Mercy Road Multipliers, part 2
5 Levels of Church
I guess I should mention that the church that hosted us in Indianapolis this past week, the church we heard from about their disciple-making plans, is called Mercy Road.
I want to go back for a minute to remind us about a way of evaluating churches.
We can group churches according to “levels;” 1-5.
Level 1: declining
Level 2: plateaued
Level 3: growing
Level 4: reproducing
Level 5: multiplying.
80% of churches in America are Level 1 or 2.
13% are growing: these are churches that add more people than leave, move, or die. Sometimes spectacularly so. These are the churches we often try to imitate, because we all want to grow. Well, to be honest, most churches do not want to grow. They say they do, but if that were so, 80% would not be Level 1 or 2.
7% are reproducing. They have planted a new church or launched a new campus.
Less than 1% are multiplying. That, is they plant churches that in turn plant churches that plant churches There may be more examples than we know of, but we have a hard time finding them. Two stick out: Ralph Moore’s Hope Chapel movement, which has spawned more than 2700 churches, some down to the 9th generation. Neil Cole’s Church Multiplication Associates, a very decentralized movement, has launched 1100 churches last I recall.
Ralph Moore has given us an image of “magnets” that pull churches towards decline, growth or multiplication. He envisions 3 magnets, 1 outside Level 1, pulling churches to decline. There is a magnet at Level 3 drawing churches to growth. And then there is the Jesus magnet, outside Level 5, pulling churches to multiplication.
You want to kill the Level 1 magnet. Good thing is, it is easily recognizable. When your church says things like “we can’t do that/invest money in x until we see some growth,” they are being pulled to decline.
The Level 3 magnet is a bit of a problem. It is a good magnet, because growth is awesome. More people worshipping and growing in their faith is a good thing. But it is also very distracting. This magnet, more than anything else, keeps churches from making the jump to Level 4 or 5, because, well, growth is good.
The things it requires, when they are present in abundance, feel good and right:
Well-known, personable pastor
Success. People love being part of something that is successful.
And so the reasonable person says, if some is good, more is better. Why would we mess with a good thing? Level 4 would mean sending people out, and that would be less, not more. We can’t send money and people out… we want money and people to come IN.
Level 4, in its most basic form, is one disciple making another. At the church level, it involves putting resources and people into launching satellite services in other parts of town or in other towns or states; or sending people and money to start a new stand-alone church. The Level 3 magnet pulls us away from this. We ask, why would send money and people? Because Jesus says Go. It’s that simple. How much does the Great Commission mean to us?
Level 5 is multiplication, when disciples are making disciples who make more disciples, when churches plant churches that plant churches.
It is very hard for churches to make this shift—look back at the previous post to see the 5 shifts that need to happen. Churches that are doing ok probably will not want to make the shift. A church that is really croaking may, out of desperation, change things to head towards level 4 or 5. I think this is why the multiplying churches you see are basically new starts. They can begin with Level 5 as their goal, with their mindset and processes geared to it. There is something terribly sad about all this: think about how much of God’s talk is about multiplication. Think about how much Jesus is about the expansive growth of seeds and fruit…
Stay tuned—more posts about disciple and church multiplication coming!