From Addition to Multiplication | Todd Wilson

How do we begin to change our church’s culture?

Todd Wilson

Multiplication carries the legacy of your church to future generations and beyond the accumulation you achieve in addition.

What culture are you creating in your church?

The reality is your church is creating a culture whether or not you’re leading it. Every church has a culture. Leadership and culture consultant Brian Zehr says it plainly: “What makes your church work or not work is the culture you have. So we need to pay attention to and define the culture we’re creating for our church.”

[bctt tweet=”We need to pay attention to and define the culture we’re creating for our church. – @IntentImpact” username=””]

Watch the Brian Zehr teaching video, “Creating a Multiplying Culture,” part of Exponential’s new Becoming 5 online course.

In growth terms, are you developing a subtraction, survival, and scarcity culture characterized by, “We will [fill in blank] after we grow or can afford it?” Or maybe an addition-growth culture characterized by an insatiable drive for conquering the next hill and breaking the next growth barrier—a culture characterized by, “Where is the next one?” Or are you creating a multiplication-growth culture best characterized by release versus consumption, and movement versus accumulation?

The culture you create fuels whatever you value the most. If you’re not careful, you will unintentionally create a culture that values subtraction/survival or addition and accumulation. Unless you’re intentional about multiplication, you’ll work hard to become the biggest church in town and miss the greater adventure of being seeing God’s hand move in unfathomable ways. In your zeal to grow your church, you may unintentionally neuter Kingdom multiplication.

[bctt tweet=”The culture you create fuels whatever you value the most. ” username=”@churchplanting”]

In all the turmoil of subtraction, we desperately pursue and seek out addition growth. But addition is temporary. Multiplication carries the legacy of your church to future generations and beyond the accumulation you achieve in addition.

Today, more than 2,000 churches can trace their roots to the seven churches Ralph Moore started as the Hope Chapel movement. Far more significant than the current numbers is the reality that those 2,000-plus churches have multiplication so deeply embedded in their DNA that the resulting additional churches—which will be started over the next 10 years—will likely be mind-blowing.

The Big 3 Elements of Culture

So how do we get to this tipping point where we begin to see our churches establish multiplication strategies and cultures rather than addition cultures?

In its simplest form, culture adds together a church’s highest priorities (its values) with a distinct dialogue (an intentional narrative), supported by a clear, consistent set of actions. This isn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime set of actions, but behavioral patterns that are regular and rhythmic. When our values, narratives and behaviors align with a multiplication vision, we begin to create a multiplying culture.

The most effective cultures powerfully align their core values, narrative and expected behaviors or practices in ways that build trust and devoted followers, and make it simple for people to participate personally. Alignment of the pieces helps people know what you’re about and that you’re serious enough about it that your words translate to action and impact.

Our core values: Our values are deeply embedded and shape how our church does everything we do. You see it, you hear it and you feel it. Values are like a magnetic force field surrounding the people and operations of the church, proactively shaping the things to come and correcting the things that go off track.

[bctt tweet=”Values are like a magnetic force field surrounding the people and operations of the church.” username=”@churchplanting”]

Zehr says we can identify and begin to change our values by asking telling questions:

  • What is the most important thing we need to be doing or that we’re about right now? In other words, what is God saying to us in this season of our church?
  • What is important enough to us that it transcends all we do and shapes how we do what we do? What priorities should we pursue if we want to multiply leaders and our congregation?

Our narratives: Our real core values shape and define our language and our narratives—how we talk about what matters most to us. If your church says one of your core values is caring about the surrounding community, then the language you’re using to naturally describe that care should indicate your convictions.

What core values do your church’s stories reflect? Do you have core values you publicly cite, but if you’re honest don’t have the stories to bring them to life? Zehr offers these questions:

  • How will we talk about what is most important?
  • How do we engage our people in these defined values?
  • What verbiage will we use to lead our people to the intersection of faith and wisdom?

Our behaviors or practices: The third element of culture is where you might say, “the rubber meets the road.” You can have perfect values and a great narrative, but if your behaviors and practices are inconsistent with the story you tell, you’ll struggle. Your behaviors and practices will always be self-correcting and align to your real values and story.

Bottom line is that we can’t establish a multiplication growth culture without bucking conventional thinking and making some radical decisions. Are you willing to:

  • Plant your first church before building or buying your first building
  • Send your first church planter before accumulating your first two to three staff members
  • Commit the first fruits of your financial resources, tithing 10 percent or more to church planting
  • Plant your first church before starting your first multisite
  • Come alongside and coach other church planters in your area who can benefit from your encouragement and experience
  • Start or join a church-planting network, locally or nationally, to collaborate with others, find accountability for multiplying and building a multiplication culture, and get involved in more than you otherwise could?

Once we align our values, narrative and behaviors with God’s call to multiply, the culture of our church shifts.

The multiplication conversation continues with the new FREE eBook Dream Big, Plan Smart: Finding Your Pathway to Level 5 Multiplication.

Like today’s most influential churches, your sending capacity might be your best asset, and your sending results could ultimately be your primary legacy.


Todd Wilson is director of Exponential and author of the FREE eBook Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication. Throughout 2017, we’ll be focusing on the importance of committing to a multiplication vision and finding your core pathway to actually become a multiplying church. Join us at the upcoming Exponential East conference in Orlando (April 24-27).