Shift 5: From Adding to Multiplying

Multiplication Yields Unexpected Blessings 

Mid-June we had our monthly Zoom call with our Chicagoland Network Leaders, and I confess I thought my role would be to encourage our network leaders to remain focused on multiplication and church-planting. My assumption was that our network leaders were focused so heavily on complex and critically important matters (COVID-19 crisis and the events following the tragic killing of George Floyd) to the point that multiplication had taken a back seat. But much to my surprise, while they were effectively shepherding their flocks through this challenging season, these leaders continued to look ahead to how God was doing a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) to catalyze multiplication through their churches and networks.

Jonathan Masters, from Park Community Church, shared how two of his campus pastors were making plans to start new locations in the coming year. Brad Prunty from Oneline Church talked about how he is mobilizing his church to multiply micro-expressions of church that could gather throughout his community in homes and other places. Network leader Homero Garcia spoke of a man in his congregation who is launching a house church in the far southwest suburbs of Chicago. Another network leader shared that because of the COVID-19 crisis his church had been approached by two other churches in their area about merging to reach more people. 

As I reflected on that Zoom call I was reminded of some unexpected blessings of church multiplication:

Multiplication Requires Shared Cause

We all know it’s next to impossible to build community when there is no shared cause. Church leaders often have the best of intentions when it comes to forming friendships across cultures, denominations, and geographies, but without a common mission or vision that rarely, if ever, happens. And when we are deep in crisis, we are even less likely to make these relationships a priority.

Just over three years ago NewThing launched a Catalyst Community in Chicagoland that has resulted in a church-planting movement with 5 networks whose mission is “to catalyze a movement of multicultural church planting networks to transform Chicagoland.” As we have ventured together in pursuit of that mission we have said over and over again, “We are friends on mission.” If it weren’t for our common mission to multiply churches, I would not have been blessed by these friends and their commitment to multiplication even in the midst of these challenging times. I may be the movement leader, but this time they brought the vision to me!

Multiplication Requires Innovation

Jesus said, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17).

Because of our common belief that church multiplication accomplishes the mission of Jesus, we see these crises as an opportunity to innovate. Someone once said that “crisis is the mother of invention.” COVID-19 exposed our dependency on buildings and large gatherings, in response, we are inventing new ways to multiply church, from online services and groups to micro expressions of church gathering in homes, to mid-size groups coming together in third places. I believe this is just the beginning of how God will use these unprecedented times to shape us into the multiplying movement he wants us to be.

Multiplication Requires New Heroes

Just before we felt the full impact of COVID 19, our NewThing Chicagoland Movement held a  gathering on Chicago’s west side. Shine Gilda and Phil Adams, who are starting a house church movement in the Rogers Park neighborhood, joined us for the first time at the gathering. Now in the weeks that followed the COVID -19 Coaching Cohort NewThing, we are eagerly tapping into Shine and Phil’s expertise in regards to micro-expressions of church.

Let’s be honest, many of us have not given the house church or micro-expressions of church their due. We have seen the dramatic impact of these church movements in places like China and India, but up until now haven’t considered it as a primary means to advance the mission in the U.S. Now we recognize these leaders as heroes and pioneers of a movement of churches that may multiply in ways never seen before. 

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