Advice from Canon Alan Cole (Adapted from Trinity Trumpet)

For those who are beginning a new ministry, a new chapter of life, and for those who are joining a cell group for the first time. We would like to give some advice that may save you from frustration and disappointment, which we learned the hard way.

Firstly, do not neglect your own times of prayer and Bible study alone before the Lord, otherwise, even biblical studies and church ministry can become dry and arid, instead of fascinating and rewarding. Cell groups can become empty without this.

Secondly, you must be constantly applying all that you learn: you must be constantly be trying to witness to others and to win them for Christ; you must constantly be trying to build up younger believers in the faith.

Thirdly, please do not expect your fellow church members or pastoral staff to be perfect, any more than you are yourself. You remember the Christian car-sticker "Not perfect - just forgiven"? Well, that applies to all of us. But we are trying. (You may find some of us very trying, but that is inevitable.) If you remember that, you won't be disappointed: just think lovingly in your heart at all times of fellow-cell members and pastoral staff, pray constantly for them, and don't gossip! Gossip is from the devil, and is his way of wrecking Christain groups. Don't forget to pray that God may alter you as well as them. That is the usual way that God alters difficult situations.

Fourthly, don't believe all the stories you have heard about the church or cell-group. If there are imperfections, you can pray about them and change them. It depends on you. Never allow yourself to be put into a "them" and "us" situation.

Fifthly, sometimes you may be faced with all sorts of new ideas, some of which you have never considered, or even heard of. They may be very different from the ideas that you have held before, since you will now be studying the Bible in depth, but you will not find that they shake your faith; rather they will deepen it, and give it an intellectual as well as a spiritual content. As Paul would say, you will learn to serve God not only with the Spirit, but with understanding also. This is all part of the process of growing up in Christ and becoming men and women of mature faith rather than naive faith. Naive faith is appropriate for babes in Christ, not for men and women of God.

Sixthly, don't allow yourself to be "polarized", split into two warring groups. In the old days, polarization used to be over Freewill and Predestination; nowadays, it is more likely to be the Charismatic and the Traditional. But what a foolish thing this is: we both need each other to correct one another and to learn from one another. Besides, all Christians should be Charismatic in the sense of enjoying and exercising the gifts of the Spirit, though we may use them differently. All Christians should equally be traditional, in valuing all that has been proven in the past (and which is not being an obstacle in the present). The wise scribe, as Scripture says, brings out of his treasures things old and new. What a church we shall have if we can only combine the best features of both. The Bible advice is, try and test all things, and hold fast to what is good. That, again, is the path to Christian maturity. An open mind is one of God's greatest gifts, and it comes more easily to those who are young: use it for God.

Seventhly, remember to apply everything you learn, first to your own spiritual life, and secondly to the church and your ministry. Otherwise you will drive a false wedge between your intellectual and your spiritual life: they should be one. If you can manage to do this, you will find that every cell group and Bible study becomes a spiritual experience. That is why we pray before and after meetings, be it corporate, cell group, outreach, Bible study. They all have the same final goal. May God bless you all, and may you have a very rewarding time as you put all this into practice.

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