The Ralph Moore Podcast


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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Small Place Church Planting Opportunities

Season 2, Ep. 5020
Small Place Church Planting Opportunities Church planting in small places is a new concept for me. I’ve done it for years, but somehow missed the grand opportunity and huge need that it represents.Think of urban neighborhoods and towns of fewer than 15,000 people as small places. Add the 5 million, or so, people who live an entirely rural lifestyle and the numbers are huge. Thankfully, there is a renewed focus on urban areas in the U.S. Lets talk about the 60 to 90 million people living in small towns and rural areas. The numbers vary depending on who is measuring. It’s 60 million if you look at towns smaller than 15,000 and 90 million if you think a community becomes large if it boasts more than 25,000 people. This represents a wonderful opportunity for the gospel. Everyone knows that the United States is currently the third largest mission field in the world. North America is the only continent where the church is shrinking while it grows everywhere else. Not everyone knows that 90 million people would represent the 13th largest country in the world if they were their own nation, or that these people are seriously underserved by the church. We need to think missionally toward rural and small-town America. They constitute nearly 25 percent of our entire population.Rural/Small-Town America is Growing And the opportunities are growing. Rural America lost population in the 1980s, only to reverse the process beginning in the 1990s and continuing to the present. Millions of people flee mostly the suburban commuter lifestyle to live in smaller places each year. This is different from the nasty “white flight” of a generation ago. People of all socio-economic backgrounds now make the trek. They bring with them their high-tech industrial parks, brew pubs and upscale coffee shops. What’s lacking are new churches to go with the migration. And its not just the new arrivals who need new churches. Churches across America are closing their doors. Older churches are dying faster than newer ones and the mainline denominations shrink the fastest. The unique combination of older mainline congregations that were once foundational to small communities is going away and going that way faster than churches in the suburbs. We need to replace the dying churches by planting new congregations. But replacement alone won’t touch the opportunity or the need. The 13th largest mission field in the world awaits us. The same logic holds for most urban neighborhoods.This is SignificantIn the 1970s more than 90 percent of Americans called themselves Christian of one stripe or another. Today, according to Pew Research, that number has fallen to just 71 percent. In the early 70s, 53 percent said they attend church at least once each month. In the early 2010s that number has fallen to 43 percent. Of those who say they attend on a regular basis, the 1970s tally was 38 percent. Today it has fallen to 28 percent. We are losing ground.When you consider that these numbers are magnified in smaller communities you realize there is a massive mission field that is white unto harvest and awaiting our attention.Seeing the Culture Through A Different LensI spent most of my years pastoring suburban churches. The last congregation was on the edge of an urban area of Honolulu. Things were different there. We had to plant “homegroups” in food courts and coffee shops because of unavailable parking near urban apartments. I came to realize that I unintentionally saw the world through an “us-them” paradigm. We in the suburbs got things right while urban dwellers didn’t quite get it. I simply didn’t understand the differences in needs and opportunities. Now I understand that the same is true of my understanding of rural/small-town America. This has been a good wakeup for me. Question: “Are you thinking about ‘us’ or thinking about getting the gospel to ‘them?’” Do you think “Come to my church?” or “How can we get the gospel into every corner of our land?”A Question for YouI recently discovered something which Jesus said that I had overlooked, “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (Mark 1:38, NIV). In referencing villages, he said, “That is why I have come.” I get it that he’s not only interested in the villages, but I have not been interested in them at all. Question: “Do you believe small towns are central to God’s plan for the church?”