I've been in church meetings where the unspoken rule is everyone is an overcomer- always. Everyone looks so happy, victorious and perfect. Nobody has any problems- ever. We know that it's all an image and if anyone is having a bad time they feel pressure to cover it up.
Whether they live in a big city where isolation forces people to cope alone, or in a small community where the expectation is that you just get on with life, many people find that they just don't have a chance to ever open up to anyone about how their life is.
Cell groups require us to share how we are really travelling. That means being vulnerable to rejection, judgement and even love.
Cell leaders have to model this kind of openness for their members, so that everyone knows it's OK to be struggling spiritually, emotionally or financially.
The best cell times start with someone saying “My life sucks” or “I feel angry about something.” While I maintain empathy for the person talking, inside I'm doing a little victory dance because the group is about to move into a new dimension of caring for one another.
Admitting that our lives are not perfect also allows us to testify to others about how our relationship with Christ has helped us to deal with challenges.
Recently a couple in our church who are renowned through the community for caring for others and being really generous with both time and money found themselves with a need. A relative with five children was unable to care for them and the authorities had intervened. This couple found themselves suddenly caring for three of those children and with limited resources. Church members provided an extra car and food, and others worked to rearrange their house and make it more secure. What blew me away was the response of their non-christian work mates who also gave generously to help them buy groceries. They recognised an opportunity to repay a lifetime of generosity in a moment of need.
Authentic sharing of needs deepens community in all kinds of unexpected ways. Not only do we have an opportunity to show love to one another, but we also have an opportunity to allow those who are not yet saved to see the love of Christ at work. In a sense we show that faith works even when our lives are under the greatest challenge.