Things to do in Cell or House Church 'Start-up' Meetings

Facts about these things to do in the first few meetings:

  • You can start with just getting friends or relatives together, even through they are not yet believers, for food and fellowship (sometimes called "a gathering group"). Fellowship is first in the list of essential elements below.
  • You can add the other elements one by one, usually in the sequence, below at the pace of the group--slow or fast.
  • Some believers are required for Communion (element #6). Up to that point the gatherers might all be seekers.
  • Ideally, some will become believers by the time # 3 is added, and might then appoint some provisional elders ('provisional' because they are still unproven) to help you shepherd the group, but it's not essential at this stage.
  • When a core group among the gatherers has decided to obey the basic commands of Christ, out of love for Him, and you are practicing all elements regularly, appoint elders and call it a church (it meets the New Testament requirements for a new church).

1. Have Fellowship

One way is to talk and have fun as you have a meal. Plan any activity in which your friends or relatives will participate and find it easy to talk.

Practice the "one another" passages from the New Testament, the church 'body life' described in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 13, and 14:26.

2. Consider the Word

Start with parables and stories of Christ. If they have a world view that gives no meaning, or a very perverted meaning to the words "God," "holy," "sin," "deserved punishment,"
"redemption," "salvation," "heaven," and "judgment," then you might have to lay a foundation for these concepts from Old Testament stories also.

Read the stories and simultaneously act them out (if possible) or do dramatic reading, in which a narrator begins a passage with dialogue, and others read the words of those who speak. For example the narrator reads the non-spoken parts of Genesis 3, others read (and act out) the words of the serpent, Eve, Adam, and the voice of God.

Include stories from the Old Testament that lay the firm foundations for the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

For beginners, tell stories that focus on the 7 basic commands of Christ (listed below). Do this as soon as any new believer or seeker can understand their importance. When new people become believers later on, ask someone go over Jesus' commands with them, so that the group is not bored with constant repetition.

When the group matures, you can work through one or more of the Gospels, then the Epistles or any other Bible book, including passages that are not stories.

Use questions to discuss the story, whether it is simply read or dramatized. Some find these questions helpful:

  1. What did you like best about the story?
  2. What did you like least about the story?
  3. What did you not understand?
  4. What did you learn about God's character?
  5. What are you personally going to do about it (practical application)?
  6. With whom can you share this story this week? Can you go over it with a friend or your family?
  7. (If applicable) Which of the basic commands of Christ does this story/text remind you of?

3. Pray for One Another

Each person can give prayer requests and others pray for them. Or, if they are not yet praying out loud, the host can pray for them in Jesus' name. Often Muslims are open to people praying for them in Jesus' name.

How should you pray? In many societies all pray at once. In other societies people take turns leading the prayer. Muslims have their own way. Sometimes everyone prays at once in a soft voice. Sometimes one person prays while the others say "Amen."

4. Praise God

Often it is wise to praise God without using music. Read a Psalm of praise, or give testimonies of praise. This is common among Muslim converts who feel that music is too frivolous for serious worship, and where informers might hear and report it to hostile authorities.

You can read a Psalm, sing, give testimony, praise God for one or more of His great characteristics (forgiving, powerful, holy, compassionate, etc), write or read a poem, etc.

5. Confess sins

Confess out loud or silently as the Lord leads. Public sins are normally confessed publicly and private sins privately.

Often if the leader confesses a sin publicly others will also do so.

6. Celebrate Communion

Keep it simple. There is no need for a sermon beforehand

Avoid rationalistic explanations of the mystery. Just explain that Jesus told us to eat his body and drink his blood in remembrance. Let the mystery stand.

Later, when believers are ready, teach them a 7th element, to give in obedience to Jesus.

Do not ask for an offering until you know for sure that the group is ready to obey this command of Christ. Then do it cautiously:

  • Let the group decide how it will be used, and make sure that it meets a definite need, or needs. The group as a whole should feel strongly that they want to give for it.
  • In a small group passing an offering plate around is awkward. This offends visitors. Instruct new believers who want to give to leave offerings in a certain place without public demonstration.

Things to Remember

  • If possible, meet somewhere other than the mature believer's home--it does far more good to meet at the home of a new believers or seekers.
  • The mature believer should not invite people to the 'church,' but allow the hosts to invite their family, friends, co-workers, or neighbors.
  • Mature believers may or may not attend the gathering, depending on circumstances. If they attend, they should keep silent except for prayer requests, confession or some brief announcement. They must never say anything that undermines the hosts' authority, or that sounds 'preachy' to seekers.
  • Elders can be commissioned as some believers are practicing these elements of church meetings. Before that it's only a gathering group.
  • The mature believer goes over the "schedule" of the gathering with the hosts a day or so beforehand, especially focusing on the Word--the story and the questions--and obeying the seven basic commands of Christ when the group gets to that point. Any questions that come up that the hosts don't know the answer to, they can discuss with the mature believer who is mentoring them (we hope) at their next session, to have answers for the next gathering.
  • Keep it simple but serious. Do everything in a way that the people in the group can imitate easily and reproduce by themselves in another new group. I.e. No "Seminary speak" or rituals leave the group bewildered.
  • Ask others to lead rather than focusing on one leader week after week.
  • Even non-Christians can lead the initial gathering meetings. You coach them behind the scenes. First start with Fellowship and the Word. Then add prayer, and when you have a few believers, add worship, confession, communion and, when you know it won't offend, giving.
  • Wear appropriate clothes for the type of people and gathering.
  • Make it low key. You can meet in a park, a restaurant or in a factory during the lunch break. To avoid drawing attention in a public place, for example, you can pray with your eyes open.
  • Older believers often feel guilty if we are not worshiping in a building. Get over it. This is not for you; it's to reach others!
  • During the meeting, don't just focus on one person (i.e. the new believer). We must edify the whole the group and help everyone to participate in some way.
  • Don't invite foreign Christians. This changes the focus of the meeting. Their testimonies will be about needing money!
  • Avoid asking first time visitors to participate in the dramas. They are not used to it yet. Let them watch a few times so they understand how to do it-- but if they offer to do it, fine.

Seven Basic Commands of Christ, and Stories that Relate Them

  1. Repent, believe, and receive the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:15; John 20:21-23).

Stories--these are only a few of the ones you might use to portray repentance. The Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32; Jesus' talk with Nicodemus, John:1-17; Paul's conversion, Acts 9:1-31.

  1. Baptize (Matt. 28:18-20)

Stories: Jesus' baptism, Matt. 3; Jesus' command to baptize, Matt. 28:18-20; the jailer and his family, Acts 16: 16-34.

  1. Break bread (Communion) in remembrance of Jesus' death (Matt. 26:26-28)

Stories: The original Passover Feast, Exodus 12; Jesus offers his flesh to eat and offends his followers, John 6:24-63.

  1. Love (God, others, forgive enemies, etc., Matt. 22:33-40; Luke 6:27-33)

Stories: The Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-42; Ruth's love for her mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth 1.

  1. Pray (John 16:24)

Stories: Abraham's prayer for Lot's family, Gen. 18:20-33; the publican's prayer, Luke 18:9-14.

  1. Give generously (Luke 6:38)

Stories: Abigail feeds David's hungry soldiers, 1 Sam. 25; Dorcas makes clothes for the poor, Acts 9:36-43; Barnabas sells his property to give to the needy, Acts 4:32-37.

  1. Make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20)

Stories: Jesus chooses the twelve to accompany him, Mark 3:13-19; the apostles teach the believers in the first church in Jerusalem to obey all of Jesus' basic commands, Acts 2:37-47; Priscilla and Aquila disciple the leader Apollos, Acts 18:24-28.