by Hans Tanner, published in the May edition of the Lutheran Ambassador
Addition or multiplication. Which is better? You would likely say that depends on what we're adding or multiplying. I'm sure you wouldn't want problems to multiply in your life. But what if we were talking about the kingdom of God? Or the people who make up Christ's Church? Addition is good. But wouldn't we all agree that multiplication is better? Are not we who are a part of God's church interested in seeing it grow in the fastest way possible?
In its first 50 years of existence, the AFLC has grown to include about 275 local congregations dispersed across the breadth of the United States (with an estimated membership around 40-50,000). Let's say the AFLC had an incredible year of growth in 2012 and that each congregation added 50 members by year's end, and five new congregations were started. That kind of amazing growth would result in about 14,000 new members being added to the AFLC in one year. I'm sure that kind of growth would be readily accepted by just about everyone in the AFLC. Undeniably, this kind of growth would be good. But would it be best?
My hope-my radical hope-is that the people of the AFLC would wholeheartedly pursue discipleship that multiplies and simple church in the next 50 years and beyond.
Discipleship at its core and in its simplest meaning is "to follow". Discipleship in relation to the kingdom of God is one person intentionally following another as they both follow Christ. It is modeling a God-honoring life. It is pouring one's life into another Christ-follower (not meeting for coffee for an hour once a week).
Church at its core and in its simplest form is a gathering or group of believers. It doesn't require a salary-paid pastor, a worship team, or a decked-out youth group room.
If the AFLC maintained the same incredible rate of growth I mentioned earlier, it would grow by about 70,000 members in five years. But if just one man reproduced himself (discipleship) in the lives of five other men-with each new disciple also reproducing himself by a factor of five in the span of six months (this must be stressed)-the church would grow by almost 10 million disciples in just five years. No denomination in the world is set up for this kind of movement. Church buildings cannot and should not be built to try and keep up with the growth. This kind of mighty movement of God requires a return to the model we see in the Book of Acts. People would need to meet in homes. When the group gets too big to fit in the home, someone would voluteer to start another church in his or her own home.
Simple church and discipleship. In the next 50 years, will we keep doing what is good? Or will we radically pursue what is best?