The other day, my neighbor showed me an unusual sight. In his front yard, under an ornamental bush, sat a duck. She’s been sitting there for a few weeks now, and even though the nearest pond or stream is a quarter mile away, this mother will no doubt shepherd her ducklings to the water as soon as they’ve hatched. When it’s time to reproduce, nature often seems to do what it takes.
At Rosedale International, our mission is “to fully engage our churches in maturing and multiplying disciples locally and globally, especially among the least reached.” We serve the 100+ congregations of CMC, whose pastoral leadership unanimously agreed a few years ago that our commission from God is to mature and multiply churches locally and globally. As CMC’s global mission arm, RI shares CMC’s commission, and focuses primarily on “the ends of the earth.”
I love this vision! Out of our own intimacy with God, we expect that what happens naturally in the physical world will also happen spiritually through us. Healthy, fully alive disciples and churches mature and multiply—it’s just what happens. What we’re pursuing is perfectly normal.
But I think we’d all agree it’s not normal. Most of us have probably not seen multiplication spiritually like we’ve seen it physically. Many of our churches have never birthed a daughter church, much less seen a multiplication of churches. Maybe this is a place where we are corporately accepting defeat.
What does it look like to be fully engaged in maturing and multiplying? How will we at RI know if we have been successful?
I’ve found it helpful to think deeply about what the Bible has to say about the church as a family. It has become clear to me that family is not just a metaphor of what the church is like. It is by definition what the church is. Family language is all over the New Testament. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. And notice, it’s not that God is like a father, or we are like brothers and sisters. It’s who he is, and who we are.
“Family is not just a metaphor of what the church is like. It is by definition what the church is.”
God gave us physical human family so we can understand spiritual family. When he tells us he is our father, we understand what that means—that he birthed us, that he wants to always be in relationship with us, that he wants us to grow and thrive. When he describes us as brothers and sisters, we’re able to grasp the concept of “this is my tribe, these are my people.”
Paul describes to Timothy how spiritual multiplication takes place: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
Do you see the generations in that statement? “Son, do what I did with you. Share this Jesus life with others who will faithfully do the same. Have your own sons and daughters who will have their own sons and daughters.” Paul is envisioning four generations—his spiritual great-grandchildren!
When it comes to maturing and multiplying disciples, we’ll be successful when normal has become normal—when every person in every CMC congregation is on the path to fathering and mothering spiritual children, nurturing them to mature and to multiply.