So how does Jesus-centered multiplication work? It works a lot like what we just read in Matt’s story: his mom, Ronnie Hazzard, Jerry Hendricks, and Jeff Faircloth talking to him or showing him the gospel, answering his questions about Jesus, pouring into him out of their lives, walking in patience with him, putting up with his ignorance and arrogance. In God’s grace, these four influencers were used powerfully by God to multiply the faith into Matt’s life, just as each of them had earlier been drawn to Christ themselves through individuals who lived a biblical faith in front of them, proclaimed the excellencies of Jesus where they could hear them, and led them in the direction of the gospel. The “old” passed away, and the “new” came into being (2 Cor. 5:17 ESV). And only the greatest epic, the story to which all stories point, has the power to bring transformation.
But as we move from an individual made new in verse 17, we look directly ahead to the next line: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18 ESV). If we follow how gospel-centered multiplication works, we see men and women who have been influenced by others toward faith in Jesus Christ, who have been captured by the gospel, and who have been maturing in their faith through the influence that others have played and are still playing in their lives. Not only have they been reconciled to God, they have also been saved into the covenant community. What next? Now their influence starts to multiply—into others’ lives—as they work from within that community to lead others to faith and maturity in the gospel.
Adding. Multiplying. Exponentially growing.
All the time.
And we all get to be a part of it.
This takes us back to the beginning of the chapter and our assertion for why we’re so restless and prone to boredom. We sit here in our modern-day world, demanding that the activities of the moment satisfy us and give us meaning. We order them to meet the yawning lack of significance and purpose that aches in our hearts whenever we turn off our public faces and realize we’re getting older without necessarily getting richer, fuller, deeper, better. Whatever we hope to accomplish, achieve, and be known for is bound by the constraints of what remains of our human lifetime. And as the time slips steadily and quickly by, the pulse to find more in each experience intensifies.
But what if our people realized—more each Sunday, more each month, more each year—that their lives are as connected with God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 as they are to the business of the day? That God’s plan of redeeming and reconciling people from all nations and people groups is as alive and electric today as it was at the dawn of civilization and, indeed, in eternity past? That the work of the apostles and leaders of the early church is as attached to our own work in God’s kingdom as their work was attached to God’s promises to His peopleIsrael? Today is an opportunity to engage in a centuries-old epic, to splash into an ocean of God’s sovereignty, and send out ripples that will continually mount in reach and intensity, stretching eternally in all directions.
This … is huge.
Rodney Stark, an expert in the rise of Christianity, estimates that by the year AD 350, an estimated 52.9 percent of the Roman Empire worshipped Jesus as Lord. That’s some serious multiplication. Think of it: the reason we are a worshipping, serving, community of faith today is because men and women before us took seriously what they had been given—“the ministry of reconciliation”—and dove headfirst into it by multiplying the work of Christ in them. They were caught up in the great romance, the epic drama.
And now it’s our turn. Regardless of where we, or the people we serve, are in spiritual maturity, we are instruments in the hand of God to see all things reconciled to God through Christ.
Whether someone in your church is a young, urban professional, an empty nester, a parent to a young family, or a student, each of them have been uniquely designed and placed here by God for the ministry of reconciliation, multiplying the grace and mercy that has changed them. They are agents of reconciliation.
That’s the great, gospel drama you must continually invite them to live. They don’t have to watch Saving Private Ryan over and over again anymore. They don’t have to fantasize about what it would be like to wage some epic battle or to fight for some deep love. They don’t have to just imagine what it would be like to be part of something huge and pivotal in history. They’re already in it! They just need to “go outside and play.”
Over the years, we have run into people who think the city in which they live is lame, their job is lame, their church is lame, their neighborhood is lame. Everything … lame. How different would they feel if they knew that God had called, equipped, and set them free to be part of His mission of reconciliation in their own workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, and churches—the very things with which they’re so very discontent?
Evangelism and More
This mission of multiplication plays out in more diverse ways than simply evangelism. It’s never less than evangelism, but it can certainly be more. Think of how the apostle Paul painted the gospel in Colossians 1:15–20 (ESV):
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
As glorious as the redemption of any one person to Christ is, the majesty of what the gospel accomplishes on a grand, cultural, cosmic scale only adds to its ability to inspire and amaze. So when God calls us to the job description of being “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20 ESV), He means much more than just repeating a one-time gospel message to those still outside the community of faith.
As church leaders, yes, we must continually encourage people to be bold in sharing their faith. We must not suggest that the potential awkwardness and discomfort involved in challenging people to consider the claims of Christ somehow exempts the squeamish from going there anyway. But at the same time, we must diligently and consistently cast the gospel in larger terms than only evangelism. The gospel consumes the Christian life itself, affecting how our corporate lives play out among the communities where God has placed us, providing us with multiplication potential at every turn.
If someone is a regenerated, Jesus-centered worshipper of God, this change of heart should create a certain ethic in his business style and practices. It should inspire excellence and integrity in his schoolwork. It should infuse a noticeable joy and genuineness in the way he interacts with those around him. It should make him gracious and kind toward waiters and waitresses and store cashiers. In whatever domain God has place ma believer, a gospel-centered believer is a faithful presence, an all-the-time witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ—an ambassador of Jesus Christ.
But as Jesus-centered people, this call to all-around Christian living is not motivated by the desire to be a good person; rather, it is based on the understanding that we are not good people, and yet Christ has extended grace to us. Unlike the adherents of other religions, we’re not trying to earn anything, nor are we trying to impress anybody. We’ve been freely given, and so we freely give. We walk uprightly because we’ve been loved and forgiven, not because we’re better than anybody else.
In this way, we are truly ambassadors for Christ—ambassadors of His gospel.
Living and proclaiming the gospel on a daily, ongoing basis, we reach out in love as an implication of this gospel. We’re not after converts; we’re after disciples—encouraging our neighbors and coworkers in the Lord; speaking life into those we interact with; sharing gospel truth as a matter of course; inviting others into our communities of faith to explore, ask questions, and walk with us; making much of Jesus with those at our kids’ sporting events, at the gym, in the dorm halls, and in business relationships.
We’re discovering the reality of something bigger, better, and more beautiful than our own desires and comfort. All day every day.
Again, it’s all part of being wrapped up in the epic of God’s gospel purposes. Do we really see it that way? Do we encourage others to see it that way? He’s inviting us to come play our specific parts, maturing others through the power of the Holy Spirit, always multiplying what God has multiplied in us.