One of the most exciting things I did this week was create this map of our cells in South Jersey. I circled the area we want to impact in a brave flourish of hope and probably a bit of foolishness. There are 571,192 people living in the towns inside my circle. I’m praying for every single one of them, but especially those who are lonely or searching for meaning (which could be the majority of them at this point). I know that our cells would be a great place for them. I have seen the power of even casual connection to a micro-community gathered around Jesus. We call our micro-communities cells because we want to be an organically growing movement of Jesus followers.
We are inviting people to be a part of something small and real. God grows us into relationship with each other and with Jesus. I tell my cell every week that Jesus has shown up. He is here and we can actually experience his presence in our relating. And that relating is contagious.
Here are four examples from the cell I just started in Barrington NJ.
- A couple decided together to be a part of the cell and it came at a perfect time for them to express their partnership as husband and wife. They were coming out of a rough season in their marriage and this common mission united them in some really great ways.
- One guy came to our first meeting pretty ambivalent about his faith, not sure if he would ever make cell a part of his life, he said on that first night, “Yeah, I’ll probably come when I have time for it.” A couple months later he was noticing the change. “I went to church last week, I haven’t done that in years. It’s pretty cool how I just want people to be a part of this cell. I was telling the Frito Lays guy about it at work yesterday, and afterward I was like ‘What is happening?’”
- A friend reported to another mutual friend that the cell has inspired him to explore his spirituality in art. The mutual friend who has known this guy for years said “I had no idea this guy would be interested in a cell.”
- Our cell has an idea for another Circle of Hope T-Shirt. “Circle of Hope, pulling Church Sh*t since 1996.” That’s what one my cell mates’ friends call it when she is kind, or has a real conflict, or intercedes to bring about peace. “Oh come on with the church sh*t all the time!” They tell her. Among her friends, who she’s known since before she became a Christian in a Circle of Hope cell a few years ago, she is known for her connection to Jesus. She told us how she recently pulled some “church sh*t” on her friend who was kind of becoming a frenemy- she had her over for coffee and said “Listen, you got beef with me that’s fine. Whatever I did, I’m sorry, but I am not going tit for tat with you. I’m gonna love you even if you decide to keep hating me so deal with it.” That’s some serious church sh*t. One person in our cell is not a huge fun of cuss words so we get to work that out too. It’s great fun. It’s alive because Jesus is actually alive among us.
I’m super encouraged by these tiny transformations I get to witness in the cell, and I am confident that many of those 571,192 people inside the circle on the map want to do that too. Our cells will include them, because that’s what cells do and then they will multiply and we’ll get to put new little blue arrows on the map. I can’t wait!