Multiply: The Word That Makes Many Churches Nervous

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One of the things most needed in our churches is also the thing that is the most seared. What is that thing? Multiplication. In reality, most every Church wants to grow. Most every Church would love to see more people coming, more money available for ministry, more baptisms, and really more of everything to where more people would not only hear the gospel but become involved in Kingdom work. Our love for Jesus translates in a desire to see others love Christ.

God loves sharing how many are added to the church. Through the first part of Acts, the Spirit lets us know of how many were added to the community of believers (Acts 2:41, 47, among others). God loves addition, and especially loves multiplication. Sadly though, many churches find themselves afraid to multiply. The fear of losing bodies and money to help fund the ministries already established make this such an act of faith that it seems almost irrational.

We’ve heard the statistics: “If 80% of your parking lot/classroom/auditorium is full, then guests will perceive it’s full.” The joy of having a packed out room that’s standing room only is thrilling–for those inside. Yet, if our commission is to reach those who are outside the community of believers, then we find ourselves making some decisions, and the decisions we make will expose many of our motives and assumptions of what we believe about church.

Multiplication is about providing atmospheres and environments for people far from God to be around those who know Him through Christ. And I’m not just talking about multiplying churches. For many established churches, multiplication begins on a smaller scale than this. It starts with multiplying:

* People
* Leaders
* Classes
* Services
* Churches

People. When Christ called us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19), He called us to reproduce ourselves. He called us to pour into others what He has poured into us (Titus 2:1-10). Healthy churches produce disciples that are part of the covenant community through baptism, and absorb all that Christ has taught. While that can and does happen to a degree on Sunday mornings, that needs to be a part of our life. Each of us should get together with another believer or 2-3 other believers to grow each other in the gospel and to demonstrate Christ’s love to each other.

Leaders. The leaders in your church need to multiply leaders. Our good friend with NAMB, Dave Howeth, is taking my associate pastor and myself through some helpful exercises. He gave us a template with three columns with the headings, “What I Do,” “What I Should Do,” and “What Could Others Do.” As we went through our lists, we began to justify every action we do and, internally, probably felt as if only we could do certain things. To be fair, there are things that we are called and commissioned to do, but there are other things that others could do–and we should equip them and help them step-by-step do those things. This develops leaders and helps others feel ownership!

Classes. Some classes bulge at the seams, which is such a good problem to have. When this happens, the question comes up, “Should we multiply?” If that class has a strong community and everyone loves each other, parting can be such a sorrow (not a sweet one, but just sorrow). More chairs could be brought in, tables could be moved out–but is that best for others who may need to sit and learn and commune with each other? This is a legitimate fear folks have, since that community dynamic is so strong and in most cases so very positive. Yet, our goal is to make disciples. To multiply. How exciting it is for us as a church to send off missionaries to the field. Could we have that same excitement sending off class members to another space in the church as missionaries to start classes?

Services. This one makes me nervous, but not anymore nervous than hitting a lid of attendance where some won’t come in to hear the gospel because of not finding a seat. Is the multiplying, Great Commission DNA in us to such a degree that we fear having more than one service because it breaks up our community? If you read through the book of Acts, the joy they had in adding numbers was also accompanied by being overwhelmed in the execution of ministering (just look at Acts 6:1-2). Thus, leaders needed to multiply in order to minister to the multiplying church. So when we think about more than one service (if that’s your structure now), what are the checks in your spirit that arise? It’s as if we believe the choices are between (1) adding to our church community, or (2) losing the community we have.

Personally, I believe this is a false choice. Each of us have our sub-groups that we are with. We are not with everyone equally, even with one service. We have developed friendships and relationships that are stronger than others. Granted, with two services, we may lose access and opportunities with others outside our sub-groups. But (1) we will find ways to provide this community through fellowships and SNAPs and Connect Groups, etc., and (2) more people will hear the gospel and be around some aspect of that community. There’s always a trade-off. Churches need to determine what is of greater importance.

Churches. In Denver, we have one Southern Baptist Church for every 20,000 people. And even if you add in other evangelical churches, that number would not decrease by much. We need more Great Commission churches planted and mothered by Great Commission churches with that multiplying DNA.

Friends, Jesus is enough. He is sufficient for all things. We live in a world that essentially says, “Enough of Jesus–I want to be my own savior and lord.” This leads to a dead-end. But with more discipling believers, more leaders, more classes, more services, more churches coming to life, we see how this multiplying will provide more opportunities for Christians to disciple, be discipled, and evangelize the Good News of Christ who is more than enough.

What do you think? Do you grow nervous about multiplication or do you embrace the thought?

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