So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
(Acts 9:31 ESV)
What would you think if I told you that you could be used of God to reach your school, place of work, family, city, state, nation and world for Christ? Would your mind immediately tell you that this is impossible as your heart beat with with some hopeful passion? Would you give me an ear...or in this case an eye?
Multiplication vs. Addition
Let's begin with the difference between addition and multiplication when it comes to evangelism. First, let us agree that anytime someone comes to faith in Christ this is awesome. However, there may be a "best" model to follow in our evangelistic plans and strategies. This is where multiplication, I believe, is a better way when it comes to discipleship and even numerical growth of the church. Let me explain. Here's two guys, Austin and Blake, who both love Jesus and want to be part of telling the world about their savior.
Austin is a guy who loves Jesus and wants to see people come to know him. He sets out every day to love people with his life and words. He makes it his goal, as far as it depends on him, that he will share the good news of Jesus each day until someone comes to faith. Austin knows that it is not within his power to save or convert anyone, but he believes that God draws men to himself primarily through gospel proclamation. Austin is also a fun-loving easy going guy that does not set out to pound people with all his insight and put them into a submission hold with his mind, but he genuinely loves them and respectfully shares the gospel with all it's bad news and all it's awesome news. He depends on the Holy Spirit to move as he obeys the commandment to preach the gospel. Over a years time, Austin only sees 100 people come to Christ. This does not discourage him because he knows that although it is his goal to share the good news of Jesus and see someone come to Christ each day does not mean that this will happen. He trusts the Lord on the days people come to Jesus and he trusts the Lord on the days they don't. After these friends, strangers and family members come to Jesus he gives them a bible and encourages them to find a good local church, be baptized and begin reading God's Word. He even calls each of them on there spiritual birthdays to check up on them and let them know that he prays for them. He sees many of them at his church and he makes a point to speak to them each time he sees them. He is close with some of them and they have good fellowship with one another.
Blake is a guy who loves Jesus and wants to see people come to know him. He sets out each day to be a light in the world and share the gospel with his live and his words. He desires to make the most of every opportunity to share the gospel as he prays for two or three guys to profess faith so he can begin teaching them one on one about how to know Gods Word, share their faith, spend quality time in encouraging fellowship, and how to pray. When someone comes to faith, his passions to share the gospel does not diminish but his additional responsibility begins to weigh on him. How can he be about sharing the gospel and give his time also training his new brothers in the faith? Yes he can do both, but thinking for himself and another is a pretty heavy load. He knows that Jesus himself was about proclaiming the good news and taught his disciples to do the same. He also wisely sees that Jesus was the Son of God and saw fit to spend time mainly with twelve guys, therefore there must be a reason for this. He sets out to have a ministry of multiplication rather than addition. At the root, he believes that in the long run if he disciples the guys he leads to the Lord, and other Christian guys that want and need training, he will reach more people with the gospel of Christ than if he led a 100 people to Christ each year hoping that they would receive training from someone else. With this said, Blake is all about the church, the body of Christ, and encourages his disciples to be active learners, servants, and protectors of the church. He does not avoid the church and do his own thing, he disciples these men in the context of a loving body of believers.
Both guys love Jesus, but Blake is taking the path of discipleship evangelism in which we see modeled by Jesus.
Each year Austin see 100 people come to Christ and points them to a great church etc. Blake leads two people to Christ and begins discipling them, those disciples see the need to evangelize and disciple and they set out to do the same thing. The first year Blake sees two guys come to Jesus, then the next year those two each see two guys come to Christ...and on and on. Austin's numbers represent 100 a year and Blake's represent 2 guys coming to faith with each believer. X2 + themselves.
Year Austin Blake
1 100 2+Blake=3 guys sharing their faith
2 200 9
3 300 27
4 400 81
5 500 243 (Blake's discipling 10 guys)
6 600 729
7 700 2,187
This is to show that multiplication will always trump addition and in this case will leave new converts trained and equipped to fight the good fight of faith. This equation is somewhat misleading because most Austin's and Blake's of the world using both methods know that they are not guaranteed to see anyone come to faith each year. The point is mainly to help us see the importance of life on life discipleship and it's deeper lasting impact.
Often in discipleship centered churches and ministries there is a heavy focus on the method of multiplication with all it's training. So many things become the main thing. It may be leadership training, theology training and many books that deal with humility all the way to being a person of vision. We seek to master the way of the Master and spend great deals of time working on our presentations and observations about the culture we live in. We have retreats for men that focus on how to be a real man, and retreat for women on how to be a real woman of faith. We unintentionally even start dressing and talking the same. In addition and multiplying ministries the main thing can become the most popular book, musician, pastor or sermon. These things are not bad in and of themselves but should not be the main thing. They should support the main thing or really...they should be about the main One.
And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31
I read and was filled with joy this past April by these words! I believe that these words of scripture and the power behind them gets overlooked often within driven disciple-making ministries. Notice I say often and not always. Deep down we know we are to depend on God but this "fearing the Lord and Holy Spirit comfort" language in not that common. You can't really draw out a neat little Math chart for this one. I read this with joy because it revealed to me where power in discipling men really comes from that results in multiplication.
What I am getting at is that there must be an underlying motivating faith factor that empowers our methods and I believe that Acts 9 gives this to us. Our methods must be about God and less about things we do to see fruit. In other words, multiplication cannot be our primary goal and drive, God himself is to be our goal, drive and passion.
More on this in "How does the church multiply?" (Part 2)
As I look over the list of genealogy in the book of Matthew I am reminded of the natural way God designed and commanded mankind to populate the earth: "Be fruitful and multiply." In families we pass on the things we have learned to our offspring so that they will be fruitful in life. Most families do not want their children to be left on their own to face the world, they spend time with them and show them the way. In this way, generations take the things they have learned and then continue to share it down through the generations, multiplying the influence on the world as the family itself multiplies in numbers. As believers we should take our leads in spiritual multiplication from Christ Himself. The plan of Christ was to disciple His men and then lead them to disciple others. Where has this plan gone in many of our churches today? Why are we focusing so much on programs and big group teaching times to be the main drive of our Kingdom building efforts. We do most definitely need public worship and preaching but not those only and mainly. We need to be entrusting the things we know of God and His word to reliable people who will in turn teach others, as God's word says in 2 Timothy 2:2. To entrust to others this valuable message of redemption and the ways of God we must, I believe have a relationship with them, just as families have with one another. Discipleship in many churches has been redefined as a position and the organization of classes depending on what topics we want to hit on. I think this can assist in the discipleship process but can not be the thrust and focus. Life on life is what Christ modeled for us. I am looking forward to studying the rest of Matthew to be reaffirmed that we are called to relationships that will be built around and in Jesus that run so deep that we will, by the Spirit, be fruitful and multiply.