Pastors and leaders talk about church growth, but strategic conversation focuses on making disciples. Filled churches cause a buzz, but churches committed to making disciples — and introducing the idea to those exploring faith — are poised to impact its community for generations.
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Multiplication Versus Addition
The daring decision a church can make is to shift its emphasis from filling the church to making disciples. I first read Christopher Adsit’s book Personal Disciplemaking years ago as an eager but inexperienced youth pastor. I knew nothing other than I loved Jesus and wanted other people to know how much Jesus loved them. Mr. Adsit’s book gave me my first formal introduction to disciplemaking–and a new way to evaluate success. Disciplemaking was a way to multiply ministry efforts rather than simply adding people one by one.
Addition can make an impact, but multiplication can change the world.
The following story, taken directly from Christopher Adsit’s book, is a compelling illustration of the power of multiplication over addition. Churches need a multiplication mindset–disciplemaking–rather than an addition mindset, where the goal is to have full church services or more campuses. Addition can make an impact, but multiplication can change the world.
Is it any wonder Jesus told us to “make disciples” and not “fill church buildings”?
The story of a rich-but-foolish land baron and a young-but-wise farmhand:
“So you want to work for me, eh?” said the rich-but-foolish land baron. “What should I pay you for tilling my ground?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t require much,” replied the young-but-smart farmhand. “Do you like to play chess?”
“Well, of course! What intelligent man doesn’t? But what does that have to do with your wages?”
The young man pulled out a chessboard from his luggage. “If you will put a penny on the first white square, that will be my first month’s wage. Then, at the end of my second month, double it – put two pennies on the second white square. Then, double it again each month, until you have filled each of the thirty-two squares. After that, I’ll work for the rest of my life for you for free.”
This offer the land baron could not pass up. He figured out that he would have to pay this man a salary for only a little less than three years, and then he could count on the farmhand’s labor for decades to come – at no cost! And besides, a penny for a month’s work? Exceptional value! At the end of a year, that would only be $20.48 total! He felt a little twinge of guilt about taking advantage of this foolish youth – but not much.
“Done!” cried the land baron. They entered into a contract and the young farmhand went to work.
Things were a little tight for the farmhand that first year. You can’t buy much food for $20.48. But an interesting thing began to happen. The wages that the land baron had to put on the thirteenth square came to $40.96. The fifteenth square required $163.84. The twentieth square took $5,242.88 and the thirtieth, $5,368,709.12. The thirty-second and final square required a whopping $21,474,836.48. The young farmhand could afford to work for free after that, since the land baron had paid him a total of $42,949,672.95 for less than three years’ work, and was now bankrupt anyway.
3 things to remember when making disciples:
1) Don’t be wooed by the crowd.
Jesus had opportunities to speak to thousands, but he focused on a few. The crowd is not the enemy, but it’s best to lead them on a disciplemaking path. If you have to pick between investing in a handful of disciples or a big crowd, less is more.
2) Be patient.
Just as the farmhand struggled that first year, disciplemaking takes time. Unless everyone on your church staff and in your congregation have caught the vision for making disciples, there will be nay-sayers. Don’t be distracted. The math works. You may only see small dividends in the beginning, but there is a reason Jesus said “make disciples” instead of “fill church buildings.” His plan works. Press on.
3) Cast vision.
Disciples come in all shapes and sizes and with a variety of spiritual interest levels. Help new believers understand they too are called to make disciples. They may have a different level of responsibility than an experienced Jesus follower, but show them where they are going and how to get there. Similarly, those exploring the Christian faith should learn about disciplemaking. Help them know Jesus is not only inviting them to be in a relationship with him but also wants them to invest in eternity by loving him and loving others.
Don’t be satisfied with having more people attend church. Dare to cast vision for leading your church as Jesus commanded and make disciples.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
What is one benefit or challenge you have experienced in making disciples? Or…if this is a new idea for you, in what ways are you intrigued?