I’ve been writing a lot about church multiplication because I believe it is the way Jesus would want us to lead our churches. At the heart of multiplication is the shift from an addition culture of gathering and accumulating to a multiplication culture of releasing and sending. In other words: starting self-propagating churches that result in many churches.

Jesus was never about addition growth. His plan was for us to win Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and finally the ends of the earth. You can’t do that by addition.

Dream for a moment that you are standing by a calm lake and you have a rock in your hand. You through it into the lake and it causes many ripples to expand outward. Now consider the rock to be the shift from addition to multiplication. What are the ripples caused by this shift?

Ripple One: We must change the way we behave. Moving from addition to multiplication isn’t a mind game. It’s about how we act and what we do, not what we think. We have to live a multiplication culture. That means that how we spend our time, money and energy must be channeled into actions that lead to multiplication. We must become uncomfortable with mere addition, no matter how successful our addition might be. No one church can do what hundreds of self-propagating churches can do.

Ripple Two: We must change the way we measure success. Success can’t be measured by our worship attendance. Success needs to be measured by how many people we send away into ministry. Our sending can be to plant churches or it can be to start ministries in our own area. But as long as we count our success by the size of our worship, we are victims to an addition culture. 

Ripple Three: The way we coach church plants must change. In the past, I told church planters I was coaching that they needed to spend 80% of their time getting butts in the seats. Now I tell them they need to spend 60% of their time getting butts in the seats and 30% of their time kicking those butts out of the seats.

Ripple Four: The way we do outreach/evangelism has to change. Most established churches encourage their flock to invite their friends to worship. But now we must encourage and train our people to share the gospel with their networks right where they are in their own world. They must become backyard missionaries. Programs like “Back to Church” just help fuel the addition culture. It’s not very sexy to invite someone to church, but sharing faith with someone can cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.

Ripple Five: The way we staff churches must change. Instead of staff being focused mostly on caring for the flock, now all staff must be focused on discipling the flock so they can be sent back into the community to share the gospel. Instead of doing programs that focus mostly on the needs or wants of the flock, they train the flock to take the message to the streets. 

Ripple Six: We must promote on-the-job training instead of purely course-based training. Mentoring replaces a manual. Interning in a multiplication church replaces seminary training. It’s becoming clear that multiplication won’t happen as long as we depend on seminary-trained pastors. It’s too costly and time consuming, not to mention it doesn’t seem to be working. Multiplication is more about heart knowledge than head knowledge.

Ripple Seven: How we spend our money must change. Instead of funding church plants when we can afford to, we set aside at least 10% for church plants and pay that off the top, even before salaries and mortgage.

Ripple Eight: More new churches will choose to rent rather than purchase property. This decision frees up more money to plant more churches.

As you can see, making the shift from addition to multiplication is a really big risk. In fact, it is the biggest risk you will probably ever consider. Some would call it “rolling the dice.” After all, you have to pay the bills to stay in ministry, don’t you? What if it doesn’t work? What then?

Taking a leap of faith is never easy, so I would encourage you to listen to Jesus once more – “Go make disciples of all people groups.” Then choose the best way to do that.

Question: What else changes in the shift from an addition culture to a multiplication culture? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.