And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number
But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.
There was a season of early church history where believers were added to the church. Adding speaks of taking people who didn’t know Christ and attaching them to the church.
There came another season in the church, however, where the word of the Lord was being multiplied. This described people not just joining the church, but becoming workers like the ones who led them to the Lord and bringing other people to Christ as well. It wasn’t just one more lost person joining the church (as glorious as that is!) but it was one person leading three people to Jesus who each led three to five more to Christ. One person was in some way responsible then for fifteen or more people coming to Christ.
We’ll always take addition. We want people coming to Christ no matter how they come. But we strive for multiplication, where disciples are made who can make more disciples and the math of multiplication takes over. Eventually, when the body learns how to multiply in a healthy way, we can see movements of people coming to Christ.
Here’s the path to multiplying movements1:
We continue to work towards multiplying disciples. When multiplication of disciples begins, those responsible for the multiplication are functional servant leaders. When the functional, servant-leadership is multiplied among multiplying disciples, we start to see churches birthed. As churches are multiplied, we begin to see movements. As these movements grow, we even seek to multiply them where they are happening for the glory of Christ.
All of this starts with beginning to make disciples. You can’t get to movements without churches being birthed and you can’t get to churches being birthed without servant-focused leaders being formed. And servant-formed leaders are birthed through multiplying disciples.
So if you want to get to movements, begin discipling people.Begin asking yourself how do I multiply disciples. Discipleship is where movements start.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,
Recently a brother in Christ who is dear to many of us hear in Iowa suffered a massive heart attack. Rick Lumbard is the Director of Wind and Fire Ministries, a man of prayer, and a servant of the Lord that has been used in a number of peoples’ lives throughout our city and the state. He currently is unconscious and in a hospital in Des Moines. Would you join us in prayer for Rick as we believe for healing for him? He has a wife and several children that would be thankful for the prayer support.
One of the misconceptions about discipleship I think we get wrong constantly is that discipleship is simply a function of growing in holiness. What I mean by this is that often when we think about becoming disciples, we think about becoming a less sinful version of ourselves. In reality, discipleship, according to Jesus has the end result of becoming like Him.
Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.
-Jesus, Luke 6:40
I think many of us have different ideas of what this looks like. Regardless of what you think this looks like, God has more in mind than a less-sinful-version-of-you. In reality, God is calling you not to be Jesus, but by the power of the Holy Spirit follow Jesus and reflect His very nature to the world around you.
There’s a progression to this that many fail to understand. We grow in stages. John the Apostle talks about this in his first epistle:
I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
-John the Apostle, 1 John 2:12-14
Obviously, John sees growth in godliness in this passage. But he lists three different stages of life in Christ that help us see discipleship differently: Fathers, young men, and children*. Each of these have characteristics that we could analyze, but I want us to look at this passage from just a slightly different angle. If I’m reading this right, these are all believers. Some have just recently accepted Christ (children), some have been with Christ longer and achieved some victory over sin (young men), and some have known Christ since the beginning (fathers).
Here’s the point: You may find yourself in one specific section of this passage. You may be a child in the faith, having just come to Christ. You may even be a young man (or woman) in the faith, who has overcome some level of sin and become stronger in your walk. But there is a progression here. Children shouldn’t stay children forever. Young men shouldn’t go forever without becoming fathers. We’re all called to continue progressing in our faith to the place of fatherhood.
One of the implications of this is that we all grow from knowing Christ as our savior, to overcoming our old lifestyle, to becoming one who truly knows God and passes on the life of Christ to others. I believe the church suffers currently because we all have visions of becoming young men (overcoming evil in our lives) but few of us have a vision for truly knowing Christ and becoming fathers (and mothers), passing on the life of Jesus on to new believers and helping grow them up in the faith.
When everyone in our churches believes they can grow to the place of spiritual fatherhood and begins to move in that direction, we begin to see the movement of the New Testament that Jesus started take shape. We don’t become gurus, instead we become those who know and love Christ and are helping others find that same love. We raise these children up to be young men (and women) and eventually fathers (and mothers). Spiritual families (called churches) begin to sprout up that result in more spiritual families over time.
My goal in writing this morning is that we understand that God has more for us. We aren’t designed to live forever bringing people to hear someone else teach God’s word. We are designed to become fathers and mothers in our own right and to help the children in the faith around us have spiritual children as well. Don’t believe you could never disciple someone. Don’t believe you can’t start a spiritual family. It’s in your spiritual DNA. It’s just a matter of growing up in the Lord.
*Don’t get hung up on gender language here. I’m part of the bride of Christ. Ladies are sons of God. The point isn’t the gender, the point is the stage of life.
So a month or so back I went on a little Tweetstorm about how Christians use the word “movement.” Looking back, I think I probably should have blogged those thoughts. But that’s the beauty of Twitter, right? Regardless, for those who missed it, I thought I would post the tweets in succession so my readers can think through these same ideas. Let me know your thoughts!