Multiplication Ministry and Maturity
There has been some great discussion in the comments section of my recent post about preaching/teaching and the resultant maturity of believers. While commenting over there, I had some thoughts that got way too lengthy for a comment, and so I am going to turn it into a post here.
The idea of multiplication is not a new one to ministry. It was one of the buzz words of the whole "church growth" movement. But I never saw it actually play out in the megachurch concept. It seemed to be something that was merely a cool word to sound superior. However, I have done some thinking about it in the past, and came back to it today in talking about the difference between a model with one preacher and lots of long-term listeners and a model of teaching with the purpose of the learner becoming a teacher themselves.
Imagine this possible scenario: New believers are taught (maybe with some preaching, maybe interactive teaching, probably a combination of both) and discipled with the goal that they would soon be able to teach others. As they reach this point of maturity, they then move into a sense of partnership with their teacher in teaching others.
The reasons I think this model fits the biblical text in so many ways are many. I don't want to spell them all out here, but maybe as the conversation continues, I'll share some of those.
There are pragmatic reasons that I think this model is better, though. Let me share some of these:
- The pressures that are put on a pastor today (as Gordon has identified very well in the comments of the previous post) are outrageous. When one cracks under the pressure, the fallout sometimes is horrible. The bigger the church (i.e., the more people following "the man"), the bigger the fall. "De-centralizing" the teaching reduces the pressure on any one person, and also reduces the number of people directly under his teaching.
- In contrast to the seemingly foolish reduction of people under anyone's teaching that I mention in the above point is a rapid, multiplication model of ministry as the teacher replicates himself. Some fun math:
Let's say this guy is phenomenal in his ability to draw new people to the church, and the church doubles each year (very unreasonable, wouldn't you think?). In just 10 years full of exciting building programs, rocking good music, books being published, and maybe a TV broadcast, the church would have 25,600 people (50, 100, 200, 400,...,12,800, 25,600). Assuming in a perfect situation that no one ever left, etc., that's 25,601 (counting the celebrity pastor!) people in the Kingdom. But that's assuming that the rate of growth stays at the unbelievable rate that we proposed, etc.
Model 2: One teacher starting with 2 disciples
Now, let's say that, instead, that one single person teaches just two other people for one year. The following year, they have both grown enough to be teachers themselves. Now, let's be continue to be conservative and say that each one only teaches two other people. After a year, those people are mature enough to teach others, and they, in turn, take on two themselves. It would be a fairly unglamorous situation. In fact, it would take four full years to even match the original 50 of the other model. There's no fancy building, no flashy worship band, no TV deal. But, after the same 10 years as we looked at the other model, how many would disciples/teachers would there be?
39,366OK, doesn't seem like much more of a success, does it? It's not shabby, but it doesn't seem huge in comparison to the megachurch. But now, here's where it starts to really take off. In just one more year, our original megachurch with the celebrity pastor has 51,200 people coming to hear him speak, while the "just teach two a year" model yields 118,098!!
Two years later, the simple model has over one million disciples maturing in their faith and teaching others, while the megachurch hasn't even reached a quarter million.
Now, it's not all about numbers in one sense, and yet no one today would think a megachurch of a quarter million was anything but a booming success. I'm just trying to put it in perspective of how we tend to think today. But the numbers don't tell the whole story.
Imagine for a moment that the celebrity pastor of our quarter-million-member megachurch burns out and falls into some awful sin. What happens? Devastation. Disillusionment. Public scandal. The name of Christ is slandered in the news and around the water cooler. Many are feeling lost and confused.
But if our original teacher in the simple model...well, first of all, he's not going to get burned out discipling two people a year! But even if he does fall into some grievous sin, what happens? There would probably be a few of his close friends gathering around him and supporting him through repentance and recovery. Because he's got solid relationships like that. And, at the most, the two people he's currently discipling, and maybe a handful of the ones from previous years, feel hurt and upset. But the effect is minimal.
And even more importantly, the maturity of those million-plus believers would be potentially far superior to the quarter million attending the celebrity megachurch. We would have over a million teachers vs. a quarter-million pew-sitters.
There's much more I would love to write about this, but I'll just put it out there for feedback.
Until next time,