Multiplication is a big deal to Jesus.
Jesus took the men He had built and trained for over three years, and He released them to multiply. This was the whole point of His investment. They were now the Spirit empowered leaders of the movement. In the book of Acts, we see that the early church is described as a multiplying church! In just two years, they had “filled Jerusalem with their teaching,” (Acts 5.28 ESV). In four and a half years, the churches were multiplying rapidly (Acts 9.31 ESV). In 19 years they had “turned the world upside down,” (Acts 17.6 ESV). And in 28 years, the Gospel had spread all over the world (Colossians 1.56 ESV). Multiplication is a big deal to Jesus. Healthy things multiply! Dead things don’t.
A few weeks ago, I decided to rake up the leaves and acorns in my front yard. The cold temperatures had signaled my two oak trees to drop everything. In just about an hour, I had accumulated fifteen piles of acorns! As I scooped them into garbage bags and dragged them to the curb, I was reminded why trees have acorns. Every acorn represents an attempt to reproduce.
There is something bound up in the nature of every tree that desperately wants to be fruitful and multiply. Every acorn contains all that is necessary for one tree to reproduce itself into another tree just like it! Now, “Grow Groups” are like trees. Bound up in every healthy “Grow Group” is the ability to reproduce. However, the sad reality is that some groups (and churches) never truly multiply. They are barren trees that never produce fruit.
Jesus is stern when He addresses a person or group who refuse to multiply.
If you read the Gospels, you will notice a sobering theme. Every time Jesus addresses a person or a group of people who refuse to multiply, His tone is stern. In Matthew, Jesus said, “…Every good tree bears good fruit…,” (Matthew 7.17 NET). But then Jesus adds, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire,” (Matthew 7.19 NET). It’s worthless. It’s only good for kindling.
The same theme is found in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus tells a parable about a barren fig tree. The owner walks through his orchard, carefully examining the fruit of every tree when he notices that one tree is not bearing fruit. He quickly orders it to be cut down. The gardener begs the master to give the tree one more year. So the master reluctantly agrees, but with this warning, “If there is no fruit after a year cut it down,” (Luke 13.9 ESV).
In the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of three servants who receive a certain amount of money to invest during their master’s absence. Most were rewarded for their shrewd use of the master’s money, but the one who did nothing with it was severely punished. Everything he had was taken away.
Again in (Mark 11.12-14 ESV), Jesus is traveling into Jerusalem during His last week on earth. He passes by a barren fig tree, and He curses the tree because it had no fruit. You get the picture? It’s a serious thing to not bear fruit. It’s a serious thing to not multiply your life in others. And, it is a serious thing to lead a group that never multiplies. one thing is clear in Jesus’ mind, fruitfulness and spiritual multiplication is expected and necessary. Because without multiplication, there can be no movement.
Set expectations to multiply.
As you lead your “Grow Group”, you will want to begin early on setting the expectation for each member to multiply. In this way, your group grows and so does your ministry. You should have a goal to multiply your group to the third and fourth generation, seeing the people you discipled invest in others who will invest in others.
In order to see that vision become a reality, here are some things to think about:
1. It is important that you stress the expectation of multiplication to your group early on. You may say, “I’m spending time investing in you because God wants you to reproduce in others. Just what I am doing for you, you must do for someone else.”
Most people are trained to go to church, take in a Bible study or course of some kind with little thought for reproducing what they have learned. This is why we have churches filled with people who have never reproduced themselves even once. But as you train your disciples, you want to begin to instill in them the wonder, the privilege and the obligation of personal multiplication.
2. As you teach the people in your group, remind them that one day, they will be teaching this to someone else. You might say, “As you teach this to the person you will disciple, be sure to say this.” Your casual reference to them discipling someone else will begin to set the expectation of multiplication.
Remind them that the Holy Spirit is in them, and they have all they need to invest in someone else’s life. Remind them that you are here to help them and prepare them to be used by God in a powerful way. Tell them stories of others you have discipled until they are making disciples. All of these things begin to prepare your disciples to multiply.
3. Don’t release until they reproduce. If one of your disciples is struggling in this area, don’t release them until they have begun to multiply. Stay with them! Help them overcome hindrances and problems that are keeping them from investing in others. If one person is struggling to reproduce, I will simply pair them up with another disciple maker and let them co-lead a group.
This added assurance of having someone there to help them usually does the trick. Sometimes I will say, “Hey, I’m starting a new group; will you help me lead it? We will trade off each week leading the group, and I’ll be there to help if you get stuck.” After a while, I will begin to give them more and more opportunities to lead the group on their own. This builds their confidence and prepares them to fly solo when the time comes.
If spiritual multiplication matters to Jesus, then it should matter to us.
This blog features an excerpt from the book, Invest In A Few.