The issue of church multiplication is either a mystery or an unknown to most mainline pastors and denominational leaders. Most of them are simply trying to survive, so the gap between survival and multiplication is wider than the Grand Canyon.
But what would have to happen to make multiplication possible for mainline churches?
- There would have to be much more passion for the Great Commission than I see in most mainline pastors. One of the drivers of the multiplication movement is a deep-seated concern for lost people and too many mainline clergy are wishy-washy about what Emil Brunner called “the scandal of particularity.” For every multiplication pastor I’ve met, there is no room for doubting that Jesus is the only way to God. I can’t say this about most mainline pastors.
- There would have to be much less of an emphasis on formally trained and ordained clergy. Most multiplication pastors have little to no formal theological training. What they have is the experience of being groomed in a multiplication church. By the time they are sent out to plant they have gained demonstrated credentials. These church planters are mostly raised up within the sending church rather than sent by a denomination.
- There would have to be less denominational control and more of a decentralized path to planting. For multiplication to happen, planting has to be organic and under the control of the planter. Multiplication has to grow out of the pastor’s passion for giving people and control away to other planters and not from some centralized bureaucracy.
- There would have to be less jealousy and guarding of one’s church turf. Mainline pastors are notorious for getting upset if the denomination tries to plant a church too close to them even if they were dying and the area was growing. In other words, mainline pastors would need a greater commitment to the Kingdom of God and less of a commitment to their church.
- Mainline pastors would have to take more pride in sending people away to plan than in accumulating a larger crowd on Sunday. This is one of the hardest things to do, even for the most committed, Kingdom-oriented pastors.
- There would have to be more of a willingness to take risks because measuring your success by how many people you send away can leave you with no one to pastor.
- Mainline pastors would have to commit to the one-on-one discipleship of non-believers. For multiplication to happen, there must be a constant influx of new Christians. The problem here is that the vast majority of mainline Christians, including pastors, are not accustomed to personally leading a person to Christ.
The bottom line is, mainline pastors and denominational officials would have to have a total reorientation of priorities for multiplication to be possible. Even my tribe, the United Methodists, who have the legacy of the Circuit Rider, can’t get their hearts around this movement.
Question: How else can mainline pastors reorient their churches – and themselves – to allow for multiplication to take place? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.