Ever wonder why Jesus chose to become a ‘Cell Leader’ for a group of 11 temperamentally-diverse tradesmen, and 1 morally-challenged treasurer? By the anointing of the Holy Spirit, He was already perfect and powerful, so why would He want to fraternise with this ragtag bunch of disciples?
I guess it was for the same reason that He chose to get baptised, even though He was sinless, and allowed Himself to be cruelly crucified, loving His enemies right to the end. He did it to demonstrate submission and obedience to the Father, and display what loving God and loving our neighbour looked like.
If Jesus required Himself to live in community, how then do we get away with thinking we can make it on our own?
Maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, if I had someone like Jesus as my cell leader, I might consider committing to a cell.” This kind of flippant statement reveals spiritual immaturity and an ignorance of the fact that Jesus is still leading, still interceding, still renewing His disciples even now, but through fallible and available mortals.
I’m sure those three years in Christos’s cell group weren’t just about power and glory. After all, didn’t He need to expose and eradicate selfish ambition, outbursts of wrath, pride, unbelief, a disloyal spirit, and other such unspiritual attributes in the men who were called and chosen to become the Apostolic Fathers of the Church?
Thus, if the original cell group was a cradle for the circumcision of hearts, I can assure you that the blueprint hasn’t changed much in the 21st Century.
Paul informs us ‘When you came to Christ, you were ‘circumcised’, but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision – the cutting away of your sinful nature.’ (Colossians 2:11 NLT)
Sanctification, or the cutting away of our sinful nature, is a lifelong process, and can only be successfully worked out in community.
If our sincere prayer is, ‘Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You and lead me along the path of everlasting life,’ (Psalm 139:23,24), then the only way God can answer that prayer is through those we’re ‘doing life’ with.
After all, He’s not going to admonish you with a loud voice each time you need correction, is He? And let’s admit it, we’re all quite adept at ignoring and burying the ‘still, small voice’ whispering within. But, the exhorting voice of a cell leader is pretty hard to ignore; the accusing words of an offended brother even harder.
And that’s when sanctification begins to do its job – if we would allow it to.
My journey with the cell community began 24 years ago, after my re-commitment to Christ and a glorious baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, in my naive zeal, I harboured the mistaken illusion that cell meetings were supposed to resemble the house churches in the Book of Acts, peopled by those filled with the love of the Lord and the power of His Spirit. That quaint notion was disabused pretty fast when these failed to meet my expectations.
Where was the moving of the Spirit? The joy and victory of the Lord? Why do we need ice breakers? Why was the cell leader so excruciatingly verbose? Why give the food such a sacrilegiously-elevated position? Why do I have to go to cell each week?
And the answer from above was always consistently loud and clear, “Because I want you to, and because you need to learn that truly loving your neighbour involves sacrifice and pain.”
End of questions.
I’m so grateful that God used my cell group down the years to hone and sharpen me, as well as increase my anointing. Together as a spiritual family, we went through seasons of joy and laughter, weeping and mourning; we learned to struggle with offence and overcome it, we succeeded in releasing forgiveness even when the scalpel cut too deep, and we rejoiced wholeheartedly when prayers were answered miraculously.
Faith was built up, love was strengthened, grace was experienced in all its manifold colours, and breakthroughs came to those who had wholeheartedly surrendered to the Lord’s discipline.
And as we’re exhorted to in Hebrews 10:25, ‘Let us not neglect our meeting together as others do, but encourage one another, especially now that the Day of His return is drawing near.’
It’s time to hear and obey.