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Be Fruitful and Multiply Disciples

Historically, movements have stopped because they were primarily leader-led information dumps. Information isn’t a bad thing, but information-driven movements are limited in influence. Why should we create disciple multiplying movements? How can we create them?

It’s What We Were Made For
In the garden of Eden, we see that image bearers of God we were made to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:22, 26-28). By issuing his first “great commission,” God did not merely intend for us to have more people over for Thanksgiving dinner. Rather, he wanted his beautiful image to fill the entire earth through the multiplication of his image bearers. But through Adam, we sinned and were separated from God.

In the attempt to author our own story, we sought center stage–pushing God’s goals for us aside. We sought to multiply our image for the sake of our own fame rather than God’s fame.

When someone repents and turns to God, it is our responsibility to show them their new mission by pointing back to the garden. We must show how their mission is all about multiplying for the sake of God’s glory not multiplying a life that is all about them and their legacy.

Most small groups in churches believe their goal is to get to know each other or form a close bond. If this is the goal, multiplication will never be desired. Drawing close to one another is not the goal of missional community, but making disciples who make disciples is (being fruitful and multiplying images of Jesus). Drawing close to one another happens because Jesus has given us the same Father, and we are a part of the same family. So, forming a close bond is a bi-product rather than the goal of living together on mission as family.

This Must be on Our Lips
If our goal is to make disciples who make disciples (to be fruitful and multiply), then this must be on our lips constantly. I tell those who aren’t even followers of Jesus yet, that we desire to see communities like ours across the world doing the same thing. So, when they join our community as a follower of Jesus, they’ve already been discipled to know that we desire multiplication.

But it doesn’t stop there. We continue to talk about it as a group and continue to seek to hear from the Spirit on his timing and his power to send us out. The best way I can describe this is by relating it to your child. Do you desire to see your child stay in your house until they die? Or do you desire to see them leave the house and have a family of their own? Do you then wait until they are 18 and spring this on them and then kick them out? Or, do you continue talking to them about it, train them and seek for them to be ready when the day comes to leave your house and go and be fruitful and multiply with their new family? This is the same thing we need to be doing with our church families. We need to seek to see them grow in maturity and grow in the gospel so that they too can lead a family of missionary servants to live out the effects of the gospel with those around them.

People often ask me how I make it easy for our groups to multiply. I say the same thing every time: You must regularly talk about multiplication and train the next group for its certainty. It must always be on your lips and prayers, and always on your people’s lips and prayers. If it’s not, then it will be very difficult when it happens–like kicking out your unsuspecting child and telling them it’s healthy.

Transforming and Transferable
You will do well by building the foundation of multiplication. You will also do well by regularly talking about it and listening to the Spirit in the process. But what happens if you have no leaders to lead the multiplication? This is where many groups and movements fail. The reason is that people in the group look at the leader and think, “There’s no way I can do what he’s doing. This takes too much time and too much theological knowledge.” Not only that, but you’ve merely spoken about multiplication without transforming people’s hearts to seek it out.

Merely talking about making disciples is sometimes fun and it’s a great theological exercise for the mind. But mere talk and theologizing rarely inspire people to make disciples.

If you desire to see others gripped to make disciples, you must not only penetrate their intellect. You must also aim at their hearts. If you merely aim at their heads with theological reasons why it’s good to make disciples, people will always come up with reasons why they are not convinced of its realities.

I think of Jonathan Edwards when he spoke of God’s holiness and grace and compared it to honey.[1]

In this way, he says, there is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance. When the heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension. It is implied in a person’s being heartily sensible of the loveliness of a thing, that the idea of it is sweet and pleasant to his soul; which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that it is excellent.

So, we must, as leaders, show others what it means to make disciples. When a follower of Jesus sees new disciples being made, and they are a part of it, their heart will rejoice. And like honey on the lips, they will desire more honey instead of merely talking about honey. Jesus did the same with the blind man in John 9. He healed him, so that the blind man would taste and see that the Lord was good. Then he supported that heart-transforming act, to theologically tackle the implications of who Jesus was afterward in John 9:35-41. Notice the way the blind man desired others to taste and see that the Lord Jesus was good–because his heart was transformed.

Not only do we seek to transform, but we must also make sure what we do is transferable. I have many things I can share from experience that I believe are transferable for my people, but you must ask yourself these types of questions:

  • Do I need a theological degree to lead the community like I do? Remember, not all people like to read and study as much as many of us pastors do. If we want to create a movement of disciple-making, then we have to move away from leading from a position of “trained” men, into leading like “untrained” men. (By the way, I’ve never been to seminary, nor am I paid by the church.)
  • Do I need to be paid by the church to have the time to do what I do? See above.
  • What resources are available to give future leaders so that they don’t feel like they have to think of new topics to discuss and study in their Missional Community? I do not do any book studies in the Bible that cause me to do an immeasurable amount of study and reading on my own. If I do, then people will see the group as one that can only be led by someone with my capacity. Instead, I use easily transferable studies (e.g., check out  www.bild.org)
  • How can I model all of this, so that I am going to be able to transfer leadership, instead of being the functional savior for our groups? Make sure you lead as you want others to lead. Don’t do studies that can only be led by a seminarian. Don’t do so many activities that can only be done by those with a job inside the church. Remember, as you lead, you are discipling those in your group on what it looks like to lead a group of disciple-makers. You can’t say one thing and model another. They’ll see right through that.

Because I have worked hard to hear the Spirit’s leading in this, 80% of those that are a part of the Missional Communities in my expression within Soma Communities desire to lead MCs at some point. When I baptized a new disciple, he first desired to lead a group of disciple-makers. He saw this as the only option for someone who was a follower of Jesus and, that it wasn’t anything special. In spite of being a new disciple, he didn’t see this as some “high calling” only for a few.

Since we want to lay the foundation of multiplication, we regularly talk about making disciples who make disciples. We seek to do this by modeling it for them in ways easily transferable. New disciples often can’t wait to lead others in the making of disciples who multiply to make more disciples.

So, go! Be fruitful disciples of Jesus by multiplying his beautiful image everywhere.

1 http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/edwards_light.html

Cross-posted from Gospel-Centered Discipleship.