Three Reasons to Expect Better Church Multiplication

The next couple of decades will bring a tsunami of change to the American church. They will ensure the success of church multipliers while leaving others maintaining tightening budgets and shrinking memberships.   Note: This post is adapted from the FREE ebook, Mega/Multi/Multiply

As baby boomers pass from the scene, finances will tighten making it more difficult for churches to own large campuses or manage expensive programs. A left-leaning political climate will pass laws rendering it more difficult for us to do business as usual. We’ve already seen local zoning laws impede the development of properties, future changes in tax laws and the codification of “politically correct” speech will affect the way we present our message. In short, change is upon us whether we prepare for it or not. Prepare we must! The good news is that the Jesus-driven church is up to the task.

We can change in three important ways that will ensure that we remain salt in the earth.

1. A Lower Profile

The church of the future will adopt a lower profile in two ways.

First, the cost of church as we’ve known it will require a less expensive and more relational approach to meetings. Consumer- oriented Christianity will become more difficult. This is actually a good thing as it appeals to Millennials and “Generation Z” which is already in its teen years. Church planting among Millennials requires more face-to-face contact than it did for Boomers.

The second reason for a lower profile is the antipathy of the larger culture toward Christ-followers. We will be forced to make disciples outside the church as an invitation to attend services is met with rising hostility. Such attitudes will demand that we build friendships before sharing faith or inviting someone to attend a church meeting. Our world will look more like that experienced by first-century Christ followers or believers in nations where Christianity has long been a minority faith. Any longing for a sense of Christendom will be only a false hope.

2. Boutique vs Franchise

We’ll move from a franchise model to planting boutique churches reaching into the various strata of our culture. Think of denominations and networks as branded franchises. They are effective in maintaining order and uniformity of expectation. But they lack the freedom to adapt to different cultures.

Most of my immediate neighbors are second generation immigrants from Asia or the Middle East. A church for them would be a cultural step away from our middle-class network models. Asking them to join us works for the assimilated few, but who will reach their cousins? A boutique church tailored toward their root culture can do the job. Leaders resolving to redirect toward church multiplication will need to think about the difference between a network and a movement. This is a difference between a well-oiled franchise and a messy movement of unique boutique churches.

3. Immediate Sustainability

Call me a pipe dreamer (because only pipe dreams open new territory). If churches could reposition themselves as entry platforms for church multiplication the possibilities are endless. Current church planting models (other than my own) call for $300-500K per church, often resulting in a congregation of fewer than 100 people. Meanwhile, vast potential awaits at the intersection of A. Single-salary, B. Freelance pastors and C. Microchurch movements (for microchurch, think house church that might meet outside of a house). Microchurches are immediately sustainable. The combination of a locally discipled pastor, no rent, and a salary from outside the church combine for sustainability. They also cost the parent church very little.

Microchurches eliminate the three primary drivers behind our current “high cost per baptism”: formal theological education; buildings; and staff salaries. Take these out of the equation, and church multiplication is a no-brainer. All that’s necessary is leadership with a full understanding of the New Testament to set off a disciple-making chain that results in every church member becoming a potential church planter. Most will never plant a church, but this paradigm lifts every member of Christ’s body to a higher level of productivity.

The future looks different than the church we know today, but it is very bright if we adapt to it. We’re approaching an era where we will naturally function much like the church at its glorious inception and less like it did when church and state dominated the West. Our future will be a roller coaster, and those are fun!



3 thoughts on “Three Reasons to Expect Better Church Multiplication”

  1. hi ralph

    We have reached 33 minstrants (altar kids) We have actually 24 family who have claim to these kids.

    If we multiple the numbers, none of these catholics are planning to leave the church. I am not planning to take anywhere except to find “substance”. Back to the numbers, we are actually a church of over 100 people easy, but the catch is very few families attend mass. Out of the mouth of babes comes the truth, the priest is boring. This is not the child talking.

    My wife and I had a major blow out. The fight was iniitalized by a missing PA system that walked out of the sacristy. This is another problem when too many people have keys. The real problem for Petra and I is choosing our battles wisely. I am looking at 40 kids and we are maxed out if we don’t come up with a plan of how to start to develop Christ in the picture. My priest has his own set of problems and has back tracked into the sacraments as a possible answer. He pretty much as destroyed the other congregation. They actually were a very good congregation that grew out of the 80’s with their church. Their church looks like calvary chapel costa mesa. It began with a bread service. The have been doing a “bread service” with the children’s mass since the 80’s, 1983 to be exact. They even have the day it started. They were not the first. This all started when the bishop told them to stop. Another priest who I know I know in another town is not going to do anything about it. They too do a children’s service with a loaf of bread. He will not be seeing a bishop for another 20 years at the earliest.

    I will be meeting for dinner with 3 families. They realized something. They grew. I said let’s do a thankgiving dinner. I will cook a turkey. I will not do it at my house. Forget it. So, one father said let’s do it at mine. We had a big picnic at another families house in the house and outside in garden. Big mansion place. The kids loved it.

    So a few days go by and I run into this father.

    He asks me . . . . “Who do I invite?”

    AHA! I said “Invite who you want”.

    It bothered him because he is a new member on the board and knows if somethings don’t change, the church will die. With a two other families, they decide them 3 and us would get together for a dinner. I have backed out on the turkey and am making a large ham and buying “hot wings” KFC. The kids like KFC. I dont have to look at an extra large turkey.

    I am looking for prayer. I will be discussing the situation. The priest is more of problem than help. Petra and I have decided not to ask. We shall do, but we need focus and purpose. We need to see these other people buy into the goals. The goals are not quite worked out. this same guy told me when I had a bible study, he has no plans to leave the catholic church. I don’t have church.

    I have one idea which is easy to do. We had a small bible study for about a year at a small restaurant run by two women, lesbians. They took over a different restaurant near the other church. They have one of these small german type bowling alleys. I use it for the altar kids once a year. It is large enough meaning there is 4 lane or 6 lanes where we all can kind of eat and meet and break a small portion of the word and begin to work one what is community, who is jesus and how do we begin to grow in substance. (I am thinking a double sided sword with faith and christ. We need to move away from the german world glauben which means faith and belief.

    This is where i am at. At the same time, the diocese is looking for a person to take charge of the youth programs at Donauworth. This sounds like a cool job. We have put 4 years into these community and have developed a lot. My biggest fear is that these priest kills it. Some are starting to wonder if he has psychological problems, some sort inner problem. He is a nice guy, but not a shepherd.

    I think we have gotten to a point where we may be a church in a church. I am not quite sure. I do know that these people really love us. The kids love us. We have gained a lot of trust. Some kids who were pretty messed up (just weird kids) have developed a new set of self confidence. I think there is much to be said where children are placed in front of the church to serve in a mass. Some of them, very young, did the mass alone on the large altar. This is a lot of movement.

    I talked also to one priest who I did a funeral with. He was the priest of the church where the new priest took over. He left a very intact community for this priest. I told what I don’t believe. He told me; he does not believe a lot of stuff in the catholic either, but God has me in a good place. He told me that what is important is love and freedom. Freedom without love is empty. There is no God. Love without freedom is not freedom. God is love. A quick lesson in 1st John. Think about it.

    The whole ministry that we have is very hands on. Person to person and very slow. We are possible pushing it up a notch. We have been invited by the teachers at the school in the catholic religion classes to come and speak with the kids and share the possibility of serving at the altar.

    Adapting is not easy. The road is not very clear. The work is slow. The relations seem to be pointing in the direction of lasting. We are not that far in the game. I really would like a new playing field. Sometimes, I get tired of playing the “priest’s dummy” and like I really care if it red, white, violet or green.

    I think we are being forced into a scenario. Even the catholic church has shifted its gears in terms of evangelizing. At least some places . . . The focus is like “sure christ”, but more catholic belief and church. The problem is quite simple. Most catholics really don’t know what it means to be a catholic. It is easier to define what it means to be a christian.

    Here is where I am at. The work seems messy. I have been told not to talk about the bible. Share love like you are doing. I thinking . . . where is the substance.


  2. Jonathan Kobayashi

    Amen! Thank you, Ralph!
    Being a post on October 31, Reformation Day, is prophetic. Perhaps, this is our version of the Ninety-Five Theses (95 vs. 3 to reflect our Twitter era) ushering in the New Reformation.
    May the new generation of churches multiply and fill this land!

  3. You have provided the most accurate assessment I’ve seen by anyone of exactly where the Church is heading …great job Ralph! This is going to occur with or without leader support…there’s no stopping it!
    I expected this to happened over decade ago

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