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Churches Committed to Multiplication: Part One
By: Bill Easum

There's a new movement underfoot in the West that just might stem the tide of Christianity's decline in the West and turn the value system of most West pastors upside down.  It's the first totally new, biblical church innovation in my lifetime. I would liken it to Asbury and Coke's brilliant deployment of Circuit Riders in the late 1700s.

My first introduction to this new kind of church came in the late 1990s while I was at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. It was planting multiple churches and had a goal of putting a church on every island in the pacific. But at the time the church was an anomaly. I saw it once and not again until recently.

But now that seems about to change. I just spent a day in Atlanta with a small group of planters and executives of church planting groups that could revolutionize the U.S. Church and get Western Christianity back on a biblical path to Kingdom growth instead of our present consumer oriented form of church.

Surely, I have wet your appetite by now. So, let me intro you to this new form of church.

80-90% of the churches in the West are simply trying to survive. Their primary passion is to meet the budget and keep their pastor with little to no interest in what is going on around them. 10-19% of the churches are showing some kind of growth, either by addition or by reproducing themselves. Their scorecard is growth by addition or reproducing.  Whereas most churches would aspire to such growth, it's still not the kind of Kingdom growth needed to transform a continent.

But there are a small handful of churches now, like the one I experienced in the late 1990s, that have moved beyond growth by either addition or reproducing to growth by multiplication. These churches are setting the pace for a revolution in the way Christian churches function.

What makes these churches unique is that everything they do is designed to help them multiply their Kingdom capacity. They are not about making disciples; they are about making disciples who will go and make disciples who will make disciples and so on.  They are not about planting churches; they are about planting churches that will plant other churches. They are not about leadership development; they are about making biblical disciples. They don't pander to consumers; they develop biblical disciples who live in obedience to Jesus Christ. They don't focus on how many people attend their church; they focus on how many people they can give away.

Prior to this meeting in Atlanta, I was convinced that multiple sites were more productive than church planting. After this meeting, I've changed my mind; church planting has more potential than multiple sites if it is the DNA of a church and not just apart of it.  Why? Because church plants have the potential to reach geographically far beyond the reach of multiple sites and because church plants done right always reproduce whereas most multiple sites do not. This meeting was a huge eye-opener for me. It made me want to be a planter again.

The key word to understanding this new form of church is multiplication as opposed to reproducing.  There are a number of churches that are reproducing through multiple sites and planting churches but there are only a handful of churches that are experiencing multiplication through planting hundreds of churches. Please note that there is nothing wrong with reproducing churches. And please note that size has nothing to do with this new form of church. I just met a pastor of a church under 200 that has planted seven churches.

So, what are some of the characteristics of this new form of church?

These churches are committed to tithing the first fruits of everything to church planting. 

This means that they commit the time, energy, and money first to church planting before anything else. They plant churches before they build, before they add a lot of staff, or before they add programs. They live and breathe planting churches. It's who they are and what they were planted to be. Take away church planting and they would wither and die. Church planting isn't optional; it's their reason for being.

The metric for success of these churches is how many people they give away. 

They understand that life was meant to be given away, so they give people away to plant churches. They also send people into the market place to share the Good News. They believe in that in losing they are gaining. Even though the Sunday morning experience is well done, it is not their main focus. These churches have a different scorecard for faithfulness sending.

These churches are committed to balancing disciple making with planting churches.

They understand that being able to plant churches requires focusing on developing biblical disciples rather than consumers and pew sitters.  They know they need to have a disciple pipeline so that there is always a fresh group of people to send out to plant and people to replace them.

These churches believe that every person in the church has the potential to be a church planter, or a part of a church planting team, or a backyard missionary.

Every member understands that he or she has the potential to be a planter, and is trained to be one if God calls him or her to plant.  

These churches insure that church planting continues beyond the present leader by building church planting into the constitution/bylaws and the DNA of the church.

These churches expect their church plants to plant a church within three years of existence.

These churches have no intention of merely planting a church; they intend to plant hundreds, maybe thousands of churches. So, they instill the need to plant in the DNA of the planter prior to planting.  

These churches grow by multiplication rather than addition.

Most thriving churches in the West grow by addition, accumulating larger and larger crowds on Sunday. Even if they go multi site, the overall church still gets larger and larger. Nothing wrong with that other than the span of influence is usually geographically limited. Most of what these churches do is designed to feed their growing number of people. While growing is better than dying, this new form of church believes that multiplication is better than addition.

Now we're come to the heart of why reproducing churches find it hard to become multiplying churches. Their addiction to addition growth keeps them from fully committing to multiplication through church planting. Mortgages have to be paid; staff have to be hired; and buildings have to be maintained. Church planting gets whatever is left over. Multiplying churches fund the church planting efforts first and their own needs second.

The bottom line is that church planting is so embedded in these churches that they would to bend over backwards not to plant. Only time will tell whether or not this form of church will go viral in the West. It already has in many parts of the world.

I hope this is enough of a teaser to get you to get a copy of a new book that just came out Becoming a Level 5 Church. It could possibly be the most important book published in your lifetime.  If you get the book, be prepared to begin the ride of your life.

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.  

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