God loves multiplication!
Freddy and Jimmy have a very rich father. One day Dad says to them” Boys, I will give you $1 million right now, or, if you like, I’ll instead give you just one cent but I’ll double it every day for a month”. Freddy says that he’ll take the $1 million, and Jimmy goes for the 1 cent. Who has the most money at the end of the month? Answer: Jimmy. Freddy gets $1 million, and Jimmy gets $5.3 million (that is, if my unreliable maths skills are accurate!). Now you probably guessed that answer straight away and in fact probably this imaginary exercise brought back painful memories of high school maths problems. Perhaps, even worse, it reminded you of some kind of Amway sales pitch about how you can just invest a little bit of money now and down the track you will reap the benefits. But the reason why I mention it is because it reminds us of the power of multiplication.
In this blog series we’ve been considering the concept of ministry multiplication, and at the risk of sounding like an Amway salesman, I want to argue that God’s vision for us is multiplication growth. What is the difference between addition and multiplication growth? Addition growth simply seeks to build as big a crowd as fast as possible. Multiplication growth goes slower, and invests in a small group who are then empowered to reproduce the same process in others. Over time, multiplication greatly outstrips addition growth, but not just in quantity. It is the quality of the growth which is the key. New leaders are being raised and empowered to serve in God’s kingdom. Multiplication creates potential for unlimited continuing growth.
We were greatly encouraged in January to see some beginning signs of multiplication growth in our Engage Nepal ministry. We had a new group of students commence their two year training course with us, and some of these students were members of one of the churches established by one of our first church planters! The disciples have been making disciples who are now preparing to go and make disciples!
God’s vision always has been for multiplication of His people. God creates us in Genesis 1- and He wanted us to fill the earth. We rapidly did that. God called Abraham to be the father of his people and he told them they would grow and multiply. They started very slow, with the miracle baby Isaac. However, by the time of Exodus, they were multiplying and taking over the nation of Egypt.
When we come to the New Testament, we see the church multiplying. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:
46-47). “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14). “7 And the word
of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied (Acts 9:31). Throughout the rest of the book of the Acts, the church continues to multiply.
Historically, we know that the Christian church exponentially grew over the first three centuries of the church. Rodney Stark shows that the church grew from about 1000 in the year AD40 to about 33 million by AD350, at a rate of about 3.5% a year. That is not radical growth- it is just continued exponential multiplication over time which made the difference.
When we look at Jesus in the gospels, we see that Jesus puts his investment into the multiplication business. Jesus was successful in gathering huge crowds, but actually he places most of his investment into a small group- the 12 disciples, and then the larger group of 72 disciples (Luke 10). Is it a coincidence that 72 is twelve times six? Is it possible that the 12 disciples each had 6 disciples committed to their care? The Lord spends three years investing in them, teaching them, training them and then at the end of the gospels, what happens? He says- “Now it’s your turn. Go and make disciples of all the nations.” Investing in multiplication was Jesus’ methodology.
If we look at Paul, we see the same methodology in 2 Timothy 2:2. We see it in his practice of taking a band of colleagues with him, like Timothy, Titus and Luke, just like Jesus took his disciples with him, learning on the job before being sent out to reproduce his work.
At Engage we would like to work hard on developing a multiplication mind-set for training Nepali church planters. This has various challenges and is not easy to achieve. In our next post in this series we’ll discuss the strategies we’re attempting to develop in this.