Disciplemaking: Addition vs. Multiplication

Walter Henrichsen in Disciples Are Made Not Born suggests a hypothetical situation that clearly illustrates the process of multiplication. Suppose a father offers his two sons the choice of taking either one dollar a week for 52 weeks or one cent the first week and an amount each week for the next 51 one week’s that is double the previous week’s amount.

Which one would you choose?

The first choice would just be adding one dollar each week – that’s linear growth. At the end of 52 weeks – he’d have $52.

The second choice is multiplication – that’s exponential growth. If one of the sons chooses this, at the end of the year he will have an unbelievable amount of money. In fact, his allowance in the last week (not the total amount accumulated over 52 weeks) would be $22,517,998,136,852.48. Initially the multiplication is slow, but don’t let that deceive you. In the long run, addition never keeps pace with multiplication. Multiplication is explosive.

Another example: Suppose you start with a checkerboard of 64 squares. On the first square you place one grain of wheat. On the second square you place two grains, and on the third square you place four grains. How much wheat would you have to place on the last square if you continue doubling each succeeding square?

It would take enough wheat to cover India to a depth of fifty feet. The multiplication process is indeed explosive.

A disciplemaking ministry is built on exponential growth – the principle of multiplication. Consider a comparison of disciplemaking to mass evangelism:

Suppose you are a really great evangelist and you lead 1,000 people to faith in Christ every day. At the end of the first year there would be 365,000 new believers! That’s the principle of addition – 1,000 added every day.

Suppose another person in one year led one person to Christ and spent that year building his faith, teaching God’s truth, and training that individual to grow to maturity and to spiritually reproduce themselves in someone else. At the end of the first year there would be 2 disciplemakers.

If you continue to lead 1,000 people everyday to faith in Christ, at the end of the second year you’d have led 730,000 people to follow Jesus. The disciplemakers at the end of the second year will have invested themselves in two more individuals so that at the end of the year they are able to spiritually reproduce themselves. So after two years – there would be 4 disciplemakers.

If this process were to continue and you kept leading 1,000 people to Christ every day (adding 365,000 believers every year), at the end of 10 years you would have reached 3,650,000 people and at the end of 25 years that number would be 9,125,000.

The disciplemakers keep on investing in one new person every year who does the same thing, he invests in one new person every year. The numbers simply multiply and at the end of 10 years there are 1,024 disciplemakers and at the end of 25 years, there would be 33,554,432 disciplemakers (over 3x more than the addition process).

Years
Evangelism
Disciplemaking

1
365,000
2

2
730,000
4

10
3,650,000
1,024

19
6,935,000
524,288

20
7,300,000
1,048,576

25
9,125,000
33,554,432

26
9,490,000
67,108,864

27
9,855,000
134,217,728

184
67,160,000


It’s easy to see that the process of multiplication is slower than the process of addition. It takes 19 years for the number of disciplemakers to exceed the number of the first year alone. However, when the disciplemaking process reaches year 26, they would reach 67,108,864, a number you couldn’t reach by addition for another 158 years.

The big difference in disciplemaking isn’t just the numbers. It’s the growth and maturity that happen in the disciplemaking process! When you focus on disciplemaking, you develop men and women who are mature in their faith and able to spiritually reproduce themselves in others.

Today’s Missional Challenge

Don’t just add new believers. Multiply disciplemakers. Make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples…

Author

Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
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