Ripples of Multiplication

How Do We Make the Shift from Addition to Multiplication in Our Churches?

December 10, 2015

Bill Easum is passionate about church multiplication, loves serving church planting leaders, and is a long-time friend of Exponential. Bill will be one of over 100 speakers at Exponential East 2016, where we’ll roll up our sleeves and look practically at how leaders create healthy multiplication cultures. How do we confront and embrace the tensions that come as we’re trying to establish and develop healthy and powerfully aligned cultures that take churches from where they are to what we’re calling Level 5 multiplying churches?

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The longer I live and work with churches, the more I understand and seek to champion the truth that Jesus was never about addition growth. Nothing in Scripture tells me that His ministry ever centered on gathering and accumulating people in one space. Instead, His plan was for us to win Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus knew we couldn’t do that simply by addition. And we do, too. Deep down, we know that to follow Jesus and His commands requires us to think differently and buck the prevailing church paradigm of addition growth. I believe multiplication is the way Jesus has called us to lead our churches. At the heart of multiplication is the shift from an addition culture of gathering and accumulating to a multiplication culture of releasing and sending. In other words: starting healthy self-propagating churches that result in many healthy churches.

At the heart of multiplication is the shift from an addition culture of gathering and accumulating to a multiplication culture of releasing and sending.

How do we begin to make this shift from addition to multiplication both in our thinking and actions? When I was a kid, we’d go to the lake for the day and one of the first things we did was skip rocks. We’d look for a smooth rock to throw into a calm part of the lake and count the number of ripples the rock made when it hit the water. I like to think of the shift from addition to multiplication causing ripples that expand outward, moving us from one ripple to the next, ultimately bringing us closer to a multiplication culture in our church.

Ripple 1: We must change the way we measure success. Success shouldn’t be measured solely by our worship attendance. Success must also be measured by how many people we send out and release into ministry. Our sending can be to plant churches, or it can be to start ministries in our own area. But as long as we measure our success simply by the size of our worship, we are victims to an addition culture.

Ripple 2: We must change our actions. Moving from addition to multiplication isn’t a mind game. It’s about how we act and what we do, not what we think. We must live out a multiplication culture—meaning that how we spend our time, money and energy must be channeled into actions that lead to multiplication. We must become uncomfortable with mere addition, no matter how successful our addition might be. No one church can do what hundreds of self-propagating churches can do.

Ripple 3: The way we coach church planters must change. In the past, I told church planters I was coaching that they needed to spend 80 percent of their time getting butts in the seats. Now I tell them they need to spend 60 percent of their time getting butts in the seats and 30 percent of their time kicking those butts out of the seats. As coaches and church planting leaders, we have to equip this next generation of planters with a new scorecard.

Ripple 4: The way we do outreach and evangelism has to change. Most established churches encourage their flock to invite their friends to worship. But now we must also encourage and train our people to share the gospel with their networks right where they are in their own world. They must become backyard missionaries.

Ripple 5: The way we staff churches must change. Instead of focusing most of our staff on caring for the flock, we must focus all staff on discipling the flock so that they can be sent back into the community to share the gospel. Instead of organizing and implementing programs that focus mostly on the needs or wants of the flock, the staff spends the bulk of their time, energy and resources training the flock to take the message to the streets.

Ripple 6: How we spend our money must change. Intentionality is key. Instead of randomly funding church plants when we can afford to, we resolve and plan ahead to tithe at least 10 percent of our budget to new church plants—paying off the top, even before staff salaries and a mortgage.

Ripple 7: More new planters must choose to rent facilities rather than purchase property. Renting versus buying frees up more money to plant more churches.

Ripple 8: We must promote on-the-job training in addition to course-based training. We’re continuing to realize that multiplication won’t happen as long as we depend only on seminary-trained pastors. Putting all of our efforts into seminary education is too costly and too time consuming, not to mention it doesn’t seem to be working. Mentoring and interning in a Level 4 or 5 multiplying church are essential to multiplication. We must come to understand and embrace that multiplication is more about heart knowledge than head knowledge.

In their book, Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church, Todd Wilson & Dave Ferguson introduce a new language to help us assess the level of multiplication our churches are experiencing. Wilson & Ferguson insightfully identify the five levels of churches: Level 1 – Subtracting, Level 2 – Plateau, Level 3 – Growing, Level 4 – Reproducing, Level 5 – Multiplying. Download their FREE eBook here.

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Clearly, making the shift from addition to multiplication is a really big risk. In fact, it is the biggest risk you will probably ever consider. Some would call it “rolling the dice.” After all, you have to pay the bills to stay in ministry, don’t you?

What if it doesn’t work? What then?

Taking a leap of faith is never easy, but as Christ followers it’s what we’re called to do. And it is where Jesus meets us and displays His power to create life-altering ripples in our lives, churches, community and the world at large—or in Jesus’ words, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.


Bill Easum has a thirty-year track record of growing congregations in two denominations. His last church, which he re-started and pastored for twenty-four years, grew to be one of the largest United Methodist Churches in South Texas. His record of “evangelization” and “social justice” ministries was acknowledged by Industrial Areas Foundation in New York as one of the finest examples in North America. Since 1987 Bill has devoted his time to consulting, coaching, and speaking. Bill is the Founder and President of The Effective Church Group, formerly 21st Century Strategies.

The years have been good to Bill. He’s had the privilege of helping over 1000 churches grow around the world, authored nineteen books, received the prestigious Donald McGavran award for outstanding church leadership, and had a wife who was strong enough to hold him accountable. These days Bill looks forward to helping grow your church… because this is still his life’s passion.

Bill is a regular contributor to Religious Product News and Net Results Magazine. He is a graduate of Baylor University, B.A., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, M.D., and Perkins School of Theology, S.T.M.

Bill’s vice is fishing for Sail and Marlin and he releases all of his fish. He is a widower and has one daughter, Caran. Bill can be reached at

Bill Easum

Bill Easum

Bill Easum has a 30-year track record of growing congregations in two denominations. His last church, which he pastored for 24 years, grew to become the largest United Methodist Church in South Texas. Bill is the recipient of the prestigious Donald McGavran award for outstanding church leadership. Over the past 20 years, Bill has served as a consultant to congregations and denominations. He is the author of numerous best-selling books such as Church Growth HandbookHow to Reach Baby BoomersDancing With DinosaursSacred Cows Make Gourmet BurgersBeyond the Box and many more. His latest book is Effective Staffing for Vital Churches: The Essential Guide to Finding and Keeping the Right People.
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