Exponential Australia Church Planting
Church Culture

Tim O’Neill, Exec. Chair
Exponential Australia

Igniting a Cultureof Multiplication

There is growing talk in church circles across our nation about “multiplication”; where churches plant churches that plant churches.

But there’s a simple reason why the reality of multiplication seems so elusive. And that’s because most churches are structured to deliver something other than multiplication.

Legendary management thinker Dr. W. Edwards Deming famously stated that:
“Every business system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”

The same could be said of churches. Just as businesses need to reset their operating systems if they are to achieve a different result, so too do churches if they are to see a culture of multiplication result.

Below are some thoughts about 6 key components where the operating system of many churches need re-alignment to see churches that actually multiply become a reality.

Component 1: Audacious Prayer
A common theme amongst multiplication movements is that nothing happens without prayer. I don’t mean pastoral prayer or even praying for survival, but rather audacious prayer to see God’s Kingdom on this earth expanded. I’m talking about the kind of prayer that sees movements ignited.

Oscar Muriu from Nairobi Chapel describes the kind of prayers that God wants to hear as “prayers that make God sweat” because they are focused not on the present but on the dreams and visions of what may be; prayers that can’t be answered in our own strength but that require God’s supernatural empowerment and intervention.

Steve Addison in his book “Acts and the Movement of God” noted about the apostles that:
Prayer expressed their utter dependence on God as the movement advanced; they prayed when selecting leaders; they prayed for healing; they prayed when they were persecuted; leaders devoted themselves to prayer; and they prayed for new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.

Component 2: Effectively Engaging With the Community
If we want to reach people, we have to engage with them. We see this displayed so powerfully in the life of Jesus. There was the woman at the well, the lepers who were healed, the man born blind who came to see, the woman caught in adultery and many more. Jesus lovingly engaged with people as He proclaimed the good news.
Then in Acts we see the crippled beggar, the widows who were fed by the disciples and again many more instances where the disciples were a blessing to people who weren’t yet Christ followers.
Jesus told us that people would know that we were His disciples by our love (John 13:34,35). That’s putting His love on the ground in our world.
Effectively engaging with people with Christ like love is so different to what most people ever experience and can open the door to spiritual conversations. It can start by asking simple questions like “how can I love this person (or these people) who aren’t yet in the family of believers? What does love require that I do?”

Component 3: Intentional Disciple Making
Intentional disciple making begins with engaging with those outside the church in a similar way to the believers in Acts 2:47 which states that the believers were:
“… enjoying the favor of all the people” with the result that “…the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Imagine that! New believers being added daily and being taught what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus, walking in obedience to everything He had commanded them!

Jesus Himself told us that the problem wasn’t in the harvest; that was ready and waiting. The problem He called us to pray and do something about was in raising up workers who would be sent into the harvest; sent to tell people about Him and His good news.

But it doesn’t stop there. He wants people who haven’t just heard but who have responded to the call to follow Him to be His disciples; disciples who would make other disciples and would be known for the way they loved both people like them and people not like them – just as Jesus would.

Intentional disciple making sows the seeds of multiplication in a way that will be reflected in the life of every believer and helps form the DNA of a missional, disciple making church.

Component 4: Empowering Leadership
Leaders that empower others seek to make heroes out of them rather than of themselves. The result is that they multiply leaders for ministry and for mission. They are happy to see new leaders empowered and released to find their sweet spot, the place where God is calling them to serve and lead; even when it may be in a new church plant or away from the church that raised them.

This represents a change in mindset for many leaders who come to see their role as being to empower and send rather than to raise and retain. And it is reflected in a change in the focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) from attending capacity to sending capacity.

I recall Larry Walkemeyer from Long Beach California speaking about this when he told of how the church that he planted grew quickly – until they ran out of car parking spots. After praying fervently about this for some months, he felt God was saying to Him “Larry, I’ve given you as many car parking spots as you will ever need”. Larry’s focus then changed from raising leaders who could run ministries in his church, to raising leaders to send out to plant new churches. Larry says that whilst his church is only the same size it was 25 years ago, there are thousands and thousands of people who have come to faith as a result of raising leaders and sending them out from his church to plant new churches.

Component 5: Dynamic Church Planting
Critical to planting dynamic disciple making new churches is finding the right planter. If a church is effective in intentionally making disciples and raising leaders, some of the DNA for multiplication will already be there in the prospective planter.

Raising prospective planters to plant churches will require processes in place to identify them, see them assessed for both eligibility and suitability to plant, equipping them, coaching them and resourcing them.

Many churches won’t be able to do well in all of these important areas. Thankfully there are various ministries in our nation that specialise in doing these things very well and are looking for churches to partner with. Forming partnerships like this are frequently critical in seeing dynamic church planting take place.

Component 6: Rapid Multiplication
Rapid multiplication is a dream for many would be Movement Makers. But it stays a dream unless the right things are done further up the line; things like:
⁃ Audacious missional prayer instead of a focus on pastoral prayer,
⁃ Intentional disciple making instead of a focus of attracting attendees,
⁃ Empowering leadership that releases and sends instead of retaining leaders, and
⁃ Dynamic church planting through partnering instead of trying to do it all in house.
⁃ Rapid multiplication that sees far more people coming to faith and disciples made than could every be dreamed of.

Some time ago I recall reading in Contagious Disciple Making by David and Paul Watson how David asked God for 5 people to disciple. He taught them to go and make other disciples who would make disciples. After a slow start, Years later the Multiplication Movements David has started have now seen over 4 million disciples baptised and 140,000 churches planted! That’s rapid multiplication!

It will probably surprise many Australian Christians to know that the National Christian Life Survey (NCLS) has reported that the number of Protestant churches in Australia decreased by approximately 1,000 or 10% in the 20 years to 2011. To put it simply, not enough new churches were being started to compensate for the number of churches closing.

NCLS further reported that their 2016 survey indicated that only about 2% of Australian churches were planting a new church in any given year. Sadly the most recent NCLS Survey seems to be indicating that this modest rate of starting new churches has been halved!
Australia needs more new churches. That’s why it’s critical that a cultural of multiplication is ignited across the church in our nation.

Igniting a Culture of Multiplication will be the focus of the Exponential Australia National Conference at New Life on the Gold Coast on 17 and 18 October this year.
The Conference will have a range of highly respected international speakers from Australia and overseas as well as an extensive range of workshops aimed at helping leaders understand and implement the practices of audacious prayer, intentional disciple making, empowering leadership and dynamic church planting that will lead to igniting a culture of multiplication.

I hope to see you at what will be an important Conference!

Your brother in Christ,

Tim O’Neill
Exec. Chair
Exponential Australia

ps – if you haven’t yet registered for the Conference, you can do so here https://exponential.org.au/conference-23/