We’ve all purchased a product that promised easy installation. The box explicitly stated that anyone—even the most hapless novice—could follow these simple, straight-forward instructions with little more than a flat head screwdriver and the included Allen wrench. Four hours later, you’re sitting in the garage with random screws and half-assembled parts strewn about, wondering why you didn’t just pay the extra 40 dollars to get the preassembled unit.
The resources developed for church leaders aren’t all that different. Four easy steps transitioning your stagnant, inward church into a disciple-making, mission-sending force for the kingdom. Easy, right? It’s little wonder so many pastors spend each Monday with frustrations rivaling that of the fictitious man in his garage. They’ve got some pieces in place, but it’s seemingly impossible to envision how to move from their current reality to their aspirational vision.
Some just give up. They determine that God’s preferred future is out of reach. They might continue to fulfill their obligations to an ecclesio-centric ministry, but they’ve abandoned any hope of taking practical steps to lead God’s people in mission. Others move on. They find another church that seems to have more pieces already assembled or where it appears that the random assortment of parts is a bit easier to construct. Often, after the initial honeymoon phase, these leaders realize that the proverbial grass is certainly not greener in another field—they’ve simply chosen new problems.
A third group grapples for an easy fix. They identify the supposed problem in the church—poor leadership, lack of prayer, few personal evangelists, or any of a myriad of the usual malefactors—and find a tool that promises to resolve the issue at hand. When the fix doesn’t work or takes longer than expected, they move on to another apparent solution, leaving their members with a feeling of perpetual whiplash as they shillyshally from one sure-fire technique to another.
Is there another way?
The alternative is a path few take because it’s painstakingly slow. But with time, it can become the rare seeds for a genuine kingdom movement. The answers, while simple in concept, require diligence, wisdom, and spiritual perseverance to execute in the midst of real-life leadership in the church. I propose that there are 8 steps in the instruction manual for multiplication. And, just like a do-it-yourself assembly kit, these instructions should be followed in order lest you get ahead of yourself and miss a key step in the process. Over the course of the next eight Monday’s, we will examine each of these.
- 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 Sustain Multiplication
- Continually Celebrate Kingdom Advance
So, church leaders must start by owning their commission as missionary disciples’ intent on seeing that Jesus is known and worshipped by more and more people. We cannot settle for building ecclesiastical fortresses designed to cater to the needs of the evangelically predisposed. We personally must leave the safety and comforts of the sheep pen and venture out into the perilous and precarious world of lost sheep where we can demonstrate and declare the wondrous blessing, beauty, and protection found within the rule and reign of their rightful King.
Often leaders who desire a spiritual movement are quick to preach and teach these principles to others but fail to embody their commission themselves. But the only place where multiplying movements can emerge is in the place of personal ownership of leadership. We simply can’t settle for commending to others what we are not personifying ourselves. In this area, disciples corroborate the truth of the adage that actions speak louder than words, as they personally imitate the examples of their mission-less mentors while further cementing their mission-less ecclesiology. When it comes to multiplication, a powerful sermon from a theoretical practitioner will be swiftly undermined whereas an authentic personification of passionate mission will compel disciples to personally emulate the gospel priorities of their leaders.
Leaders who own their commission can then invite those they lead to join with them in Jesus’ great mission in the world. It’s this call that must be explicit when we speak of gospel centrality. It’s not only that we are saved by virtue of Jesus’ finished work, but we are also sent by virtue of His ongoing commission. One simply cannot be divorced from the other in our Christian living or leadership. We must call people to active kingdom multiplication, even if that commission does little to enhance the size or influence of the churches we lead.
Open-handed leaders recognize that commissioning people to multiplication is inherently costly but, because of their genuine allegiance to the gospel of Christ, they are gladly willing to invest their best into the mission of God around the world. And in this this open-handed transfer, they become, in themselves, emblematic of their sacrificial King. It is an odious example to those fascinated with the darkness of a self-serving form of religion, and it is a persuasive appeal to those with gospel hunger.
Movements always emerge through emanations from a core. They initiate with authentic leaders who, through conviction, openly practice what they proclaim as the very substantiation of their gospel message. With this authentication, kingdom disciples follow their kingdom example by reproducing what they have seen, heard, and personally experienced in their leadership.
This reproduction emerging from the simplicity of owning our commission becomes the very seed for a multiplying gospel movement.
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.