The True Fruit of a Church
Spontaneous expansion of the Church involves not merely the multiplication of Christians but the multiplication of churches
We’re all aware that one of the major themes of the book of Acts is the “spontaneous expansion” of the Church. But have you ever noticed that imbedded in this expansion is the amazing way God champions multiplication in His Church?
The first church planting team in Acts “reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). God does the work, and He does it wonderfully through that team. Luke, the narrator of Acts, repeatedly chronicles what God is doing as new churches are planted and the gospel progresses. Historically and contextually, Luke shows how the Church, started by Jesus, continues to expand as the Holy Spirit works through His disciples. This expansion is geographic, but growth is quantitative, qualitative and organic. Luke records for believers of every age what the Church should look like.
A number of marker points in Acts (6:1 and 7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20 and 28:30-31) serve as “summaries of the stofry,” indicating the amazing growth taking place:
- “In those days when the number of the disciples was s multiplying …” (Acts 6:1)
- “So the Word of God increased, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem multiplied” (Acts 6:7).
- “Therefore, the Church throughout the whole of Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit it was multiplying“ (Acts 9:31)
Notice a theme here?
In each of these markers, multiplication is the end result. And if we check out the Greek, the word used for “multiply” is the same word, plēthunō, used in each of these references. The word speaks of not just adding to the Church (Acts 2:47) but a true multiplication of believers. It’s the same word found in Exodus 1:7, 10 and 20 for the supernatural multiplication of the children of Israel in Egypt:
“… But the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.”
This passage is very clear that this multiplication came through the God of creation who in Genesis 1 told Adam to be fruitful and multiply. See the connection? The God who works supernaturally in the Old Testament now works in the New Testament to do the same miraculous multiplication. But this time, it’s the Church that’s multiplying.
In his book, Color Your World with Natural Church Development, author Christian Schwarz identifies multiplication as one of the six growth forces relating to the Church, explaining that this is not just a multiplication of believers but a principle that works out in all that we do in church planting. Schwarz says he was once asked by Donald McGavran, recognized as the father of the church growth movement, “What is the true fruit of an apple tree?” Schwarz replied, “It’s an apple, of course.” Then McGavran said, “You’re wrong. The true fruit of an apple tree is not an apple, but another apple tree.”
The true fruit of a small group is not a new Christian, but another group; and the true fruit of an evangelist is not a convert, but new evangelists,” Schwarz writes, “and the true fruit of a church is not a new group, but another church; and the true fruit of a leader is not followers, but new leaders.”
Roland Allen in his book, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes Which Hinder It, echoes McGavran’s and Schwarz’s insights: “When the Church is truly alive, spontaneous multiplication takes place, and spontaneous expansion of the Church involves not merely the multiplication of Christians but the multiplication of churches.”
Make no mistake. Developing a culture of church multiplication will likely be one of the most challenging–yet rewarding–assignments you’ll ever take on. We believe intentional church multiplication movements are the most effective vehicle for carrying out the Great Commission.
As you plant the gospel, may you see God working supernaturally to multiply your church planting efforts. As Acts states, there is plēthunō (multiplication) when there is pneuma (the Spirit) at work.
With this multiplication challenge in mind, Coachnet has developed Cultivating Church Multiplication Movements, a process created to aid in the multiplying of churches across the globe. For more information and to read this post in its entirety, go to Coachnet.org.