I wish more church leaders were interested in Mathematics. It would help. Honest, accurate numbers are clear, and they enable us to make more informed decisions about what we should be doing next. As we have already mentioned, a good example of this is the mathematical modelling of the potential infection trajectory of COVID-19, back in March 2020. The numbers generated by this process helped inform our political leaders’ decision-making.
Photograph courtesy of @thisisengineering
Multiplying congregations is all about numbers, and each number represents a person. So how should church leaders engage better with numbers? What should we do next? Well, we should start by working out the population of our towns or Parishes, and we should then select a number which realistically represents how many people can be reached by a single congregation. We should then divide the ‘population’ number by the ‘congregation reach’ number. Easy.
However, the results of such calculations present us with a challenge. They tell us how many thriving Christian congregations we would need in our town or Parish to effectively reach the population of that group of people, and this is challenging because each new congregation would require between 3-5 new leaders, and such people are not in abundance in most of our churches. So, it creates a problem which we are unable to solve, using our current methods.
Photograph courtesy of @neonbrand
To make any progress on a challenge of such a scale, we would have to follow Jesus’ methods. He went out and found new leaders from among the people he wanted to reach. The phrase Neil Cole uses for this approach is: ‘from the harvest, for the harvest’. In other words, the people we need to reach these people are currently unreached themselves. We have to reach ‘people of peace’ (Matthew 10.11), make disciples of them, and commission them to ‘go and do likewise’.
So the challenge is not just a numerical one – it is a deeply personal and spiritual one. Making disciples is neither quick nor easy. But before we all ‘check out’ mentally, isn’t this the main thing which Jesus has commissioned us to do (Matthew 28.19-20)? And if we have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in this challenging task, what does it say about us? What does it say about what we are doing? Are we ignoring our primary calling, and wasting our lives?
Photograph courtesy of @jilburr
The challenge of making disciples is actually the challenge of becoming a disciple. To make them. we have to be (or become) one. as we can only reproduce what we already are, and the evidence that we have become one is that we reproduce ourselves in others. It is much more than a challenge, however – it is an invitation into life (John 10.10). If this is not the life path we are already on, then that is the thing that each one of us must do next.
As we go about multiplying disciples, we will eventually multiply congregations of disciples – which will need leaders. Therefore, leadership development is crucial, and it is as simple as identifying which new disciples have leadership gifts, and enabling them to be fruitful. Maybe you are called to be one such leader. Maybe you are called to develop them. Maybe you are called to be both. Whatever your current role may be, let’s embrace this new normal together – let’s multiply.