How many of you, who are parents, have a way to measure the height of your children? It could be a fancy Pottery Barn purchase or a Pinterest-inspired creation. Or, if you don’t have kids, do you remember having something in your room as a child…maybe tick marks in a door frame?
These decorations can be fun and a way to record growth inside the family, but they’re certainly not the most accurate. On the other hand, every time I take my child to the doctor, nurses and techs run him or her through the same exact routine. Then, sometime during the appointment, the doctor will pull up a chart with dots plotted along a line; which accurately tracks the growth of my child.
Why are the doctors and nurses so militant to measure every single child every single time? Because these measurements determine the health of my children. There is a predetermined range and an arc the doctor hopes to see. Then we can know whether or not our child needs something else to help him or her grow!
One question people ask me these days is, “Is your new church growing?”
What does growth and health look like for Multiply Church? As a living organization, how do we know if this new local church is being effective in our mission and making decisions that lead to health?
Many people have ideas about what growth looks like in a local church. Just mentioning the word growth brings a particular metric to your mind. At Multiply Church, however, these classic metrics for measuring growth and health have no place. Therefore, if we do not use the metrics of worship attendance and offering amount (we do not count attendance, nor do we collect an offering), then how will we know if we are in alignment and where we need to be?
The answer is found in the founder.
Where should we go as a local church to determine rather or not we are on point? Here’s a hint: Where do the leaders of the fast food restaurant Wendy’s go when they want to determine if they are on mission or not? Who does the leadership at KFC go to when they want to determine if they are in alignment with the original vision? Wendy’s, of course, goes to Dave. KFC goes to the Colonel. They go to the mission of the founder. So for us as the church, we have to go to our founder and his mission. We go to Jesus.
The words of Jesus recorded by physician-turned-journalist Luke is a great place to start. After thoroughly investigating, Luke writes that Jesus appointed 72 of his disciples and sent them out 2 by 2. Luke also tells us that Jesus had just done the same thing with his 12 apostles earlier in the narrative. Jesus is scaling the operation.
But where does he send them?
“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”
Jesus sends his followers into the harvest. The harvest is people who may have already heard a version of Jesus’s message, but have not yet decided to embrace his Gospel. They have not chosen to believe that he is the son of God and that the Kingdom of God is upon us.
So what does “going in to the harvest” mean for us today? When we picture the harvest, we may envision large fields of crops that have yet to be harvested. This can be a less than helpful and overwhelming picture.
What might be more helpful?
The question we ask in Multiply Church is, “Who are three people close to you, but far from God?” Rather than being overwhelmed by picturing thousands of nameless people in our city or beyond, we can all easily think of three people close to us, but far from God for whom we can be praying regularly.
You live near (or with) them. You work with them. They are the parents of your children’s friends and teammates.
So who are your three? In our post-Christian society, even here in the Bible belt of Charlotte, this is our harvest. It is as simple as making space in your life and inviting those who are skeptical of religion into your existing rhythms:
“Hey, would y’all wanna come over for dinner one night this week?”
“We’re heading to the pool this afternoon. Wanna join us?”
“We’re gonna pick up some pumpkins at the farm this weekend. Y’all interested in coming?”
Imagine the impact we could have if we were to live with the mindset of continually being on mission. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he spoke of the abundant life.
For the Multiply Church growth chart, attendance at The Gathering will never be adequate for reflecting growth. Instead, growth will only come from the harvest. Growth only counts for Multiply Church if it is growth for the Kingdom of God.