Bob Roberts on Multiplication and Movement

An Interview with Bob Roberts

December 17, 2015


Bob Roberts eats, sleeps and breathes church multiplication. He is a true practitioner, having been involved in the planting of hundreds of churches throughout the world, including the church he pastors, Northwood Church in Keller, Texas. The author of multiple books for church leaders, including The Multiplying Church: The New Math for Starting New Churches, Bob also speaks about multiplication throughout the world, including Exponential conferences. We caught up with Bob to talk multiplication and what we as church leaders must do to see a multiplication movement in the West.

Bob, what would you say is the first step to igniting a church multiplication movement in the West?

We have to stop thinking church “planting” and start thinking church “reproduction.” Once we’re reproducing, then we can begin to think multiplication. I’ve heard [Exponential President] Dave Ferguson talk about that on different occasions. There will be no multiplication movement without first a reproducing mindset among senior pastors. Dave’s evolution of thought over the years is accurate and spot on. Most of our conversations on church planting center around the planter, and this is just not enough. To get a movement going, we’ll need to spend more of our time, energy and resources multiplying “mama’s” than focusing on “young studs.” In fact, “young studs” can actually get in the way of a multiplication movement because it creates a mindset of “exceptionalism.” Some young planters are exceptional; some aren’t.

What are some of the major obstacles we as church leaders will have to overcome?

The greatest obstacle is our definition of success and what we celebrate. Unless we become more fascinated by stories of churches that multiply than by the story of a church that started and grew huge, we won’t see multiplication. Until we become more fascinated by everyday people multiplying churches than by celebrity pastors and their ministries, we will continue to be stuck in consumer church expansion—and will not have a movement.

Unless we become more fascinated by stories of churches that multiply than by the story of a church that started and grew huge, we won’t see multiplication.

As you know, Exponential is bent on seeing churches multiply and become what we have defined as Level 5 multiplying churches.

That’s the key, I’m seeing Level 5 churches that are young, small, and multiplying like rabbits. There are only 1,650 megachurches in America but another 400,000 churches with the average size being around 100, depending on whose stats you go by. If we want a movement, let’s just go for 10 percent of the everyday normal 400,000 churches. What would 40,000 reproducing multiplying churches be able to accomplish? The potential is there.

How do we mine that potential?

Alan Hirsch says that reproduction is in the DNA of every believer and every church—we’re born with it. Reproduction must always start with a mother church, a pastor who is more apostolic in nature, a leader with a vision. The huge question is how do we unleash that DNA.

You coach church planters. What are some practical ways church planters can begin to move toward becoming a Level 5 multiplying church?

Exponential is giving us resources we can use to begin that process. I would highly recommend every church planter read the Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church book and from day one make it part of your action plan. Believe it or not, new churches can create a culture of multiplication faster than an established church. We work with new churches where multiplication has become a natural part of their “metrics” for defining success.

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Bob, what do you see on the horizon for church multiplication? What can we look forward to if we begin to take these ideas and actions to heart?

I predict there would be many more multiplying churches in the future as opposed to today. The list of Top 25 Multiplying Churches—and the number of plants they’ve started—I predict will also change. The current list is made up of primarily larger churches. Yet I’m seeing, in my own family of churches, fast multiplication among younger and smaller plants. Practicing Becoming Five is one of the keys to moving church planting in the United States to the next level. The great tragedy of this book would be that only larger or more stable and older churches would see this book as for them. It must be applied by all of us.

Bob Roberts is one of 100+ speakers at the upcoming Exponential East conference in Orlando. The conference will focus on what it takes to becoming a level five multiplying church. Register here.

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