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 third of the three articles. To read the first article, click here. To read the second article, click here.
We have previously discussed the biblical call to multiplication. We followed that up with a bit of an expose regarding the cultural barriers to multiplication. I want to finish, now, with a brief discussion of some specific models that we can embrace that can help us develop a culture of multiplication within our churches.
Model 1: Never do what you can delegate. (Moses’ model)
In Exodus 18 we find the story of Moses being overworked and without a plan. He was trying to do everything, and couldn’t keep up. I know a lot of church leaders who resonate with that problem. Thankfully Moses had a wise father-in-law. Jethro told him that he would be able to be far more effective if he would create an intentional plan of delegation. Moses did and it literally changed his life.
Church leaders are the masters of the superhuman, or at least we try to be. We like to do all things for all people, radically misusing Paul’s evangelism expectation from 1 Corinthians 9 to be all things to all people. Instead, we need to hand off as much as we can, as quickly as we can.
Notice that, in Ephesians 4, spiritual growth doesn’t precede ministry investment, it follows it. We don’t wait for people to be mature before we give them ministry responsibility, we give them ministry responsibility and they mature.
If we want to faithfully execute a culture of multiplication in our ministry, we need to quit holding so tightly to ministry functions and instead constantly find opportunities to hand ministry off to others.
Model 2: Narrow your discipleship target to expand your disciple-making influence. (Jesus’ model)
Too often, church leaders think almost exclusively in terms of corporate discipleship. In other words, we are constantly asking the question, “How can we disciple the whole church?” While it might seem counterintuitive, I’m somewhat convinced that focusing on a small group of people to disciple will ultimately lead to more success at discipling the entire congregation.
Instead of thinking of discipling the whole church – disciple three people for a year, with a commitment from them that they’ll do the same the following year. First of all, this replicates Jesus’ behavior. Think about his patterns. While he preached to the masses, the vast majority of his ministry was with 12 disciples, 3 specifically in the inner circle, and one particular best friend. Secondly, though, this form of discipleship is potentially far more expansive than even the largest megachurches.
Humor me for a second and do the math with me. If we committed to disciple 3 people per year, and if they would turn around and commit to do the same, and so on, you can be involved in leading an exponential discipleship movement that will disciple far more people than you could if you led the largest megachurch in America. In 3 years 27 people could be discipled. In 7 years you would surpass 2,000. In 15 years enough people could be discipled that all of Tennessee could have been discipled (over 14 million people). In 21 years the population of the entire globe would be discipled for Christ.
I also think it’s important to note here that Jesus didn’t necessarily select superstars to invest in. He invested in ordinary people who turned the world upside down.
Acts 4:13, When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.
Model 3: Model and mentor. (Paul’s model)
Looking to the example of Paul, we find him selecting one disciple – Timothy – and pouring into him like a father would pour into his son. In fact, he referred to him in exactly that way. Paul instructed Timothy in life, ministry and godliness. He developed him and then turned him loose.
As a Senior Pastor, my goal was to rarely, if ever, do anything by myself. If I visited someone, I tried to take someone with me. If I attended a conference, I wouldn’t go unless I could bring someone along with me. When I share this with people I am almost always asked, “What do I teach when I’m with this person.” I think that’s pretty simple, to be honest. I think that proximity is the key here, rather than formal lecture. Sure you can go through a book of the Bible together, or a Bible study, or a popular book. Ultimately, though, you are placing people around you who aren’t as far along as you are, and modeling for them the behaviors of a Christian leader.
Timothy is a great example of what kind of legacy this can leave.
Model 4: Train & deploy. (Timothy’s model)
2 Timothy 2:22, And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Finally, I would encourage you to establish formal leadership training and development opportunities for people in your church to be a part of. In my church, we call this EQUIP and we have a series of students who meet with our pastors in the fall and spring for a series of classes on life, scripture, theology and ministry. We have even partnered with a seminary, and these students get academic credit for these classes and this academic credit can go towards undergraduate and even Masters degrees. You don’t have to officially partner with a theological institution, but you should consider some sort of formal training program.
The church looks to you as a leader. Look for formal and informal opportunities to model and reproduce leadership among your congregation.
The world, and the church, expects you to be a professional who does it all. This pattern is frustrating, sometimes terrifying, and very stressful. If I can encourage you today, it would be to worry less about doing and worry more about developing and deploying. Your life will be richer for it, and your ministry will go much further than you ever imagined.
Micah Fries is the Vice President of Lifeway Research, and author of a volume in the Christ-Centered Commentary Series.