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Multiplication is a critical piece of effectively making disciples, and foundational to a movement.  This series of posts will explore different different questions about multiplying a missional community:

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How to Multiply A Missional Community

So far in this series, I’ve talked about why, when, and when not to multiply.  Now it’s time to dig into the “how” – what steps should you take, and what is important to multiply well?  I’ll tackle each of those in turn.

First, though, let me say this.  Go through the process of multiplication prayerfully and involve your community and leadership in the discussion.

What steps should we take to multiply?

First, assess the health of your group. Make sure you know where you’re strong and weak!  Second, identify a leader for the new community that will be forming, and ensure they have a clear sense of purpose.  I’d strongly urge that you take some time for this new leader to clarify their vision and help them work through the details of practices in their new community.

Third, have that leader recruit a small core of people.  Don’t just divide up a group along geographic or demographic lines!  Have the leader recruit a core of people who legitimately want to go join in this new mission.  You want to ensure that you have people from your existing community who have said “yes” to joining in both the vision and practices of this new community.

Next, pray like crazy together for a season.  Pray that God would soften hearts to hear the gospel, and that new disciples of Jesus would be made.  Consider having a commissioning prayer time with other missional communities to send them well.  Bottom line, pray, pray, and pray some more!

Lastly, regroup after a month or two for a celebration and to reconnect relationally.  The task of multiplication isn’t complete at launch.  You will definitely want to carve out time to circle back around and debrief the experience, as well as celebrate together!

What is important to multiply well?

As I have multiplied communities and helped other communities multiply, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  • Recognize the difficulty.  Multiplying can be tough relationally…don’t shy away from it.  Celebrate the relationships that have formed, grieve their change, and move forward in faith that obedience to God’s word is the greatest source of joy.
  • Take it slow.  Multiplication isn’t a divorce, and it doesn’t mean you can’t have joint gatherings.  Consider doing an event all together once a month for some time.
  • Send a core, don’t just divide up a group.  For multiplication to be legitimately effective, the participants in the group have to want to multiply.
  • Multiply into many groups rather than just two.  Sometimes the most effective task is to multiply along the lines of LTGs, and try multiplying into 4 or 5 different communities.
  • There’s never a perfect time to multiply.  If you’re waiting for “just the right time”, then chances are good you’ll be waiting until Jesus comes back.  The right time to multiply is when there is a leader and a mission, which isn’t always convenient.

What else do you think is important to consider when it comes to multiplying a group?

Multiplication is a critical piece of effectively making disciples, and foundational to a movement.  This series of posts will explore different different questions about multiplying a missional community:

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When NOT to Multiply a Missional Community?

In the last post, I pointed out when you should multiply a missional community.  This time around, I want to do the opposite of that – when you shouldn’t.  If you cast a vision for multiplication and value it, often times people and communities will want to multiply but they probably shouldn’t do it.  Below are a few common times when that may be the case.

Don’t multiply because the group is too big

Space restrictions are the most common reasons that we come across for groups who have a desire to multiply.  The group either can’t fit in a living room together, or there is an “ideal” group size that they have exceeded.  There are a couple problems with this thinking. First, the group is often large because something is going right – the leader is doing an effective job, there is a strong group of hospitable people, or providentially there was a pocket of people who needed connection.  Often times what will happen if you multiply a community like this is a new smaller community will begin that begins strong, but ultimately fizzles and dies.  Meanwhile the original group will often just grow right back, which continues the original problem.

Rather than multiplying just to alleviate a problem, I would encourage a leader to cast vision for new opportunity, and work on finding a leader.  The critical point to successful multiplication is avoiding convenience and multiplying for mission or a leader.

Don’t multiply if your group is unhealthy

Some groups may have a desire to multiply, but are very unhealthy.  This is another reason that we value assessment – it gives us an opportunity to understand if a group has good DNA and could successfully multiply into a few more healthy missional communities.  In our experience, unhealthy groups just multiply unhealthy groups.  Before you multiply, do some soul searching and see if your missional community is faithfully committed to practices, values and ultimately the gospel.

Don’t multiply without a clear sense of mission for a new community

This is probably a derivative of the first point in this post, but I would strongly suggest you not multiply without a clear vision for the lost.  This kind of multiplication is often driven around the needs of the community members. We need to multiply because I can’t meet X night.  We need to multiply because I don’t “click” with so-and-so.  Whatever the reason, this is more like division than multiplication, and in my experience results in more missional communities dying than any other.  It often reveals a consumeristic heart – the response is not to multiply, but to patiently address consumerism with the gospel over time.

Don’t multiply because someone just told you to

This fall, we will be generally asking all of our missional communities to consider multiplication in order to keep the vision and mission fresh in front of them.  Perhaps the worst motivation to multiply is just because someone told you to.  Assess your community first and foremost – is there a good reason to multiply?  Talk to your community about the imperative to make disciples in community together, but also the necessity of the gospel continuing to move forward.  Involve your pastors or coaches, or just someone you trust who understands what you’re trying to accomplish to give you some help.

Bottom line, don’t just multiply blindly – do it intentionally and be obedient to the Spirit!

What are some other reasons that a community shouldn’t multiply?

Multiplication is a critical piece of effectively making disciples, and foundational to a movement. This series of posts will explore different different questions about multiplying a missional community:

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When to Multiply A Missional Community?

In my last post, I talked through the biblical mandate and the necessity of multiplication, as well as some objections to multiplication. Some of the objections people raise are valid points for not multiplying, so today I want to clarify when I think it is a good idea to multiply your missional community.

First, I think it is healthy multiplication is far more important than multiplying for multiplications sake (that sentence is a mouthful!). A virus is very good at multiplying, but causes great damage to the body. Multiplying just for the sake of multiplying can do some serious damage if you’re not healthy!

So when should we multiply?

Multiply for Mission

The first answer to that question is “multiply for mission”. What I mean by that statement is you should seriously consider multiplying your missional community when there is a clear opportunity to engage a new pocket of people. Perhaps someone has come to Christ through your missional community, and they have a ton of friends who don’t know Jesus but couldn’t possibly participate in your regular rhythms. That’s a great time to multiply your group so you can be more effective in mission!

Perhaps a few people in your community have developed a passion for a marginalized group of people, but the rest of the community is firmly rooted in a neighborhood. That’s a great time to consider multiplication as well. Bottom line, if there is an opportunity presenting itself, Providence is at work and you should seriously pray and consider what obedience in the face of new mission opportunity looks like.

Multiply for a Leader

The second time I think it’s important to work through multiplication is when a clear leader emerges. They may be reluctant or passionate, but God has clearly given them the gift of leadership. You’ll know these kind of people because they’re pressing for more involvement, or naturally step into positions of responsibility. Often they are the ones who are rallying both believers and the lost to be a part of a community.

An emerging leader may not have a clear sense of mission, which you can help them with, but more often than not they need to be challenged to step out and lead. Step one for them should be rally a small core team – three or four people who will form the nucleus of a missional community – and begin the process of discerning who they will engage.

My friend Mark Howell often says that reluctant leaders often make the best leaders, and I tend to agree with him. This person may not be immediately excited about leadership, but often these kinds of the leaders make the most faithful and best leaders for missional communities.

Multiply to Start Over

I’m not sure this really counts as multiplication, but I think many communities need to consider disbanding and starting over. If you’re been trying at missional community for a couple years and haven’t gotten any traction, you might want to consider getting a fresh start. The best way to start over is NOT to just disband a group, but to legitimately walk through a process with each individual participant and consider why the community struggled, and how they might faithfully move forward either by starting a new missional community or joining an existing work. This is often times what we do with Teams of Missionaries that move to Missionary Teams.

in the next post, I’ll walk through when you should NOT multiply your missional community.

What else is important when considering multiplication?

Multiplication is a critical piece of effectively making disciples, and foundational to a movement.  This series of posts will explore different different questions about multiplying a missional community:

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Why Multiply A Missional Community?

If you have ever led a small community, regardless of what kind, then chances are good you have struggled with the reality of growing. Some communities close their doors and stick with the same people for years on end. Some groups burst at the seams.  Few groups tend to succeed when it comes time to multiply though.

If it’s so hard, then why should we even consider multiplying as a group? I’ve often been asked that question, and in my flesh tend to ask it each time a season of multiplication comes around.  Rather than give you an opinion, I figured it best to do a short fly-by of the book of Acts.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” ~Acts 1:8 (ESV)

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” ~Acts 2:46–47 (ESV)

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” ~Acts 6:7 (ESV)

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” ~Acts 9:31 (ESV)

“But the word of God increased and multiplied.” ~Acts 12:24 (ESV)

“So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” ~Acts 16:5 (ESV)

“So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” ~Acts 19:20 (ESV)

There is no question that the church of God, both in seasons of great triumph and great struggle, continues to make and multiply disciples through power of the Spirit in accordance with the Word.  Multiplying disciples will naturally lead to multiplying communities and ultimately multiplying churches.

Multiplication is the natural outcome of obedience, and movement requires multiplication.  It’s part of what it means to be the church!

Notice too, that much of the emphasis is on the Word of God multiplying.  Multiplication isn’t just about numbers, it’s about the reign and rule of God extending, and His kingdom being established through submission to His Word.  We multiply because we want to demonstrate God’s kingdom and proclaim the good news to more and more people.

Objections to Multiplication

Given that multiplication is an imperative for the church, it’s critical to consider when and when not to multiply.  I’ll cover those topics in the next couple posts, but I want to point out some common objections to multiplication.  In no particular order:

  • We don’t want to multiply because we really enjoy the way our community is going right now
  • We’ve tried multiplying before and it didn’t work
  • We don’t have enough people to multiply
  • We can’t multiply because no one wants to lead

I’m sure there are a ton more, but these are the ones I hear most often.  Each of these objections could have a variety of different motivations and explanations, and honestly some are valid reasons to not multiply a community.  In my experience, however, underneath many of these objections is primarily two things:

  • A fear of the unknown
  • A fear of failure

Many communities don’t want to multiply because they aren’t quite sure what will happen, and also are afraid that it might not work.

Responding to Objections

Although mission is an excellent catalyst for community, these are still legitimate fears, and we must acknowledge them as such, but address them through the lens of the gospel.  As a leader, we need to help people answer some questions.  Is that fear precluding your from obedience, or is it legitimate wisdom given the counsel of God’s word? What does that fear say about your trust in the sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of His word? How did Jesus fully trust and obey the will of the Father?

Finally, how does Christ’s death on the cross and victory in the resurrection empower you to obey and fulfill the commands of God by the power of the Spirit?

Addressing fear and unbelief with the gospel and the Word is the first step to faithfully multiplying disciples, communities and churches.

What have you found to be helpful in addressing the issue of multiplication?