By Peter Meier | April 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 and to multiply.
In an earlier post (read Part 1 below), I highlighted the importance of church multiplication as a fundamental mission principle. In Part 2, I want to highlight the difference between adding and multiplying new disciples and churches.
When it comes to making disciples, it’s really basic addition. One disciple shares the Good News of Jesus with another person, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, that person becomes a believer, a disciple, a follower of Jesus. The Holy Spirit, working through the Word of God, along the avenue of relationships brings a new believer into the Kingdom. This happens one person at a time. It’s addition. Plus 1.
But Biblical Disciple-making is more than “one and done.” There’s more to making disciples than to share the story of Jesus and see another person come to faith. Biblical Disciple-making is helping that new Christian grow in faith and Christian living, part of which is telling the story of Jesus to still others. Biblical Disciple-making involves making disciples who make disciples who make more disciples. It happens one person at a time, but it doesn’t stop there. That’s multiplication. Infinity!
In the same way, we can speak of addition and multiplication when it comes to churches. A church may be intentional about adding and multiplying disciples. God brings new people who want to join the church by transfer, or as they come to faith in Jesus. At this point, the church has a decision to make. Will they simply attempt to add local capacity by adding new small groups, new Bible studies, adding another worship service, adding space through purchase of more land or a building project, adding staff, adding service opportunities? Is the goal to grow larger by adding capacity? In the past, this has been one key measure of “success.” How large, how many groups, how big the budget is, or how big the staff is. This is addition. And God has blessed this kind of church growth.
However, there is another way, which leads to far greater disciple-making potential.
It’s church multiplication.
What if that same church, being intentional about adding and multiplying disciples, were to be intentional about starting new groups of disciples? What if that church were intentional about sending people to new locations, sending people to new sites, large or small? What if that church were intentional about planting new congregations in new places to reach new people with the Gospel? What if that church were to multiply disciples by engaging in disciple-making in multiple locations? That church could reach a variety of target groups in a variety of locations by the process of multiplication.
There’s addition. One disciple at a time. Adding local capacity to accommodate more people.
And there’s multiplication. Disciples who make more disciples who make still more disciples. Sending disciples to start new churches to reach new people.
Like the rest of God’s creation, healthy churches grow and multiply.
(Be sure to read Part 1 of Church Multiplication – God’s Blessing! here.)
Questions for Discussion
1. How is your church, and you personally, intentionally involved in making disciples? Do you have simple and reproducible practices that can help disciples to make more disciples?
2. Is your church’s goal to grow bigger by adding people, programs, staff, or buildings?
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
Joining Jesus on His Mission, by Greg Finke, explores how every Christian can see himself or herself as an every-day missionary, engaged in joyful disciple-making. Greg’s ministry, Dwelling 1:14, offers help to churches and groups who want to become intentional about making disciples.
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 later this month (April 25-27), 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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