A self-righteous hypocritical guide to failing as a cell church
Following our simple method will ensure sporadic attendance, lack of discernable growth, and poor discipleship retention. Failing at church can be FUN! I know I know, every church is just a little dysfunctional in some way, if you ever found the perfect congregation you would run away screaming lest you infected their edenic beauty. As we come up on Easter and near the anniversary the first FSRCotH meeting so long ago, I am suddenly given pause to take a critical look at our progress over the past couple of years and take stock of some of the things that we got absolutely wrong. Maybe its nostalgia, maybe its indigestion, who can say?
- Have an enigmatic name which could be easily misinterpreted by traditional Christians and non-believers alike. If you name your fellowship “Texas Avenue Baptist Church” and you happen to be a Southern Baptist church whose building is located on Texas Avenue then people driving by can rest assured in the knowledge that they can reasonably expect to know what’s going on behind closed doors. If you name your fellowship “Star Spawn of Unknown Kadath” then you should expect a certain amount of uncertainty and confusion revolving around what you and your parishioners are up to!
- Don’t have a building. There’s nothing like a lack of stable routine meeting location to disrupt attendance. People enjoy the established reliability of showing up at the same place every week, they like their personal parking spaces, sitting in their assigned seats, being surrounded by a comfortable private environment engulfed in their unvarying ugly wallpaper and stained carpet left over from the 1970’s. If you really want to turn people off, meeting in public parks, private lesson studios, Vietnamese coffee houses and Islamic Indo-Pak cuisine serving restaurants is a great way to fail to meet potential attendees’ expectations for bland predictable permanency.
- Meet at on a different day, and if possible at a different time every week. We love out habits. We enjoy the expectation that at 7:30 on Wednesday evening our favorite comedy television troop will invariably display their quirky lives to us in the privacy of our comfortable living rooms. Most of us are pretty busy too, and having the threat of some unknown scheduling conflict lurking within the voluminous folds of our Google calendar app is generally enough to dissuade even the most resolute saint from penciling the service into their calendar. Oh yeah, and to double the deterrent effect, only post your meeting location on a select few electronic venues and text messages within 48 hours of the actual service, that’s usually the icing on the cake!
- Invite people of varying faiths and worldviews, and engage each of them in loving dialogue opening the floor for each to express him or herself to the group in honest conversation. This is especially effective if you can ensure that you’ll have at least one member of two conflicting political persuasions who feel vocally vehement, loudly denouncing the opposing leaders, spokespersons, economic practices, or pants. On rare occasions, if you have the misfortune of actually achieving some sort loving environment where your group members actually communicate with each other and somehow manage to build relationships outside your church meetings, rest assured that they will eventually offend each other on Facebook somehow, and then neither one will ever attend again for fear of running into the other.
- Lack a firm repetitive structural component which dictates the order of service. We all know that effective discipline can only occur when church services are very precise about having a 30-45 minute slick radio-friendly pop music performance, followed by a short welcome by the pastor, who then invokes several more lower energy contemplative songs, which usher in a 20-40 minute long socially relevant sermon presentation, followed by a PowerPoint barrage of pictures of starving African children and plaintive pleas for cash, culminating in several more joyful up-tempo rock inflected praise choruses. This exact progression IS the essence of CHURCH, it’s in the Bible, look it up! In addition to avoiding all of the above displays of religious devotion, I heartily recommend that you utilize some sort of outdated and frumpy looking liturgy as your guide for whatever scripture readings you feel like incorporating into the service. Despite the obvious facts that historically orthodox believers have been using liturgy for centuries to teach and explain the mysteries of scripture, let’s face it liturgy just sounds old and smacks of your great aunts mothball scented services you were forced to attend at Christmas and Easter when you were a child. On no account should you actually allow people to talk freely or openly discuss either the contents of the liturgy, or any unrelated personal trials or questions they may have.
- Set aside part of your time for prayers for each other. This is a great way to force people to prove their spirituality by making them speak their petitions to God aloud and in public, preferably sitting around holding hands with closed eyes in the middle of a crowded Middle Eastern restaurant during Ramadan. Glare at people who don’t participate in this vocal exercise (for whatever reason) and welcome long-winded rambling prayers covering blessings for personal material wealth for each individual member of the petitioner’s family. You might get lucky and have the prayer time last longer than the entire rest of the service, and especially lucky if one of your members spontaneously remembers their gift of tongues/prophecy/Taylor Swift songs in the middle of their benediction.
Once again, good luck in your efforts! Attempting to apply even a couple of these methods should be enough to disrupt your services, and if you can manage to incorporate all of them at once then failure is practically guaranteed. Once we can remove our pride and worldly view of success from the way that we attempt to “do” church, then we open our community up to the movements of the Holy Spirit and allow God to have His way with our fellowship, shaping it and growing it in the way that He has intended rather than according to our plan.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.