In little more than ten years St. Paul established the Church in four provinces of the Empire Galatia; Macedonia, Achaia and Asia... Today if a man ventures to suggest that there may be something in the methods by which St. Paul attained such wonderful results worthy of our careful attention, and perhaps of our imitation, he is in danger of being accused of REVOLUTIONARY TENDENCIES.
In summation, I believe that we are heading to that place in as much as the first Reformation had the wonderful effect of putting the Bible back into the hands of the people, the one we seem to be moving towards now is putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people.
My suggestion was that when we focus more on the fruit that is produced (multiplying disciples who can do the same), the Kingdom always advances. If you’ve got a big tree (the church)…great…but it doesn’t matter too much if it’s not producing fruit.
Today, I want to look more at that idea of fruitfulness and why we should put all ofour time, attention and energy into it. I think today’s discussion will give us an even deeper look as to why we are on the precipice of something.
Jesus gave us a picture of a tree and said that good trees are supposed to bear good fruit. It’s a simple picture, really. One tree can give you quite a lot of fruit. But it’s more. In each piece of fruit is the seed of multiplication. Each piece of fruit has dozens of seeds that could produce more trees. And there wasn’t just one piece of fruit on each tree, but lots of fruit.
So let’s run this out:
One tree, hypothetically, has 100 pieces of fruit
Each piece of fruit has, hypothetically, 20 seeds in it that can multiply into 20 more trees
One tree = 2,000 potential trees
Multiplication is what Jesus is talking about in the Parable of the Sower. In another, you expect a return of 30, 60, 100 times what you invest with the one seed. It’s multiplication.
Let’s understand the context of what Jesus was going after. When Jesus talked about trees and fruit, he was referring to something very specific: people. He was saying that each person is a tree, and a disciple is someone who produces good fruit. If we take Jesus’ metaphor seriously, he seems to be suggesting that a disciple will produce thousands of disciples.
If you’re at all like me, that can seem incredibly daunting.
Then you realize where we started and do the simple math. You can’t get there by addition, but you can by multiplication. We take what we’ve been given, invest it, and let it multiply.
Multiplication has been the way of the church for thousands of years because it was the way of Jesus.
The early church had two things going for it:
They had the Holy Spirit.
They knew how to multiply missional leaders.
That was it. No budgets, buildings, or any real cash on hand. All around there was moral relativism, polytheism, hedonism run amok, persecution, and an Empire that seemed to hate the church with a growing intensity.
And they blew the roof off!
At the end of the day, you could launch a missional movement with those same two things—the Holy Spirit and a way to multiply missional leaders. The problem is that many of us don’t actually believe that.
If you were to go to Sheffield (which is now the epicenter of a worldwide missional and discipling movement), they would not tell you how many people attend the church.I doubt most of the people would even realize how big the church is, because it doesn’t function like a huge one.
If you asked how big the church is, they would simply tell you how many people they are discipling. That is what they count. They count how many people are engaged in active, accountable, discipling relationships. Their whole structure for church is built around making disciples and releasing them. So that’s what they count. That’s the metric that matters. That’s the Great Commission imperative.
How many disciples do we have?
St. Thomas Sheffield isn’t a massive church and the center of a movement because it has the best worship service, or the best digital experience, or the best preachers or teachers in the world. It’s because everything they do is about making disciples. They honestly believe that if you make disciples and release them to lead into their destiny, release them to be Agents of the Kingdom, everything will change.
If we are great at making the disciples, church growth will never be a problem, because being a disciple means you’re a missionary. It was never OK for us to be a large church and have very few missionary disciples. So we built something where that couldn’t happen. Making disciples was in the DNA from the very beginning, and it has carried through into the movement of which it is the heart.