What is multiplication
an ongoing stream of thoughts
What do I mean by multiplication? In the church context, I mean more than addition growth. Most churches that are growing, even the fastest-growing churches that pastors are jealous of and parishioners wish their church was like (sometimes!), are growing by addition. They are adding more people than are leaving by death or moving away. Sometimes they are adding A LOT more, and so the growth is significant. But it is by addition. It is often by the personality of the pastor, the organizational skill of the leaders, and/or the perception of the programs the church offers.
Multiplication, on the other hand, is about empowering individual believers to reach other people and teach them to do the same. For example, instead of bringing 30 new families to the church by a new children’s or youth ministry (which would be a great and necessary thing), multiplication seeks to disciple people into reaching out.
A multiplication model would be training people to reach people the way Jesus did. Working with a small group, discipling them to go start their own discipling groups. Let’s use Jesus’ model of 12, who you work with for 3 years.
Year 3: 12 disciples. Kinda slow. This pastor may not be all we hoped for. He keeps saying this is how Jesus did it, but maybe Jesus didn’t know what He was talking about.
Year 6: 144 disciples. Whoa, that’s pretty good growth. But that church by the interstate has 10,000 people.
Year 9: 1728. Man, we are growing fast! Slow down, because I don’t know all these people.
Year 12: 20,736. We may be the biggest church in America
Year 15: 248,832 From here on out, it is out of control
Year 18: 2,985,984
Year 21: 35,831,808
Year 24: 429,981,696
Year 27: 5,159,780,352. This almost the entire population of the world. The whole world is always within reach of a disciple-making generation. 27 years. You could see it in your lifetime.
If you were to grow by addition only, adding more people than you lose, you might grow to impressive numbers, but… you will never catch up to Jesus’ exponential model of disciple-making. There are now more churches with 2000 people or more in worship on Sundays than at any time in our history. And yet, there is not a county in America that has more people in church today than it did in 1990. So all the addition growth of some churches has only served to slow the bleeding.
The typical model of church is that there is a pastor who leads the church, it’s services, programs, and education. Those are supposed to grow the church. And they do, but not often—only about 13% of the churches in America are growing. It’s not that most pastors and churches stink, it’s that we aren’t quite doing what Jesus taught us to.
Multiplication means more than individuals. Groups should be multiplying. Churches should be multiplying. A church should be looking to plant churches that plant churches. And let me be honest. This is REALLY hard. It stomps on just about every anxiety we have in church: it will cost money. It will mean sending people out. We won’t “see” the fruit where we are on Sunday mornings. And if we are going to spend money and deal with the pain of change, we ate least want to see it here: more people, bigger building.
I guess what it will finally come down to: how much do we want people to know Jesus? Is that our number one priority?