We read in Acts about how the church initially experienced the touch of the Spirit in the Upper Room. This moment directly impacted all of Jerusalem and eventually the entire world. Yet before the 120 in the Upper Room were ready to receive the power of God, He had to prepare the community. Luke tells us in Acts 1:14 that they were constantly praying. They remained together in one place (Acts 2:1) until the day of Pentecost. After this, the Holy Spirit filled those who waited on Him together.
We learn from this story that the Spirit does not fill individuals but people who relate with one another before God. The Spirit of God looks for people who seek Him together, who are willing to join in life together to reach the world. He fills them and unites such people.
The New Testament calls this “family.” We belong to the family of God, according to Ephesians 2:19. Jesus said that those who do the will of God are His family (Matthew 12:50). The center of the New Testament church family was the home, the place of hospitality. Hospitality became the model for the life of the church. Through the transparent relationships of the home, the first cell members matured naturally. Conversation with friends, meals with family and serving each other in the house became the means for living the Gospel.
If we are God’s family, we must relate as family. Obviously we cannot interact as family with 75 other people who meet once a week on Sunday. Nor can we expect to develop an atmosphere of family by meeting once a week in a home. For example, imagine that your earthly family has a mandatory dinner every Thursday night. You gather around the table, pray, eat and talk about the rest of your week. This is the only communication you have as a family unless there is a crisis. Would you call this family? If so, your standard for intimacy and commitment is not very high!
Yet cell groups are described by many as a 90-minute Wednesday night meeting for prayer and Bible study. Meeting once a week is a step in the right direction but insufficient to develop biblical relationships. When we limit ourselves to a meeting, we miss the experience of hospitality. We miss the touch of friends available only in the mundane parts of life: meals, working together, serving one another, long talks over coffee and playing board games until two in the morning.
The first time I experienced family in the body of Christ, I was heading a group of small-group leaders in college. I had no idea what God was doing. As I drove to our weekly meeting, God told me not to say a thing and to let the group set the agenda. As we talked, one student shared how she had been violated as a teen and that she was experiencing some healing. Later it came out that another young woman in the group had a similar experience. From this unplanned sharing of life birthed a family of countless phone calls, late talks over Coke and pizza, overnight retreats and ministry. God blessed us with the very simple miracle of family.
Most people in your group have no idea how to live as a family. This is Satan’s scheme because he seeks to divide and conquer. Bad father figures, broken marriages and sibling rivalries are the norm. Satan wants to continue this pattern in your group. But people long for a touch, a hug, a phone call. You probably yearn for it too. Your cell can be a place to call home, where people feel welcomed and where Satan’s loneliness is left at the door.