The addiction to addition can be one of the greatest factors that limit a church’s expanding influence in the community and world. I’ve been reading from Acts lately, and it’s challenging me to have a greater mindset for multiplication. One of the things I always marvel at when reading the story of the early church is the rapid addition of more and more people to the church. Consider these passages from Acts 2-19:
“And that day 3000 were added to their number … ”
“The Lord added to their number daily … ”
“And believers were increasingly being added to their numbers … ”
“The number of disciples grew greatly in Jerusalem … ”
“They increased in number daily.”
There’s no doubt it’s exciting to be a part of a growing environment. We love it when our small group spills over from the living room into the dining room. It’s thrilling to see the ushers putting out more seats in the auditorium because so many people have arrived for the 11:00 service. We celebrate when our church-wide serve event has 51 percent of attendees showing up and using their gifts. These are all good things and good signs of addition.
But when you look underneath the surface of Luke’s record of the early church, it’s not a book about addition, it’s the story of multiplication. The disciples could’ve easily become addicted to the rapid addition to their numbers in Jerusalem. They could’ve settled in and made plans for bigger buildings, more seats and increased capacity. These are all good things.
But the disciples’ obsession was not with addition; they recognized it was a movement that called for multiplication. The early church leaders began to move the Gospel out, reproduce leaders and start a multiplication movement. Somehow, as tempting as it must’ve been, they avoided the allure of addition.
What are the signs we’ve become addicted to addition?
1. We’re more concerned with expanding seating capacity rather than sending capacity.
2. We’re more concerned with how many people are in groups rather than how many people are leading and multiplying groups.
3. We’re more concerned about how many show up to serve together at one time rather than how many we can empower to serve 24/7.
4. We’re more concerned about how many people are “following me” rather than how many people are “leaving me” to go to lead a movement of their own.
5. We’re concerned only about our community or our sphere of influence rather than the world and the nations.
One of the biggest temptations in a rapidly growing environment is to become addicted to addition. Don’t get me wrong, addition is good. But multiplication is better.