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By developing these habits, any cell leader can lead a group to grow and multiply.

“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. 


“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.

Joel Comiskey Joel Comiskey (Ph.D. Fuller Seminary) is an internationally recognized cell church coach and consultant. He has served as a missionary with the C&MA in Quito, Ecuador and is now founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California. Joel has written best selling books on the worldwide cell group movement. He teaches as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries. Joel Comiskey Group is a tax exempt, non-profit organization dedicated to helping complete the Great Commission in this century by providing resources and coaching to plant new cell churches and transition existing churches to cell-based ministry. For further reading on this topic, see Comiskey's books Making Cell Groups Work Navigation Guide and Home Cell Group Explosion.

More from Joel Comiskey or visit Joel at

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  • Doreen Moore

    Overall, an interesting article, but I have to offer one corrective. George Whitefield could point to MUCH tangible fruit at the end of his life. Besides the thousands of conversions as mentioned in the article (I'd add rich, poor, educated, uneducated, American Indians, slaves, children, prisoners, nobility, etc.), we'd have to mention the many individuals who went into ministry claiming Whitefield's influence. In the Boston area alone, twenty ministers claimed Whitefield as their spiritual father. Whitefield's work contributed financially to the establishment of Dartmouth and Princeton (which trained clergy). Whitefield established an orphan house in Georgia. He is the one who encouraged the Wesleys to take up field preaching and send missionaries to America. Whitefield is the one credited with uniting the revival along transcontinental lines. Even John Wesley (during his funeral sermon for Whitefield) said of Whitefield, "Have we read or heard of any person since the Apostles, who testified the gospel of the grace of God through so widely extended a space, through so large a part of the habitable world? Have we read or heard of any person who has called so many thousands, so many myriads of sinners to repentance?" Charles Spurgeon, one hundred years later, claimed Whitefield as his model. This is just a small sampling of his fruit. I dare say Whitefield had an extremely fruitful ministry. I would make the claim that Wesley left behind a 100,000 member church because he started one (his own denomination)-the Methodist church. Whitefield left behind no church or denomination because he worked within the already existing churches. He was one of the most fruitful men of the 18th century (not the 17th century as the article asserts), if not in the entire history of the world. Doreen Moore, author of Good Christians, Good Husbands (on the marriages and ministries of John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards.)

  • Funke Bayomi

    I have gained a lot from this write up.

  • Hm_irisallan7

    nice sir! You’re doing great for the expansion of God’s Kingdom….

  • Dan_Cartwright

    Again in this article, as with many others here, I see ‘numbers’ as a mark of success, which is questionable, to say the least.  

    Psalm 42:7 is used out of context to promote a ‘touchy feely experience’ during personal devotion time. How do you know such ‘feelings’ are God and not the flesh or the work of the enemy?  

    The treatment of Wesley and Whitfield might have been intellectually dishonest, but then ‘numbers’ is the goal, it seems. Whitfield felt called to evangelism, focused on the necessity of the sovereign new birth in Christ (he was Calvinistic), while the Wesley’s focused on the possibiloity of ‘entire sanctification/perfectionism’ in this life and held to an Arminiam theology. I’m not sure that Wesley’s rules for small groups (1738) lwould be encouraged by the author of this article.

    Wesley might have had a large church, but Whitfield was one of the major sparks of the First Great Awakening in America,  remains one of the most remarkable periods of American Christianity on record, certainly eclipsing Finney’s work, which left a spiritual ‘dead zone’. I would offer that Whitfield’s impact far eclipsed Wesley’s.

    There are certainly good principles offered, but I find the emphasis on ‘numbers’ rather disturbing, to say the least.

    • Whitetotheharvest

      You are disturbed by numbers?  You must be the guy with one talent who buried it in the ground.

      • Dan_Cartwright

        If you read and pay attention to what you are reading, you would notice that there is nothing about ‘fear’ of numbers in my comment. Rather, I was making the observation that the article proposed that ‘numbers’ was the sign of success in small groups. That is not a Biblical concept. Also, the comments regarding Wesley being more effective because of numbers completely disregards the work of Whitfield in evangelism. It also failed to mention that Whitfield turned over his own church to Wesley when he was called to evangelize rather than build a big church, which might mean Whitfield had a share in Wesley’s ‘numbers’. There were some good ‘habits’ shared, but the emphasis on numbers I found disturbing, not just the numbers.
        Sir, or Ma’am, would like to offer something with a little more meat to it than an assumption about my character? That sort of thing directed toward people you don’t know makes you look rather silly.

    • ekim8166

      I don’t find numbers to be questionable. If one soul is precious in the eyes of God how much more 2?

      • Dan_Cartwright

        Granted a single soul for the Kingdom is reason to rejoice. Perhaps yuo missed that what I find as questinable is numbers as ‘the mark of successful ministry’. The article, which does have some good material, opened with numbers and in the article itself it emphasized Wesley’s numbers as success and Whitefield’s few numbers as not successful. My friend, if that’s not measuring success by numbers, I don’t know what is. Numbers in the theaters does not automatically mean saved souls, especially in much of today’s Christless evangelicalism where sin and repentance are not part of the gospel message, r if they are, attters secondary to having our best lives now. I hope that helps explain my comment a bit better.

        • ekim8166

          I think I understand your assertion that quantity doesn’t exactly translate into quality. I agree with you that numbers should not be the sole mark of a successful ministry but too often we use this as an excuse not to evangelize or encourage the body of Christ to make disciples. I’m certainly guilty of this. . The Bible teaches unmistakably that God is in the business of assembling some very big numbers. He says He intends to populate His kingdom with a multitude so big that no one can number it.


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