Archive for category What is the Church?

The Future is Multiplication

By Allen White

Image by Marina Strizhak.

How easily can you multiply your ministry? Let’s say tomorrow you are given the opportunity to duplicate your church in another location. How quickly could you assemble an exact replica of the church you currently serve? What leaders would you need? What budget? What buildings? Could you turn on a dime, or what kind of lead time would you need?

Let’s go the other way. Let’s say your church has hit a low point (or is starting from scratch). You have no building, no money, and no staff. How would you do church? How would you reach your community?

Multiplication is key to mission. The mission, we know well, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV). Did you read it, or did you “yada, yada, yada” it? Maybe read it again.

Simply put, we have Jesus’ authority and presence to carry out his mission. What else do we need? Motivation, yes. Obedience, for sure. Multiplication, absolutely – generationally and ethnically. What’s holding us back? The only thing slowing many of us down is the lack of focus on multiplication. We’ve become skilled at distributing fish. Now’s the time to raise up fishermen.

Multiply disciples

Throughout the seeker movement, we gave people a pass on discipleship. We invited them to sit back, relax, and get comfortable. For the boomer generation who is chief interest was self-interest, this formula actually worked. (Other generations also have similar interests). But then we ran into a dilemma: when we needed people to help, we discovered that everyone had taken us up on the offer to be comfortable. No one wanted to help.

Now much has been said in lowering the bar on small group leadership. Some people despise that thought. But the heart of lowering the bar comes from I thought by Neil Cole where he said we need to lower the bar on what it means to be a leader and raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple. We are all called to go and make disciples.

By allowing members to gather a group of friends and facilitate a discussion with an easy-to-use video-based curriculum (initially), we’re not creating a multiplicity of shallow rooted people. We are helping our people become obedient to the Great Commission. Everyone is called to make disciples. No one is exempt. And yet we have created such a convoluted, unclear method of discipleship, which I hesitate to even call a method, because there’s no systemization to it. We will take up this issue in another post over the next month.

Forming groups is not the only way to align the purposes of our members with the purposes of Jesus’ mission. It’s a start. Often people need a trial run before they can commit to a longer-term role.

The nature of multiplication is that every member should be making disciples of others. Every disciple should make disciples who in turn make disciples. We must multiply disciples.

Multiply leaders

In the church we are more comfortable with managers than leaders. Managers take direction and implement. They make sure a greeter is posted at every door and a teacher is present in every class. Managers follow the rules and do what they’re told. Leaders show the way.

Often we are threatened by the idea of allowing others to lead, because their leadership proves to be better than ours. But when you think about it, this is actually a good thing. After all, all of us are smarter than anyone of us.

As pastors, our role is to nurture and bring out the best in people. The challenge is that we must grow our own leadership and develop trust to the point where we can allow our people to lead without becoming “helicopter pastors.”

A leader is not someone who merely follows instructions, although they should abide by the vision and mission of the church. A leader is someone who takes initiative. You have plenty of leaders in your church. Some of them you have labeled as problems. The reason they seem to work against you is that you haven’t delegated something to them to help them work for you.

You will never be able to hire enough staff to fulfill all of the needs of your church and community, nor should you. But in your congregation you have a wealth of leadership potential that must be tapped. As you develop leaders, they will multiply the efforts of your church and help you to accomplish far more.

The easiest way to identify leaders in your church is by hosting a leadership seminar. You can lead that seminar. John Maxwell could lead the seminar via video. You could host something like the Chick-fil-A Leadercast. You can bring in a speaker. But as soon as you announce a leadership seminar, your leaders will come out of the woodwork.

Multiply your staff

The ability to hire staff often comes with the relief of no longer depending on volunteer help. When the job is tied to a paycheck, we can bring in a more qualified and more reliable person, right? No one has ever had to terminate staff before.

Over-staffing a church creates two problems. First, the hire eliminates the need for members of the church to exercise their gifts and abilities. As one pastor told me, “Our motto is like Greyhound, ‘Leave the driving to us.’” Secondly, and I’ll tread lightly here, the accumulation of staff often changes the role of pastor to managing rather than leading. You must manage their time, their benefits, their progress, and their ROI. Or, I suppose you could ignore and assume. My point is that staff hires don’t necessarily bring about the relief a pastor needs, unless they are able to multiply themselves.

The future requires staff members to multiply themselves. Every staff member – pastor, assistant, receptionist, custodian – everyone should multiply their lives and ministry. In fact, the true measure of a staff member’s worth should not be how many tasks they can perform, but how many people they can develop. Merely hiring more staff will not help your church fulfill the mission and reach your community effectively.

But, if staff members get other people to do their work, what do they do? You can go one of two ways here. Either you no longer need the staff member, or the staff can delegate responsibilities and authority to others thus giving the opportunity for the staff to explore and develop new things. As staff members work themselves out of their jobs, then direct them toward fulfilling Jesus’ mission by starting another church and doing the same there.

Multiply yourself

Maybe you are a staff member, or maybe you are the senior pastor, either way, multiplication is not just the church’s future, it’s your future. How do you grow and expand your leadership? How do you prepare for what’s next? Start by working yourself out of a job.

The easiest place to start is by making a list of all of the things you don’t like to do. Those tasks are easy to delegate. You’ll be amazed to find people who will delight in those duties. Not only can you pour yourself into what you’re best at, but you also give others an opportunity to get their gifts in the game. Don’t hoard your worst tasks.

Eventually, you will reach a place, as the ministry grows, where you will have two choose between things you love. Develop apprentices in these areas. Start with asking them to observe. Then, give them responsibilities that you will supervise. Then, give them the authority they need to fulfill their mission. While you must always check in with them, you shouldn’t micromanage them. John Maxwell said years ago, “Find someone who can do something 30 percent as well as you and let them do it.” The reality is they can probably do it 60 percent as well. The motivation is to engage people in meaningful ministry so Jesus’ mission will be accomplished, and they will find significance along the way.

Concluding Thoughts

Ministry will always have limitations – not enough money, time, talent, or buildings. If your ministry is flush in these things, then you are not risking enough.

If you disappeared, how would the ministry continue? Who are you developing to duplicate your efforts and eventually take over? Invest yourself in capable people who can multiply what you do. Stop fulfilling tasks and bending over backward for “consumers.” Leaders are your legacy.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Feel free to disagree with me.

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment

The Future of Church

By Allen White

Photo by yarruta via 123rf. Used with permission.

[Dear Readers – Do you ever have thoughts that you can’t get away from? For a few years now, I have almost resisted writing about some things that have been stirring deep inside me. Also, over that time period, a number of events as well as ministry startups in various sectors have confirmed many of the things I’ve been sensing. Over the next month or so, I will post some of these thoughts. What I am writing should not be taken as an indictment of any ministry or methodology. I am sincerely inviting you to wrestle with some things I’ve been wrestling with. I would appreciate having you join the conversation.]

Megachurch, as we know it, is not the future. In an increasingly secularized society, the tolerance for more “big box” churches will decrease. Churches are already viewed by municipalities as heavily reliant on city resources, yet do not pay taxes. In fact, some of their prime locations could generate more revenue as a Costco. I foresee zoning as a continual obstacle.

Speaking of taxes, while I don’t see tax deductions for charitable contributions disappearing, the new tax law makes most people’s charitable contributions irrelevant in regard to their taxes. Since the standard deduction has increased to $24,000, for many households their mortgage interest, charitable giving, and medical expenses aren’t going to top that amount. Now, I’m not a CPA, but the math is pretty simple to pencil in. If giving no longer offers a tax advantage, then how will giving be impacted? If giving decreases, then what happens to capital campaigns and building projects?

Then, we could go back and ponder the question asked by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson in The Externally-Focused Church (Group Publishing 2004): If your church disappeared from your community would you be missed? Does your community rely on your church? Do you pick up the slack where government services lack? Can you serve the under-served in your community? Or, does your building provide a meeting place for weekend gatherings, then sit empty the rest of the week?

The climate is changing. I haven’t even mentioned those churches who are fighting a culture war that’s already been lost. I also didn’t bring up a moral majority that’s become an oxymoron.

The strategies that served us well over the last 25 years are not going to do the same in the next 25 years. It’s time for a shift.

Decentralized Organization

The “hero” in any church is the member, not the pastor. The best representation of the impact and ministry of the church is the individual member. Members will determine the effectiveness of the church’s outreach. While churches can have a great location, in the churches I’ve served, we found that less than 2 percent found their way into our church from merely passing by. About the same went for paid advertising, social media, or other forms of advertising. How well does your church make disciples? There is nothing more attractive than a believer whose life has been transformed inviting a friend who’s noticed their life change.

When you look out at your congregation on Sunday morning, do you see an audience or an army? If it’s an audience, then they need to be entertained. The concern is over comfort and convenience. If you perform well and offer a good experience, then the hope is they will return.

But, if you see them as an army, that’s a different story. Your army needs to be equipped and empowered to serve. They don’t need to be catered to. They don’t need to be fretted over. They need marching orders. They need permission and opportunity to live out what God has called them to do.

The focus changes from gathering to scattering. For the last 25 or more years, we have gathered well, but scattered poorly. It’s time for a change.

Flexible, Unrestricted Gatherings

About six years ago, in a conversation with Josh Surratt, Lead Pastor at Seacoast Church, he mentioned a family from their church who had moved to Maine. Every Sunday morning, they gathered with about 40 friends and neighbors in their living room to watch the service at Seacoast together. My immediate reaction, “Well, maybe it’s time to redefine a ‘campus.’”

Conversations like this led to the idea of microsite churches. In my initial brainstorming with my friend, Brett Eastman, we imagined smaller communities or places where multisite churches wouldn’t build a campus. What if the service via steaming video was brought into homes, restaurants, or smaller meeting places to serve these areas? The microsites would rely on unpaid staff to manage them, but with connection and support from larger organization.

One of the first places we saw develop these microsites was NewSpring Church in South Carolina. They took a little different spin on the idea by using “houses campuses” as a trial balloon to determine whether a community could support a viable multisite campus eventually. It was essentially planting a multisite campus with a less expensive, less risky trial run. We also interacted with the folks at The Rock Church in San Diego, who had heard from people who were not comfortable walking onto their main campus on Sunday morning. So, they multiplied 50 microsites in venues where these folks felt more comfortable gathering. This included bars, night clubs, and other locations. Read more about the early days of microsites.

By developing a microsite strategy with online video and support, there is no limit to a church’s potential to reach any community that can provide someone to pioneer the work. Once the strategy has created a unit of one, then the sky’s the limit. Locations can easily be rolled out in same language communities or translated into other languages and cultures. Potentially, these flexible, unrestricted gatherings can multiply without church-owned property or paid staff. As long as their kept small and taught to multiply, securing larger gathering spaces is unnecessary.

Meaningful, “Volunteer” Ministry

I hate the word “volunteer,” but it’s the word everyone uses, so here we go. With the congregation as an army, the key to deploying the army is gifts-based ministry. God has gifted and called every believer to fulfill his or her mission on the earth. Calling is not limited to clergy. Ministry is not limited to paid staff. For all intents and purposes, the only difference between “volunteers” and paid staff is the source of their income and possibly their availability.

If the church fully embraces the concept of the priesthood of believers, then it can accomplish far more than what it’s currently doing. The key is to champion the member, help them discover their spiritual gifts with a tool like Network, and to support and deploy them as they do the work of the ministry. When believers are operating in their gifts and abilities, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and supported by their pastors and churches, they are unstoppable. They find meaning and purpose beyond what anything else can provide. And, the church functions as it should.

I led the gifts discovery and deployment process at a church I served for 15 years. Every member who attended a discover your ministry type class met with me for a post-class interview. I was always amazed at what people aspired to do and how God had equipped them. In fact, I even identified my future wife this way!

Our church reached a point where we only started new ministries out of these conversations following the gifts discovery class. Some of these ministries, we heard about from sources in the community because our people were serving based on their gifts and hadn’t told us what they were doing. That thought just makes me smile.

The church burdens many of its members with meaningless ministry – parking lot attendants, greeters, coffee servers, and so forth. Potentially the worst staff position in any church is the “guest services coordinator,” because this person must constantly hustle to fill vacant spots every weekend of the year! Why? Because no one is called to this. (Feel free to argue in the comments, but read on).

Yet, believers rise to the occasion in gifts-based ministry. Pastors – do you want your members dragging themselves out of bed to serve or jumping out of bed to serve? The difference is organizing ministry around spiritual gifts rather than filling slots.


Microsites are easier to multiply than megachurches. Microsites don’t require church-owned property, elaborate budgets, or guest services. As someone is welcomed into a member’s home, isn’t that the only guest services needed?

What about training? Who can be trained more quickly – a pastor or a location host? No location host to date has been required to earn a Master of Divinity first.

Most churches will never have the budget, paid staff, or buildings to accomplish what God has called them to do. Well, that’s if we look at the church as an institution. But, in viewing the church as the body of Christ, there is millions of dollars worth of property in the homes of the church’s members. The “staff” originates from gifts-based assessments. There might be a few expenses, but really no budget.

As it becomes harder to fill and maintain the big box church, there are viable options. Examples like the Tampa Underground ( are worth considering. After 10 years of developing their model, they are now sharing their learnings with others.

The future of the church is bright, but it is different. While previous models of ministry have served us well, it’s time to reconsider our strategies and redefine our ministries.

, , , , , , , , , , ,


>Please Don’t Send Me To Africa…

>What is the Church? Day 5: What’s Your Purpose?

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Ephesians 1:11-12 (Msg)

God has a purpose for your life. Do you believe that? The purpose is not just to survive your days or to get the kids out of your house or to finally retire. God has a work for you to do, but you must be willing.

That doesn’t mean that you will necessarily be a missionary in Africa. Isn’t that what everyone is afraid of when they surrender themselves to God? If God hasn’t put it in your heart to be a missionary, then you won’t be. You might go on a weeklong trip to drill a water well or sing in a café though.

How do you know what God’s purpose is for you?

Let me ask you a couple of questions:

1. What are you good at?
2. Who do you like to work with?
3. What do you get excited about?
4. What do you enjoy doing (that’s not sinful)?
5. What have you done before in ministry, at work, or as a hobby?
6. What needs do you see around you?
7. What in our community gets you fired up?

Is anything coming to mind? If so, what are you going to do about it? You might have just discovered your God-given purpose in life.

Scripture quotations taken from The Message. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

>Do you see people as a Thou or an It?

>What is the Church? Day 4: Aiding Our Community

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:34-36 (NIV)

From Daily Office: Remembering God’s Presence Throughout the Day by Peter Scazzero:

“The great Jewish theologian Martin Buber described the most healthy or mature relationship possible between two human beings as an ‘I-Thou’ relationship. In such a relationship, I recognize that I am made in the image of God and so is every other person. This makes them a ‘Thou’ to me. They have dignity and worth, and are to be treated with respect. I affirm them as being a unique and separate human being apart from me.

“In most of our human relationships, however, we treat people as objects, as an ‘It’. In an ‘I-It’ relationship, I treat you as a means to an end—as we might use a toothbrush or car to take us somewhere. I talk to people to get something off my chest, not to be with them as separate individuals. I talk about people in authority or in the newspapers as if they were subhuman. I get frustrated when people don’t fit into my plans or see things the way I do.

“The connection between loving well and loving God is inseparable. Take a few moments and consider the people you will encounter today. What might it look like for you to slow down and treat them as a ‘Thou’ rather than an ‘It’?” (pages 124-125).

Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

>God’s Vision for Your Life

>What is the Church? Day 3: Apply Truth

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25 (NIV)

Francis Chan, pastor and author of Crazy Love, says “If you tell your kids to clean their rooms, is it enough for them just to memorize your words?”

Years ago, Howard Hendricks said, “The Bible was not given for our information, but for our transformation.” Just memorizing Bible facts is sort of like watching all of those cooking shows, but never tasting the food.

I used to look into the mirror of God’s Word and feel very defeated. I just didn’t measure up. Then, one day the light turned on: as a believer God’s Word wasn’t to judge me, but to show me God’s vision for my life. The Bible didn’t just poke at what I wasn’t, it pointed to what I could be. After that, when I read verses like Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV), I didn’t walk away thinking about how bad I was. I just turned it into a prayer. “Lord, you know that I am not this kind and compassionate on my own, but this is Your vision of who you want me to be. Please do this work in my life…”

Where have you felt defeated in reading God’s Word? What has been difficult to change? Pray and ask God to bring about this transformation in your life. It probably won’t happen all at once, but He will keep working as you remain open and willing to change.

Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

1 Comment

>Despised and Accepted

>What is the Church? Day 2: Accepting

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13 (NIV)

One of the values that I admire about Brookwood Church is that we accept people as they are. Think about it. How else would we accept them? I suppose we could put them on some sort of probation and accept them for what they might become or accept the parts we like, but not the rest. But, to be part of a place that doesn’t judge and truly loves. Now that’s something. (Cue the “Cheers” theme song in the background).

I find this passage interesting because Jesus met a despised tax collector named Matthew. Now, tax collectors of the day were often ruthless and unfair to the public. Most earned their poor reputation, not to mention a little cash out of the till.

Matthew was a tax collector. The passage doesn’t say that he was kind or fair, so we can assume that he was just like the rest. Matthew needed Jesus just like the sick need a doctor.

We should also note that this Gospel is written by Matthew, the tax collector, who became a disciple and later an apostle. Jesus looked past his tax booth and saw a life to rescue, a soul to save, and a man to empower. As Neil Cole says, “You see great growth in sinful people because there’s so much fertilizer in their lives.”

Think about the people you meet. What does Jesus think of them? Who would Jesus reject? Is there someone in your life who needs to be accepted and encouraged? What can you do to show acceptance today?

Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

1 Comment

>Transformed or Pretending to be?

>What is the Church? Day 1: Authentic

Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. Ephesians 4:22-25 (Msg)

Authenticity takes a great deal of courage. Inauthenticity takes a great deal of energy. The dictionary defines “authentic” as “not false or copied; genuine; real.” The issue with authenticity comes when we don’t fit in, but we pretend that we do.

When I was about 14 years old, I used a word at home that I only used at school. My dad told me about someone who was treating him unfairly. I said, “I’d be _______ at him.” (Insert the past tense of a four letter word for urinating). My sentiment was genuine. The problem was at home I was not the kind of boy that used such a word. But, at school I was. I was caught in the dilemma of being authentic and inauthentic at the same time. At the time, I think I just went to my room and died a thousand deaths.

Often when we read Paul’s words about casting off everything attached to our old way of life, we instantly reference a list of sinful behaviors forbidden by the church. But, that’s only part of it. The “old way of life” for many of us is a Pandora’s box of dysfunctional behaviors. From avoidance and rage to escape and passive-aggressive behavior, most of us are a bit of a mess. We know how to depend on ourselves. We know how to cope temporarily with the situations around us. We don’t know how to put on this new life in Christ very well.

We pour our energies into pretending to be transformed rather than actually being transformed. It’s exhausting.

We’re tempted by things we would never mention. We reject others who remind us of ourselves. We look the part and act the part, but often we’re just dying a thousand deaths inside.

In the movie, The Lion King, young Simba escaped from home bearing the shame of believing he caused his father’s death. After much time had passed Simba encounters wise old Rafiki who confronts Simba and his life of escape. Rafiki declares, “You don’t even know who you are.” This is what Paul declares in this verse: No more lies. No more pretense. No more hiding. You are God’s child. Be God’s child. Don’t just pretend. Lay claim to who you really are.

What about you is inauthentic? In what way might you be pretending to be someone that you are not? What are you dying a thousand deaths over? Right now take a moment and ask God to help you remove this old garment of inauthenticity and put on the new garment of life in Him. This will take more work than just one prayer, but it’s a start.

God made you to be who you are. With His help, you can become the best version of yourself that He intends. You can resemble Christ Himself. God will give you the courage to be authentic. 

Scripture quotations taken from The Message. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

1 Comment

Free Mini-Course on Recruiting Leaders

Join our mailing list to receive Allen's latest thoughts on small groups.

You have Successfully Subscribed!