Church multiplication is more like gardening than construction. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The command is repeated twice in Genesis. In Genesis1:28 at the beginning of humanity God says this to Adam and Eve. He commands it again, in Genesis 9:1 when he reboots humanity with Noah’s family after the flood. God gave the same mandate twice—we should not miss the significance of that.
Our Corporate DNA
It is almost as if that command is at the core of our creative DNA. But it didn’t take long for man to forget the very first thing he was told to do. This is most notable in Genesis 11 where we see humanity coming together to build the Tower of Babel. Mankind was not sending and spreading, but gathering and building. The self-centered dream took the place of the vision God gave us. As a result, God scattered what humans had gathered.
This type of garden vs tower thinking isn’t unique to Genesis. It also has taken root in the church.
Monuments to Man
Instead of us becoming a Genesis 1 church, our congregations resemble Genesis 11 monuments to man. Instead of filling the whole earth, we build Towers of Babel. We have more mega-churches than ever before, but while our big churches are getting bigger, 86% of their growth comes from the cannibalization of smaller churches.
Our churches compete for who has more of the 99 instead of spreading out to find the one lost sheep. Ironically, the 99 to 1 ratio will soon be reversed at the rate we’re going. The American church is in decline, numerically.
Instead of empowering our people to reach their neighbors, we have centralized discipleship into streamlined programs. “If you want to know Jesus, attend this short class.” The burden is on unbelievers to come, not on believers to go. We gather rather than send. We build monuments rather than movements. Doing so, we bypass the mission for which we were born, even born again. When the goal of our churches is to build up individual campuses to the expense of outward expansion, we violate the kingdom of God in favor of our own small empires.
America: The Third Largest Mission Field
We are seeing the impact of building our “Towers of Babel” in our “Christian” nation. America has the 3rd largest population in the world, but also remains the 3rd largest rapidly-growing mission field in the world. We have bigger churches but fewer Christians, and we are losing more with each successive generation. Whereas only 17% of baby boomers claim not to believe in Jesus, 34% of millennials do not believe. We have almost as many unbelieving people in America as the total population of Indonesia (the 4th largest population after America).
Jesus never intended for his people to return to Babel. He envisioned a freely growing ecosystem in which the church simply took root and let go of control…like weeds, covering the earth. This is all about church multiplication.
A Movement to Fill the Earth
Throughout Scripture, God’s vision for His kingdom was that it would be a movement that would fill the world. Daniel 2:5 predicts that it would fill the whole earth. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands us to make disciples of “all the nations.” In Acts 1:8, He says we disciples would be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth.” On the day of Pentecost, which some see as the birth of the church, God chose a day when people from “every nation under heaven” would be in Jerusalem to hear it. From the beginning, the gospel was meant to be this movement that filled the world. It was the fulfillment of God’s purpose, “be fruitful and multiply and cover the earth.”
If the church is going to fill the earth, then bigger is not better—more is.
Training Gardeners, not Masons
To fill the earth with the knowledge of God involves letting go of the systems and structures that build amazing “tower” churches, while hindering us from accomplishing God’s intended purpose for us. This is simple stuff, we need to plant and water, and let God cause the growth. We as the church need to train more gardeners than masons. We need our disciples to learn to make disciples, which naturally leads to the birth of new churches—filling our cities, states, country, and world.
But that will only happen if we let go of our towers and empires, empowering the next generation of disciples by training them to work as kingdom partners with us. The natural outcome of healthy disciplemaking is church multiplication. We need to believe the same Holy Spirit who works through us will also work through the disciples we make. Instead of gathering disciples, we must send disciples to multiply and fill the earth. We must abandon the gardens of Babylon for the fields of the world.
Note: You can catch up with David at http://www.epicchurch.us
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