Most popular of 2016: #2 Myths of multiplication

By Jeff Christopherson

The North American Mission Board is blessed by a wide array of voices that speak to issues related to church planting and missionary living. These blogs represent the most viewed blogs throughout 2016. Our prayer is that God would use these outstanding truths to shape our hearts and compel our mission as we head into a new year.

After decades of methodological malpractice, we have so rationalized and contorted our understanding of Jesus’ Commission to be entirely contra kingdom. The results are that when we speak of the subject of multiplication, we have been forced to recite the talking points in our handbook of corporate mythology. Below are some of the myths I have discovered in multiplication:

1. There are already plenty of churches in our community
The argument that was used by other pastors against starting your church in the community often becomes the battle cry of established church planters once they have their own niche. We see new harvesters as competition, not help. The only leaders concerned about creating competition are the leaders fervidly competing for the same slice of the pre-converted pie. It’s not why you planted.

2. We will multiply once we grow our base to “x” people
I have found that many planters have a fixed number in their mind that indicates when they’re “large enough” to multiply. However, the number they choose is a number they will never reach. So really, multiplication was never a truthful part of the plan. For too many years we have honored the pastors with the largest preaching audience over the pastors who have multiplied into the largest kingdom gains.

3. If we multiply, we will lose our “us-ness”
Something special happens when a team gathers around a united kingdom-vision. For many it will be their first taste of the true nature of community. Deep bonds of friendship are built. This is the good news. The bad news is that many will emotionally resist any move that will threaten their newfound fellowship. To some, multiplication will be seen as a threatening enemy to their cherished fellowship.

In life there are few gifts more precious than good friends. A sign of the spiritual maturity of a congregation is not only correlated with how voraciously they defend their unity but how freely they release it to others.

4. If we multiply, we will lose control of our branding
As an effective church planter, you have worked hard creating a brand. You might resist the word, but you have diligently crafted a corporate image, culture, vision, set of operational systems and community reputation that distinctively sets you apart. So the idea of multiplication suddenly becomes complicated. The church you started is an amalgam that reflects both you and your context. Obviously things will need to look and feel different. Multiplication pushes us into new forms, ideas, models and methodologies because of the diversity of needs within the harvest. On the journey of planting for the glory of God, our brands must sit quietly in the backseat.

5. We will never be able to swing it financially
Faith never gets easier. It usually grows more difficult. Every level of leadership you take, the consequences of faith have greater impact. There seems to be a point in many church planters’ lives that faith is a principle of their past but not their present. Much faith had been used to bring them this point, but now, new faith seems largely unavailable. There was once talk of multiplication and movements, but in light of the risks, that seems like a distant memory. Questions now paralyze us. Where will we find the cash? How will we afford to give up leaders? We are just barely making it now; why would we want to bite off more? For church planters to become multipliers, there is a spiritual obligation to continue with faith.

6. If we multiply, we will slow our momentum
Momentum is the force that something has when it is moving. To a savvy church planter, momentum is one physics principle that is not to be trifled with. Momentum is our friend. But before we rocket too far down the road with momentum, it might be wise to ask ourselves an important question: “All this speed is wonderful, but are we traveling in the right direction?”

Momentum is only good when it carries us to the places where we really want to be. Momentum can be found wherever energy is applied. Can you imagine the momentous impact of your life given to a vision of multiplication? If addition is your plan, then roll with the momentum you can muster. If kingdom is in your sights, then make sure momentum leads you deep into the harvest.

7. What if our new plant outstrips us?
It is a concern that no socially aware church planter would ever publicly admit to owning. But that doesn’t mean it is not there. What often leads the parade in our multifarious muddle of motivations is our well-tended pride.

The fact that you are a planter, likely means you are a pioneering, entrepreneurial, hard-charging kind of leader. You like to win. If leading means winning to me, I will never become a leader of any kingdom significance.

8. We are already giving, so why give more?
Much in the same way many believers struggle with “tithing,” many church planters struggle with the kingdom-concept of generosity. We want people to be generous toward our vision, but often that is where things stop. A church planter reveals his spiritual condition with his attitude toward kingdom generosity (Matt. 6:21).

God has given you a vision. If it truly is God’s vision, then its ultimately God’s problem. Make an oath to your Father (and make it public) that every dollar and every life God brings to you, you will not see it as yours but as His. Be generous.

Published December 21, 2016

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Jeff Christopherson

Jeff Christopherson is the North American Mission Board's Vice President of the Send Network. He and his wife, Laura, live in Alpharetta, Georgia.