God’s math makes no sense in our human realm. Its rules only work in His dominion. If we are serious about God’s kingdom coming to our communities, then we must be willing to let go of what our first grade math teacher told us and engrave in our hearts a radically different concept: In God’s kingdom, multiplication is about subtraction.
In order to have alignment in our missional effectiveness in our movement, we use the term “church multiplication.” We have the best of intentions to grow, but we usually miss our targets because we think about multiplication as incremental growth, not as exponential growth.
Churches want to multiply like rabbits, but our growth rate parallels panda bears: We are endangered. Addition may be appealing, but it is not the most effective solution. We must embrace with fierce passion the first assignment God gave us: “Be fruitful and multiply!” Multiplication is about subtraction.
After being involved in several models of church plants in the past 14 years, I have seen that genuine multiplication is about some subtraction, about decreasing, about letting something go. I’ve seen how multiplication is the result of letting go of resources, or money, or people, or leaders or all the above. We must be willing to let go of our own plans, our comfort and even our pride.
I also realize that if we have a hard time letting go, it’s usually because we fear we will not have enough for ourselves. We forget that our heavenly Father set the example—He gave up His most precious treasure so the entire human race could have a chance to receive His grace.
A mindset of scarcity will prompt us to gather and build our castles. But a mindset of God’s kingdom will motivate us to give ourselves away unafraid because we completely trust in God’s provision.
Some of the most kingdom-minded people I know are experts in subtraction. They love their cities and communities, and they know they alone cannot reach everyone. So they put their egos aside and warmly welcome new churches when they come to their turf. They are not concerned if a new church moves across the street, or if a former pastor in their congregation is starting a new church a mile away next week.
They take risks and share their facilities with other congregations so that many more people in their communities can be reached. They don’t care if their brand recognition decreases so other brands of church increase. They do not become resentful when people in their congregations leave to support another church. They give themselves away cheerfully, they blow themselves away, they subtract.
If we want to multiply and see revival, we must be willing to give something away and subtract. We must encourage one another constantly to embrace the realities and laws of subtraction in God’s kingdom. In order to gain, we let go. In order to increase, we decrease. In order to multiply, we subtract.
Let me encourage you: Be willing to raise up and let go of your best leaders; God will raise greater ones to come and serve alongside you. Be willing to give away financial resources to plant churches; God will replenish your coffers with greater abundance.
As you decrease, God’s kingdom will increase. Let’s become kingdom-minded people who are unafraid of decreasing and letting go. That’s God’s way. Multiplication, a.k.a. revival, is about subtraction.