By Peter Meier | February 15, 2017
After God finished the six days of creation, Genesis 1, He looked at all He had made, and pronounced it “very good indeed” (Genesis 1:31). He blessed His creation, each kind to produce living offspring after its kind. “God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, multiply…” (v28). God’s intention is for living things to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth.
This is true for living plants and animals and human beings which reproduce according to their kinds. Cows give birth to cows, chickens produce more chickens, apple trees produce more apples (and even orchards!), sheep give birth to more sheep. You get it.
How about Christians? Human beings give birth to human beings of course. But what about disciples? Jesus was clear in His great commission, disciples make more disciples who make still more disciples, who continue to make disciples. This is multiplication of disciples, one of the essential markers of a disciple – they are blessed to reproduce, to be fruitful and multiply.
Who gives birth to churches?
It makes sense, doesn’t it, that churches give birth to churches? That’s the pattern we see early on in Christian history. Jesus instructed his followers to bear witness to Him throughout the world, Acts 1:8, but it took persecution to move them out of Jerusalem, Acts 8:1b. Scripture is clear, “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria… [and] those who were scattered preached the word wherever they went,” v4.
Ordinary believers, Christian men, women, boys and girls fled to Antioch and Syria. As a result of their proclamation, (not the apostle’s!) “the Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21).
The church in Jerusalem had given birth. It was not planned, but it was blessed. They heard about what happened, and sent Barnabas and Saul to provide leadership to the new church. It wasn’t’ long and this new church in Antioch was ready to reproduce, to give birth to its own daughter churches. Read about it in Acts 13:1-3.
The church in Antioch became the mother church, and also the grandmother and great-grandmother church of all churches across what is today Turkey and Greece. You and I, and Christians of all ages owe a debt of gratitude for the daughter church planting, the multiplication, done by the Antioch Church.
And that pattern of multiplication has continued. Ephesus, one of the seven churches of Revelation was likely the mother church for the other six. These cities surrounded Ephesus and were connected by a Roman road which would have made a natural path for church planting.
It is the natural, normal and God-blessed activity of every church to multiply, to give birth to new churches and new Gospel ministries. These churches may take on many forms or models, depending on the context and people groups targeted, but the Word will do its work as it is spoken, proclaimed, studied, shared. The Holy Spirit will use ordinary Christian people and their relationships to multiply believers and groups of believers (churches). That has been God’s intention – and blessing – from the beginning!
When couples dream of marriage, they usually also talk about the children they would like to have someday. They look and pray for God’s blessing on their marriage and family. In the same way, healthy churches should be talking about the children they will have – new disciples and new groups of disciples. New churches, new sites, new Gospel outreach ministries – all blessings from the Lord!
In my next post, I’ll talk about the difference between adding and multiplying new disciples and churches.
(This post highlights one of the 12 foundational Mission Principles used in our mission training. The Multiplication Principle states, “Healthy churches will reproduce and church multiplication should be envisioned and planned from the new church’s beginning.” We are pleased to partner with Dynamic Church Planting International to present this principle along with the others as part of our Churches Planting Churches training.)
Questions for Discussion
1. Why is giving birth God’s blessing?
2. What’s the difference between thinking of church multiplication as God’s command and seeing it as God’s blessing?
3. Has your church ever talked about multiplication? About church planting?
4. If not, why not? What would it take to start the discussion?
5. If you have talked about it, where are you on the “readiness” scale? What would prevent you? What would encourage and move you forward?
Resources You Can Use
Churches Planting Churches is an intensive two-day seminar offered by The Center for US Missions to help churches explore their planting potential. We look at why churches plant new churches, discuss objections to church planting, and help you develop a contextualized plan for church reproduction. Contact us if you would like more information.
The Multiplying Church, by Bob Roberts is a primer for pastors and lay leaders involved in, or wanting to learn about, the church multiplication groundswell in North America. It shows how multiplying churches should be a natural, regular function of every church to reach the 70 percent of Americans who have no meaningful church relationship.
The Ripple Church, by Phil Stevenson lays out the case for church planting in a book full of real life stories, experiences and practical insights.
Planting Missional Churches, by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im contains chapters on topics such as church multiplication, residencies, multi-ethnic ministry, multisite, denominations and networks, and spiritual leadership. This book is a guide to build the needed ministry areas so that you can multiply over and over again. For additional resources visit www.newchurches.com.
Exponential free e-books and resources offer a wealth of information about all aspects of church multiplication for all size churches. The Exponential Church Planter’s conference is coming in April, the largest gathering of church planters on the planet. This conference is packed with helpful sessions relating to starting new churches and outreach ministries.
Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org
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