Cultivating a Culture of Multiplication

By Peter Meier   |  May 15, 2016

The recent Exponential East conference focused attention on developing “Level 5” multiplying churches. These are churches where the planting of new churches that plant more new churches is a normal and expected part of the church’s existence. These churches continually develop and send people to plant. They are all about sending rather than accumulating. They are about releasing rather than retaining, multiplying rather than growing their own church larger. These churches plant hundreds of churches and send thousands of people to be part of church planting teams over their lifetimes.

Do you know any churches like that?

I don’t personally, but I sure would like to see some of these develop among us!

The fact is approximately 80% of churches in the US fall into the Level 1 and Level 2 categories, which are “subtraction” and “plateau” churches. They are characterized by scarcity thinking, struggling to survive and maintain vitality. They say, “Please stay!"

Level 3 churches are “adding” churches. Their message is “Please come!” About 16% of US churches are at this level. They are the ones who appear to be doing well: attendance is increasing, resources are directed toward the weekend services, programs, buildings and staff. Most churches considered to be “successful” and “growing” are in this category.

Level 4 churches are “reproducing” churches. They make up about 4% of US churches. They are committed to leadership development which prepares leaders to go as much as to stay. They value multiplication of new churches and are birthing daughter churches and new sites. They are sacrificial and generous when it comes to church multiplication. However, the tensions of Level 3 often keep them from moving fully to Level 5.

Level 5 churches are “multiplication” churches. There are fewer than 1% of US churches at this level. These churches are about multiplying, releasing, and sending. They focus more on who has been sent than on what we have accumulated, more on multiplying new than on growing their own church larger or conquering the next attendance barrier. They are highly intentional about church planting vision, strategy, and activities, and are at the point where they would have to try in order to not multiply. Their message is, “Please go!”

While there are very few churches in the Level 5, commitment to becoming a Level 5 church is vital, since church planting is the most effective and the most Biblical evangelistic strategy. New churches win new people, and the way to connect more people to Jesus is to plant more churches that plant more churches that plant more churches.

So how does a leader lead the local church to think and act like a Level 5 church? How do you cultivate a culture of multiplication?

The most important word is Intentionality. Churches that engage in multiplication are highly intentional about it. They prepare, plan, and act intentionally to see not only one new church started, but to see many new churches started.

In Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow, Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im identify five basic steps that churches could take which would help make multiplication movements a higher priority. These are five areas you might consider if you wish to cultivate a culture of multiplication in your church:

1.       Multiplying leaders serve as catalytic mobilizers. Leaders cannot make a movement, but they can cultivate the culture of a movement by sharing vision, developing leaders and creating processes. Identify a clear intentional strategy for multiplication.

2.       Inspire others through transformational stories of the Gospel at work. Leaders find and tell stories of the powerful impact of the Gospel in people’s lives, in communities. They show how church plants have been used by the Holy Spirit in His work of transformation.

3.       Celebrate both the small and large multiplication wins of your church. What you celebrate, you become. When your church participates in giving toward church planting, raises up a church planting apprentice, helps with a church plant, sends a church planting team and you celebrate it, you focus people’s attention on those activities which over time, create a multiplication culture.

4.       Be aware of the opposition. Satan wants nothing more than for church planting to be the exception rather than the norm. Leaders must be willing to face this spiritual warfare, and to be willing to confront and respond in love to the opposition and negativity which you will encounter. Pray and work for unity. Be single-minded about the purpose of the church: to make and multiply disciples.

5.       Trust and follow the Spirit. The Spirit’s work is to point to Jesus and to make and gather new disciples. He uses means to do this – his Word is an essential part of the disciples’ life. And he uses people and relationships as the means to pass his powerful Word from one person to another to still others.

Im and Stetzer next identify six practices of a multiplying church, practices which have been statistically verified by recent research of new church planting. We can look at those practices in a future Mission Moments. For now, consider your church, your vision, your heart as a leader. Ask the Lord of the Harvest for workers, and ask His help to be intentional about cultivating the multiplication culture in your congregation!

Moment Extras

Questions for Discussion

1.       Can you identify which level appears to be most accurate for your church? Are you satisfied with that? For help with identification and also strategies to move from one level to the next, download and read Todd Wilson’s free ebook, Becoming a Level 5ive Multiplying Church Field Guide.

2.       Do you have a vision and an intentional strategy for multiplication at all levels (disciples, leaders, groups, and churches)? With whom have you shared that vision and strategy? What is your next step?

3.       What is your plan to deal with the negativity and opposition which is sure to arise when you begin to cast the vision for multiplication? Have you gathered a group of intercessors who are grounded in the Word of God and with whom you meet regularly? Why might that be a vital part in cultivating a culture of multiplication?

4.       How does the Word fit into your cultivation strategy? Dig in to identify and discuss some of the key passages which focus attention on multiplication of disciples and groups of disciples.

5.       Where do you need to be more intentional when it comes to the five basic steps listed above? What will you do about that? Who will you invite to hold you accountable?

Resources You Can Use has a wealth of free resources for understanding and equipping yourself and others as you develop a culture of multiplication:

Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication, Todd Wilson & Dave Ferguson
Becoming a Level 5ive Multiplying Church Field Guide, Todd Wilson & Dave Ferguson
Play Thuno: The World-Changing Multiplication Game, Larry Walkemeyer

Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow: Practices, Barriers, and an Ecosystem, Ed Stetzer & Daniel Im. Free download from

Viral Churches, Ed Stetzer & Warren Bird.

Pioneering Movements: Leadership that Multiplies Disciples and Churches, Steve Addison.

NEW Barna release – Church Startups and Money – a study of the financial realities faced by church planters across the country. Barna interviewed more than 700 leaders whose ministries are in “startup mode” to find out how money – or lack thereof – impacts their ministry, family, and overall well-being. This research can help planters, planting networks and other supporters talk honestly about the resources startup leaders need to thrive and to plant thriving churches. The digital version is free until June 17, thanks to Thrivent.

Use this link, Barna-resources, and enter the promo code FLCY66FG5C1W. Be sure to select the digital, rather than print, copy. You may also order a print copy for $29.


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