Everything smelled of success. The cells were multiplying. The church was growing and experiencing salvation and healing. But as staff members talked, it became evident that many cell leaders were suffering in their personal lives. They were busy every night of the week. One pastor asked, “Isn’t it a contradiction to succeed in cell ministry but fail with our families?” Of course it is! In the life of a healthy cell leader, family is paramount. God desires to maximize our effectiveness as cell leaders, but not at the expense of our family life.
Cell ministry is a family affair and is meant to draw your family closer together. It’s best to place your family inside your cell ministry. For example, your teenager can direct the children’s cell or lead worship. Your child can lead the ice breaker. My wife, Celyce, and I minister together as a team in our cell. She plans the icebreaker and prepares the refreshments. I prepare the worship and the lesson. When she’s leading the group, I care for our 2-year-old. Likewise, she covers for me when I’m ministering.
After cell meetings, we analyze together what happened. Once Celyce told me, “Joel, you should have been more gracious with Inez. I know she talked too much, but you could have handled it better.” “That’s not what I wanted to hear,” I thought. But it’s what I needed to hear. Our intimacy grows as we pastor our group together and openly discuss the details of each meeting, sharing our observations and learning together. This honest feedback also helps us mature as cell leaders.
George Whitefield and John Wesley were contemporaries in 17th-century England. Both dedicated themselves to God’s work in the same small group at Oxford University. Both were excellent in open-air preaching. Both witnessed thousands of conversions through their ministries. Yet John Wesley left behind a 100,000-member church, while George Whitefield could point to little tangible fruit toward the end of his ministry. Why? Wesley dedicated himself to training and releasing small-group leaders, while Whitefield was too busy preaching and doing the work of the ministry.
Yes, it’s exciting to lead a cell group. But what will your group look like when you leave it in the hands of your current intern? Will it continue to meet or will it fold? Will you look back at your leadership with joy as you recall the cell groups that you left behind, or will you wonder how so much effort could result in so little?
We all know about the tyranny of the urgent. The cell lesson needs fine-tuning, someone must bring the refreshments, John needs a ride, and on and on the list goes. Cell leaders can be overwhelmed with worship choruses, ice-breakers, calls, visits, etc. Everything demands immediate attention. Or does it? In the midst of a fast-paced life, are there priorities? Can a cell leader confidently say, “This one thing I do”?
Yes. Successful cell leaders look beyond the urgency of the present to the importance of future daughter cells. Because of that, they spend priority time training new leaders. This passion to raise up new leadership drives successful cell leaders to spend quality time with potential leadership. As a result, common cell members become visionary leaders.
Leadership success in the cell church is clear: How many leaders have been spotted, trained and deployed? Raising up future leaders is a biblical way of life. Moses tutored Joshua, and Elijah trained Elisha. The Apostles were recruited and trained by Jesus. Barnabas discipled Paul, who in turn developed Timothy. The Lord has brought future leaders to your group. Are you developing them?
INVITING NEW PEOPLE
The way to add future leaders to your group is to invite people to your cell—and keep inviting. Most cell leaders have heard the well-intentioned promises of those who failed to follow through. “Steve promised to come.” “I planned dessert for four people who didn’t show.” Have you heard these comments before? Have you made them yourself? Welcome to cell leadership!
Experienced group leaders understand that you have to personally invite 25 people for 15 to say they will attend. Of those 15, eight to ten actually will show up. Of those, only five to seven will attend regularly after a month or so. Don’t let rejection discourage you. Successful cell leaders don’t depend on one or two verbal commitments. They continually invite new people.
One group at Bethany World Prayer Center faithfully met each week but experienced little growth. One member previously attended a group that had multiplied. After analyzing both groups, he said, “In the other cell group, we received a constant flow of visitors.”
Another cell was celebrating the birth of a new group. The cell leader testified that the group went through a dry, difficult period. With only six people, the group did all of the “right things” to win non-Christians and receive visitors, but few visited and fewer stayed. Yet they kept on trying, praying and inviting until they broke through. Several visitors started attending and invited their friends. Because this cell resisted discouragement, the mix came together.
Cell leader, you personally must be vigilant about inviting new people. The right mix for your group is right around the corner. New blood in your cell will bring new life. Newcomers invigorate your group with their fresh insight. Keep inviting and don’t give up.
Luis Salas has a large, well-worn map hanging in the entryway of his Bogota apartment. This “war map” is overflowing with names of potential cell members. “I’m always dreaming and praying about new people to invite to my cell groups,” he said. “All day long I think about them and eventually make personal contact with them.”
In just 18 months, Luis multiplied his original cell to 250 cells because he goes after potential members. More importantly, he follows up with them after they visit. Some of them become cell members and then cell leaders.
If you want your cell to grow and multiply, one vital key to effective cell evangelism is immediate contact of visitors. When someone new attends your group, plan an immediate visit, send a card and/or pick up the telephone and call. The saying is true: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”