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5 Learnings Regarding Multiplication in a Microchurch Movement

The concept of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) has taken root around the world, igniting exponential growth in new disciples and simple churches. DMM emphasizes a core principle: multiplication. As Jerry Trousdale defines it in “The Kingdom Unleashed,” DMM is “a process of disciples making disciples, and churches planting at least 100 churches, with four or more generations of replication.”

However, Western church leaders attempting to implement DMM strategies often face unique challenges. Our established church traditions can feel cumbersome, making multiplication seem far-fetched. Conversely, the fast-paced nature of our culture can tempt us to rush the disciplemaking process, hindering genuine spiritual growth.

We seem caught in a paradox. On one hand, we need to equip disciples to multiply quickly to keep pace with population growth. On the other hand, we must ensure the depth of character necessary for effective discipleship.

This article explores what viral church multiplication might look like in an American context. It draws on the experiences of the Kansas City Underground (KCU), a movement committed to establishing a network of microchurches across Kansas City. Over the past five years, the KCU has stumbled upon valuable insights that can benefit the conversation on multiplication in the West.

The KCU Experiment: From Vision to Reality

The KCU’s heart is fueled by a vision: to see the entire city of Kansas City saturated with the beauty, justice, and Good News of Jesus. This vision translates into a network of microchurches – smaller, organic expressions of faith – nestled within every neighborhood.

The journey began in early 2019 with a handful of “professional Christians” (former pastors and church staff) joining forces with ordinary believers to launch the first KCU hub. Their focus was clear: equip and train believers to live as missionaries among their people, fostering the emergence of new spiritual families that would multiply and fill the city.

The initial phase involved launching Discovery Bible Study (DBS) groups. These small, organic gatherings provided a space for people to explore scripture together and grow in their faith. The approach resonated, and DBS groups began popping up everywhere – in driveways, on Zoom calls, and in smaller gatherings.

As COVID-19 hit, the KCU witnessed unexpected growth. With the focus shifting away from traditional church gatherings, DBS groups provided a safe and accessible space for spiritual connection. This resulted in a significant milestone within a short timeframe: the establishment of over 100 microchurches in Kansas City.

It’s important to note that roughly 75% of these microchurches emerged from “the harvest,” meaning they were formed primarily among unchurched or unbelieving people, rather than existing Christians coming together. This highlights the KCU’s success in reaching those outside the traditional church walls.

The microchurches themselves represent a diverse tapestry. They’ve emerged among refugees, ex-prisoners, in businesses, and even within the rodeo community. High school students have deployed DBS groups, reaching out to unchurched friends. Microchurches catering to the elderly exist alongside those composed primarily of children.

While the KCU’s experience doesn’t perfectly mirror the traditional DMM understanding of multiplication with clear, linear generations, they have witnessed DBS groups multiplying to third and fourth generations, with some eventually transitioning out. They’ve also seen microchurches launching new groups in neighboring areas, contributing to a pattern of multiplication.

Perhaps the most significant learning for the KCU has been this: multiplication in Western settings can be complex. They readily acknowledge they don’t have all the answers, and their journey has been marked by both successes and failures. However, they believe God has revealed key principles for multiplying disciples and churches in American cities.

Learning from Complexity: Rethinking Multiplication

The KCU’s experience highlights a crucial point: a linear, rural DMM multiplication model might not translate seamlessly to the intricate social fabric of American cities.

Imagine a rural village where everyone knows each other. Here, a disciple can easily multiply their faith by starting a new DBS group within their existing network. In contrast, American cities are characterized by a high degree of individualization. We often lack strong relational connections with our neighbors, and social circles can be geographically dispersed. This creates a complex, “chaordic” environment (a blend of chaos and order) for multiplication.

David Broodryk, a pioneer in urban multiplication concepts, emphasizes adaptability as the key to navigating this complexity. The KCU’s approach reflects this principle. They focus on launching three primary forms simultaneously:

  1. Teams of New Missionaries: These teams actively reach out to unchurched or unbelieving communities, planting seeds of faith and discipling new believers.
  2. Discovery Bible Study Settings: These small, organic groups provide a foundation for spiritual growth and multiplication.
  3. Microchurch Families: As disciples mature, they gather in microchurches, fostering a sense of community and belonging.

By launching all three forms concurrently, the KCU creates a web of interconnected activities that can lead to organic multiplication across the city.

Building an Ecosystem for Multiplication

The KCU’s strategy extends beyond launching these forms of disciplemaking. They recognize the need for a supportive infrastructure – a “movement ecosystem” – to nurture multiplication. This ecosystem shares similarities with the concept championed by missiologist Alan Hirsch, who advocates for systems designed to empower disciplemaking movements.

In Kansas City, this ecosystem centers around “hubs.” Each hub functions as a missional support center for a specific network of microchurches and disciplemaking efforts. Hub teams consist of experienced believers who equip and encourage everyday Christians as they embark on their missional journeys. They offer practical support, training, and a sense of community, allowing microchurches to remain autonomous while fostering a spirit of collaboration within the broader network.

The KCU acknowledges that dozens of hubs might be necessary to achieve Gospel saturation in a large city like Kansas City. This highlights the importance of intentionality in creating an ecosystem that can provide ongoing stability and fuel multiplication efforts.

The Power of Simplicity: The Allure of Discovery Bible Study

DMM movements around the world often leverage simple, reproducible disciplemaking methods. The KCU’s experience reinforces the value of this approach. Their primary tool is Discovery Bible Study (DBS). DBS groups gather to explore scripture together, asking open-ended questions and seeking God’s guidance. This emphasis on active engagement with the Bible, coupled with a focus on practical obedience, fosters transformative growth.

The simplicity of DBS allows anyone to lead a group, making it easily reproducible across diverse contexts. This lightweight approach empowers everyday believers to become disciplemakers, a crucial ingredient for multiplication within a complex urban environment.

Waiting on Jesus: A Counter-Intuitive Approach

Nadim Costa, a seasoned missionary with a proven track record of fostering movements in the Middle East, offers a seemingly paradoxical yet profound insight: “Don’t worry about multiplication yet.” This challenges the traditional emphasis on achieving rapid multiplication.

Costa emphasizes the importance of prioritizing disciplemaking, fostering a culture of surrender to Jesus, and trusting in His timing for multiplication. He encourages building a strong foundation through faithful disciplemaking, allowing the Holy Spirit to orchestrate multiplication as He sees fit.

David Broodryk echoes this sentiment, reminding us that “multiplication and speed are not necessarily the same thing.” True multiplication often emerges from “a lot of slow things happening in an exponential way.” This perspective encourages patience and a focus on faithfulness in the disciplemaking process, trusting that God will bring multiplication in His perfect timing.

Conclusion: Unveiling Multiplication in the West

The KCU’s journey offers valuable insights for Western church leaders seeking to navigate multiplication in an American context. Their learnings emphasize the importance of:

  • Starting with a Gospel Saturation Vision: A clear vision that extends beyond mere multiplication, aiming to saturate the city with the Gospel.
  • Embracing the Chaordic Process: Adapting to the complexities of urban environments and fostering organic multiplication patterns.
  • Building Movement Ecosystems: Creating supportive structures that empower disciplemaking efforts.
  • Utilizing Lightweight Disciplemaking: Leveraging simple, reproducible methods like DBS groups.
  • Waiting on Jesus: Prioritizing faithful disciplemaking and trusting in God’s timing for multiplication.

By embracing these principles and learning from the KCU’s experience, Western church leaders can move forward with greater confidence, fostering a movement of multiplication that brings the transforming message of Jesus to every corner of their cities.

Empowering the Movement: Next Steps

The KCU’s story doesn’t end here. They are constantly seeking to learn, adapt, and share their experiences. Here are some ways you can learn more and engage with the movement:

  • The KC Underground Website: Visit their website for resources, articles, and updates on their ongoing work.
  • Case Studies: Dive deeper into specific examples of multiplication within the KCU network. Explore how seemingly unconnected microchurches stemmed from a single jail ministry, or how a group of high school students ignited a movement among their peers.
  • Join the Conversation: Participate in online forums or conferences hosted by the KCU to connect with others passionate about multiplication in the West.

A Call to Action

The KCU’s story is an inspiring example of what God can accomplish when ordinary believers surrender to His mission. Are you ready to be a part of the multiplication movement in your own city? Here are some initial steps you can take:

  • Develop a Gospel Saturation Vision: Pray for a clear vision for reaching your city with the Gospel. How can you leverage your unique gifts and resources to contribute?
  • Identify Existing Networks: Look for existing pockets of believers or community organizations where you can get involved and contribute to disciplemaking efforts.
  • Explore Discovery Bible Study: Consider starting or joining a DBS group to experience the transformative power of studying scripture together.
  • Become a Disciplemaker: Equip yourself to disciple others. Look for training opportunities or mentorship within your church or local movement.

Remember, multiplication is not about achieving a specific number or replicating a program. It’s about a heart posture of obedience, surrendering to God’s mission and trusting Him to bring about growth in His perfect timing. As you commit to faithful disciplemaking and build genuine relationships within your community, you become part of the answer to the prayer for a Gospel-saturated city.

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