By Robby Gallaty
Jesus implemented a strategy of multiplication with the men he hand-selected, by leveraging the talents and abilities of each one. In the book Multipliers, authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown describe the mentality of a multiplier:
Instead of achieving linear growth by adding new resources, you can more efficiently extract the capability of your people and watch growth skyrocket. Leaders rooted in the logic of multiplication believe: 1. Most people in organizations are underutilized. 2. All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership. 3. Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.
Sound familiar? Jesus’ discipleship ministry solidified this strategy. The authors go on to say,
Multipliers don’t necessarily get more with less. They get more by using more— more of people’s intelligence and capability. As one CEO put it, “Eighty people can either operate with the productivity of fifty or they can operate as though they were five hundred.”
Jesus used eleven men to change the world.
Closing the Revolving Back Door
If I am going to be completely transparent with you, I will admit to falling into the trap of pursuing numbers myself. Early in my ministry I would regularly challenge my members to invite their friends to church. Although I wouldn’t have admitted this at the time, our invitation was more about us than about them. We weren’t all that concerned about their personal needs, and as soon as they began attending we would encourage them to repeat this process with their friends. When those friends arrived, we extended to them the same charge to get their friends to church.
People would stick around for a few months, but many would eventually leave. Our church became a revolving door, with new people exiting the back faster than guests were walking through the entrance. Having talked with other pastors about this, I now know that I wasn’t the only pastor stuck in that rut of measuring growth through church attendance. Every pastor fights the urge to count nickels and noses.
What if we shifted the focus from running out and grabbing as many people from outside of the community to bringing them in and spending more time discipling the people whom God has already entrusted to us? What if we decided to invest in those already attending week after week?
Immanuel Baptist Church in Morgan City, Louisiana—the first church I pastored—had a small congregation, about sixty-five people. These faithful few were passionate about the things of God and desired to grow in their faith. I chose a handful of men to invest in while my wife, Kandi, selected a few women with whom to do the same. It didn’t take long for a discipleship initiative to spread through the congregation. Before leaving that church to pastor Brainerd Baptist Church three years later, God had grown the church numerically, but even more importantly, he had driven the roots of those relatively few members deep below the surface of a superficial Christianity. The seeds that were planted almost a decade ago are still being harvested today.
Believers who were at one time uncomfortable sharing their faith with lost friends before entering a discipling relationship were transformed into people living, breathing, and sharing the gospel. Their workplaces turned into a mission field for reaching the lost. Marriages were restored. Lives were changed. During the first year of ministry, we saw more people make decisions for Christ than were attending when I arrived. People regularly commented, “I feel like we are living the book of Acts.” I felt the same way. By shifting our focus to prioritize making disciples, our people began to prioritize it as well.
Was it that we implemented something new? No. We rediscovered something old, as old as the church itself: discipleship. This rediscovery of discipleship has changed my own life as well. I often wonder how different my life would have been if certain men hadn’t taken time to disciple me. But why stop with me? Let’s take it a step further: How different would your life be today if you had an opportunity to be engaged in a Christlike, biblical discipleship relationship? How different would the lives around you be if you were the one to take seriously Jesus’ command to make disciples?