Most parents with young children have, more times than we would care to admit, stood at the threshold of their child’s room and stared in holy horror at the mess scattered in front of them. Who knew that one pint-sized tyke could independently spawn such a cataclysmic scene? A veritable plastic salad of Lego pieces, baby doll body parts, Jurassic Park creatures, and happy meal cast offs all tossed and strewn everywhere — everywhere but the empty toy box.
We’ve all witnessed the scene. And we’ve all been tempted to kick into the self-cleaning mode to swiftly solve the problem and avoid a toddler’s mortal wrath by appealing for his assistance.
But, as in most things in life, easy is seldomly prudent. A wise parent will unswervingly respond with a firm commandment that no child ever wants to hear. Ever. “Ok, Billy, it’s time to clean your room.”
Since creation, there’s a certain built-in responsibility within us to take ownership of the place we call home. From the earliest age, we all need to learn to clean up our mess and bring order from chaos.
This type of work was a part of the very fabric of God’s original design.
After creating a pristine garden filled with abundant splendor fashioned by an infinitely glorious God, Adam was given a task: He was instructed to cultivate the world God made. This was an astounding privilege, and one that should not be so quickly sidestepped.
God could have made a world complete, lacking nothing. The very word “cultivate” gives a sense of the work to which Adam was called. He was to take the very good world God made and enkindle its latent potential to make it better, more beautiful, more representative of the glory of God.
The same work is given to all those who follow in Adam’s line. We are all called to bring beauty from brokenness, order from chaos, and peace from anything that threatens shalom. And we must begin this work right where God has planted us.
The second key to multiplication, in both our individuals lives and in our churches, is to take responsibility for our place.
- Owning Your Commission
- Taking 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 Sustain Multiplication
- Continually Celebrate Kingdom Advance
Draw Your Circle of Responsibility
We begin by knowing and owning the place that we call home. In his famous commission to the first sent-ones, Jesus calls them to migrate from their Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jerusalem was their home. It was the world they knew. It was right where God had them at the moment.
Although many of us would rather skip the messiness of our Jerusalem and head out to the ends of the earth, we must first start in our Jerusalem. Exporting something that doesn’t work at home is worse than unhelpful; it is missionally toxic on many dimensions.
For some, this circle will be the neighborhood in which they live, the office complex in which they labor, or the gym or hang-out spot they frequent. For churches, this might be a one-mile radius from the location of their church building or an epicenter in which a majority of their people live, work and play.
The size of the geography isn’t as important as the degree of spiritual ownership taken of that geography. What is most vital is that we know our place and take gospel responsibility for the people who live there.
Understand the Needs Within Your Circle
Next, we ask investigative questions about our circle. Who lives here? What people groupings have little gospel access? What social fault lines do we observe? Where is the enemy at work? What signs of grace are present? Who are the people of peace laboring to bring the good news of Jesus to bear in that place? What community organizations are working for causes that kingdom-disciples could intersect and champion as well?
The list of questions is seemingly endless. What’s important is that God’s people have their spiritual antennas raised and are looking for places to physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially invest.
Pray Specifically and Expectantly
Which then thrusts them into their circle with a very strategic posture of prayerfulness. No longer nebulous niceties like, “lead, guide and direct…,” and ending “in Jesus’ name” are adequate. Now we must pray practically for real people by specific name, real needs that are unmistakable by nature, and particular people groups that have no one looking for them to share good news.
We can ask the Father to bring His peace to the ugly implications of sin’s activity, but in the asking, we ourselves must be prepared to be a part of the answer.
Those leading churches can also lead corporate prayer that is passionately external in orientation—prayer that is designed to call on God to grant salvation and bring healing to real needs in the actual places we call our home.
Selflessly Engage Your Circle
Finally, we begin to engage our circle. This starts by being an agent for good—one who is marked by the fruit of the Spirit’s activity.
We take spiritual ownership of our place by cultivating the potential good we find there, much like Adam did in the Garden.
This labor will be different, because we’re all uniquely wired by our Creator with certain passions, personalities, and priorities that influence the way we engage the field. This is why the church matters. No one disciple can take ownership of a place alone. We need all of God’s people leveraging their unique capacities to bring about the maximum gospel exposure in a geography.
As we begin to answer the question of, “How does every man, woman, boy, and girl in this circle get the opportunity to see, hear, taste, and smell the gospel of Jesus Christ on multiple occasions so they can adequately respond to its implications?” our engagement pattern will likely shift.
We’ll move from asking, “How do we get them to come to us?” to “How do we get them to reach those closest to them?” Our pattern of thinking moves from a passive gathering that directly benefits our bottom lines to an active equipping and sending that directly benefits the people living in our Jerusalems.
In that shift, God begins to change a church’s culture. This is a change that begins to prepare our hearts, our priorities, our budgets, and our ecclesiastical structures toward a movement of kingdom multiplication.
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.