Embracing a Multiplication Operating System

Initiating Change

August 25, 2023

You are perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting.

You’ve likely heard some form of this principle before, and it may have felt discouraging, especially if you weren’t happy with the results you were getting at the time. But the good news is that you can change your design and change your results.

Moving from an addition mentality to one that embraces Kingdom multiplication will require more than just adding or deleting a church program. You’ve already seen from the first three shifts (see links below) that this is about changing an entire paradigm. 

It may help to think in terms of apps and operating systems. Take your smartphone, for instance; is it an Apple or an Android? They run on different operating systems, and an app designed for one will not work on the other. You need a specific version of the app that works with the system you have. Let’s say the “apps” for a church might be leadership, community, evangelism, discipleship, mobilization, structure—even the economic engine. Each of these things will function differently in an “addition” operating system vs. a “multiplication” operating system.

A New Operating System

The fourth of the five shifts is a change in the operating system. The prior shifts we discussed will help inform the first steps in making that change. The first shift was a shift in the scorecard, from one oriented toward addition to one that focuses on multiplication metrics. A shift in the scorecard is a reorientation of what you value. That’s the first step in reorienting your culture.

In Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication Todd Wilson writes:

Each culture is unique and emerges from the burdens, passions, and experiences God places in your heart. The most effective cultures powerfully align their core values, language, and expected behaviors or practices in a manner that builds trust and devoted followers and makes it simple for people to participate personally. When people easily get it and want to be part of it, your crusade or vision grows. Alignment of the pieces helps people know what you’re about and that you are serious enough about it that your words translate to action and impact.

Culture = Values → Narrative → Behaviors

Culture - Values Narrative Behavior

It is not enough to simply espouse aspirational values—you need to own them, which means talking about your values with consistent language. It means being thoughtful and intentional about what you celebrate. And it means aligning your behavior with your words to create powerful iterative reinforcement. As your words empower your works, your works give fuller meaning to your words, which in turn spurs more like-minded behaviors, and so on.

If we were to look at your church’s calendar and budget, what would we conclude about your values?

But you must have alignment. Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your checkbook and your calendar, and I’ll tell you what you value.” If we were to look at your church’s calendar and budget, what would we conclude about your values? What about your personal calendar? What would it tell us about your values? Do these things support the values you long to be known for?

A Bias of “Yes”

The second and third shifts (shifts in the expectations of and opportunities for every believer) require us to move from a bias of “no” to a bias of “yes.” And that will be uncomfortable for some leaders who are accustomed to having control over every aspect of the church. 

Josh Husmann, pastor of Mercy Road Church in Indiana, tells the story of one Christ-follower who was ministering to people who liked to watch professional wrestling. That Christ-follower recognized that their church’s facility would work well for hosting a cage match. Had Josh and the elders not just committed to a bias of “yes,” they likely would have said “no.” The cage matches went on (with proper insurance and safety precautions), and that ministry was responsible for more atheists coming to know Jesus that year than any other ministry in the church.

A bias of “yes” will challenge your concept of what it means to be a church.

A bias of “yes” will challenge your concept of what it means to be a church. It will challenge you to dig into your minimum ecclesiology. At its most fundamental level, what is the core essence of a church? There may be other things that are good for a church to have or do (a building, a 501c3, etc.), but what is a church in its most basic form? (Larry Walkemeyer has done considerable work to find applicable Scriptures that may be helpful to you. You’ll find his work in chapter 6 of Mobilization Flywheel.)

Christology →  Missiology → Ecclesiology

Most existing churches may not be able to fully embrace a multiplication operating system because of the economic engine. Our primary approach to “doing church” has been deeply informed by a particular model designed to drive weekend attendance for financial viability. That can be the wrong starting point.

Our Christology should inform our missiology, which should inform our ecclesiology.

Ideally, our Christology (what we believe about Jesus) should inform our missiology (to whom and where we are sent by Jesus), which should inform our ecclesiology (how we “do” church). But many church planters begin with ecclesiology, often causing Jesus to conform to our image. When this happens, mission becomes a subset of the church. As my friend, Alan Hirsch, has often said, “It’s not does the church have a mission, but rather, does the mission have a church?”

Some church plants today are changing what “church” looks like. They are embracing new forms of ecclesiology that are more specifically mission-focused and not regulated by weekend giving. There are churches in gyms that train people for American Ninja Warrior as they guide them into Kingdom values. There are churches disguised as art studios and restaurants and coffee shops and tutoring services and ultimate frisbee leagues and hockey leagues and bicycle shops and entrepreneurial training centers—just to name a few that I know of.

What unique ministries might your church launch as part of a Kingdom ecosystem if you began to change the culture in your church? 

Changing the operating system in a church will be difficult and may seem impossible. But every small step from an addition focus toward Kingdom multiplication will have a huge impact when played out over time. Disciple people into a new understanding of what Jesus commissioned them to both be and do. Encourage, equip, and empower them. Give them permission and send them. 

Movement is biblical. It was at the heart of the New Testament church, and it should be at the heart of our churches today. I believe it is what God longs for—and he is far more creative than we can imagine. There will be many more new expressions of the Church, many of which we cannot yet imagine. But we must first make the decision to operate differently.

(Next up is our fifth shift in this series of five, see you next week.)

Reflection Questions:

  1. What would we learn about your values from your church’s budget and calendar?
  2. What is a church for you at its most basic, fundamental level? How might that help you think about new expressions of the Church?
Bill Couchenour

Bill Couchenour

Bill has a fervent desire to see gospel saturation locally, regionally, and throughout the US. He has served churches across the country for over 30 years. As Director of Learning Communities at Exponential, he provides strategic and operational oversight of Exponential’s R&D and expanding educational opportunities. He facilitates the Exponential Learning Communities that have included Future Travelers and Radical Multisite and, currently, Multipliers: Leading Beyond Addition. He also serves network and denominational leaders of church planting movements with the Exponential resources. Bill also serves as a governing elder and board member at the Underground Network, a network of micro-churches around the world that is based in Tampa, Florida. He has also served in leadership for several other organizations including Youth for Christ, Heartland Christian School, and BeTheChangeProject, and cofounded the Cornerstone Knowledge Network. Bill is married to Pam, and they have four adult children and three grandchildren. He received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Youngstown State University and an MBA from The University of Tampa.
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