Friday, August 8, 2008

Exponential Growth or Follow the Leader?


Here's why.

Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Genesis 15:4,5

When God spoke to Abraham and described the number of his offspring in future generations, I’m sure Abraham did not envision the idea of exponential growth. But 1 person duplicating him or herself through two others is astounding: like the stars of the sky.

No man made system can maintain this growth and yet week after week within local church settings, exponential growth is purposely stopped. Church size is often equated with success: 200, 400, 800, 2,000. “Wow, the pastor that influences 2,000 people each week must be really something!”

In ALL cases, the power to influence many, pales when compared to the power to influence 2.
There is always a bottleneck within group dynamics of those who are in hierarchical leadership. A church of 50 might have 4 elders. A church of 200 will still likely have 4 elders. There seems to be a natural limiting of maturity as groups grow in size. Pastors often struggle with mobilizing groups and will usually acknowledge that 20% of the people due 80% of the work, giving, growing…

The Pareto principle highlights this (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In other words the forming of groups invariably leads to the 20/80 rule and the potential for exponential growth is destroyed.

So what is exponential growth? Abraham’s 2 sons mulitiplying like the stars of the sky, Jesus sending his disciples out in groups of two, Paul’s missionary journeys where he understood the power of influencing a few.

You can hear Paul’s frustration when writing to the saints in Corinth when they gave up the principle of everyone becoming a discipler and thus devolving to "let’s play follow the leader".

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas[a]"; still another, "I follow Christ."
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? …For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Church groups invariably align themselves with a personality and/or a doctrine. The common complaint is lack of discipleship. I would make the point that groups inevitably destroy exponential discipleship for the sake of belonging to a group.

What is the potential of exponential discipleship?
(1 influencing 2 who influence 2 every 6 months.)


What do these numbers mean? If one person discipled two others for six months and they in turn did the same for the next 6 months, in 5 years 2,000 people would have been discipled. How many people did the first person disciple? Astoundingly the answer is 2.

No building program that I am aware could keep up with that kind of growth.

Let’s carry on for another 5 years.

Over 2 million people in 10 years with each person only discipling two people each. Sounds absurd by anything we understand today.

And yet the idea of discipling 2 people for six months who disciple 2 people for six months seems almost too easy.

What stops this from happening? Leaders deciding to form groups instead of making disciples.

The great commission was not a command to go into all the world and form groups. It is a command for each one of us to make disciples. Maybe we should relax, make 2 friends and change our world as disciples of Jesus.

1 comment:

Jamie A. Grant said...

Ooh, nice post. Your first line says it all - you can't have both!

The problem is that we are taught that we MUST have a leader to follow, otherwise we're doing something wrong. If we're not part of a church then we're screwed up in some way. *sigh* So many things to un-teach myself...