The Build To Multiplying Disciples

This goes in the Church 3.0 conversation that I started here, then added some more thoughts here. These will more than likely be my last ones for a bit.

One of the greatest threats to multiplying disciples and creating a culture that multiplies disciples is addition. Let me see if I can quickly explain.

Put on a great service, start a great children’s and/or student ministry and it’s possible to see a very quick ADDITION in attendance and participation. Like going from 0 to 150 in the blink of an eye. Then you have to start reading all the church growth books like “Breaking the 200 Barrier”, “Breaking the 500 Barrier”, or my favorite – “How To Be A Mega-church Without Really Trying.”

It’s not a healthy way to understand growth or success because one of the fastest ways to grow a church is to put that church in a fast growing community. So many church’s “growth rate” is directly related to the community’s growth rate that it finds itself in.

But’s that not really multiplication. Multiplication is when a disciple multiplies him/her self in the life of another disciple of Jesus. That messy, life on life, mentoring/coaching process. Then when those two are done – they both go and do that exact thing again with two more people.

Sounds great and wonderful but there is a HUGE reality of this process that most of us don’t really want to deal with — time. Just look at these numbers for a second.

Yr 1 – 1 person discipled
Yr 2 – 2 people
Yr 3 – 4 people
Yr 4 – 8
Yr 5 – 16

I realize this assumes a couple of things that may not be true. Namely that it only takes a year to disciple a person and that the net result of that discipleship will be that person ready to disciple another. I like the push though. I think it’s warranted.

The point is that it takes 5 years to get a small group/life group size of people multiplying disciples. There isn’t a church planter or organization in the world that would think that is successful. But the point is creating a culture that multiplies disciples, not just grow a church to a big number. Besides that – some of these people will move away and go to other places.

yr 6 – 32
yr 7 – 64
yr 8 – 128
yr 9 – 256

So 9 years of discipling sounds like a long time to only have 256 people to show for it. But then it gets crazy.

yr 10 – 516
yr 11 – 1,032

And this point the chart explodes upward every year – 2,064 then 4k, then 8k. It’s nuts.

What’s the point? I thought this wasn’t about growing a mega-church?
The main point is this – there is this LONG, slow runway to multiplication that most of us sabotage in the early years because we want quick growth and easy numbers, not multiplying disciples. We give up too soon, we rush after addition instead of multiplication. Quick growth without multiplication levels out.

Besides that, not all these people stay in your arena. God moves them to other places to start this multiplication process elsewhere. That’s Kingdom investment, not local church investment. We are planting Jesus, not churches.

This is a huge (and good) paradigm shift for me. We want to plant Jesus…not churches. Churches will happen when we do good planting of Jesus in good soil. No duh, makes sense, right?

Yeah but most of the training these days is how to plant churches, not how to make a reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ. So for us — this has been and will continue to be our focus — to make a reproducing disciple of Jesus Christ. NOT — get more people here, in our programs, so we can mature them. It’s a subtle but I think important distinction.


5 thoughts on “The Build To Multiplying Disciples

  1. Funny thing is…if you start “expecting” discipleship, you may shrink your large congregation before it gets healthy…that’s what Jesus did. Could we spend the first 5 years inviting people to leave via the hard-red-letters of Jesus sayings about what it takes to be a disciple? If you make a list of His expectations following the words “Whoever wants to be my disciple…” it looks like church growth in reverse.

    Totally agree with your assessment and logarithmic scale….are we patient enough and diligent enough to do it? Usually not, because we have a mortgage and salaries to pay….

    Seems a new church would be smart to keep staff small on the front end, majoring on discipleship and minoring on “programs” so that more money goes into face on face ministry and less on Sunday morning.


  2. I like the “multiplication” versus “addition” model. It does assume one thing to get to those numbers down the road (which I know is not really the whole point): That everyone is making new disciples each year.

    Without a slow, teachable process in place it just doesn’t seem that happens. People seem to prefer finding a great “show” than take the time to truly invest in others.


  3. Paul – we miss you guys as well.

    Same to Row and Dave.

    DB – dead on, discipleship doesn’t just happen.

    And it will never be a part of the DNA of a church culture if her “top shelf of leaders” (however you want to define that in your specific context) aren’t consistently in the middle of that mess called discipleship.

    I think I just stumbled upon one more post for this series. šŸ™‚


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