The plan begins with a mission.
This quote from modern management pioneer Peter Drucker gives us a good indicator of how important it is to understand our mission or why the church exists. The words in Jesus’ Great Commission give us our mission: biblical disciple making. Any other core mission will take us off track, failing to lead to healthy multiplication and movements of His witnesses (the commandment Jesus gives us in Acts 1:8).
Simply put, the core of any multiplication movement is disciple making. The general or common calling shared by all Christians, everywhere, throughout all time, is to follow Jesus’ command that we be disciples who make disciples wherever we are!
Disciple Making: The First Dimension
Assuming you embrace this core purpose, the most important question to ask then is, “What type of disciples are we making?” Are you producing biblical disciples who make disciples that plant churches that plant churches? Or are you largely making cultural Christians that feed your church’s numerical growth, but don’t make disciples who multiply? I’m convinced that if we want to understand why we aren’t seeing movements of exponential multiplication in the West, we should start by looking at the quality of our disciple making.
We can look at disciple making through the lens of adding disciples (making converts) and reproducing (making disciples). The pathways for adding disciples — connecting with people, introducing them to Jesus, and bringing them to a point of accepting Him as Lord — are the entry point to making biblical disciples. We add people one follower at a time. Infants in the faith spiritually mature and then reproduce themselves, repeating the cycle.
By making biblical disciples, we become more effective at carrying the fullness of Jesus into every corner of our communities, ultimately sending disciples to go and multiply new churches that create even greater capacity for healthy Kingdom growth. Disciples who make disciples the way Jesus did are the fuel of multiplication movements.
Disciples who make disciples the way Jesus did are the fuel of multiplication movements.
Building Disciple-Making Capacity: The Second Dimension
As critical as disciple making is to multiplication, on its own it does not guarantee multiplication. We also need to build the infrastructure or capacity necessary to expand and support our disciple-making context. The key question is, “What type of capacity are we building?”
Think about how Jesus spent three years building the core capacity for the greatest movement in history. By embedding the gospel DNA for disciple making into 12 followers surrendered to His Lordship, He built capacity. Those 12 leaders passed along the genetic code to others who did the same for others in their path. I love the fact that the right capacity for the right motives built into a small band of believers can change the world. The institutional part of church, including its infrastructure, processes and resources, is vital to multiplying and sustaining your church’s growth via disciple making.
Have you ever thought that every believer in your church has the capacity for a multiplication movement? Do you grasp that profound truth? In His wisdom, God gave us the Church — in part because we are designed to function like a family, and also to provide us with a platform of capacity for 1) increasing our effectiveness in disciple making, and 2) scaling or multiplying our efforts at disciple making (beyond what unaffiliated, lone ranger disciples can do when they’re separated from biblical fellowship).
Mobilizing Disciples to Make Disciples: The Third Dimension
As a leader, your role is to simultaneously manage the tensions in these first two dimensions of multiplication: disciple making and building capacity. But these two key dimensions are not enough to fulfill Jesus’ command to “go.” We must also mobilize disciples to carry the fullness of Jesus into every corner of society as they make disciples.
But mobilization gives us two simultaneous tensions to manage. Scripture calls us to “live in common” as a family of believers via the church community — much like the Acts 2 church. Look at the collective “they” statements we find in Acts 2:
They met daily.
They broke bread together.
They had everything in common.
They sold property and possessions to give to those in need.
At the same time, we’re called to “live deployed” as missionaries in our unique corners of society. We each have a mission field of influence and a specific gifting.
This dual command often creates a tension in our churches. Think about an aircraft carrier. Its mission is to send air power to places the carrier can’t go. To carry out that mission, 5,000 men and women work, eat, and do life together. Out of that 5,000, only 120 fly the planes. In the same way, the average church has an army of volunteers living in common to support the work of the paid, full-time professional pastors (the pilots).
This is not the way Jesus intended the Church to function. We are each to live in common, doing whatever we need to do to support the family, while simultaneously going into our unique corners of society. When we don’t use our unique calling and gifts to go, we negatively impact Jesus’ mission for His Church. When we do find ways to lead our churches so that we’re simultaneously living in common and living deployed, we mobilize biblical disciples to go and be Kingdom multipliers!
Exponential’s 2017 theme, Dream Big, takes a deeper look at what it means to have a vision for multiplication. Chapter 2 of the FREE eBook, Dream Big, Plan Smart deals in greater detail with this issue of multiplication.
Todd Wilson is co-founder and director of Exponential.