Becoming a Multiplying Church
Local churches are developing church planting centers for the purpose of identifying, training, and sending ordinary people to start new churches.
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matthew 13:23)
Multiplying churches are committed to abundant gospel sowing, disciples making disciples, leaders developing leaders and churches planting churches. When the multiplication of churches reaches the fourth generation in less than five years, we may say that a church planting movement is under way.
Multiplying churches often work together in church multiplication networks such as ReproducingChurches.com for the expressed purpose of collaboration for gospel saturation in order to transform a city or region. In the First Century, a new church plant in the city of Ephesus had a transformational impact on that city and the entire Roman province of Asia. The Ephesians had been known as the guardians of the temple of Artemis (Acts 19:26). Now, Ephesus was becoming known more for Jesus than Artemis. We believe that the same kind of transformative church planting can occur in our cities within the USA. Our vision for planting churches in Central Florida is that Orlando would one day become known more for Jesus than Mickey. This will require several churches fulfilling the Great Commission mandate to obey the commands of Christ by making multiplying disciples who plant multiplying churches. You and your church can be influential in this movement.
A Compelling Biblical Vision
First of all, make sure that your desire to become a multiplying church begins with God and springs from His Word. Church multiplication is becoming the latest trend among “cool” churches. Your desire to be cool won’t get you very far and it is hard to sell a vision that you don’t really believe in. Ask yourself and your church leaders this question:
Should we become a multiplying church?
If you don’t ask this question, others will and you need to be ready to answer it with conviction. What biblical evidence is there for multiplying churches? Plenty! Here are just a few examples:
- Acts 1:8 - Jesus instructed the church at Jerusalem to reach their city, region, untouchables, and world.
- Ephesians 4:12 - Paul reminded the leaders of the church at Ephesus that their primary role was equipping the people for the work of ministry.
- II Timothy 2:2 - Paul encouraged Timothy to continue the process of passing on what he learned to the third and fourth generations.
- Acts 13:3 - The church at Antioch became a sending church as led by the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 19: 9-10 - The church at Ephesus trained disciples at the school of Tyrannus resulting in the spreading of the gospel to every person in Asia Minor.
- Colossians 1:7- The church at Ephesus planted a church in Colossae under the leadership of Epaphras, who was trained in Ephesus.
- Colossians 4:12-13 - The church at Colossae planted churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Developing and delivering a compelling vision begins with God’s Word and ends with a mental picture of what God intends to accomplish in the future. God called Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt (an undesirable situation indeed!) to a preferred future - a land of their own. The vision originated with God, was given to Moses and was delivered to the leaders of the Israelites. Moses’ job was not to create the vision, but to sell it to the leaders of the people. Notice how God used vivid imagery in Genesis 3:17 of a land flowing with milk and honey to help Moses to sell the vision to the elders of the Israelites. A vision is by definition, visual. So, a compelling biblical vision will require some creativity to help non-visionaries to ”see” what God has planned.
God promised Moses that the elders would get on board with the vision and follow his leadership, but not without a considerable amount of resistance. As you prepare to communicate God’s vision for becoming a multiplying church, be prepared to encounter some resistance. At this point it is important for the church to understand that multiplication is both commanded in scripture and expected by God. Failure to comply would put the church in conflict with God’s agenda. Even though the church at Ephesus had fulfilled the mission of multiplication in the early part of the First Century, Jesus threatened to shut the church down near the latter part of that century because they had “forsaken your first love…” (Revelation 2: 4). An entirely new generation of people had come to adulthood in Asia Minor and they needed to hear the gospel too. The church could not rest on their past success!
What Do Multiplying Churches Do?
Multiplying churches understand that reaching the next generation is not optional. Multiplication is intrinsically woven into the mission of the church. Christ commanded it in the Great Commission and New Testament churches modeled a culture of multiplication. We simply can’t be a church on mission if we don’t passionately pursue lost people, disciple them, and train them to plant more churches.
Multiplying churches focus on...
- Reaching people who reach others: The moment a person becomes a follower of Christ, he or she is asked to share Jesus with friends and family. They go back into their network of relationships and simply tell the good news of how they became a follower of Jesus and how others can come to know him too. They don’t have to wait until they finish a discipleship class or to be trained to share their faith. They are witnesses.
- Hands-On Disciple Making: Becoming a disciple of Jesus is more than learning about Jesus. In the Great Commission, Jesus taught his disciples to make disciples by going to and sharing the gospel with lost people, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey His commands. Jesus both taught and modeled disciple making by directly involving his new disciples in hands-on ministry. Discipleship training in multiplying churches is the practical application of the commands of Christ that results in more people coming to Christ and obeying his commands.
- Developing the Next Generation of Leaders: Leaders are people who influence others. Making disciples also involves developing leaders. The Bible makes it clear that the primary role of leaders in the church is to develop more leaders (Eph 2:12, II Tim. 2:2). If your church does not have enough qualified leaders to carry on your current ministry and to start more churches, then the church is not following the biblical commands to develop new leaders.
- Giving Leadership Away: Multiplying churches allow new leaders to lead. That means that current leaders need to give their leadership away to the next generation. The indispensable leader is not the one who has obtained special knowledge or experience that the church cannot live without. It is the goal of every great leader to give away all of their leadership know-how to people that they are leading. In other words, there should be nothing that only one person knows how or is authorized to do in the church. Jesus modeled this by turning over the leadership of His global movement to His followers. He even said, “...whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12). Great leaders expect those that they lead to surpass them.
- Living Sent: Multiplying churches celebrate when leaders leave to go plant more churches. The church at Antioch, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, sent off their top two leaders to do the work that God had called them to do. When Barnabas and Saul left Antioch, they did not leave behind a leadership void because there were plenty of others who could step up and lead. The church did not mourn the loss of their two best leaders. Instead, they celebrated! They prayed for Barnabas and Saul and laid hands on them as a sign of being officially sent.
Who do we train?
Who planted the church at Antioch? Was it the apostles? No, even though they were commanded to go “to the ends of the earth” in Acts 1:8, the apostles chose to stay in Jerusalem in Acts 8:1. The people who planted the church in Antioch were those who were scattered by persecution as reported in Acts 11:19. It seems that these were ordinary people who simply took the gospel of Jesus with them wherever they went. Those who settled in Antioch crossed racial and cultural barriers to share the gospel and make disciples. When the church in Jerusalem heard that another church had been started in Antioch and they sent Barnabas to check it out. When he arrived, Barnabas found people whose lives had been radically changed by the Holy Spirit and he described it as “evidence of God’s grace” (Acts 11:23). Barnabas was so impressed with what he saw in Antioch that he joined the church and enlisted Saul to help out as well.
Barnabas and Saul experienced a year of on-the-job training in multicultural missions before being sent off by the church at Antioch. Although they had prior theological training, they needed the specialized field training that the Antioch experience gave them before departing on their first mission trip. Evidently Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, was not as prepared because he left them and returned to Antioch early in the journey. The people you choose to train in church multiplication should have the following minimum qualities:
- Ordinary People: The Antioch church was started by ordinary people who left Jerusalem while the apostles stayed behind. It was that same church that gave the apostles, Barnabas and Saul, the field training that they needed to prepare them for multicultural missions. When Paul and Barnabas planted churches on their first mission trip in cities like Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch, they did not have much time to train leaders for these new churches. In fact, they choose new believers to serve as elders of these churches, because that was all they had to choose from. They prayed for these new leaders and entrusted them to God (Acts 14:23). Multiplying churches train ordinary people to do the work that God has called them to do.
- Called by God: What allows ordinary people to do extraordinary things is God’s hand on their lives. Jesus transformed a ragtag band of followers into disciples who became apostles in about three years’ time. It was to these mean that He handed over the leadership of his entire movement. The Church of Jesus Christ has prevailed over 2,000 years and has encompassed the globe as a result of the work of these men and those who followed. No other leader in human history has seen such dramatic results. Multiplying churches learn to identify people who are called by God. These servants are not always the most educated or highly trained, but God’s calling on their lives becomes evident.
- Gifted to Serve: The church at Antioch was fasting and praying when the Holy Spirit revealed to them that Barnabas and Saul were to be sent out. They had observed these two men in action for a whole year and it was not hard for them to discern God’s plan for their top leaders. Those whom God calls, He also equips with spiritual gifts and natural abilities to do the work He has called them to. Multiplying churches exercise discernment to determine whom to send. Paul taught that the church is like a body with different members that have different functions. God gives gifts to each member of the body that allows them to do their work. Assessments and personality tools can be helpful to churches, however they don’t tell the whole story. Multiplying churches observe people in a variety of ministry settings as a means to discovering who God is sending.
- Teachable and Flexible: It has often been said that the three most important words in missions is flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. One beatitude that was not included in the sermon on the mount is “blessed are the flexible, for they will not get bent out of shape.” Missionaries are always students of the Word and students of culture. They are willing to learn from and react to their environment while maintaining biblical integrity. Paul experienced all kinds of hardships as a missionary church planter. Just take a look at his resume in II Corinthians 11. Even though he had faced many trials, he learned to be content in any situation. Church planting is not for the faint at heart. Multiplying churches develop systems to discover ordinary people who are called and gifted by God to do His work without grumbling or complaining while growing in faith.
- Accountable to the Church: No loose cannons here! While good church planters often have a pioneering spirit, it is not good for them to go it alone. Paul worked in teams on his missionary journeys and felt compelled to come back to the Antioch church and give a report of God’s work. Multiplying churches have discovered the art of releasing people for service while expecting accountability. Beware of the person who is unwilling to submit to the spiritual leadership of a local church.
How do we train?
The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are several
training models that have been developed by multiplying churches. At GOBA, we offer training in the model developed by David Nelms and Greg Kappas at Grace Fellowship of West Palm Beach, FL. This approach, based on II Timothy 2:2, is called The Timothy Initiative (see TTIonline.org). Five GOBA affiliated churches are currently in various stages of developing church planting centers based on this model.
Former SBC President and Florida pastor, Bobby Welch, has adapted the TTI training model for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, where he now serves as associate executive director for church growth. Welch calls Tennessee's church multiplication training “1-5-1 Harvest Field Plants”. Welch recently shared this training model with Florida Baptists at the annual evangelism conference in March of 2014. The Tennessee Baptist Convention provides free online video training and downloadable resources on their website: http://www.tnbaptist.org/page.asp?cat=evang&subcat=harvest.
Church Multiplication Training is...
- An extension of the disciple-making process: A Great discipleship system results in followers of Jesus growing into leaders and being sent out to multiply the church. Discipleship is more than learning about Jesus’ commands. The Great Commission compels us to obey His commands. Obedience requires action. Church multiplication does not happen without disciples making disciples. Before you begin church multiplication training, you need to evaluate your church’s discipleship process to see if there are any gaps that prevent disciples from becoming leaders.
- A component of leadership development: Multiplying churches know how to multiply disciples and leaders. As you evaluate your church’s discipleship process, check to see that the primary function of each leader within the church is to develop more leaders. Then ask each leader who they are apprenticing. Multiplying churches understand multiplication must take place on every level. The goal of each small group is to start new groups. The goal of each leader is to apprentice new leaders. Look for areas in your church where there are not enough leaders and you will find places where new leaders are not being developed. The senior staff of the church will model leadership multiplication as well. When it comes time to develop a launch team for a new church plant, simply look to the church staff for the apprentices they have been developing.
- Primarily experience based: Leadership training happens on-the-job. Multiplying church leaders give their leadership away so that the next generation of leaders can learn from practical experience. This means that new leaders need to have permission to succeed and fail. Jesus allowed his unaccomplished disciples opportunities to lead even after they experienced failure. Jesus was not afraid that these guys would somehow wreck his movement. They could do damage, but they could not prevent the Kingdom of God from advancing. Jesus even sent out a heretic on his mission trips (Matthew 10:5, Luke 10:1). The man’s name was Judas. Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from training and releasing leaders
Mark Weible serves as the Director of Church Planting for Greater Orlando Baptist Association and Strategic Director of RenovateConferance.org. Mark is also Directional Leader of ReproducingChurches.com. Mark is an experienced Search Engine Optimizer, Executive Coach, and Google Advertising Professional.