My favorite book as a kid was the “I Hate Mathematics! Book.” It sparked my imagination and my love for math. My favorite example was when a child suggests to wash dishes for 2 cents on day one, and double that each day. After a week he’d have a couple bucks, but by the end of the month he’d be a millionaire! Unfortunately my parents read it along with me, so I remained a dirt-poor third grader.
This is the power of exponential growth. It can been seen, over time, in the growth of biological populations. It is written into nature. It is also embedded into our relationships. When we teach two people something and they each share it with two people, this can soon turn into millions.
Exponential growth is acknowledged throughout the Bible. God promises Abraham that his descendants will be like the stars in the sky or the sands on the shore. Jesus supernaturally turns a few loaves of bread and fish into enough for thousands of hungry people. The church explodes in growth in its first years. This isn’t ultimately because God relies on mathematical equations, of course. It is because He is in control of all things; He made the laws of nature and math and physics, and He made a plan for the church.
At the core of this plan is discipleship. Jesus focused his time on 12 disciples who went out and made disciples themselves. Developing deep relationships that lead to maturity and reproduction in other people’s lives starts to look like exponential growth too. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it is powerful over time. This aspect of starting a church really excites me!
Last point: our churches begin at the point a group of believers gather together to worship, pray, learn from Scripture, and practice baptism and communion. Those basics can be found in the Bible. This is how many churches begin: small, maybe a dozen or two, often in a home. But the big misconception is that the church really gets going when it finds a building or space to meet in and it reaches a “critical mass.” When it gets big enough to need a sound system, lighting setup, website, accountant, etc. None of these things are bad – in fact, many of them can be helpful. But when we move into a building, we are changing the medium, the meeting place, and in doing that we begin to stifle the exponential growth process. Where does discipleship occur best? In deep, personal relationships, and this happens more readily in the setting of a home. Instead of outgrowing our homes and spending lots of money to slowly add people under the same roof, we should consider starting another church in another home. This keeps discipleship front and center and doesn’t alter the mechanics of the church. Don’t be surprised if you see the power of exponential growth take effect!
What do you think? What would it be like to be a part of an infectious, exponential community?