Recently in a conversation with a friend, it came to mind that one of the hardest parts in disciple making is seeing actual multiplication. Now we can kid ourselves all day long and call good things that are happening multiplication, but the truth is that there is a big difference between growth and multiplicative growth. If we are truly going to have an impact in this culture we need a mindset and mission that truly multiplies.
In the Western context, honestly we don’t see very much multiplying growth from Christian ministry. We are seeing a lot of decline as a whole, a little addition oriented growth here and there, but very little multiplying growth. This is mainly because the main forms of ministry we see are focused on gathering in, rather than continually going out. I use that word “continually” very intentionally. It is one thing to send some people out and have it end there. It is entirely different to send people out who train others to go out and this continually gets passed on. Many churches or ministries have mission statements that include disciple making, the great commision, or going out, but seeing these multiply is very difficult.
Looking around at our landscape, if you ask people who profess to be Christian if they are being trained as a disciple, some will say yes, and some will think you are strange. For those who say yes, if you ask the question whether they are being trained to make disciples, many fewer will say yes. Asking them whether they are actually putting that training into action and even fewer will say yes. Now asking them if they are training those disciples to make disciples and if those disciples are making disciples who make disciples… you get the point. We don’t see very much actual multiplication in the western context of Christianity. Sadly it is showing across this culture.
There are reasons that multiplication is as hard as it is, but multiplying is Biblical and in our context especially, it’s what we need. A few of the biggest barriers preventing people from stepping into more multiplicative disciple making are that:
- Multiplying requires death.
- Multiplying is unromantic at first.
- Multiplying doesn’t make celebrity christians.
- Multiplying is not centralized focused.
Multiplying requires death
Jesus made it clear that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) Instead of realizing that if Christians are going to bear much fruit, they need to die, we are often trying to bear fruit with as little sacrifice as possible. How can we keep the people comfortable and simultaneously make a difference in this world? These things are very opposed in the kingdom. They are not the example that Jesus or the Apostles set for us. This is honestly the hardest of the barriers. Many of the other barriers become much smaller if a person is willing to die to him/herself. Truthfully though, in the light of God’s grace and revelization of his glory, this death isn’t even a big sacrifice, but in a consumer driven christianity, this barrier is huge.
Multiplying is unromantic at first
Is it easier to create a Christian event and fill a room, or make a disciple who makes a disciple who makes a disciple who makes a disciple? Ask almost anyone who has done both and they will tell you the event is easier. Which one has the appearance of more fruit on the front end; a room filled with people, or a single person who is being faithful? Once again a full room has more pizazz than a faithful few at the beginning. This is also why addition oriented models often tempt us away from multiplying practices. Short term gain is easier, more exciting, and quickly celebrated, but in the end, we are losing.
Multiplying doesn’t make celebrity Christians
One of the biggest battles in multiplying is the battle with pride. Most people really want to be noticed and acknowledged. Praise Jesus for his example of being the standard for service and giving His life even when the people around didn’t fully understand. As multiplication truly happens it becomes less dependent on a given individual and more about people being dependent on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If you want to become really well known, addition models are much better for that. If you want to make Jesus really well known, multiplying models are much better for that. In fact, most of the time becoming really well known will get in the way of multiplying as things will more and more need to revolve around you.
Multiplying is not centralized focused
In a western culture where christianity is most strongly, and almost solely expressed in centralized and addition minded ways, multiplying often becomes an afterthought or fleeting hope rather than a true emphasis. Centralized gatherings take a lot of time, energy, resources and manpower. Often times, our best trained people put their attention toward making these experiences the best they can be while the less romantic beginnings of multiplication, though we hope they happen, seldom get the attention they deserve or need.
So my question is, which sort of christian life style do you desire to live into? One that focuses on addition or one that is desiring to multiply?
These things are not written to deter us, but they are written to set the reality of what’s happening around us and the cost it will take for those who truly want to live into multiplication. By the Spirit, there are more and more people realizing the need for multiplying approaches throughout the United States. Praise the Lord for this! Also, there are many around us who though they may agree with the things written here, simply don’t know how to live into them. We’d love to help with that! Please do not hesitate. We want to see people trained to be disciples who make disciples and learn to be the body of Christ together. If you’re interested in that, it’s our honor to have a conversation with you! Get in touch.