What Hinders Rapid Church Multiplication?

Thursday is for Missional Thinking

Elephant vs Rabbit churchesBecoming a Rabbit Church vs an Elephant Church

*comments in red are Ed Stetzer’s; comments and points in black are mine

The following are comments and notes from a class with Ed Stetzer. Ed and I were scheduled to teach a class together one year at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School but it was canceled at the last minute. Too bad. Ed is a genius and a friend with a great sense of humor and we were looking forward to teaching together. I always look forward to my time with him. Below is a synopsis of a doctoral class I took with Ed back in 2009.

Overall:   “We decline the ‘suffering’ that it, (multiplication), might include in the name of ‘church health.'”

  1. “There is a creeping anti-missional mentality.”  —-The idea here is that churches begin to make decisions based on what is best or most comfortable for the people who have already been reached rather than for the people who have not yet heard; the church chooses those with a home in Christ over those who are homeless (without Christ).
  2. “The church (or denomination) begins to think more in terms of survival rather than mission.” —-This is related to the first idea above. The church becomes more risk averse. Without meaning to, their metaphor flips. The glass is now half-empty. Pessimism about the future or of the growth potential begins to increase. The church begins to act like corn in a drought. Leaves curl inward on itself to conserve moisture. In a similar way, the church, at the very time it needs to put out new tendrils and roots and explore new ways to reach the lost, pulls in and thinks almost exclusively in terms of conservation of resources for itself. A lot of churches fire their pastor or make radical changes in their leadership over these kind of issues.
  3. The church begins to fight the tendency of all organizations, over time, to become self-protective (And not fight hard enough!). —-This is as true for the house church and more organic models of the church as it is for churches of every size from small to medium to the mega-church and all attractional models of the church. Over time, all organizations of people tend to lose focus on their founding passions and begin to make decisions based on their own survival.

All of these combine to put a damper on rapid-church multiplication.

If you want to start a church that has an evangelistic season of initial growth followed by a season of plateaued or diminishing impact for the gospel, ignore these observations.

But, if you want to start a church that multiplies churches and expands its impact for King and Kingdom, look for these tell-tale signs and nip them in the bud early by continually trumpeting the missional heart of God and the needs of the lost.

And call me if you need help. I would be honored to help in any way I can. This blog exists to help churches fight this non-multiplying tendency.

See  Viral Churches

4 thoughts on “What Hinders Rapid Church Multiplication?

  1. Love the post, Brother! Very necessary for preventing the plateau syndrome. Comfort, Safety and Protection must be replaced by Calling, Risk and Sacrifice. A discussion in the vane of your post came up in a leadership team meeting today. We prayed and cried out to the Lord that he would never allow us to be satisfied or complacent to sit on our success. Thanks for sharing this….


  2. Marty…Good post! A great read that works right alongside this is “The Ten Commandments of Business Failure”. Among the ways to kill an organization are….Assume infallibility, Lose your passion, Ignore your critics, …


  3. Brought over from Facebook

    Kerry Doyal Bart Eskind
    Like · Reply · 9 hrs

    Dave Rogers I need to think about this for awhile.
    Like · Reply · 8 hrs

    Meredith ‘Schoenleber’ Aldrin
    Here’s a question: Do institutional churches have lifespans?
    Like · Reply · 1 hr

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    All churches, attractional, house churches, large churches, small churches all have lifespans. Some are short and some are long. Some have lifespans that include death and rebirth. Their original vision or style or approach dies and gives birth to a new vision, or style or approach. Most churches have
    (1) a period of initial, rapid growth filled with innovation, excitement, and vision.

    (2) This generally followed by a period of consolidation, growing maturity, and more conservative growth.

    (3) The next typical thing that happens is a period of plateaued growth, more consolidation and a growing rigidity to change. It is at this point that a church needs to

    (4) reinvent itself with a new vision and begin to look outward to the new opportunities open to it. Overcoming the rigidity that has crept in during phases 2 and 3 is the task in phase 4 if the church is to have a new and exciting future of service for the King.
    Like · Reply · 1


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