Five Steps Into Multiplication

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I spend a fair amount of time coaching pastors who hope to turn their ship around.

Not an easy task. And you’ll never accomplish it by copying the guy down the street. It is doable if you imitate Jesus.

There are five steps a congregation makes into church multiplication. All are on display in the gospels – yet so many miss them. We’re easily blinded by secular elements in the church and traditions having little to do with the gospel.

The Five Steps Include:

  1. An invitation to multiply.
  2. An education to equip multipliers.
  3. An example to imitate.
  4. A call into the game.
  5. A commission to conquer with love.

I may be oversimplifying because the gospels carry more than five steps. However, these have worked well for me.

Step 1: An Invitation to Multiply

We often say, “Join us and we’ll help you grow in the Lord” Or, “Come, volunteer, while we change the world with our programs and events,” Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of me” (Matthew 4:19 ESV).

The call to follow Jesus must include a call to action. More than growing in the Lord or volunteering in necessary programs, we need to raise the bar toward disciplemaking.

I like to train people to disciple their friends into a relationship with Christ rather than preach at them. By this, I mean that hanging out with not-yet Christ-followers is vital if done with a purpose. That purpose being “follow me as I follow Christ.” People tend to imitate the people they admire. Being a fisher of men means staying within admiration range of those who don’t yet know Jesus.

Step 2: An Education to Equip Multipliers

We need to see Jesus as a teacher more than a preacher. The downside to preaching is that it deals with inspiration, not education. While there is a place for inspiration and over-the-pulpit evangelism, we’re called to equip the saints toward works of ministry.

We catch Jesus teaching in parables that confounded those given to unbelief. Then he unpacks them for his disciples. Please note that most of Jesus’ parables speak of disciplemaking and multiplication. But catch the drama when the disciples seem frustrated that the parables confuse most people. He answers them, “To you, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been given.  For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 13:11-12 ESV).

The education was there for the taking. It takes faith, willingness and a ready teacher to move a congregation toward significant multiplication. Pretty simple, actually, but many skip over education for inspiration.

3: An Example to Imitate

I’m a lousy personal evangelist. Pretty good at making disciples and a master heromaker.

Early on, I discovered that while I function as a capable teacher and disciplemaker, I’ll never lead someone to Jesus on a flight from San Diego to Honolulu. I can disciple a neighbor into Christ, but the short conversational approach isn’t going to happen.

What to do if you are a poor example of what you hope others will do? Tell stories. I became a heromaker decades before Dave Ferguson wrote his excellent book. I did it partly to survive but mostly to inculcate a multiplication culture into the churches I led.

I’d tell stories of other people’s exploits. By the time I planted a church, I had enough stories from my own scattered exploits to get us going. After that, I gave examples from the youth group I had led for seven years. Once the church got rolling, there was a growing body of gifted evangelists. I figure their job is to equip the less-gifted among us. I helped by telling their stories as I taught scripture each week.

Jesus’ disciples were infinitely better off than mine. They got front row seats to amazing miracles and conversions like the Roman Centurian and the demoniac of Gadara. I love their amazement when Jesus calmed the sea for his seasick, freaked out crew, “…the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'” (Matthew 8:27 ESV).

We’ve seen a few spectacular conversions in response to miraculous prayer answers. I’ve led some people to Christ over countless cups of coffee. But, mostly, our people learned what we call “friendship evangelism” from stories they heard in church.

Step 4: A Call into the Game

After a couple of healings and a resurrection (which followed prolonged teaching) Jesus suddenly pivots from superstar to head coach. He calls his players off the bench and into the game, all twelve of them. We read, “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:1-2 ESV).

They return from the mission excited over the miracles they’ve witnessed, and they even attract the attention of King Herod, so we know that good things happened.

But I wonder if they didn’t bring a bunch of new disciples with them because Jesus quickly identifies 72 players who he sends into the game. I may be straining to make a point, but I see multiplication here. Either the 72 are the 12 plus 60 or Jesus’ disciples, or they are the 12 plus 60 of their disciples. Experience tells me that the newest converts are often the hottest evangelists. And the freshly healed get fanatical about praying for the sick. Either way, this is a lesson in multiplication. It works well when we pull our folks out of their pews and into the highways and byways. Comfortable Christianity, this is not!

Step 5 A Commission to Conquer with Love

Multiplication does not “happen.” It only occurs upon intent and follow through.

As a young church planter, I struggled under the tremendous weight of the Great Commission. The part about discipling nations was depressing. One day while meditating on Matthew 28, I began to recast Jesus’ words with his later instruction in Acts 1:8. The load started to lift as I thought back to my days as a youth pastor. I wasn’t responsible for every kid in the world, only those in the north end of California’s San Fernando Valley. Our youth group followed the larger congregation to accept responsibility for a few villages around Mexicali, Mexico.

Limiting while expanding took hold as a concept I could make work. But I still had to accept responsibility for whatever limits and concurrent expansion came my way.

If you choose to multiply, you should first ask Jesus to delineate your assigned territory. It may be one or two zip codes. COVID-19 may dictate that five houses on either side of yours are your primary mission field.

For us, in Hermosa Beach, it was five towns on the California coast. In Hawaii, it was ten percent of the population of the state. In California, we stayed focused on Mexico while bridging a little into Europe. Upon moving to Hawaii, we knew that Japan was our secondary mission field. All this eventually stretched our disciplemaking and church multiplication efforts to every continent and Australia. I’ve spent massive amounts of time in the Asian mainland, along with Europe and Africa.

It all started with defining an area of primary and then secondary responsibility. But the real action started once we taught our people that this was their responsibility, too. It became a natural part of our disciplemaking continuum for people to stretch as far as their gifts would take them, with some planting churches in other countries.

To me, this is all about building disciplemaking and church multiplication into a congregation’s life and culture.

My friend, Larry Walkemeyer, wrote a book that might interest you. It is called Play Thuno, which is a play on words (pun intended). The title comes from the Greek term plēthynō, which means to increase or multiply. You can download it for free at exponential.org. If this article was useful to you, Larry’s book would help you step further into multiplication.

Join Ralph Moore, Myron Pierce, Surekha Hulugalle, National Leader of Foursquare Church GB.and for a conversation about the World-Changing Multiplication Game. Register for free here.

We are better together!

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:22-23

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