What is Church Multiplication?
That one is easy! It is when a church helps start another church!
To state the obvious: cats give birth to cats, and elephants give birth to elephants. Why, then, is it a surprise that new churches are birthed by existing churches? It has been so since the beginning. The Book of Acts is a long description of how the Spirit gave birth to the Church in Jerusalem; from then on, churches were started by other churches. The story often is recorded as the work of an individual, but Paul’s epistles show how existing churches supported the birthing of new congregations.
This has been the reality of our own history, as well. Most of the congregations in American Protestantism were birthed through the work of existing congregations. That is likely true of the church where you are a member today. With very little effort, you probably could trace your congregation’s genealogy back to the handful of congregations that were birthed in this country because churches in Europe sent missionaries or money. Even in more recent history, churches starting churches has been the common practice.
Unfortunately, the values that gave rise for so many years to that impetus seem to have disappeared from the vision and value of most contemporary mainline Protestant congregations. In the United Church of Christ, for example, the number of churches birthing churches probably numbers in the single digits. Given the decline of the mainline church, almost all of our energy and resources have been diverted to survival, which, ironically, has only hastened our demise.
The result is that the responsibility for starting new congregations has shifted to the denominational and middle-judicatory levels, which have accrued an appalling track record of expensive failure. The verdict is in: Churches give birth to churches. While denominational bureaucracy is completely competent to serve the church in many ways, planting new congregations is apparently not one of them. The result of their efforts in recent years has been expensive plants that rarely have thrived. On the other hand, churches that have been birthed by other churches have a greater chance for survival and a significantly lower startup cost, and become self-sustaining much more quickly.
Why Does this Matter?
If we want to start and grow more progressive churches, we need to be partnering with churches who want to start more churches. Our future literally depends on it.
How Do I Get Involved?
Start by downloading our FREE CHURCHES BIRTHING CHURCHES MANUAL from our Resource Center. The purpose of this manual is to provide some resources for what has become a forgotten ministry of the Church. Every situation is unique, so this cannot be a “how to” manual. Its best purpose is to stimulate your thinking about how these principles apply in your setting. It is our prayer that the Spirit will blow through our church with such power that we all will be a part of a new Pentecost of church birthing.