“How could this man multiply his cell group six times? He lacks the enthusiasm and bubbly excitement so necessary for small group multiplication.” Then in my interview, Carl Everett, the man they call “Mr. Multiplication,” confirmed my suspicion and told me that he was a very shy person. “How did you multiply your group so many times?” I inquired.
“Prayer, prayer, and prayer,” he asserted.
Carl and his wife, Gaynel, lead a cell at Bethany World Prayer Center in Louisiana. Their cell preparation includes fasting and prayer the day of the cell meeting. Before the meeting, they anoint the food, the sidewalks, the yard, every room in the house, even each seat to be used that night. They wait until after the meeting (during the refreshment time) to eat. The Everetts’ example is not unusual at Bethany.
Is a day of fasting and prayer the only reason why some cell leaders succeed at evangelizing and giving birth to new groups while others stagnate? I visited eight prominent cell churches in search of the answer. More than 700 cell leaders completed my 29-question survey that explored such areas as the cell leader’s training, social status, devotions, education, preparation of material, age, spiritual gifts and gender. This statistical analysis helped me discover common patterns across eight diverse cultures.
For example, I discovered that healthy cell leaders come in all shapes and sizes, and the anointing for successful cell leadership doesn’t reside with a mysterious few. Some believe that healthy cell leaders are specially gifted, more educated and own more vibrant personalities than other leaders. Not so. The educated and uneducated, married and single, shy and outgoing, those gifted as teachers and those gifted as evangelists equally multiply their small groups.
However, several characteristics do distinguish successful cell leaders. These differentiating factors relate to what a person does as a part of his or her typical weekly lifestyle. It has nothing to do with personality, background or how long one has been a Christian. Instead, healthy cell leaders have incorporated certain habits into their lives. You can join them.
CONSISTENT DEVOTIONAL LIFE
“I couldn’t believe that the President of the United States wanted to meet with me! You better believe that I prepared for that special meeting. I wanted to honor him. I arrived at the White House hours early just to be ready. How awesome to be in the presence of the President!”
This scenario illustrates the excitement and anticipation of an important meeting. I’ve never met with the President, but someone far greater desires to meet and talk with me and you every day—Jesus Christ. He’s the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
The life of a healthy cell leader begins and ends with God. Only God can give success. My survey of cell leaders clearly showed that time spent with God is the single most important principle behind successful cell leadership. A cell leader filled with the power and love of Jesus Christ knows how to minister to a hurting member of the group, how to deal with the constant talker or how to wait for a reply to a question.
Why, then, don’t cell leaders properly prioritize this time? There are at least three hindrances. First and foremost is drowsiness. We’ve all battled sleepiness during personal devotions. I’ll never forget David Cho’s advice about early morning devotions: “Get out of bed!” In bed, deep prayer can too easily become deep sleep. Instead, get up, wash your face, drink some coffee or go for a jog if necessary. Get the blood flowing.
Another impediment is our mind. How often I have approached the throne of God only to battle my thoughts—what that person thought of my comments last night, or when I should wash my car. “Your thoughts, Lord, not mine” is the battle of devotions. Ask Him to take over your thoughts in the “listening room.”
Lack of time is another problem. Leave the fast-food mentality at McDonald’s. In order to drink deeply from the Divine, you must spend time in deep meditation. As the Psalmist says, deep calls to deep (Psalm 42:7). Don’t leave your devotional time without touching God, feeling the glow of His glory. This demands extended periods before God’s throne. One or two short visits won’t suffice.