June 21, 2024
This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Church planting

Is it more important for missionaries to win souls or to equip soul winners? Is it more important to make disciples or to make disciple-makers? In both cases, the former is addition and the latter is multiplication.

Jesus had a multiplication mindset

When Jesus called his first disciples, he wasn’t just thinking of their salvation and new life. He was planning on equipping them to do what he did – fish for people and make disciples. Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” In other words, “I will demonstrate it. You follow me and watch how I do it. I’ll equip you, and then you will be able to do the same thing as I am doing with you.”

When Jesus chose his disciples, he was not just thinking of his disciples. He was thinking of the many generations to come after them and through them. In John 17:20, when Jesus had finished training the twelve and was preparing to leave the mission to them, Jesus prayed, “I pray not only for these but also for those who believe in me through them.”  

Well, of course, we need both addition of disciples and multiplication of disciples. We need to know how to add (or lead) people to faith in Christ in order to be able to equip others to do the same and multiply.  And we need to know how to disciple and equip individual disciple-makers ourselves in order to multiply disciples and disciple-makers. Jesus himself added people to his group of disciples, but he didn’t just have an addition mindset. He had a multiplication mindset. He added them so that he could teach them to multiply.

Paul’s mindset

Paul had the same mindset as Jesus. He told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, “The things you have received and seen in me, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul was looking past Timothy at four generations of disciple makers.1 See another blog post on this topic, Discipling disciple-makers.

“Me” (Paul) –> “You” (Timothy) –> “Faithful Men” –> “Others also”

That could look something like this diagram below.

Paul's multiplication mindset

No more time for evangelism

When I started out in planting churches, I spent almost all my time trying to add new souls. This is where it had to start. Once they accepted Christ, I spent all my time discipling those I had won. Those were great times in the ministry, and people were coming to Christ and their lives were changing. Nevertheless, I became restless because I wanted to be winning more to Christ and discipling them. But I didn’t have the time. Evangelism really slowed down or, at times, stopped, because I needed to care for the believers.  Something needed to change if evangelism was going to continue.

In time I realized that part of my problem was that I had an addition mindset. What I needed was a multiplication mindset. The whole process depended on me doing it. My end product was a maturing disciple, and then I needed to start over again with others. But my end product should not have been a maturing disciple. I needed to develop maturing, multiplying disciples. I needed to continue to disciple them into becoming part of the disciple-making team, and then teach them to do the same with their new disciples.

My primary role

That meant that my discipleship plan needed to include doing and demonstrating a simple way to do the following:

  • connect with the lost
  • win them to Christ
  • instill in them the basic habits and truths of walking with Christ
  • gather them into healthy groups
  • do it all with someone else so that they could pass it all on to others

If I could lead each new disciple to win, disciple and equip another person, then evangelism and discipleship could both continue on simultaneously and endlessly. It needed to be continuing to happen without me being the one to do it. I needed to see my primary role as an equipper of disciple-makers. 

A comparison between addition and multiplication

Here is a chart showing the comparison between an addition approach to planting a church and a multiplication approach.

Column 1 shows a good pastor / missionary who starts with 10 believers. They are able to add 20 new people per year through their own witness and preaching.

Column 2 shows a great pastor / missionary who starts with 10 believers. They are able to add 60 new people per year through their hard work and great preaching.

Column 3 shows a multiplication pastor / missionary who also starts with 10 believers. They spend all their time discipling the 10 to each win, disciple and equip even just one other person to pass it on that year.

After 2 years, the multiplication pastor seems to be getting left behind the other pastors. We might say they need to be doing more large outreaches to add more people. They need to be doing more evangelism. But in 5 years, we see their church is as large as the “great missionary’s” church. If we continue to watch as the years tick by, we start to see that the multiplication way starts to accelerate while the addition just plods along, continually dependent on the pastor’s own ability and capacity.

Go slow in order to go fast

We see that we need to go more slowly at first in order to eventually go faster. Take the time to build into each disciple what they need to pass on what they received. Take the time to develop easily reproducible methods and systems that will facilitate all new believers being developed into disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

Of course, real life ministry doesn’t happen exactly like this. It isn’t an exact science like mathematics. There are many external factors that influence the growth and the spread of the gospel such as what kind of soil we are planting in, the responsiveness of the people, the gifting and calling of the founders, the working of the Holy Spirit, and so on. But that is true with every kind of ministry. However, the reality is that multiplication will outpace addition.

In future blogs we will look at ways to build multiplication into our ministry plans.

For thought

  • Is your ministry primarily coming from an addition mindset or a multiplication mindset?
  • Do you see each new believer as a connection to their life network?
  • Do you have an intentional strategy to help them grow into maturing, ministering, and multiplying followers of Christ?

This blog post was originally posted to the TEAM church planting blog at Having a Multiplication Mindset (goandplant.com). It is republished with permission of the author.

Series Navigation<< Example of an Exit Plan for a House Church PlantBuilding a Multiplication Process – What will it take? >>

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