Out of nowhere, we were sharing our struggles and gathering around Jesus! A couple of weeks ago I met up with my friend Pat and convinced him we should have a cell in his house. Last night we met for the first time–seven of us in his comfy living room, eating and not eating cookies (Lent!) and forming a cell.
A cell is the basic building block of Circle of Hope’s body, just like a human cell is the basic building block of our bodies. For many of you that’s old hat. But for quite a few people at the meeting last night it was news. It was wonderful to try to express the beauty of what some of us had experienced and present this way of being the church to a new audience.
We believe that in relationships that form in cell groups we actually get to be Christians. Anonymity is impossible in a circle so small and people get known. People’s loveliness gets known and their not so loveliness. We get the opportunity to speak the truth in love and not just wait for someone to change on their own, or go away if they’re bothering us or if they’re damaging themselves.
One woman told a recent horror story of a family member’s experience with a church. When she was in a very delicate state the leader blasted her and talked badly about her behind her back. I blurted out in response, “This is why people aren’t Christians!” Again and again I hear stories of people being side by side in a church and they never get to know each other, they never have a conflict, they never love each other until some precipitating factor ignites the tinder and hearts are broken–sometimes faith is lost.
I keep coming back to Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Phil. 2:1-2)
If we are actually connected to the living Jesus then we need to do what it takes to be connected to each other. We have to listen and feel each other out so that we can say with certainty that yes, we are of one mind and one spirit. The equation can be turned around too. If we are not of one mind and one spirit are we united with Christ? I know that Jesus can reach out to us in our isolation–that’s what he has been doing since he was born–but once we become Christians we bear a hefty responsibility to work this stuff out in love. It takes work. The cell is a great vehicle for that–it is a weekly discipline that we can build into our lives. It is costly to our schedules, no doubt, but worth the cost by far.
Last night we were just sharing something about our days and another woman shared what was happening with her and it was instantly recognized as “heavy”. Her pain was acknowledged and the isolation that she might have felt (because we all feel isolated to a degree- even in a group) melted and started to drip. God was doing something. We gathered around Jesus and good things happened. I’m excited for next week and who we will include in that love.