Mark W. Douglas
by Mark W. Douglas
Jump ahead to the ’90s and the seeker movement and the growth of megachurches. Church attendance blossomed, and membership increased, but something was still lacking — deeply formed discipleship that was reproducible.
In the 2000s, I experienced a gnawing in the recesses of my heart and mind that the kingdom revealed by the person of Jesus was far from the modern church in its many structures. Yes, there were small groups or cells that attempted to get at what the kingdom was about, but they seemed like newer versions of Sunday school or Wednesday Bible study.
Addition or Multiplication?
As I began my journey as a church planter in the mid-2000s, I latched onto the concept of multiplication of disciples. I have continued to hold to and value the idea of multiplication over how we typically measure — addition. Have you filled out a report that asked how many more people attended this year versus the previous year? That is a measure of addition.
The metric I use is how many new disciples of Jesus are mentoring and increasing disciples who mentor and increase disciples. The phrase I often use is: “Who are your spiritual children and grandchildren?” Those are not measured by addition; they are measured by multiplication.
For example, when we describe our family, we typically start with two people. Those two people multiply into two or more children. When old enough, the two or more double. You get the picture. This is multiplication.
Every plant and animal on earth multiplies. If not, the plant or animal will go extinct because of death and disease. We wonder why the church — particularly in America — is hemorrhaging or dying. The American church focuses on adding. The worldwide church is committed to multiplying.
Begin to invest in multiplication. As parents we invest in our children, in-laws, grandchildren and, if we are fortunate, our great-grandchildren. We need to take the same strategy with discipleship.
Investing in People
I personally invest time, talent and treasure in several individuals and groups of two or three people. At the beginning, this investment typically is not spiritual. It is just coffee or lunch. At some point, however, faith enters the conversation.
When the topic of faith arises, engage in thoughtful conversation. Do not be pushy or immediately pull out the bridge illustration (when the time is right the Holy Spirit may prompt you to use it). Allow the conversation to come to you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When they engage you about what it means to be a follower/disciple of Jesus, share! At the end of sharing and acceptance, tell them they need to gather two or three people to do just what you did with them. Send them out (Jesus’ method in Luke 10). Continue to mentor and disciple them as they mentor and disciple others. Invite them into a fresh expression of church where discipleship is paramount and interactive rather than didactic.
Spending time in prayer, reading Scripture, and sharing life are the core elements of this discipleship method. It is a 60- to 90-minute commitment each week for each group of two or three. I call them triads. A triad is defined as “a group of three, especially of three closely related persons or things.”
Pretty soon your schedule will be filled with multiplication, and we want to see discipleship multiplication that leads to church multiplication.
I am currently engaged in several efforts with a Muslim and a Buddhist-turned-Native American spiritualist and several Christian churchgoers who realize there is more to being a follower of Jesus. Multiplication is a long journey. It takes an investment on our part. Our job is to be present and to share. It is the Holy Spirit’s role to convince and/or convict.
After all, Jesus invested three years into 12 minus 1 to make 11 disciples (and those around Jesus) who multiplied the kingdom from the Galilean region to across the globe. I yearn for that type of multiplication in your church, your conference and the Free Methodist Church – USA.
It is happening. Can you see it? +
Christ-Compelled Multiplication by Bishop Keith Cowart
Let the Band Play: Multiplying Disciples and Churches by Larry Walkemeyer
Meet the Multipliers by Jeff Finley
Bear Fruit by Michael Forney
It’s Complicated by Brett Heintzman
Change Comes to Dallas by Jeff Finley
Why Multiply? by Jeff Finley
Mark W. Douglas
Mark W. Douglas is a Free Methodist elder and a district leader in the River Conference. He has planted and pastored churches in Colorado and Ohio. He also is an adjunct professor teaching ethics, philosophy and religion courses at Colorado State University Pueblo, Pueblo Community College and Central Ohio Technical College. He and his wife, Judy, live in Pueblo, Colorado.