One of the first things God said to human beings was, “Now be fruitful and multiply…”
--Genesis 9:7 (NLT)
We were made to multiply.
Woody Allen said, “Some guy hit my fender, and I told him, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' but not in those words.”
Multiplication is our calling, it is part of who we are.
In the parable of the talents Jesus spoke of the importance of multiplication:
"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'” --Matthew 25:19-23
Notice that the “Well done!” comes after multiplication
We see it in the parable of the sower:
“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."—Mark 4:8
Notice that the goal is multiplication.
We hear it in the Great Commission as well:
“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”--John 17:18
“Perhaps the ultimate test is not what you are able to do in the here and now – but instead what continues to grow long after you’ve gone.” - Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strength Based Leadership (Gallup Press, 2009)
If we’re not multiplying, we’re not doing it right. If we are not reproducing our lives, our groups, our churches and even our movement, then we’re not following Jesus’ orders.
We were made to multiply. But that raises a question, how can we make multiplication happen?
Three Raider fans are at the doctor for some tests. The doctor asks the first man, 'What is three times three?' '274,' was his reply. The doctor says to the second man, 'It's your turn. What is three times three?’ 'Tuesday', replies the second man. The doctor says to the third man, 'Okay, your turn. What's three times three?’ 'Nine', says the third man. 'That's great!' says the doctor.
'How did you get that?’ 'Simple,' says the third Raider fan, 'I subtracted 274 from Tuesday.'
Some of us are that clueless about multiplication, but Jesus gives us some tips on how to multiply from his message in John 15:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”--John 15:1-8
Let’s look at six ways to multiply.
Jesus simply expected multiplication.
"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”--John 15:8 (NASV)
“Jesus expected his followers to reproduce.”--Robert E. Coleman, “The Master Plan of Evangelism”
Jesus expected reproduction. We either reproduce or we’re thrown into the fire and burned. Reproduction is the proof that we really are followers.
There’s an old proverb that says, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Many folks live by that. But it isn’t a Biblical concept:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”—John 14:12
Jesus lived with the philosophy that if you want something done you need to multiply yourself by pouring your life into others.
Do we expect to reproduce?
Many, if not most believers see multiplication as “extra credit”--but it is part of the main course. Jesus expects it, do we?
In a comic strip, a young man says to a preacher, “Being a minister is really hard. I mean, living for others, leading an exemplary life. That’s a lot of responsibility. The pressures must be tremendous! Having to set an example…people watching, waiting for one false move, one sign of human frailty they can jump on. I don’t know how you handle it.”
The preacher sheepishly replied, “I stay home a lot.”
If we remain with Jesus we will start to imitate him.
“Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”--1 Corinthians 4:16
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”--Hebrews 13:17
People are watching you and me, and they are doing what we do.
I recently heard another pastor give one of my talks--it was almost word for word. I didn’t know he was going to do it, we didn’t talk about it, so I was surprised as I listened to someone do one of my talks in my presence. He actually did a better job delivering it than I do. It was strange though, I was thinking that I need to be careful because people are watching and listening. And I remember thinking I need to get some better talks!
Jim Dornan wrote, “If your life in any way connects with other people, you are an influencer. Everything you do at home, at church, in your job, or on the ball field has an impact on the lives of other people.”
Bill Westafer added, “There are people whose feelings and well-being are within my influence. I will never escape that fact.”
People are watching you, they are watching me.
An overnight guest was having breakfast with President Calvin Coolidge one morning, and the guest wanted to make a good impression. He noticed that when Coolidge was served his coffee, he took the coffee cup, poured some on to the saucer, and added some cream and sugar to it. Not wanting to break any rules of etiquette, the visitor followed the commander-in-chief’s lead and poured some of his coffee on to his saucer, then added some cream and sugar. Then he waited for the president’s next move. He was embarrassed to see the president place the saucer on the floor for the cat.
Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others…it is the only thing.”
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him.”—Mark 3:13-14
Napoleon Hill spent his entire adult life studying successful people and he observed, “You must get involved to have an impact. No one is impressed with the won-lost record of the referee.”
Perhaps we stop at the example stage and never get involved--we will probably never reproduce then. They say, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” But without some kind of familiarity we will never breed anyt5hing. We’ve got to get close to multiply. We’ve got to get close to people to bring them to Jesus and get close to leaders to pass the baton on to them, and get close to church planting if we expect our churches to reproduce.
Rita Coolidge admitted, “Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain, push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it's too late.”
We all have some incredible opportunities for multiplication around us, let’s engage those opportunities.
Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”—John 20:21
"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."
~ Theodore Roosevelt
“Success without a successor is failure.”—Hans Finzel, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make.”
“If a company CEO does not provide and prepare a successor to take the reins of leadership of his corporation, he is ensuring the eventual demise of his organization. The same can be said of those of us who are called to be parents. Sooner or later, we are going to die. Has that thought really sunk into your consciousness? You are going to die. And one measurement of your success in life will be the degree to which you have imparted to your children the skills necessary to succeed in this life as well as the next one.”—Robert Jeffress
“The greatest leader is willing to train people and develop them to the point that they eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability.”—Fred Manske
Bob Briner says, “Almost from the first day he was with them, Jesus told his followers that he would be with them only a short time. From time to time they argued with Him about the limited tenure he described, but He continued to reiterate that His time with them would be very limited…Both through His actions and His teachings, Jesus demonstrated that He expected His followers to be fruitful and productive. He was unequivocating on this.”
Empowering people is key. The problem with empowerment is simple though: It doesn’t work! Let’s face it, it didn’t work for Jesus--all of his disciples abandoned him, one betrayed him for money, the leader of the pack denied him publicly three times.
We don’t empower people because it doesn’t work. We tried it once or twice and it backfired. So we go back to the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” mentality.
But we’ve missed it.
Empowering people doesn’t work every time, it doesn’t work at first, and it doesn’t work without the Holy Spirit. But it does work. Jesus’ multiplication “failures” ended up turning the world upside down.
The keys to empowerment are prayer and perseverance.
“It sounds almost like an impossible task, but God never asks us to do anything he doesn't empower us to do.”--Jennifer O'Neill
One the Holy Spirit got involved these men changed the world.
I was asked recently how we do multiplication in our church. My immediate response was, “We push and push and push and have our share of messes and disasters and disappointments…” Then out of the corner of my eye I saw Jack Igel. Jack and his wife, Maria came to our church at the beginning stages of their spiritual journey. They clarified their commitment to Christ, they started to grow, took on ministry opportunities, led small groups, came on staff and now are pasturing in Wisconsin. It hit me, so I continued, “We push and push and push and have our share of messes and disasters…and every once in while we see a Jack Igel emerge--someone who produces a crop, thirty, sixty, a hundred fold…”
Keep at it, keep pushing, keep trying. Empowering leads to multiplying.
We multiply through our giving. We get connected to the vine. He pours into us, and we pour into others, and reproduction happens.
“God …will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving“—the needs of the believers will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.”--2 Corinthians 9:10-14 (NLT)
I like how Margaret Cho puts it: “Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways, it can change someone else's life forever.”
We can get involved in reproduction today by giving to a reproducing church or a reproducing organization like GHC.
I am so thankful for those of you who give faithfully--you are being fruitful and multiplying!
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit…”--John 15:4-5
When we give our lives to Jesus, when we give our leadership to Jesus, when we give our groups and our churches to Jesus, he promises that our labor is not in vain. He promises that if we trust him we will not end up as some “dead-end link on the chain of Christianity.” He promises that we ill “bear much fruit.” And that’s what we were made to do.