese’ so that his friend would feel more at home

At the first meeting Bill’s friend attended, the group met together over a meal, and then had a short Bible study from the Sermon on the Mount. They sang together and talked about the words of Jesus
Afterwards, the Muslim friend said, “I really enjoyed that. May I come again?”
“Sure,” Bill said, “And this time, you lead the discussion.”
“But what will I say?” the Muslim friend wondered
Bill assured him, “I’ll meet with you before the meeting and we’ll discuss it. And I’ll give you some books to read beforehand.”

At the next meeting, a Muslim led a Christian church-planting team in a Bible study!

The next week, Bill’s Muslim friend said to him, “How did I do? I didn’t quite understand what Jesus meant when He said these words.”

It was an open door, and Bill and his Muslim friend continued many months of studying the words of Jesus together.

Today, that Muslim friend is a leader in a small community of Jesus followers


Bill started mentoring (discipling) his friend before he chose to follow Jesus

Discipleship can start before people become Christians, because discipleship is really just a spiritual journey of sharing Jesus, of loving people, of planting a seed of faith and of inviting people into a love relationship with Jesus

If our churches are not highly religious, and if we speak in common language instead of Christianese, people who are not yet Christians will be free to come and join us. They will feel at home with other NORMAL people. If we gather primarily around food and fellowship, people from all walks of faith and life just naturally fit in.

1> Pray
2> Meet (people)
3> Make (disciples)
4> Gather

We will look at step four tomorrow…

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Six

We are looking at the five natural steps we can take to become involved in building the church that Jesus is now forming in nations around the world. Jesus Himself followed this pattern and so should we. We are looking at the second step today…


Do not hang out with Christians!
Strange as it may sound, this is something we need to take seriously
At least, don’t spend ALL of your time with Christians

Do not invest all your spare time in the Church – programs, building, meeting, activities
You need a good chunk of time free each week to engage your heart , your mind, your emotions and your daily life with a few people who don’t know Jesus

Building relationally with them so as to eventually help them to come to know Jesus

We must be intentional in order to develop friendships with non-Christians— it does not happen by accident

Get involved in an adult sports league
Attend your children’s sporting events to meet members of the community
Join an art class or an archery club
Initiate a summer block party in your neighbourhood
Get involved in a community project

Find ways – and there are many – to develop friendships with people who don’t follow Jesus

As we hang out with pre-Christians, we can pray for them
We know the God who made them, so we can ask Him to reveal His love for them to us as we pray
Even aside from prayer – we carry God into each relationship we develop
We are God’s ambassadors, ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18, 20)
We are not at work on our jobs or attending school just to be there
We are there with the living word of God breathing in our spirits with hope and faith and compassion for the people with whom we interact

And, in those relationships and others, prayer allows us to see people differently


One time a man called called Floyd was standing in line at a restaurant buffet … I will let him tell his story:

I could sense the pain in the girl serving me. It was palpable and heartbreaking. I felt I had to say something. So I said, “We are soon going to be seated, and when we thank God for our food, is there something we could pray about for you? If there is one thing you want from God right now in your life, what would it be?”

She looked at me, hung her head for a moment, then looked up and said, “I am desperate for peace in my life.” Heaven came right there in that moment. It was a divine connection in a very ordinary time and place. I wasn’t there to sell God to her or persuade her of His goodness. God simply showed me her pain and I obeyed His prompting to reach out to her.

Likewise, Jesus didn’t come to sell us something
He came to offer Himself

Evangelism is about giving – it’s about giving to people

I have since talked to that girl when I’ve returned to the buffet, and we have had wonderful conversations. I haven’t seen her come to Jesus, but I did say and do what God asked of me at the time.


God gives us so many opportunities in everyday life to speak for Him and to explain His love

I suggest that you make a list of three or four people and begin to pray for them

God wants to use you to birth people into the Kingdom – get people saved

God wants to use us to birth more (house) churches (multiply)

This is done through prayer and intentional time spent with people who don’t know Jesus

All it takes is one person to come to Christ from an unchurched background, and he or she will bring a whole host of other people who don’t know Jesus

Even Jesus evangelized in this way

He built friendships and His friends brought their friends to meet Him

Remember the woman at the well (John 4)…

One woman whom Jesus befriended and spoke to introduced Christ to the entire town!

1> Pray
2> Meet
3> Make

We will look at step three tomorrow…