We all want growth, but not all growth is created equal.
Not just growth, but multiplication.
If we are honest with ourselves, most of what we mean we talk about growth would be closer to addition than multiplication. There is currently a certain number of us, but in a little while there will be that number plus a few more. That’s addition. A church of 150 becomes a church of 200. A network of 10 churches becomes a network of 12 churches. You get the idea. Take what you have an incrementally increase it.
Growth by addition is both safe and attractive because it can stay in the realm of the specialists. If most people in your church do nothing, and a few gifted evangelists win some souls, then you will grow a bit. If most churches do nothing, but one or two apostolic leaders get a little bit of church planting going then the number of churches in your movement will grow a bit.
But multiplication is different.
For a congregation to be doubled, tripled or increased ten-fold requires more than just a handful of evangelists at work. It will take everyone.
For a movement of five churches to multiply into 20 or 50 or 100, it will need more than a pioneer apostle – it will need every church involved in the work of planting and for the new churches they plant to be immediately asking ‘where next’?
Addition is easy, but multiplication gets the job done.
This is why Jesus didn’t keep his apostles together as one ministry team but sent them out two-by-two (6 fold multiplication), and then drew in the 72 to send out (36-fold multiplication).
As we start to think about multiplication, I think there are 3 different levels of multiplication we should consider.
When Jesus gave his disciples the great commission to make disciples, one of the instructions was to teach them to obey everything he had commanded them.
One of these commands was the call to make disciples itself, and to teach them to make disciples, who would then be taught to make disciples and so on in an infinite loop.
The call is to multiply disciples, and we need to make sure that every member of our church is trained to share the good news about Jesus, and to make disciples.
The church planting strategy of Paul was to visit the pre-eminent city in each region, to start a church there and to move on.
This didn’t mean, however, that Paul had no interest in the outlying towns and villages – but that rather, having planted the seed of a church in a capital city, he expected it to multiply throughout the region.
This is exactly what happened on the island of Crete, and Paul ended up sending Titus to appoint elders in every town as churches had spread throughout that place.
Just as we want to see every disciple making disciples, we want to see every church planting churches.
We need to think beyond our own congregation to the region in which we are based, and to consider how we can populate that region with many new churches.
As well as looking locally to how we can spread churches throughout our own region, we should look to the cities and regions of the world.
How can we help to start and support new church planting movements in different places? What opportunities are there to partner with people? To pray? To give? To send? To go?
As we multiply disciples, this will resource us to multiply churches, which in turn will resource us to multiply movements.
As we multiply movements, this will kick-start the multiplication of new churches, which in turn will result in the multiplication of disciples across the world.
This is the dream, so let us think and pray about what we can do to multiply disciples, to multiply churches and to multiply movements to the glory of God.