More Thoughts on Multiplication
By: Bill Easum
As a result of my time in the think tank in Atlanta, I spent some time listening to the message of several pastors who are either leading reproducing or multiplying churches and I had confirmed a suspicion I’ve had for some time.
The success of a church is not how good the pastor teaches or the best of the music. What cause some churches to rise to the top and not others are the depth, breadth, and clarity of their vision and teaching. Consider the webpage of Hope Chapel in Hawaii. I’m going to share a section of it in its entirety.
We asked God for meaningful 20-year goals at the outset of Hope Chapel Honolulu. We believe our goals came to us from the Lord. They are doable, but only with God’s help. Here are those goals.
The first goal is to include “Reproducing DNA” at every level of our ministry. This means that each ministry needs a bias toward reproducing disciples, reproducing ministry and reproducing new churches. This can only come with sound teaching and an equivalent desire to obey Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of every nation.” We’ll ultimately touch other nations but we must begin at home. And we must be intent on reproducing disciples in everything we do. If we stay focused on disciple making we will accomplish all that God asks of us.
Our second goal is to plant 30 organic churches in 20 years. By organic, we mean that we work through relationships with people we’ve discipled. We aren’t looking for “hired guns” from some other ministry to help us plant churches. We hope to raise up church planters from our midst. This is a tall order and one that requires as much prayer as active disciple making. Coming out of the gate we partner with people we knew before we started and with some folks attracted to our church because we intend to plant churches. These people are already equipped and in the process of planting. But, the future lies with our youth. As we disciple young people we keep an eye out for potential church planters (we have some pretty hot potential in the pipeline).
To establish a church planting presence in three other nations also requires prayer.
We hope you notice that accomplishing the latter two goals comes from success with the first. We can only achieve them if we successfully make disciples.”
There is simply no way anyone could mistake the intent of Hope Chapel. Are the goals of your church as deep, broad, and clear as those of Hope Chapel?
I‘ve heard a couple of Ralph Moore’s messages. While they are clear and well done, he is not the most electric preacher on the planet…good but not great. So here is the message: You can spend as much time as you want perfecting your message, but if the goals of the church aren’t crystal clear and embedded in every fiber of the church, and if you’re not developing obedient Jesus followers, you’re just pissing in the wind. (I can’t think of a more pungent way of expressing the utter futility of not making obedient Jesus followers.)
So why am I harping on the quality of preaching? Because most pastors spend too much time on their messages and not enough time developing obedient Jesus followers.
For example, I’m coaching about a dozen church planters, and one of the things I have to keep driving home is the less time spent on their message the better. A great sermon is useless if new people aren’t showing up. So I tell them instead of spending time on your message, spend it making sure new people are showing up and being developed into Jesus followers.
I remember my pastor saying that when he planted the church he never spent more than a couple of hours on the sermon. In fact, he borrowed many of them from other pastors and gave credit to them. Wonder how that went? The church now has close to 9,000 in worship with several multi-sites. A great sermon isn’t the key to growth.
The only place the message is the key task of a pastor is when the church is over 500 in worship. Now the quality of the sermon becomes more and more important as the church grows.
So, pastors, no matter what size your church is, the quality of your goals and disciple making are more important than anything else. Pray that God will lay clear, biblical goals in your heart and the ability to cast the vision behind those goals in such a way that it becomes embedded in your members.
The key to multiplication is to embed the DNA in each of your members. So, disciple-making becomes more important than getting butts in the seats.
Of course, this raises a dilemma. Focusing more on making disciples than bringing in new people is risky.There are no guarantees it will work. It may also feel as if it is distracting you from making sure your church is able to survive for the short-turn. On the one hand, it will slow down your ability to bring in new people. On the other hand, it may result in more people long-term because, if you can pull it off, you won’t be the only one bringing in new people. You’ll have many people sharing their faith with their networks because that is a Jesus follower does.
What have I learned about what it takes to make obedient Jesus followers? The following are my brief observations.
Making obedient Jesus followers is usually the result of five things:
• A passion lies deep in the heart of the leader for the fulfillment of Jesus’s last will and testament – “Go make disciples of all people groups.” The leaders must have a passion for those who are not a Jesus follower.
• The pastor and staff mentor and role modeling making obedient Jesus followers. The “monkey see, monkey do” concept applies to making disciples. We can’t expect people to do what we’re not doing. If the pastor and staff are making disciples, it’s easier to show the congregation how to do it.
• Although it’s not central to disciple making, suitable biblical content is helpful in supporting the role modeling and mentoring of the pastor and staff. People need to know their faith. Some classwork is needed, but not the normal form of classroom teaching. This is not a class where you memorize Scripture or absorb content. This class is one where you learn, and then go and do, and then come back for debriefing. Remember how after Jesus spent time with his disciples he sent them out two by two to knock on doors. That’s the kind of class needed to make obedient Jesus followers – we learn and then practice what we’ve learned.
• A different understanding of pastoral education is needed for most mainline churches. Since I am a United Methodist, I have to address the concept of seminary training because multiplication is almost impossible if pastors have to go to seminary before leading a church. It takes almost as much education to be a minister as it does to be a physician. But multiplication doesn't have time for that. Most of the multiplication will take place through the efforts of pastors who haven’t been to seminary but have a passion for people who don't yet know Jesus. You don't have to be smart or know a lot of systematic theology to make disciples. Multiplication won’t happen if pastors have to first go to seminary. It’s time we realized that fact. Of course, I can just hear denominational officials screaming while reading this. But let me ask you, “How are things working for you? Are you growing?”
• A different understanding of ordination is needed. The church I attend when I’m in town has several pastors and only one of them is seminary trained, the others were ordained by that church based on their gifts, not their education. We must drop seminary training and ordination based on education and start relying on ordination based on passion for people who don't yet know Jesus. Much of the rest of the world is doing this and is thriving.
Bill Easum is the founder and president of 21st Century Strategies, Inc. a full-service church consulting group since 1987 whose mission is to equip Christians for global impact, www.effectivechurch.com.