Multiplication tools: passing it on

Does your simple/organic church have an impact beyond the gathering? There’s a simple tool to help with that.


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In the interactive Bible study pattern that we most frequently use and teach to others, four symbols help people share around the passage:

  1. A question mark: do you have any questions about what this verse says?
  2. A lightbulb: this verse brings understanding either about the passage, or about something going on in your own life. The light has come on.
  3. An arrow: God is speaking to you directly through this verse and there’s something you need to do about it
  4. An ear: who do you know who needs to hear what has been shared?

It’s this last symbol that helps to create an impact beyong the gathering. When each person is accountable, not only to apply what they have learned in their own lives but also to pass  it on  to someone outside the group, the influence of the group spreads. When the person they share it with is a not-yet-believer, there is the opportunity to multiply.

We retain only 5% of what we hear, but 90% of what we teach on to others. This practice therefore, not only spreads the message, it also helps people to retain what they have learned.



Multiplication tools: vision

The vision the individual members have for your group will determine the actions they take and your group's ultimate destination.

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Why are the people in your group meeting? 

Simple/organic church provides a more intimate community. This is great, and an important component of simple church, but if that is why people are meeting, community is what you will get.

Simple/organic church offers a more informal and relaxed atmosphere. But if that is the main reason you are meeting, it is what you will enjoy.

Simple/organic meetings are participatory, with the Holy Spirit setting the agenda. This is crucial, a vital component of what goes on, but it is in danger of stopping there unless there is a deliberate outward focus.

Unless your group has a vision for reaching out and touching the lives of those who don't yet know the Lord, you are unlikely to see the multiplication of new disciples and churches.

If you long to see the lives of those who don't yet know the Lord transformed by their coming into relationship with Jesus, then that vision needs to be set before people frequently. Everyone in your group needs to be excited by the prospect, otherwise they will resent the thought of change. As people buy into this vision, their actions and attitudes will change. It may take a little time, but it's worth putting the vision before people on a frequent and regular basis. It can be done in different ways: for example

  • An interactive Bible study on the Great Commission, or Luke 10, Matthew 10 etc.
  • Videos such as this one
  • Asking the Lord what he wants for your group

(This last one is crucial. Everyone in our simple/organic church bought into the vision of multiplication when we spent time seeking the Lord about his vision for our group and he showed more than 50% of us the same thing in different ways. You can read the story here. We frequently refer back to that vision and make sure that newcomers to the group hear about it. Whenever a potential new group starts, we remind people how this is a fulfilment of what the Lord showed us.)

Practical application: Ask everyone in your group to listen to the Lord with the question, "Jesus, what is your vision for our group?" Give everyone 20 minutes on their own to listen and then compare notes. See if a theme emerges. See if the Lord gives you a vision of an outward focus.



Multiplication tools: accountability. A story

Accountability has been key to the church that meets in our home over the last few weeks.

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In the last post, I described how a challenge to pray with someone during the week, led to my reaching out beyond my comfort zone to pray with a total stranger over the phone.

Our initial week's challenge had resulted in different ones praying for neighbors, people at work, and other college students, so our simple/organic church decided to repeat the experiment. This time, I reached out to a relative who needs work. She's one I've had many spiritual conversations with in the past, but who would probably describe herself as pagan. She was very willing for me to pray.

Then I had a surprise. As part of my initial reaching out, I'd placed an ad on Craigslist: "Do you need prayer?" A week or so later, a lady responded, asking me to pray for certain things. As our conversation has developed, she has opened up more, and in my last message to her, I was able to share the Gospel openly. That story is still ongoing.

Many simple/organic churches or small groups long to be more outward-focused but don't know how. Why not think through some of the skills that might make a difference in this area, commit to pray, and then challenge each other and hold each other accountable to put them into practice.

In disciple-making movements in other nations, ongoing accountability plays a vital part. Who did you share your story with this week? Have you been able to pray for anyone during this past week.

We often use four symbols when we study the Bible. The last one is an ear: who do you know who needs to hear what we've been learning? The power of this symbol is to hold each other accountable to share what we've been learning with someone else. This leads to multiplication.

I'd love to hear some of your stories.


A key multiplication tool: accountability

Accountability can make you do some crazy things.

Two weeks ago, the church that meets in our home discussed accountability. In order to make it practical, I challenged everyone to try and pray with someone, preferably who doesn't know the Lord, during the week, and said that we would report back the next time we came together.

Big mistake! Having challenged everyone, I now needed to live up to it too. Since I live the life of a writer, most of my time is spent with just me and my computer. There was no obvious situation where I would come across someone new, so I brainstormed.

I put an ad on Craigslist. "Do you need prayer?": no response.

I responded to some tweets that said, "I need prayer" or "I need God": no response.

Finally, a couple of days before we were due to meet again, I received a sales call from someone at an online pet pharmacy. Our dogs needed some more flea and tick meds, so I placed my order. The lady at the other end was just saying goodbye when I interrupted her.

"Before you leave, is there anything I can pray for you. I believe that God answers prayer."

She broke down. She told me something I could pray about and I prayed for over the phone. It turned out she was a Christian. As we said goodbye, she said, "I'll never forget you!"

When our group came back together, everyone had a story of how they had deliberately prayed for someone. No one they approached had refused prayer; everyone was very grateful.

Would we have done it without the knowledge that we would be asked to report back? I don't think I would have done so. Accountability is a key tool in multiplication.

Practical activity: Give your group a challenge. Maybe challenge them to pray with someone, or to tell their story to a not-yet-believer. The important thing is that you follow up with it.

Multiplication tools: practice

If you want to become proficient at a skill, the answer lies in practice.


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Musicians rehearse, athletes practice, anyone who wants to become proficient at a skill puts in hours per day. They perform the same drill over and over again until it has become perfectly natural. I’m sure my patients were very grateful that I had spent hours practicing how to tie a surgical knot with one hand before I stitched any of them up. Malcolm Gladwell in his brilliant book, Outliers: The Story of Success, says that greatness in any skill requires enormous amounts of time, and applies what he calls, the 10,000 hour rule.

Now obviously, we aren’t talking super-complicated skills when it comes to making disciples. But why do we assume that just telling someone how to to something, whether it’s leading someone to the Lord, prophesying or listening to God, enables them to be proficient at it?

My good friend, Katie Driver, a House2House coach, recently completed her degree. The secular university taught her the following statistics:

Adults retain     5% of what they hear in a lecture

                                10% of what they read

                                50% of what they see demonstrated

                                75% of what they practice

                                90% of what they teach

It’s much, much better if people practice their spiritual skills with someone else before they try to take it outside their church (whether that is simple/organic or legacy) context into the secular world. It then becomes something natural, a useful tool in their hands. They are equipped to minister (Ephesians 4:11, 12).

Suggested application: Pick one skill–telling your story

                                                                        making a disciple (leading someone to Christ)

                                                                        listening to the Lord

                                                                        praying for the sick

In your small group, have everyone practice that skill several times and challenge them to use it during the week, preferably with a not-yet-believer. I’ll have a story for you in the next post of how that has worked out for me in the last two weeks.

Multiplication tools: the list

If you want your group to be outward looking, the list is a powerful tool.

In CMA's Life Transformation Groups, each person makes a list of three to four people who are not followers of Jesus that they commit to pray for daily.

In T4T, each person is encouraged to make a list of all the not-yet-believers that they know, and divide them into groups of five. Each week, they pick a group and having prayed for them, try to tell their story to each person.

Do you have a list of people you know who are either not-yet-believers or who are not walking closely with the Lord? 

It's easier to think through the people you know by looking at your circles of influence:

Picture 3

  1. The people closest to you: your family and closest friends. They don't have to live near you, but maybe you are in email contact with them. This week I offered to pray for a niece who isn't a believer and prayed for her via a facebook message.
  2. People from work: who do you know from work who is not following the Lord? The company president? The person who cleans the building? Your colleagues?
  3. Social acquaintances–people whose names you know and who know your name. Parents of those on your kid's basketball team? People in your neighborhood?
  4. Casual contacts, people you recognize but don't know their names. Your mailman, the girl behind the counter of the coffee shop where you get your morning caffeine fix. 

Practical application: Have the people in your group spend 15 minutes creating a list of all the people they know who are not following Jesus.  Suggest they commit to praying for them and if possible, telling them their story.


Multiplication tools: good invitations and better invitations

There are good invitations, but if you want to see multiplication, there might be better ones:

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You've shared your story, using it as a bridge to a presentation of the good news of the Kingdom. What now?  

It's unusual for someone to say, "How can I become a Christian?" They are much more likely to respond to a specific suggestion from you. Hopefully you've made clear the cost of following Jesus when you shared to good news with them. You could say, "Would you like to invite Jesus into your life," but it might be better to ask, "Are you ready to surrender your life to Jesus?" The one might lead to a decision, the other to a disciple. 

Then teach the new disciple how to share his/her story with his friends and family, inviting them to become Jesus followers too. 

Do you ask the new believer to come with you to church?

There might be a better way. How about, "Do you have any friends who might be interested in learning more about Jesus too? Could we get together with them?"

If you invite someone to come to church with you, whether legacy or house church, you may miss out on the opportunity to reach their oikos, or circle of influence. The slow way to multiply is to add people to your group until it is big enough to multiply into two. The faster way is to start with an existing community and watch them become a church as a group together. So better to meet with the new disciple's existing circle of influence within their familiar environment.

Suggested activity: Would the people in your church know how to pray with someone to become a Christian? Have them practice this skill with each other.