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Characteristics of a Multiplying Church (part 1)

I was a part of the team that came up with a list of 10 characteristics of a Level 5 multiplying church. Exponential has used that list in several books, including a book that Jeff Christopherson and I wrote called New to Five: Starting a Level Five Multiplying Church. The list is a living document and still a work in progress. In conversations with Todd Wilson, co-founder of Exponential, we talked through how these ten characteristics look on the ground. As Todd and I talked we agreed that if we could reorganize the outcome of that meeting we would publish the list differently today.


Here are my takeaways from that conversation.

Think of them as what we call the “1-7-10 characteristics of a Level 5 multiplying church.”

We begin with the one primary objective for the church and move to seven non-negotiable pillars. These are fundamental to our understanding of our master and his commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Without these we have no real basis for partnership in the gospel. After that we consider ten negotiable priorities for any ministry—these you must decide for yourself. As priorities, not pillars, they give wiggle room for you to cling to your convictions while maintaining relationships with others who view them differently.


One Disciplemaking Objective

The single overriding objective of the church is to make disciples who make disciples while planting churches that plant churches.

This is the direct result of the Great Commission as we read of it in Acts. Every pastor and church should be able to measure this to the fourth generation (2 Timothy 2:2). Scripture states that every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. The goal is for that to happen on our watch. This explains the admonition to multiply disciples from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (having lived in Hawaii, I get “the ends of the earth”).

Seven Non-negotiable Core Pillars

While the following pillars are non-negotiable and necessary for achieving level-five disciplemaking, at the beginning, middle, and end of all these is prayer. We wrestled with an eighth pillar, “the priority of prayer”, but then we realized prayer permeates throughout the whole process. That’s why we mention it here at the beginning—to set the tone for the following seven core pillars.


1. Our Distinctive: Jesus is Lord

2. Our Mission: Disciplemaking

3. Our Power: The Holy Spirit

4. Our Guide: The Scriptures

5. Our Platform: The Church

6. Our Call: Mobilizing everyday missionaries into every corner of society.

7. Our Accelerator: Multiplication


Addition growth is real growth. We would be in much worse shape if it weren’t for the large, path-finding churches of the past three decades. However, addition growth falls short of the goal to make disciples of all people—for mundane logistical reasons. Some of our best brains bang against logistical ceilings brought on by insistent addition strategies. Worse, many of our recognized leaders are facing retirement and an ultimate graduation to heaven. Because addition is a tough row to hoe, their successors will find it difficult to fill their shoes let alone produce more addition growth.


On the other hand, multiplication is rather simple. You teach someone to do what you do then release them to get the job done as the Spirit leads. The result is accelerated evangelism. If new churches evangelize faster than established congregations, we should make more new churches at a faster rate. The math is simple, changing the operating system is not. But change it we must if we intend to leverage disciplemaking to dominate our culture through the love of Jesus.


Ten Negotiable Core Priorities

There are ten priority decisions you'll need to make if you plan to multiply churches. Your decisions will differ from mine and from those of the guy down the street. We'll look at them in detail in Part 2 next time. Thanks for listening to the podcast. Please remember to subscribe if you haven't already.

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