J.D. Greear on Lessons From the Early Church

June 6, 2019


When people discuss the difference between church multiplication versus church growth, having some hard facts about the state of the Church today can help us understand why we need to multiply.

Out of the (only) 20 percent of churches that are growing today, 95 percent of that number is not actual growth. Instead, is shuffling Christians around into new groups. This means one percent of “church growth” is reaching lost people. If we focus our efforts on church multiplication instead of growth, we have the potential to truly reach the lost.

Church Multiplication is Made for More Than Shuffling

I believe that our churches are made for more than that. Actually, I think a lot of Christians are bored in our churches. I believe that many of the people in our churches have this nagging sense that there is something that they ought to be doing. They think that there is some meaningful mission that they’re supposed to be a part of, but they can’t quite get their mind around what that is. So in the meantime, they sit in church. They try to pay attention, but they wonder what God is going to think when they get to Heaven. 

They spend their time trying to find God’s will. However, there is a thing that people forget when they are spending their time trying to find God’s will in their lives.

People talk about finding God’s will, but God’s will is not lost.


What We Are Missing From the Great Commission

When it comes to the Great Commission, there is something missing from church today.  I think that part of this paralysis is fueled by a very unbiblical view of “calling” most Christians.  I tend to call this dilemma the Cheerio’s mouth when it comes to discerning calling. By this, I mean he or she who is called to ministry stares at their Cheerio’s in the morning as they wait for a wonderfully sacred moment. They wait for a miraculous moment when the Cheerio’s do something magical and tells him or her that God wants to use their life in ministry.

I know that’s not biblical because it never happened to me. I bet you never had that moment either, but you still feel the call to ministry that you cannot deny or ignore.

The calling to leverage your life for the Great Commission was included in the call to follow Jesus.

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus tells his soon-to-be disciples that He will “make you fishers of men.” This means that if you decide to follow Jesus, you accepted the call to his mission.

The question for people in our congregations and ministries is no longer “if” they are called to ministry. Instead, it is “how” and “where” they are called. 


This idea can be shown in Ephesians 5:14-17. Paul talks about how “the time is fleeting” and that he wants us to understand God’s will. He says that we should make the most out of every opportunity we have. This passage also shows us that there is a lot about church mmultipication in the early church that we should learn from and start practicing again.

Four Game-Changing Convictions on Church Multiplication from the Early Church

1. Evangelism and disciple-making is the core calling of the church

Church planting without the proclamation of the gospel and making new disciples is just reshuffling sheep. We need to be reaching the lost ones in order for true church multiplication to happen.

2. More people need to be reached outside of the church

We need to go back to the idea of the early church that church multiplication happened because the apostles were evangelizing happened outside of the church. Actually, outside of the church is where the Holy Spirit preferred to work anyways. If you read the book of Acts, 39 out of 40 miracles in Acts happen outside the church. That is exactly why at our church we end every service with, “You are sent.”

3. We need to raise up and send out instead of gather and count

John 14:12 says that”Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do because I am going to the Father.” 

John 16:7 says, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

Now, no one can say that they are greater than Jesus. No one is going to say their sermon was better than the Sermon on the Mount. This has to mean that  “greater” means by extent, or how wide these works go. He is saying that the power of the Holy Spirit through individuals members was greater than if the power stayed around one individual, even if that person was Jesus.

With churches today we tend to rally around churches that gather the most. Unfortunately, it turns this principle of John 14:12 on its head.

The greatness of the church lies not in its seating capacity, but in its sending capacity.

If you found out that Jesus was coming to be the mayor of your city, would you be excited? Are you as excited that you’re going near a group of people that have the power of the Holy Spirit in them? Because if you’re not more excited about that, then you’ve never taken John 16:7 seriously.

4. Life only comes through death in the church

John 12 talks about when a seed goes into the ground, it dies. Yet if it dies, then it brings forth much fruit. It’s an odd analogy because most of us don’t think about seeds going into the ground and dying. We think about that as being the beginning of the seeds life, but it does die in a sense, right? Before you plant it, you can eat it. But once you plant it into the ground, it begins to have a life so much bigger than itself. That’s the real story on how Jesus wants us to grow His Kingdom.

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Want to go deeper into this conversation? This fall, Exponential is bringing its “Made for More” live conference experience to Washington, D.C., Southern California, the Bay Area, Chicago, Houston and New York City. For information about bringing your team to these regional events, go to exponential.org/events.

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*adapted from J.D. Greear main stage message Exponential Orlando 2019

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