The muscle of multiplication
I’m at a church planting conference this week in Florida. Thousands gather in solidarity around the compulsion to be multipliers who lead churches toward multiplication. Disciples making Disciples. Churches planting churches. So the gospel can spread as the population grows. If we are just maintaining in a world that is growing, we are actually dying.
It was 13 years ago that I joined a fledgling year old church plant in Lowell, Michigan. At that point in my life I just wanted to be a part of something that was more movement-minded. Less about securing a settlement and more about joining a movement. I loved the language of reproduction, of having new conversions instead of transfer growth. Of thinking about being a “sending church” instead of a “growing church”. I believe it can be both/and, but it should never be either/or.
So I’ve watched our church birth multiple churches, most of which survived, some that made a run and then dissolved. We’ve always believed that even if we fail, we will at least fail trying to fulfill the Great Commission. This isn’t a license to be haphazard, but we don’t want to be so fearful of failure that we don’t strike camp and blaze new trails for the sake of gospel-spread on this earth. It’s been a joy to multiply, but it costs. It costs people, resources, energy, time, and money. Our church has invested well over a million dollars into church planting since our inception and gladly tithes ten percent of our budget to church planting each year. It’s at the core of our purpose and I’m held accountable as a leader to champion it’s cause.
There are times when I get so buried in just growing a healthy local church that it’s hard to get altitude to see the big picture and to keep a kingdom perspective. As Paul told Timothy just before he died, “Keep you head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge the duties of your ministry.” The one that hits me is to keep doing the work of an evangelist. It’s easy to get neck deep in ministry and to neglect the ministry of reaching the lost and spreading the gospel. I can find myself problem-solving and trouble-shooting in the local church and forget about the need to hive people off and send them out to start new churches in new communities. It can turn into keep people on board and keeping people united instead of keeping people on mission and keeping people scattering like the early church…diaspora as it was called. This Acts 1:8 mission to be witnesses in your local community, neighboring town, regional town, and eventually global arena is a tall order…but this is the dream of God for each church.
So this week I’m going to place myself in a context that pushes me out of my comfort zones and security blankets. I’m putting myself around other rabid reproducers and daring them to dare me to do something great for God. To quit playing it safe and to take big risks to get the gospel to the world through multiplication. I love that “I get to” be here. I don’t always like stretching myself, but I’d rather be in this context that one of stagnation and settlement.
So here’s to another day of being pushed to multiply as much as my flesh wants to hunker down and survive with the people I got. God wants me to think about the ones yet to be reached, the communities yet to have a fresh expression of the gospel. This is why I’m here, to strengthen that muscle of multiplication.