(From "The Simple/House Church Revolution" Book. The entire book can still be downloaded here.)
REACH * DISCIPLE * GATHER * EMPOWER * MULTIPLY
The real power of organic systems verses organizational ones is the potential for multiplication. This principle is seen throughout nature: one seed produces a crop of plants that produce fruit, multiplying into more seeds. Entire forests are populated without any human energy at all by the power of natural reproduction built into God’s creation.
My friend Kevin Sutter, an organic church planting trainer, likes to hand out grains of rice to his students. He explains what happens with this one grain of rice based on only two plantings per year. At the end of one year the single grain can produce ten thousand plants. At the end of two years it can give birth to over one hundred million plants. This is nature’s organic multiplication.
As we reach, disciple, gather, and then empower others to do the same, we are becoming part of God’s divine, organic, multiplication process.
Jesus Used Organic Metaphors For a Reason
Jesus used organic metaphors to describe the kingdom of God because his work on the earth is meant to be a living, multiplying movement. Thus the well-known parable of the seed in Mark chapter 4.
“Listen!” Jesus taught, “A farmer went out to sow his seed (verse 3).” Later he explains: “This is what the kingdom of God is like (verse 26).”
Jesus goes on to describe the various seeds that do not take root and grow. He then ends the story by describing the seed that falls on good soil. “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times (emphasis added) what was sown.”
This is the way of Jesus’ kingdom, the way that his kingdom grows and spreads, and the way that that the glory of God fills the earth. It does not require human-made organizations, just the proper care and cultivation of the life that is present in every believer.
Multiplication Begins at Spiritual Birth
Just as every new living thing has in it the power to reproduce, in the same way new believers, who have received Jesus’ new life, have the power in them to reproduce. We want to see this potential for multiplication unleashed at every new spiritual birth.
As soon as someone has experienced new life, we encourage them to share their story with others. The DNA of multiplying what God has put in us can begin the moment a person receives a new life in Christ. By sharing their story immediately with others, they become reproductive quickly and learn that they have unlimited potential to be used by God. A new disciple can begin reaching and discipling others by giving away immediately everything that he or she receives.
We like to baptize people publicly. We find that baptism is a wonderful opportunity to invite the person’s friends and families to a celebration. This allows the person who has experienced a new life to share that reality with others.
Reaching and discipling others can begin from day one. If a person is learning life lessons from his walk with God and his own process of being discipled, he can help others follow the same patterns and grow as well. New disciples can become disciplers by passing on their own experiences and pointing others to the same tools (Scripture, prayer) that are providing growth in their own life.
If gatherings are as simple as they are meant to be, then new believers can gather others. By simplifying gatherings back to basics, those who are new to Christ, and learning from others, can begin gathering other new believers or seekers together and follow the same patterns he is being taught.
When new believers can begin immediately to reach, disciple, and gather others, then the process of multiplication of God’s kingdom can be unleashed in an incredibly powerful fashion.
Empowering others becomes natural to new believers. Finally, we see that new believers can become leaders in the best sense of that word. They learn that everything God gives them can be given away to help, strengthen, and lift up others. Thus they discover, from the outset, to become leaders who know how to serve and empower other people.
If we can see the simple principles of God’s kingdom (reach, disciple, gather, empower, multiply) cultivated into the lives of new believers, then the natural power of God’s life will reproduce itself without the need for human-made systems to control or motivate. This is the wonder of true, organic multiplication.
Church Planting Movements
The power of God’s kingdom to reproduce itself exponentially is more than just theory. There are numerous examples of this from the days of the early church in the book of Acts to movements that are taking place in many parts of the world today. The term “church planting movements” is often used to describe those situations where disciples and churches are reproducing quickly and organically.
In David Garrison’s book on church planting movements he notes many recent cases:
• In India a church planting movement produced 4,000 churches in less than seven years.
• In a northern Chinese province, over 500 hundred churches and 20,000 believers were birthed in less than five years.
• In an Asian Muslim country, more than 150,000 Muslims embrace Jesus and gather in more than 3,000 locally led Isa Jamaats (Jesus Groups).
Garrison concludes his book with the challenge that if we remove the obstacles and cultivate the principles that lead to this type of reproduction, these movements can, potentially, take place anywhere.
Principles that Aid Multiplication
Garrison lists several components that are present in every church planting movement including:
• Extraordinary prayer
• Abundant evangelism
• Intentional planting of reproducing churches
• The authority of God’s word
• Lay leadership
• House churches
• Churches planting churches
David Watson, who has been involved in church planting movements and training, suggests that there are several “counter-intuitive” principles that are helpful for healthy reproduction:
• Go slow to go fast. Be willing to invest in a few people who have the potential and DNA for reproduction.
• It’s about discovery, not preaching or teaching. Use inductive, participatory methods for scripture study.
• Obedience is more important than knowledge.
• Let the lost (who are seekers) lead Bible studies.
• The best time for a church to plant a church is when it is new.
• Expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results.
Can We Trust the Power of the Seed?
The seed that God plants in the life of every believer is his power and word. It has the dynamic in it to produce growth, life, power, and reproduction. Jesus said we were to “produce much fruit.” He did not ask us to do something that he has not empowered us to do. We can trust that well-planted seeds in hearts that are given proper, basic care will produce a harvest without extensive toiling, planning, or organizing. As we learn to trust God in this area, we can plant and nurture while letting the Spirit of God do the heavy lifting of growing and multiplying his life in and through others.
One of my missionary friends likes to tell people that, when it comes to ministering to others, most of us only need to remember two things:
1. It is simpler than we make it.
2. We can trust God more than we do.
This is a great reminder that God has the power to fulfill his word on the earth. It further reminds us that our work with him is simple: reach, disciple, gather, empower, and then let it multiply.