Increasingly, church planting has become a “household term.” And for many reasons that should give us reason to rejoice. With more churches talking about church planting, we can expect to see more churches planted. However, just talking about planting churches generally only results in addition: one church adding one church over the entire life of the church. If we are going to see a movement that Jesus speaks about when He speaks about the kingdom and how it expands, we have to do more than addition. We have to move toward multiplication.
Multiplication necessitates structure and intentionality. Multiplication requires the use of specific tools to build out an effective strategy. And I believe one of the greatest tools for multiplication is preaching. When rightly understood and employed, the preaching of God’s Word is the greatest catalyst for multiplying disciples, groups and churches.
Here’s why: God instructs us in Proverbs 29:18 (CSB), “Without revelation, people run wild.” Without God’s breathed-out Word breathed into our lives, we will run wild in a million different directions. Are these directions always inherently sinful? Not necessarily. But they often aren’t the direction that God seeks to lead us. And they certainly aren’t unified toward the purpose of multiplication that God intends for every local church. So without God’s Word being used as “a lamp for [our] feet and a light on [our] path” a church can spend all its energy running in different directions that seem like they might be God’s best for us. But when preaching is employed rightly, a church can be moved by and into the purposes of God, including and especially the Great Commission purpose: being disciples who make disciples.
It is plain to see that preaching is a tool for multiplication, but like my first time taking hold of a jigsaw in order to build my daughter a dollhouse, we might not know how to employ it properly. Here are three ways that I’ve found fruitful for employing preaching as a tool for building a culture of multiplication.
1. Preach with and for affection for Christ.
Tim Chester and Marcus Honeysett, in their book Gospel Centered Preaching, put it this way, “Preaching is about capturing the affections of our heart for Christ so that our confidence is in Christ, and our longing is to know him and see him glorified.” When we preach out of a deep love for and commitment to the glory of Jesus, our passion will be contagious. And if we make it our aim to capture the affections of others for Christ and His mission, multiplication will be a natural overflow. “Lovers always outwork workers,” someone once told me. And those who love Jesus will always outwork those who view obedience to Christ as “work.” Stir your and your hearers affections for Christ and multiplication will be the result.
2. Preach God’s vision for multiplication.
Every week the preacher has the opportunity to communicate a message to an attentive audience. Whether by the dozens, hundreds or thousands, these people show up, sit in pews or chairs and ask to be told what to believe and what to do by the man in the pulpit. What an awesome opportunity! And we can either fill our 30-45 minutes of talk time with “persuasive words of man’s wisdom” or we can use every moment we have to give them the power of God, the gospel. And if we are to give them the gospel rightly, we must give them God’s relentless vision for the multiplication of disciples “here, there and everywhere.” I agree with Abraham Kuyper, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” Preach this vision again and again and multiplication will be the result.
3. Train others, and release them to preach.
Finally, maybe the single greatest way that preaching can be used to create a culture of multiplication is by serving as a practical example of multiplication. Yes, we need to plan for, talk about and motivate others toward multiplication. But eventually, we need to multiply. We must take practical steps to reproduce our energy and efforts. If we are serious about multiplication then we must get serious about training preachers in our churches. Preaching labs, cohorts and training days are all great ideas. I’ve employed them all. But here’s the secret:any preacher can do this, no matter his “level of ability.” If you will do this, multiplication will be the result.
Published May 15, 2017