Not long ago I wrote an article about the danger of the super-pastor, and how pastors often (subconsciously) perpetuate the problem. In the article I briefly touched on leadership & discipleship multiplication as a key to effectively eradicating the super-pastor syndrome. I didn’t have time in that piece to go into more detail about creating a culture of multiplication, but I thought it was worth a conversation so over the course of three articles I want to lay out for you the biblical case for multiplication, the barriers to multiplication and four models of multiplication. This is the second of a series of three articles. To read the first article, click here.
In my previous article we walked through the biblical call for church leaders to be multipliers, rather than professional ministers. The problem is that there are a number of cultural stumbling blocks that push back against the creation of a multiplication culture. Before we can begin to chart a way forward, it would probably be helpful to identify some of these devastating barriers.
Barrier 1: Individualism
We live in a culture that prizes independence and individuality above almost everything else. Think about our entertainment heroes. We idolize movie stars like John Wayne, Rambo, James Bond and Jason Bourne. We love those heroes who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and are able to single-handedly conquer the world. We love music like Frank Sinatra’s iconic song, “My Way.” The song embraces a worldview that celebrates success as having lived your life in light of your preferences along. Scripture, however, calls us to abandon our individualism and embrace the community as his means of growing us into his image.
Hebrews 10:24-25, And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other.
Another passage that we love to quote is found in James 5:16, The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. While many of us can quote that, I wonder how many of us know the first portion of verse 16? It says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. Notice the pattern in both Hebrews 10 and James 5. God intends for us to function in authentic, transparent community, and that is his primary means to shape us into the image of Jesus.
Because of we live in a culture that prizes individualism, though, we have reduced the Christian faith to, “me and Jesus.” An example of this is the prioritizing of the quite time as the ultimate act of discipleship. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly helpful to spend time every day with God in bible reading and prayer, but you will struggle to make a case from scripture for that as the primary means of spiritual formation. What you will find much evidence of, though, is the local church community as the primary spiritual formation tool.
However, when we live in a culture that prizes individualism and when that cultural perspective has invaded the church, we will struggle to create a culture of multiplication.
Barrier 2: Consumerism
We live in a consumer-driven culture. People, then, view church through the lens of consumerism. Church is where you go to receive spiritual goods and services, and the pastor is responsible for distributing those to us. Sadly many shop for churches like we shop for blue jeans. Think about it. We look for the best looking store with the most comfortable product and that asks the smallest price. We look for churches the same way. Where can we find the best looking spiritual product that fits me most comfortably, and asks the least of me? We even reduce the process of looking down to consumer terms. We call it “church shopping.”
This worldview leads us to then treat worship like a consumer-driven experience. We sit in rows, watching the professionals on the stage as they dispense the religious goods and services to us. We even throw money in the offering plate, thus “paying” for the product. When the product fails to deliver like we want it to we either, withhold payment, we demand a new product, or we go elsewhere looking for what we want. After all, we live in a culture that teaches that the customer is always right, and in this environment the people in the audience at church are the religious customers.
When this is the culture we find ourselves in, we are going to find multiplication resisted on nearly every front.
Barrier 3: Professionalism
As a result of our independence and our consumerism, we live in a time where the expectation is that services would be rendered by a professional. Professionalism demands appropriate pedigrees, education & experience. This is true for our doctors and lawyers, but it’s also true for mechanics & tree trimmers. We don’t visit or use anyone who isn’t licensed, educated and certified. This is a profoundly important cultural expectation.
In the midst of a culture of professionalism, it can be difficult to create a culture of multiplication, as a culture of multiplication relies on the rapid, yet thorough, distribution of ministry and responsibilities to lay people and church leadership alike.
Barrier 4: Pastoral Insecurity
Finally, we struggle with pastoral insecurity. I dealt with this to a great degree in my previous article on the super-pastor. Every person on the planet has insecurities and/or emotional baggage. Some compensate for these insecurities with food, others with alcohol, and a variety of other means. Too often pastors, however, compensate with ministry. We love to hear, “no one preaches like you do” or “no one comforts me like you can.” It gives us value, meaning and purpose. It also kills our church, if we are not careful. Pastor, don’t use ministry to self-medicate against your own insecurities.
If we are to be truly counter-cultural in our churches, we have to push back against these cultural barriers, and create a culture of multiplication. So, how do we do that? We’ll tackle that topic in the next, and final article in this series.
Micah Fries is the Vice President of Lifeway Research, and author of a volume in the Christ-Centered Commentary Series.