Multiplication Requires We Stop Doing What is Only Adding By Neil Cole
Inherent in the kingdom of God itself––within its DNA––is the impulse of a movement. It doesn’t need to be manipulated or supplemented for movement to occur, but simply released to be what it was made to be. That is the core conviction behind 100m.
Jesus gave us a parable of how the kingdom of God grows. He said:
“The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:6-29)
Spontaneous growth is an “all by itself” expansion. The Greek word translated as “all by itself” is the word “automate,” where we get the word automatic. The genetic outcome of the Kingdom of God results in a spontaneous multiplying movement.
Below is a recent picture describing the spontaneous multiplication of an organic disciple-making movement expanding beyond four generations. This is not a third world nation where ministry like this seems easier, but a Western nation where the church has been in steep decline for over a century. These are real people who were lost in deep, self-generated bondage brought on by poor choices and bad habits that have been passed down for generations. These are people who are now set free and passing the good news of freedom on to others in their sphere of influence without needing permission. Only in the early days is tracking a movement like this possible. It eventually expands beyond one’s ability to keep count or manage. If it is indeed an “all by itself” growth, however, it doesn’t need management of tracking to continue.
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of growth we usually see in the Western church. Here we must put forth great effort and invest much money to see a little church growth; it isn’t automatic at all. Perhaps it is because we have limited our vision to growing an organization rather than God’s kingdom. We have put all our faith in strategies that meet that end and not released the power already latent in the people of God. We feel like we need some kind of an organization with a brand and a budget to show the world that we are a success, but Jesus didn’t die for brands or budgets, but for real people who need to be set free. Far too often, in our church culture, what is actually addition is called multiplication.
I have suggested for years that the true proof of multiplication is to reach the fourth generation. The biblical example is from 2 Timothy: first Paul, then Timothy, then faithful men and finally others also (2 Tim. 2:2). Don’t call what you are doing multiplication until you get to “others also” or fertile great-granddaughter churches.
If we keep confusing addition with multiplication we are never going to get things right. If NASA confused addition and multiplication people would die. How would you feel if your pharmacist confused multiplication with addition? If our banks got the two processes confused economies would collapse. It is time for God’s people to learn basic math. We cannot afford to fail on this test any longer.
The result of all our efforts and expense in the West is usually just church growth by addition at best. In a sense, we need to stop pushing the + button on our calculator and move our finger to the x button. That is an intentional move to invest energy and resource in a different direction.
The challenge we face is that the things that make you successful at addition will prevent you from any success in multiplication. You can’t add and multiply with the same strategy or organizing principle. The two kinds of growth can exist simultaneously for a time, but they cannot be produced by the same strategy. You can’t get multiplication by hitting the + sign on the calculator no matter how hard or fast you push it. The two ways of functioning are not the same and require different practices and organizing patterns.
We must get our confidence back in the “all by itself” Kingdom rather than in our strategies and mechanisms. Changing our language is not enough if we only end up mislabeling things.
Jesus never shook His head and commented with a disappointing sigh: “Oh ye of little strategy. If only you had more resources.” It is not more strategy that we need but more faith in the King and His reign. We must become what we were redeemed and sealed to be. The spontaneous element is already within us––it’s just forgotten and atrophied.