If you’re planting a church or have planted a church, you may sometimes feel like you’re done—you’ve made your contribution to the Great Commission. But is there something more? Is the nature of the Great Commission addition, or is it multiplication? In Matthew 28, the Savior of the world calls his disciples to multiply the church—to see his world redeemed. He has called us to make disciples who make disciples and multiply churches that multiply. New churches will be the way we advance his kingdom.
Right now, less than 4 percent of churches in the United States ever reproduce. That means more than 96 percent of all churches never reproduce. As leaders, it’s up to us to move the multiplication needle. Below are 10 key characteristics that a working team of national leaders from multiplying churches identified—values embedded in the culture of Level 5 multiplying churches. Read through each of the following characteristics carefully and then work through each one with your team.
Here are 10 characteristics of a level 5 culture.
1. Jesus Is Lord
In Level 5 churches, only Jesus gives us the motive and reason for doing all that we do. Our vision, mission, values and strategy all find their authority and context in Jesus. Level 5 churches create cultures where surrender to Jesus’ lordship is central and vital to everything else.
2. Culture/Community of Biblical Disciple-Making
Disciple-making is key to Level 5 multiplication. In fact, a Level 5 multiplying church is a disciple-making “engine,” fueled by the belief and reality that everyone is a biblical disciple-maker who reproduces disciples—missionaries mobilized on calling. In a Level 5 church, the end goal is reproducing disciples in community (not isolation), integrating evangelism and discipleship. As we disciple individuals, God wholeheartedly activates their impulse to “go” (whether that’s planting a church, being part of a new church plant, leading in a missional community, engaging people in their neighborhood or workplace, or becoming a global missionary). A Level 5 church pursues a disciple-making culture that says, “You can do it; we can help.”
3. New Metrics/Scorecard
Level 5 churches understand that what you measure improves and what you celebrate gets repeated, so they are careful about what they measure and celebrate. Priorities change, and leaders (and the church) begin to view success in a new light. For example, instead of simply asking, “How many people attended church this weekend,” a Level 5 church prioritizes, “How many disciples are we making and releasing?”
4. Empowering Systems
A bias to “yes”: Level 5 churches have a permission-giving culture, allowing disciples to plant, grow and reproduce disciples and new churches in incarnational forms that may not look like the prevailing church form.
A sending impulse: In Level 5 churches, people don’t ask, “Am I called to ministry?” They inherently know they are called to ministry. The only real question is, “What ministry has God called me to?”
Easily accessible: Level 5 churches believe that everyone gets to play. They grasp that multiplication relies on simple, reproducible strategies that can be easily duplicated and adapted.
A minimal ecclesiology: Level 5 churches wrestle with the question, “What is church for us?” However, that tension doesn’t mean they water down Scripture in any way.
Messy/insecure/risky: A Level 5 multiplying church and their leaders realize that creating a culture of multiplication is a messy, often insecure and high-risk pursuit. Level 5 churches have a “theology of experimentation,” including failure, that says, “God is at work in the midst of this mess.”
5. Adaptive Systems
In an adaptive system, church leaders lead with missio dei in mind. God’s mission drives the leadership, which seeks to empower and equip everyone in the church to engage in the common mission. The question is not, “Does the church have a mission?” but instead, “Does the mission have a church?”
Liberated financial systems: Level 5 multiplication happens when a church’s financial systems allow the church to make the mission of God (multiplying disciples) their No. 1 priority instead of keeping the church financially viable—freeing the church to experiment with new and unconventional ways of doing things (such as bivocational leadership and church-operated 501(c)(3) businesses) to accomplish the mission.
6. Apostolic Atmosphere
Level 5 churches embrace the spectrum of APEST (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers—see Ephesians 4) and recognize that an apostolic atmosphere focused on sending and releasing is crucial to the expansion of the faith and the church—through valuing, experimenting with and establishing new incarnational expressions and models.
7. Level 5 Leadership
A Level 5 church has humble, tenacious leaders who are continuous learners and biased toward “yes.” Humility allows these leaders to champion new incarnational expressions even when the idea or initiative isn’t their own.
Level 5 churches take responsibility for the gospel saturation of a city or geography. Focusing on kingdom multiplication forces them to think outside the framework of their own church to find ways to partner with other churches, denominations, networks, parachurch ministries, businesses, social organizations, schools, etc. A Level 5 multiplying church devotes less energy and fewer resources to building their kingdom (their church) and spends more energy and resources on seeing Jesus build God’s kingdom.
9. Relational Affiliation to a Tribe, Family or Network
Leaders of Level 5 multiplying churches and networks understand the importance of community and belonging. The relational connections in Level 5 movements will come as much (or more) from a sense of “tribe” and “family” as they will from shared resources.
10. Everyone Is a Missionary
Level 5 churches know how to help people understand their primary calling while proactively developing systems and processes to help individuals find their unique, personal calling. In Level 5 churches, believers understand who they are called to be, what they are called to do and where they are called to go.
If there is to be a movement of God in the West, he will do it—one way or the other—with the multiplication of everyday Christ-followers.
The new eBook Dream Big, Plan Smart includes a comprehensive look at each of these 10 characteristics. Download it at Exponential.org/resource-ebooks.
To know where you’re going, you must know where you are. To learn your current level of multiplication, take the free, online church multiplication assessment at BecomingFive.org. You’ll get immediate results that identify your multiplication score.
Lindy Lowry is editor for Exponential and a freelance editor working to elevate church planting and tell the stories of the church and its leaders.