As with any process, it’s easy to overlook the simple, ongoing fundamentals that are necessary to sustain momentum. Take marriage, for example. The longer you are married, the greater the temptation to neglect the earlier practices and priorities that built a healthy foundation. Regular dates. Words of encouragement. Time spent dreaming about the future. These simple loving actions fuel marriages in their early years. Those who want a thriving, life-long marriage must consciously and consistently return to these life-giving practices.
The same is true for the local church. Once the church has multiplied a few times, there is often a tendency to neglect some of the very practices that were essential in preparing the church for the selflessness required to multiply. We can place so much emphasis on finding new church planters, building apostolic teams, locating pockets of lostness, and developing mechanisms for sending that we end up forgetting about what had to take place locally to get the ball rolling in the first place. This leads us to the seventh simple, but not easy, rule for multiplication: Add in order to Multiply.
- Own Your Commission
- Take Spiritual Responsibility for Your Jerusalem
- Make and Multiply Kingdom Disciples
- Live off of Less
- Prime the Pump
- Send Co-Vocational Teams
- Add in Order to Multiply
- Continually Celebrate Kingdom Advance
For most apostolic leaders, the notion of ‘addition’ often sounds like a smarmy, sinful compromise vulgarly dressed in ill-fitting sacred clothing for the sole purpose of piously validating our carnal, self-serving, fallen instincts. For many, the decades-long force-feeding of an ecclesial diet that was prepared and served by the school of church growth now produces an emotional repulsion, a conceptual nausea at the mere inference of the idea of addition. With great sympathy for those who share this ecclesiological revulsion, let me gently suggest that rarely will movement happen by simply replacing one pendulum extreme with another. The wisdom of the “both/and” applies to the understanding of addition within a movement of multiplication.
There are three elements of addition that must undergird any church that wants to sustain its multiplication efforts over the long term:
1 – Always Keep Evangelism Central
Throughout these Missio Monday posts, I’ve argued that church planting is the outworking of evangelism, not the other way around. The launching pad for multiplication can only be constructed when we plant churches from evangelism, instead of the all-too-familiar illusory of planting churches for evangelism. Fervent, Spirit-empowered evangelism is necessary in order to plant churches out of the harvest, rather than recycling Christians to trendier brands with hopes that the newest arrangement will usher in a new era of awakening.
The leadership of a multiplying church must ensure that ongoing evangelism practices are intrinsically imbedded into its culture. After a church has reached some level of maturation, there’s a subtle temptation for church leaders to merely add evangelism training to the church’s ministry buffet. Pick a training material, design a class, and check-off the box. Evangelism training alone will never produce an evangelistic culture no matter how many times the concept is lauded from the pulpit. Rather, church leaders must strive to actually practice evangelism and mentor others in this virulent lifestyle. We should recognize those with evangelistic gifts in the body and empower them to equip others to declare the gospel both fruitfully and naturally. We should continually call the entire church to leverage their lives and positions of influence so that all people have a chance to see, hear, and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.
2 – Continually Raise Up New Disciple-Makers
Second, we must continually raise up new disciple-makers to protect against a top-heavy church structure that depends on a small percentage in leadership positions to do the majority of the disciple-making work. Implicit in multiplication is the requirement of sending out your very best, and that can soon expose a shortcoming. One or two iterations of this selfless generosity will leave the mother church emaciated and anemic if there has been no thought to ongoing efforts on deepening the disciple-making bench at home.
For a culture of evangelism to be formed, disciple-making must be the primary practice that distinguishes and qualifies leaders for any leadership role within the church. Incipient leaders demonstrate their credentials by making disciples who can make disciples also. This work requires the linking of one’s salvation with one’s sentness. Rather than assuming that disciple-making is an advanced stage of sanctification for a new convert, we should presuppose that salvation means sentness. Immediately. Empower those who come to faith to quickly take what they know and invest it in others. Then, as they come to know and obey more, they can reproduce their growth in those they naturally influence. A multiplying church must be able to identify a number of capable disciple-makers who can step into leadership roles as others are sent.
3 – Deepen Your Jerusalem Impact
Finally, multiplying churches must continually add impact to the immediate geography in which they live. In a laudable effort to reach Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, we must not lose sight of the needs in our immediate Jerusalem. Again, this temptation is understandable. As we see the needs of the world, our heart breaks for the pervasive darkness we find and we long to raise up leaders to take the gospel to hard places. But in that global vision, sometimes we can become blind to the obvious needs in the shadow of our own steeple. Our Jerusalem impact is what creates ready-made opportunities to mobilize all of God’s people into his kingdom agenda, day in and day out. It also creates a built-in learning lab for the development of missionary disciples who are outward in their orientation. It’s the means by which we continually take spiritual responsibility for the communities in which God has placed us.
These priorities are neither new nor novel. They are familiar themes which are colorfully printed on promotional material in almost every church in North America. They anchor our mission statements and serve as the topics for our classes and sermons. Not new, nor novel, but often neglected and entirely necessary in order to start and sustain movements. They are the unsung heroes behind the culture of multiplication wherever it is found. We can never move beyond them, nor thoughtlessly assume that these practices are dynamic in the culture of the churches lead.
For those who dream of future movements: practice the fundamentals in the present, and allow a new culture and time to bring you to that dream.
Jeff Christopherson is an author and Chief Missiologist of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He also serves as Co-Executive Director of the Send Institute, a partnership of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and the North American Mission Board.